Announcing the Bixler Weather Drone

Hi Supporters, geeks and friends. Today I am releasing a project that I have worked long and hard to conceptualize. Its a UAV for weather research.

The FreePilot project, if you have followed it was the folllow up to this one. Hidden under the airframe of FreePilot was my APM and some weather sensors – CO2, CO, dust and light sensors, all logging to a Duemilanove’s EEPROM.

Its been tested longs and hard and finally the time has come to migrate everything to my new Bixler which my friend, Mr. Wayne Garris is sending me. The FP airframe served its purpose well, for endurance testing the hardware.

Wayne sent me these photos before he shipped the parcel.

The Bixler will have 2 cameras – a forward facing HackHD for FPV(and recording) and a PowerShot A810 in the belly for aerial mapping. Most of the time the autopilot will be on scripted missions with FPV and telemetry down-link to my GCS mapping out terrain and logging conditions of areas such as factories, parks and other places to check if emissions and dust levels are above or below normal.

I plan to change the Duemilanove for a Raspberry Pi with a USB stick (or Arduino ProMini with OpenLog) for logging. If I manage to get a Pi, I will connect it directly to the APM via USB and use it to coordinate the telemetry and camera triggering.

A 3G cellular connection would theoretically give me control over the drone anywhere in the world where there is a cellular network. For short ranges upto 55km or so, I plan to use an RFD900 dual-diversity modem for telemetry. All this mixing between modem and cellular would be handled by the Pi, as well as triggering the belly camera.

I am waiting for the Bixler to arrive from Wayne, which is at the moment stuck in Indian customs along with the FPV gear and HackHD. PowerShot is yet to be purchased as I need to check the size of the Bixler’s belly. All flight electronics including APM has been thoroughly tested in the field.

This is to be the greatest project I have ever undertaken, please wish me luck.

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