Sunday, August 7, 2011

Omnicopter - Getting Off The Ground

So, I've decided to start up another .NET Micro Framework (NETMF) challenge after taking almost two years off from the tiny framework.  Some things have changed since I last used NETMF and I'm having to re-learn some things.  Sadly, one thing that hasn't changed so much is the lack of abundance of documentation on some of the basic things required to get some very basic electronics goals achieved with the framework.  So, as I start on this next project I plan to document some of the things that are either not already documented well somewhere else.

Unlike many NETMF developers I do not have a degree in electrical engineering.  I'm a software guy.  In all disclosure, I did spend three years studying EE at TTU before deciding to change to computer science so I do have a little more understanding of electronics than your average bear but I've never practiced it professionally and a lot of the language used in the NETMF forums and literature is a bit alien to me.  So, as I work through this project and figure some of these things out I'm going to try and explain them as simply as possible to others such as myself.  I believe the popularity of NETMF is only going to grow and one of the biggest set of new users is going to be software developers similar to myself and young roboticists.  Both groups I believe will benefit.

So, a brief intro to the project that I've decided to tackle.  I'm going to build a multi-propeller helicopter (i.e. quadcopter, quadrotor, hexacopter, octocopter, etc.)  In the first stages, it will start out as a quadcopter but I plan for that to change as progress is made.  More about that when the time comes.  Why build a quadcopter?  Uh...they're really cool!  But beyond basic flight, I have a lot of AI related ideas that I want to work on and the copter will be a great platform for developing those applications.  Equally important is that there really doesn't exist yet a quadcopter built on NETMF that I'm aware.  It seems that most people shy away or give up quickly because NETMF isn't a "real-time" platform and that it can't send commands quick enough to enable stability of a copter.  I hope to prove them wrong.  Maybe they'll prove me wrong but I don't think so.  If they do then I'll be sure to document in painful detail why NETMF isn't a valid platform for copters.

I don't want to give up too much too soon on my plans for the project since I don't even know for sure that it will ever even leave the ground.  So, for now there are two parts to this project:
  1. Build a NETMF controlled quadcopter
  2. Build a NETMF based remote control.
I've decided to name my copter the Omnicopter - the copter with many propellers and many functions.
Unfortunately, it seems the only place you can really get the copter motors and other R/C parts is from Hong Kong (  So, there is a 4-6 week wait for parts. Ugg.  I've ordered the motors and other R/C parts and they're on their way.  While I wait for them to arrive, I'm doing some basic things with parts I can either acquire locally or order from the U.S. that arrive in a few days.  I'm building the basic frame for the copter & figuring out some basic wireless communications and protocols that I want to use and playing with LEDs when I get tired of doing the real work.  I'll cover all these things in future blog posts.  Let's go have some fun!


Leblali said...

very good

ianlee74 said...

Thanks, Leblali.

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