The Aircraft Parameters Window contains all of the control and setup required to perform flight operations. The window can be opened by either single-clicking on the aircraft pane in the status window as shown below or simply single-clicking on the aircraft icon on the map.
The menu icons on the top of the parameters window are the individual windows and are selected by single-clicking on the respective icon. These include:
- Information: Contains version and setup information of the SwiftPilot hardware.
- Preflight: The preflight checklist. This list is required to checkout the aircraft prior to launch.
- Telemetry: The telemetry of all of the aircraft onboard sensors along with battery and wireless link information.
- Mission: The mission parameters such as altitude limits and lost comm waypoint number.
- Mapping: The parameters required to auto generate mapping waypoint plans.
- Commands: The ability to set commands to the aircraft.
- Launch: The settings and limits for autonomous launch.
- Landing: The settings and limits for autonomous landing.
The information tab contains details, version numbers, and setup state of the SwiftPilot. During integration the aircraft is setup and the checkboxes here verify that everything is ready for flight.
The preflight checklist ensures that everything on the aircraft is working properly and ready to conduct a safe flight. Prior to the this step everything must be powered up and connected and you should have your flight plans setup.
Autopilot Initialized: This is a selfcheck the AP does to make sure all systems boot up and the correct scripts are running
SD Card Present: This is a self check to ensure that the autopilot is reading an SD card. If this doesn't check try:
- Checking for an SD card in the autopilot; if there is not on install it.
- Removing the SD card and making sure it's formatted to a FAT32 filesystem.
Aircraft Inspection Complete: This is specific to each aircraft and you should have a checklist to perform these checks. Once you are satisfied, check this box.
Validate Manual/Auto Surface Control: This box is for the user to verify control and direction of all of the control surfaces.
- For manual control, use your RC handset in manual mode to move all of the surfaces and verify they are moving in the correct direction. Also, perform a throttle test to ensure the functioning of the motor and ESC.
- For testing the autonomous surface control flip the aircraft into auto mode. Tilt the aircraft to the left and right and ensure that the ailerons and rudder move in the correct directions. Also, to enable the elevator, press your thumb to the front of the pitot tube to give an airspeed reading and pitch the aircraft up and down ensuring the elevator counteracts the motion.
Validate Payload Function: This is a reminder to check the sensing payload to ensure it is on, functioning, and has all of the correct settings. Check this box once you have verified all of that.
Zero Sensors: This step has two buttons to zero the gyros and the airspeed sensors.
- Ensure is steady and not moving and then press the Gryos button to zero those.
- If you have one, attach the pitot cover or if not cup your hand loosely around the pitot tube. Pressure the Dynamic P button to zero the airspeed and remove the pitot cover and put it away.
Pitot Tube Check: This is to validate that the autopilot is getting data from the pitot tube.
- Blow into the pitot tube.
Be sure NOT to put your mouth over it like a straw. This will result in too high of a pressure and may damage the sensor.
- The IAS should read a number above 5m/s and the box will check itself.
- If the pitot check fails try again. If the failure persists you may have a loose pitot line. Check that the pitot tube is unclogged, that the pressure tube is connect all the way to the SwiftPilot, and that there are no kinks in the line.
GPS Good: This box will check itself when 6+ satellites are acquired and PDOP is within an acceptable range
Mission Limits Set: Go to the Mission tab and ensure that your altitude limits are set. It is recommend that you set your minimum altitude to 30m above the ground and your maximum altitude to the limits your allowed under present regulations. Once these are set check the box.
Lost Comm Waypoint Set: This is also in the Mission tab. The timeout should be left at the default of 10s. The lost comm waypoint should be set to the Landing Plan to ensure that the aircraft will land itself in a lost communications emergency. Once this is done, check the box.
Landing Plan Altitude Set: This is to set the landing altitude to eliminate errors in the elevation maps on the tablet. 1 Physically place the aircraft on the position you want to land (or at least the same altitude). 2 Single-click any point on the Landing Plan and select Set Land Alt from the menu. 3 Manually check the box.
Mission Start Waypoint Set: Single-click your takeoff orbit and select Go to Point from the menu. Manually check the box.
Now that the checklist is complete you can select the Ready for Launch button. The engine is still disabled, enable it only when ready. Please see your checklist for this portion. If at any point you'd like to disable the engine, press the Safe Aircraft button.
The telemetry tab contains all of the onboard sensor information. This includes GPS information, battery information, signal strength, position, IMU data, and air data. This window is typically used in preflight to check that status of the GPS (specfically the PDOP and number of Satellites). In can also be used inflight to keep track of the battery information, ground speed, etc. The most important information is also displayed with the aircraft icon or the Status Window, which are both more useful for keep an eye on the aircraft in flight.
The mission tab is used in Preflight to set the altitude limits and the lost communications waypoint number. If these values are modified they must be sent to the aircraft using the Send button at the bottom right of the window.
The mapping tab is used to access and modify the mapping parameters for your sensing payload. This allows the SwiftTab to auto generate Mapping Plans with the correct spacing and trigger locations for the sensor. The image below shows the configuration window. We recommend only modifying the Sensor, Height (AGL), Cross-Track, and Along-Track parameters in order to configure your mapping mission. Be sure to hit the Send button at the bottom if any parameters are altered to sync the tablet with the aircraft.
- Sensor: This drop down menu selects the sensor from a list of pre-loaded ones. New custom sensors can also be created from this menu.
- Height (AGL): The height above ground level parameter allows users to define the height at which they wish their aircraft to fly at when performing a mapping mission. The value this parameter takes defines the tradeoff between mission time and mapping resolution. For a given mapping area, a low AGL value will result in high resolution and long mission time, while a high AGL value will result in lower resolution but shorter mission time. To best determine your mission AGL, we recommend that you determine your desired mapping resolution in m/pixel. Once you know that value modify the AGL height until you reach that desired resolution. For most mapping missions 100m AGL works well.
- Cross-Track and Along-Track Overlap: Below are diagrams depicting the effects of modifying these values. Increasing the along-track overlap will simply force the payload (in most cases a camera) to trigger faster, increasing the cross-track overlap will lead to tighter mapping plan leg spacings.
- Target IAS and Max Roll: These are parameters used to draw the plan to ensure straight and level flight over the area of interest. They should not be changed since they are tied to the capabilities of the aircraft.
- Distance: This is a computed term which displays the distance between the photos. It is useful to compare against the ground speed on the Telemetry tab to ensure that there is sufficient time to trigger the photos. The speed of the triggering is camera dependent.
- Time (s): This is to set the camera for a fixed trigger time. This is not recommended for most mapping missions.
- Pulse: This is the time of the pulse to trigger the camera. Different sensors have different requirements. However, your aircraft was setup at BST this value should be left alone.
- Channel: This is the channel for the payload trigger for this sensor. It should not be changed unless you are building up a new aircraft.
The commands window is used for more advanced control of the aircraft. Typically, these are not needed for a properly setup aircraft flying waypoints or mapping, however, they can be useful in certain situations:
- IAS: This can be used to override the aircraft specific IAS if the user needs the aircraft to fly faster. Once example when this is needed is if the aircraft encounters extreme winds above it's cruise speed that prevent it from getting back to the user. Care should be taken when changing this parameter.
- Vertical Rate: For altitude tracking, the user can command a vertical rate instead of altitude hold. This can be useful for things like doing a vertical profile for sampling the atmosphere. The aircraft will still track it's position for the given waypoint, but the altitude command will now be a fixed rate.
- Altitude: The default setting is to leave the Track WP box checked to allow the aircraft to track waypoint altitude. However, unchecking this box the user can type a specific altitude to track.
- Turn Rate: The user can override the waypoint tracking by entering a specific turn rate for the aircraft to hold in a coordinated turn. This is not recommended since it will no longer track a desired position.
The launch settings allow the user to change the autonomous launch parameters. It is not recommended to modify these except for integration of new aircraft. However, it may be useful in some cases to modify the Δh command, which is the minimum altitude that must be reached prior to switching to waypoint tracking. Be sure to select a height above any nearby obstacles to ensure the aircraft climbs to that altitude prior to turning to it's assigned waypoint.
The landing tab contains all of the parameters for landing. Most of these should be left as is after integration of the autopilot in the aircraft, however, some can be changed depending on field conditions.
- Safe Height: This parameter is the height above the landing point that the aircraft turns final. Lowering this value will shorten up the landing plan, however, setting it too low risks the aircraft impacting the ground prior completing it's final turn.
- Abort Height: This is the height the aircraft flies to when it aborts a landing, either from a command from the user or an auto orbit when it predicts it may miss the runway. This number should be set to above any local obstacles.
- Flare Time: This is the time for the aircraft to flare prior to impact. Users can increase this time to ensure a good flare prior to impact. Note that the SwiftPilot will NOT stall the aircraft after flare, but, making this value too high may cause the landing to glide long.