VectorNav’s VN-200 aids in precision geo-pointing for miniature Epsilon series of gyro-stabilized gimbals

Octopus ISR Systems, a division of UAV Factory Ltd., announced the release of a new feature, “Precision Geo-Lock”, for its miniature Epsilon series of gyro-stabilized gimbals.

Precision Geo-Lock combines a state-of-the-art GPS-aided inertial navigation system (GPS/INS) with dedicated software algorithms and payload operator software. It provides the user with highly accurate target geo-location, range-to-target, as well as Geo-Lock functionality and moving map user interface.

Precision geo-location challenges

Equipping a miniature airborne gimbal with precision geo-location presents a multitude of challenges. First, the gimbal operates in a high vibration environment, high accelerations and extreme ranges in temperature. Also, unmanned aircraft often use miniature gyro-stabilized gimbals. Thus, small size and low power consumption are significant factors.

“Traditionally, small gyro-stabilized gimbals use an external heading source to estimate the geo-location of the target,” stated UAV Factory CEO Konstantins Popiks. “Onboard the unmanned aircraft, the attitude data is usually supplied by an autopilot. The estimate accuracy is imprecise due to the nature of low-cost sensors used in miniature autopilots. Miniature autopilots simply do not need the precise heading data required by the gimbal. As a result, the heading error generates large geo-location errors and provides little to no use for the unmanned aircraft operator. Additional errors occur due to misalignment of the gimbal and autopilot; these are separate subsystems mounted in different locations on individual soft vibration mounts.”

For the Geo-Lock feature to work, a highly accurate external GPS/INS  needed to be integrated into the system.

“Today the state-of-the-art miniature gyro-stabilized gimbals have a narrow field of view of less than 1.3 degrees,” said Popiks. “Therefore, pointing accuracy should be significantly better than 1.3° to prevent the target pointing location from going out of frame.”


VectorNav VN-200

In order to guarantee the successful implementation of the Precision Geo-Lock feature, UAV Factory partnered with VectorNav Technologies. VectorNav develops and manufactures high performance inertial navigation systems using the latest in MEMS sensor and GPS/GNSS technology.

“VectorNav’s VN-200 was the only product on the market that offered a high-level of performance but small enough form factor for direct integration into the optical bench of the gimbal” said Popiks. “When the product delivered that level of accuracy despite the high vibrations, accelerations and temperature fluctuations of our application the choice was obvious.”

UAV Factory’s Precision Geo-Lock provides better than 0.3 degree accuracy and is ‘Plug-and-Play’. This allows the customer to install the Epsilon gimbal and get accurate results on any platform and in a high-vibration environment.

Epsilon gyro-stabilized turrets will be available with VN-200 single GPS-based INS solution, as well as the VN-300 dual GPS-based INS. A single GPS/INS solution is suitable for dynamic platforms such as manned and unmanned aircraft. Dual GPS/INS is a necessity for platforms with low dynamics, such as aerostats, ships and helicopters.

You can shop VectorNav’s entire line of sensors at Unmanned Systems Source.


6 essentials for a machine control GPS receivers for earth moving, mining, construction applications

Looking for a GPS receiver for moving earth, mining or construction? Consider the following…

GPS ReceiversGPS receivers can assist operators in making better decisions by providing precise position information (indicate-only mode). Or the GPS receiver, as part of a guidance system, can take over the operation of the machine’s implement itself (fully-automatic mode) to follow a preloaded design.

In fully-automatic mode, the RTK centimeter-level precision of the GPS guidance system is far more accurate and consistent than relying on the operator’s skill alone.

Trenches are dug to exact depths, tractors are steered in perfect rows, piling rigs know the precise location for planting piles and surfaces are fine graded the first time. Work is completed quicker, more cheaply and to a higher specification when the need to carry out frequent measurements and surveys is not needed.

Compared to a Total Station, a GPS RTK system setup is quick and doesn’t require any of the elements to be in line of sight. A single reference base station can furnish all rover machines on-site continuously with RTK differential corrections. The status of the project and location of every machine on-site is updated in real-time giving site managers a full overview of progress.


GPS Receivers

Machine control applications are among the most challenging for GPS receivers. The physical and radio environments can be difficult enough but operators will always try to push their equipment to its limits. So what GPS receiver capabilities are needed for consideration as a suitable candidate for machine control? There are six prime considerations.


AsteRX4 GPS receiver at work helping plant trees

1) Position precision in difficult conditions

In RTK mode, using a base station that’s not too far away, high-end GPS receivers calculate position with a precision of less than 1 centimeter (0.4 inch). Difficult conditions can degrade the position precision and can even result in wrong position fixes.

Construction sites present their own set of challenges. Large structures and other machines nearby can cause multi-path. Foliage can be particularly problematic for GPS signal quality. And operators can’t always be assured of a clear view of the sky.

Any GPS receiver worth its salt should be adeptly manage the typical conditions on a building site. The consequences of a wrong position fix can be costly and time consuming. A piling operator needs the exact position and orientation of the rig to plant a pile. After all, there are far better ways to spend time than extracting wrongly-placed piles.


2) Low latency and high data output rate

Latency is the time it takes for the receiver to calculate and output a position. Lower latencies and higher position update rates provide more responsive machines that operate at higher speeds without loss of performance.

The highest performing GPS receivers today can output data at upwards of 50 Hz with latencies of less than 20 ms.


AsteRx-U spectrum analyser in the presence of a chirp jammer both before (blue) and after (red) activation of AIM+

3) Interference mitigation

A delivery vehicle arriving on-site with a chirp jammer can knock out RTK and bring operations to a standstill. The prevalence of such devices, as well as interference from other non-intentional sources continues to increase. Interference mitigation is now an essential tool for a machine control receiver.

Today’s highest performing GPS receivers can mitigate against simple continuous narrow-band and pulsed interferers as well as more complex wide-band transmitters such as chirp jammers and other PPDs (Personal Privacy Devices).


4) Heading

Machines such as excavators have a platform that rotates independently of the undercarriage. To know the position of the bucket, the operators must also know the orientation (or heading) of the platform. Depending on placement, two antennas allow the GPS receiver to calculate the heading of the platform as well as either the pitch or the roll.


5) Robust against heavy vibrations and bumps

Rough terrain can play havoc with GPS signal tracking. Without an adaptive-bandwidth tracking-loop mechanism, the receiver may lose tracking during periods of heavy vibration.


Calculated antenna height with (blue) and without (green) ionospheric scintil-lations mitigation (IONO+) activated

6) Resistance to ionospheric disturbance

We’re currently winding down from the last solar-activity peak in 2014. However, ionospheric disturbance of GPS signals are still problematic around the equator and at higher latitudes. Ionospheric scintillation mitigation ensures GPS output remains predictable and that RTK positioning is maintained.

More than shifting earth

Today, a wide variety of applications use GPS receivers. From seismic monitoring and timing to on-board dredgers and drones, GPS receivers provide high-precision positioning or timing when needed.

If your applications requires this level of precision, make sure you check out Septentrio’s line of solutions at Unmanned Systems Source.


MicroPilot autopilot solutions now available at Unmanned Systems Source

April 4, 2017 – Unmanned Systems Source is pleased to announce a new distribution partnership with MicroPilot, producers of full-featured UAV autopilots.

“MicroPilot is a world leader in small autopilot systems for UAS,” said Drew Osbrink, Business Development Director for Unmanned Systems Source.

“The MicroPilot product line is a great fit for customers looking for a reliable solution to manage complex autonomous behaviors for their UAS platforms,” said Osbrink.

Introduced in 2004 and weighing only 28 grams, MicroPilot’s MP2x28g2 raised the bar around the world for functionality and value in small UAV autopilots. Paired with this full-feature UAV autopilot, the MicroPilot HORIZONmp ground control software provides a user-friendly, point-and-click interface for mission planning, parameter adjustment, flight monitoring, and mission simulation.

Building on the success of these proven innovations, MicroPilot now offers a series of autopilots, software, accessories, and customized UAV training and integration services.


MicroPilot autopilot solutions

  • Small size without sacrificing functionality: 28 grams, 4 cm by 10 cm
  • GPS waypoint navigation with altitude and airspeed hold
  • Completely independent operation, including autonomous takeoff, bungee launch, hand launch, and landing
  • Powerful script language command set
  • Open architecture – all state fields fully accessible
  • Fully integrated with 3-axis gyros and accelerometers, GPS, pressure altimeter, pressure airspeed sensors, all on a single circuit board
  • Extensive data logging and telemetry capabilities
  • UAV configuration wizard and installation video simplify installation
  • Includes HORIZONmp ground control software


Seamless upgrade path

From the single-use autopilot (MP2x28xp) to the powerful VTOL autopilot (MP2128HELI), MicroPilot provides a seamless upgrade path. No other autopilot manufacturer offers this high degree of adaptable technology and range of autopilot options.

Once an individual learns how to operate a MicroPilot autopilot, the knowledge translates across the product line. This makes MicroPilot the single-vendor solution for autopilot hardware, software, and accessory needs. MicroPilot’s line of autopilots allows customers to grow and adapt at a fraction of the cost offered by many competitors.

Visit Unmanned Systems Source to learn more about MicroPilot’s autopilot solutions.


About MicroPilot

Incorporated in 1994, MicroPilot serves UAV manufacturers who maintain high standards for both the hardware they integrate into their systems and the software that drives them.

MicroPilot customers require products that are reliable, scalable and customizable. They have a solid reputation that supplies consistent products, services and support. MicroPilot has maintained itself as the world leader in professional autopilots for UAVs and MAVs.


UgCS Mission Planning Software Now Available at Unmanned Systems Source

UgCS Mission Planning SoftwareMarch 23, 2017 – Unmanned Systems Source is pleased to announce a new distribution agreement with SPH Engineering.

SPH Engineering is the creator of the popular UgCS Mission Planning Software which provides central management of all types and manufacturers of UAVs. It supports both fixed wing and multi-rotor platforms.

Supported platforms, include: DJI Phantom 4 / 4 Pro, Phantom 3 and Phantom 2, Inspire 2, Inspire 1 / 1 Pro / Raw, Mavic Pro, A3, N3, Matrice 600 / 600 Pro, Matrice 100, A2, Naza-M v2, WooKong-M, Vision2+, Ace One.

Currently, supported autopilots, include: Ardupilot, Px4 and other MAVLink compatible; InnoFlight: Jupiter JM-1; Mikrokopter; Micropilot; Microdrones; LockheedMartin: Kestrel, Indago.

“UgCS software is a great addition to our site,” said Andrew Osbrink, Business Development Director at Unmanned. “Whether a customer operates a fixed wing or multi-rotor, many crafts or just one, UgCS’ flexible licensing model means organizations can purchase the license that works for their situation.”


The UgCS Desktop Solution

UgCS software has convenient tools for areal and linear surveys and provides direct drone control. Its modular architecture means ease of integration and simplifies adding support for new vehicles or payloads. Other features include easy route creation, an immersive 3D mission planning environmental and No-Fly zone support. In addition, it has built-in photogrammetry and geotagging tools, map customization, and more.

Users can control one or a fleet of drones on a single mission, in multi-operator mode and in multi-platform environments.


UgCS Mission Planning software options

OPEN is the free version of UgCS software. It offers limited capabilities in terms of the range of operations, functionality and support. However, it allows users insight into the software before making a purchasing decision.

For UAV hobbyists and non-professional users, the ONE license is recommended. It provides unlimited range of operations with some limitation of the advanced functions.

The PRO license is recommended for UAV professionals and land surveyors. It is the fully functional, multi-drone ground control software for professional UAV mission planning. Includes photogrammetry tools, digital elevation model (DEM) and KML file import to enable map customization. It also offers ADS-B receiver support to ensure flight safety.

And finally, the ENTERPRISE license is for companies that operate a fleet of different manufacturer drones requiring a unifying ground station solution. Features ADS-B transponder support, multi-node deployment enables operation of a central server with unlimited connection to UgCS universal control server.


About SPH Engineering

Founded in 2013, SPH Engineering employs both professionals and enthusiasts. They turn client ideas into products that address specific needs and requirements. Technology is not just a product for SPH Engineering, it’s their passion.

Visit Unmanned Systems Source to shop and compare UgCS Mission Planning license plans to find the one that is right for you.



Introducing Ekinox 2 Series with attitude accuracy enhanced by a factor of two

Introducing Ekinox 2March 20, 2017 – SBG Systems will unveil the new Ekinox 2 Series this week during the U.S. Hydro Show, in Galveston, TX.

The Ekinox 2 Series is a new generation of SBG’s advanced line of tactical grade MEMS-based inertial navigation systems. It features new accelerometers and gyroscopes, enhancing Ekinox 2 attitude accuracy by a factor of two.

In addition, Ekinox 2 is available as a drop-in replacement of the previous Ekinox, at the same price level. There is no need for any additional electrical or software integration. Find out more by reading the SBG product change notification.


Enhanced Accuracy by Two

Released in 2013, Ekinox has achieved a remarkable success thanks to its smart balance of accuracy, price, and weight.

Thanks to continuous innovation, SBG Systems offers a new generation twice more accurate in attitude, confirming its unmatched Performance/Price/Size ratio. This major improvement is due to a complete redesign of the in-house Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) integrating new cutting-edge gyroscopes and accelerometers.


Suited for Demanding Applications

With higher accuracy for the same form factor and price level, Ekinox 2 Series is the best choice for industrial-grade vehicle navigation, equipment motion compensation, and data georeferencing. This new generation provides 0.02° roll and pitch, 0.05° heading, and a centimeter-level position.

It is ideal for demanding application such as hydrography, mobile mapping, antenna tracking, etc. With new accelerometers, this new generation has also significantly improved its resistance to vibration. Finally, the addition of the Beidou constellation improves signal availability in Asia.


Easy Installation and Configuration

Compact and light-weight, the Ekinox Series is designed to simplify installation operations. Ekinox 2 also provides for easy integration; the intuitive embedded web interface displays all the parameters for quick adjustment.

For example, you can choose your profile (Vessel, Plane, Car, etc.) and the 3D view will provide a visualization of settings such as the sensor position, alignment, lever arms, etc.


Available Q2

Ekinox 2 Series is ITAR Free. The product line will be available during the second quarter of 2017. Unmanned Systems Source is pleased to carry SBG Systems’ line of sensors. For more information about the upcoming release of Ekinox 2 series or to find out how to upgrade your current Exinox sensor, contact us.


Racing Drones: How to Build One in a Few Easy Steps

After revolutionizing the photography and film-making industries, it was inevitable that the racing industry would also feel the impact of drones.

The most popular form of competitive drone racing is First Person View (FPV). Such events are quickly gaining traction among UAV enthusiasts and the mainstream media.

With the backing of some wealthy benefactors, drone racing’s popularity is only set to rise.

If you would like to head off to the races, read on to learn how to build a racing drone in a few easy steps.


Racing Drones Explained

Most racing drones tend to be quadcopters built with speed and agility in mind. In the case of FPV racing, the drones also have a camera and video transmission system that allows the pilot to see a first-person view of the UAVs flight path through a set of goggles. Racing drones are an exciting way to gain flight experience and fine-tune your maneuvering skills.

For beginners, buying an assembled racing drone may be the best option. However, if you’re looking for a truly competitive edge then a self-built model is the way to go.

Most professional pilots prefer to build their own machines because it allows them to completely customize their vehicle. Drone technology is still relatively new but innovations happen quickly. A self-built drone allows you to create the fastest drone possible at any given time.


Preparing for your Racing Drone Build

To get started, you’ll need to gather all the requisite parts, tools, and equipment.

First step, consider the type of frame you would like to use. As mentioned above, a quadcopter frame is most favored by racers for its stability and versatility. A quadcopter has four arms, each fitted with a motor for flight. Popular frames include the Alien 5’’ FPV Frame, the Raceblade FPV Racing Quadcopter, and the MCQ One quad frame. Frames, on average, cost around $100.

Once you choose your frame, you will also need to select: motors, propellers, antennas, a radio transmitter and a receiver, an on-board camera, batteries, and FPV goggles.

As a general rule, your motor should achieve a 2:1 thrust to weight ratio. However, you should try and achieve a much higher ratio than this. Figures of 8:1 or 10:1 ratios are not uncommon in the world of drone racing.


Other Equipment Considerations

  • Cameras: Popular FPV cameras include brands such as FatShark, but a great starter package is the Eachine CMOS camera and transmitter kit at under $50.
  • Transmitters: Leading transmitter brands include Boscam and Crazepony which get you up and running for under $30.
  • Props: The best FPV props are those from Gemfan and market leader HQProp and will cost a mere $3 for two pairs.
  • Batteries: Larger batteries mean longer flight times but the extra weight could slow down your drone so always choose the best power source you can find. Top brands include TATTU and GensAce.
  • Goggles: If you are a new pilot, it is advisable to start off using your monitor as this allows you to quickly glance up to see the UAV during flight. Once you gain experience the best FPV goggles include the Aris Skyzone, FatShark Dominator, and models from HeadPlay.

It is also a good idea to purchase spare propellers and batteries as replacement parts in the event of crashes or loss of power.

As for tools, a basic kit should include a soldier iron, screwdrivers, and a multi-meter for testing connections. Set aside a building area with enough space for you to work on your racer.


Building a Racing Drone

Now comes the exciting part, putting your vehicle together! If this is your first build and you have little experience with soldering it’s a good idea to practice before you work on your vehicle. Resources like YouTube are a great place to learn and find tips to refine your soldering skills.

Remember, when building your racing drone, the two pairs of motors need to rotate in opposite directions in order for your UAV to fly. The muscle behind a speedy racer are the motors. Once attached, test the motors to confirm the rotational direction of each.

After attaching your motors to the arms and frame, it is time to add your drone’s brain — the flight controller. A drone’s flight controller board relays messages from your controller to the machine. Add the flight controller by soldering the connectors to the board.

Once that’s complete, it’s time to add the battery by soldering it to the quad’s base. Make sure to check for smoke or issues once the terminals are in place.


Average Cost to Build a Racing Drone

The cost of building a racing drone depends on a number of factors such as the quality of the parts, the ultimate use of the vehicle, and your budget.

It is possible to build a fairly good racing drone for under $300. A mid-range kit can cost up to $500. While professional drone kits can easily exceed a thousand dollars; with parts and spares pushing that figure even higher in many instances. Of course, the very best pilots can win significant cash prizes, recognition and sponsorship opportunities.

For those starting out in FPV racing there are tons of resources online that can help you pick up helpful tips and learn from the pros. Once your racer is completed, it is time to hone your skills as a pilot. The best racers dedicate hours of practice each week.

There are now several budding drone racing leagues and an increasing number of pilots entering the field. There is plenty of opportunity for anyone looking to take up racing drones as a hobby or as a professional pursuit. Finish up your build and get yourself to the races!