Sept. 30 - Dutch-based engineers have created what they say is the world's smallest auto-pilot attachment for unmanned aerial vehicles, a technology that will greatly expand their value in firefighting and search-and-rescue missions. It's called the Lisa/S autopilot, as Jim Drury reports.
UPSOT: DRONE BUZZING Fitted with an autopilot little bigger than a coin, this drone can navigate small spaces autonomously, presenting new potentially life-saving options for first responders. Called Lisa/S, the autopilot was designed by a team led by Bart Remes at the Micro Aerial Vehicle Lab at Delft University of Technology. UPSOT: DRONE BUZZING SOUNDBITE (English), TU DELFT RESEARCHER AND MAVLAB PROJECT COORDINATOR, BART REMES, SAYING: "This is the smallest open source autopilot in the world, it only weights 2 grams and it's 2 by 2 centimetres, and it's the lightest open source pilot in the world." Remes says the autopilot's size and weight greatly expands the capabilities of micro-sized UAVs, alowing them to fly for longer while carrying heavier payloads. Remes's team wrote Lisa/S's software from scratch, designing their own datalink/radio receiver. SOUNDBITE (English), TU DELFT RESEARCHER AND MAVLAB PROJECT COORDINATOR, BART REMES, SAYING: "This small piece that's on the top of autopilot is replacing RC transmittor and WIFI data link, so now you can connect with this small piece of hardware to USB dongle in your PC for the ground station, so you have Google Earth there to say where you have to fly to and to your normal RC transmittor, so that you can also take it over, or fly it in normal RC mode.....we have integrated all this, telemetry, GPS and everything on this small PCB. The only thing you have to connect is the servos, or the motor of your aeroplane and you are done." Remes wants the team's work freely accessible to the public, so it can be fitted to all types of unmanned quadcopter and mini helicopter, particularly those used in fire fighting and search and rescue missions. He thinks micro aircrafts using Lisa/S could be fitted with mini video cameras and put in every firefighter's pocket, allowing them to check collapsed buildings for survivors, without having to risk their own lives. Lisa/S will be available commercially next January, when Remes says he hopes to see them flying off the shelves.