New GPS control from Skookum Robotics

Feb 11, 2013 No Comments by

One of the latest flight control enhancements to our hobby is the incorporation of GPS positioning data into flybarless flight control system software. As we all know from using GPS in our cars, it can pinpoint our location with great accuracy and give us directions to almost any spot on the planet. However, one GPS feature we have not been using in our cars is the display and incorporation of our altitude. This information has not been important when driving from one point to another, but becomes vital when using GPS to enhance the control of our helicopters.

Skookum Robotics has just released their SK GPS Positioning Module, which is designed to be used with their SK 720 flybarless flight control system for single rotor helicopters and multi-rotor operation. I have just installed this GPS unit on my Vibe 50 NEX helicopter, and I’m very impressed with its list of capabilities. Although I’ll be going through flight tests in the near future, are some of its stated capabilities.

The SK-GPS has six flight modes, of which any two can be set to a three position switch on the transmitter.  These flight modes include:

Position Hold

This will stop and hold the heli in both altitude and position. You still have normal yaw (rudder) control, and the helicopter position can be changed by slewing the heli using aileron, elevator and collective .

Altitude Hold  

This works like position hold, but only stopping and holding the heli’s altitude. And, like position hold, the set altitude can be changed with the collective stick.

Rescue Modes

The SK-GPS has three different rescue modes. All will stop the heli’s motion, level it out, and orient it tail-in to the pilot. The difference between the three modes is when the SK-GPS bails the heli out.

Rescue Now

Here you fly normally until you flip the switch to trigger the rescue mode.

Rescue Hard Floor

Here you fly normally until you go below the set minimum altitude, then the SK-GPS will stop the heli’s descent and go into rescue mode.

Rescue Soft Floor

The ‘soft-floor’ rescue bails your heli out at or before it reaches the set minimum altitude. Here the SK-GPS will calculate how much distance is needed to stop in time, and will activate the rescue mode if it thinks it is running out of room to recover before going below the floor.

And one of the features I like the best is Go Home

When activated, this will take all controls away from the pilot, climb the heli to a safe altitude, and then fly it back to a predetermined ‘home’ position, and then descend to the ‘fail-safe’ altitude.

As you can imagine, it will take a lot of flight testing to get used to all these different features. I’m anxious to get started and I’ll report back to you on my progress.

 

Paul Tradelius

About the author

A regular contributor to Model Airplane News, he is also the columnist for our “Rotor Speed” helicopter column. Paul has been flying RC helicopters since the early ‘80s and now enjoys all types of rotary machines, including scale and aerobatics, and he continues to experiment with modifications to improve performance.
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