Sunday, April 13, 2008
I just discovered a *very* old paper online... The Development of a Small Autonomous Helicopter Robot for Search and Rescue in Hostile Environments, a paper from way, way, back in my Junior year of undergrad, when I was a team member of the MIT Aerial Robotics team, trying to get a small (6' rotor span) helicopter to fly on its own. Man, that really takes me back. It's such a happy and positive paper and we never quite got the damned thing to work, because everybody who really understood Kalman filters got recruited into more serious research projects leaving folks like me to tweak the filters and pray. In the end, though, what killed us at the competition was the heat of mid-summer Eastern Washington. The temperature was around 90, and much higher than that a few inched above the blacktop of the competition area, and the nylon gears driving the tail rotor softened and let go, dropping our helicopter from 20 feet up during warm-up trials; fortunately it was still under control of our (amazing) human RC pilot, who brought it in for a controlled crash and our electronics housings protected everything important. Ah well, that's nearly a decade ago now.