ICARUS Drone

The Insanely Cool Airborne Relay Utilization System, or ICARUS for short, is an unmanned aerial vehicle, designed to fly for 2-3 hrs nonstop.

The project began as a result of the realization that the best system for airborne control and telemetry relay for UAVs is a highly efficiency airplane (not a quadcopter). I had tried in the past with the Super Awesome Research/Relay Aircraft, to do such a system in a multicopter, but realized the inefficiencies that lay therein.

Instead of taking on the daunting task of first-time design of an airplane, I decided to use the system put together by FliteTest.com called the Kraken!

The airplane seemed to have some seriously impressive payload capabilities, and if I put massive motors on it, it seemed it could do a heck of a lot better!

I found the most efficient (and cheap) RC brushless DC motors I could, and ordered all the parts!

First came the foam construction:

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Next, I decided to have a midsection which could be disassembled. After consideration, I decided to go with some galvanized steel, lightly applied in the center rib area, for easy disassembly and transport.

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Assembled:

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Next, electronics!

An electrical distribution plan was hatched:

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Then tested:

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Then assembled & harnessed:

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I decided I would integrate a few structural, and air data systems I’ve not seen commonly in RC aircraft…

First, an angle of attack indicator (potentiometer with foam vane glued to it):2016-04-06-10-45-22-1

This was modeled after some other AOA sensors I’ve seen, like the one on my friend Edwin’s Jet: 2016-04-07-13-32-29

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Next, a pitot tube and static port2016-04-05-18-51-30

Next, an aluminum, epoxied elevon control horn:

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These are all (I believe) important improvements to have in a safe and large UAV.


Simulation

Put simply, the final product was pretty frickin’ huge, and I was somewhat afraid that all the extra avionics weight would not allow a safe takeoff or stable flight.

With that in mind, I began the process of building a flight dynamics model in MATLAB Simulink.

Using the Aerospace Blockset and DATCOM, I built a flight dynamics model accurately modeled after the Kraken’s geometries.

Curiously, I could never get the aircraft to fly stably in the simulator. I’m still 100% convinced it was an error in the DATCOM stability prediction software. I messed around with the position of the center of mass to determine the best place for stable flight, finding that no position was sufficient.

Frustrated, and still apprehensive to fly the aircraft (with no RC flying experience), I decided to build another flying wing aircraft, the FALCON, to learn to fly RC very well, and test avionics systems. Additionally, the FALCON would log the same flight data as the ICARUS, meaning I could build a flight dynamics model of the FALCON after flight test.

This learning could then translate to a more accurate ICARUS flight simulation model.

The ICARUS was put to the side (for now) to build and test the FALCON.

Follow the details and build of the FALCON.