Back in undergraduate school, I was looking for a good project to do for my senior design project. At first, I wanted to design and build a smartphone from scratch. I figured that this might be a cool project for myself to try to accomplish.
I then started getting interested in quadcopters, how they worked, how the controller board/stabilizer worked, etc. I was going to design a controller board as my senior design project, when I talked to Dr. Schwartz about being interested in autonomous stuff (since his lab, MIL [Machine Intelligence Laboratory] is pretty much all about that). He mentioned that his IPPD (Integrated Product and Process Design) project this year was going to be an autonomous quadcopter. I wasn’t designing the controller, but it was doing the higher level stuff. After thinking about it for a little, I figured a year long project with Lockheed Martin liaisons and sponsorship would look much better on my resume and really be a cool project to work on!
I quickly applied for the program since the deadline had passed already, got accepted, and was on Dr. Schwartz’s team for the Aerial Inspection Vehicle. The project consumed the last two semesters of my undergrad and replaced junior and senior design.
The project was called the Autonomous Charging 4-Rotor Copter, or AC4RC for short. AC4RC is a remote-controlled quadcopter that accepts waypoint missions. Live video streaming is sent to the mission planning tablet. Operators can manually control the quadcopter via the tablet.
When the quadcopter gets low on power, it communicates with a base station to figure out where it is. The quadcopter will travel to the base station and land in landing cones. The base station will robotically remove the dying battery and replace it with a new battery. The dying battery will be placed in a charging matrix as the quadcopter takes off and continues its mission.
I was the team lead of a group of 11 other senior design engineers. Comprosied of electrical, computer, mechanical, and computer science engineers, we made this project a reality.