Robotics Institute 

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

© 2017 by Bruce Personal Website. 

Updated on 8/21/2017

 

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I have undertaken this hexacopter project because I believe that an undergraduate education should go beyond theory and delve into practice. While theory is an indispensable part of an engineering program, practical experience is also necessary to gain a comprehensive understanding of the basis and application of theory. The inspiration for the project came from a practical problem many people experience in their daily lives, that is, when we are out and about and a battery in one of our devices requires a recharge, it is often the case that no electrical socket is available. However, if we were able to recharge our devices wirelessly, the issue becomes much less complicated. In the future, when entering a coffee shop or restaurant, we might request not only a Wifi password but also a wireless charging password.

 

While I was working at the ministry, a video by Amazon about deliveries made by quadcopters, as well as presentations by Raffaello D'Andrea on the astounding power of such machines, caught my attention. In particular, the multirotor, or multicopter, which is both fast and affordable, has moved to the forefront. A multirotor contains both software and hardware elements. Flight time, that is battery life, remains a major issue, however, limiting the usefulness of these machines. Moreover, multicopters do not require an airstrip. However, flight time, i.e., battery life, remains a major hurdle limiting the usefulness of these machines. Therefore, I decided to start an independent project to build a multirotor that can recharge wirelessly via a charging pad, allowing for an extended journey of multiple hops. Nevertheless, a major issue with quadcopters—currently the most popular type—is safety. If just one of the four motors fails, the machine will descend immediately. This issue can be ameliorated through the addition of two rotors, thereby creating a hexacopter. This adds to the aircraft’s capabilities and really makes for a more optimal choice for anyone seeking to attach convey heavy loads or load pesticide sprayers. With multiple hops, the hexacopter can carry high-performance CPUs and GPUs as well as two cameras, one of which is a depth camera that can create 3D maps robotically. Generally, there is a roughly 50cm error for a GPS sensor. Therefore, I have used IR tracking, which is able to work at night and enable the hexacopter to land precisely on a wireless charging pad, which is often located in a sheltered location, increasing the chance of lost GPS signal. Thus, I have put an omni-antenna on the charging pad and a rotating high-directivity antenna array with a motor and an Arduino computer on the hexacopter, with the advantage of low power consumption. This is similar to how ships at sea find a lighthouse. Moreover, the hexacopter can calculate its power consumption from the starting point to the charging pad. This means the hexacopter will be able to calculate how much it needs to be charged to be able to travel to the next charging pad.