The fourth-year capstone design project group had a successful  first flight of the Corvus Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle (UAV).  The flight was short – only 3 minutes – but the aircraft flew well and the team achieved its goal of demonstrating safety of flight. Next steps are to modify the airframe, and install the autopilot and a more sophisticated sensor package before flying again in February or March 2014 for a more complex series of flight tests.  The aircraft is fitted with a GPS/accelerometer data acquisition unit developed by Prof. Alan Steele and his students.  This low cost, lightweight unit is used to collect ground track and aircraft handing information.

Corvus, a 20 kg aircraft, is in part a stepping stone to the much larger 90 kg GeoSurv II geophysics UAV being developed with Sander Geophysics Ltd (SGL).  The Corvus aircraft gives the team a fixed wing testbed for airborne experiments and critical hands-on field experience for students as they work up to another first flight attempt of an improved GeoSurv II in spring 2014.  Corvus itself can be put to use for missions including airborne mapping, wildlife surveys and infrastructure inspections.

The team will experiment with camera and video systems for Corvus in the coming months. Over the winter – when weather conditions generally keep Corvus from flying – the team will assemble and ground test an autopilot system for Corvus (using the Canadian-made MicroPilot autopilot) and make improvements to the airframe, including improved streamlining and weight reductions.  Since the aircraft flew well in its current configuration, changes will be kept to a minimum.  The next major milestone is to demonstrate autopilot controlled flights.

Corvus has been in development since the 2009-2010 academic year. At least 40 students have contributed to the project as part of the fourth-year Fixed Wing UAV project.  The group has also had support from volunteers – notably Dr. Paul Pace (retired DRDC defence scientist specializing in UAV systems), Mr. John Bauer (retired RCAF officer and avionics engineer – and Carleton alumnus) and Mr. Brian Wattie (the UAV pilot who is a highly experienced radio controlled aircraft and retired RCAF navigator).

We had external support early on from Brican Flight Systems, specifically Brian McLuckie and Dr. Brian Eggleston (a UAV technology company from Brampton, ON).  The project also received extensive support from CUESEF, the CSES Student Group Fund and the staff and faculty of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

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