back to article Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run

Watch Video The Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) team is still crunching numbers from last Friday's test run of the Vulture 2 spaceplane, which came at the end of an intensive week of brain surgery on the aircraft's Pixhawk autopilot. Hats off to Linus Penzlien and Andrew Tridgell for crafting and installing the …

  1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    For giving a fellow paraglider a lift back to the top

    Have another beer, Lester.

    Also, nice work on the simulation/testing.

  2. Faye B


    That extra battery pack is going to affect your CofG so be careful, but at least I learnt a new word today.

    1. Elmars

      Re: Unideal

      Rather than adding the weight of a second power source, have you considered placing a supercap in front of the servos? Although expensive, they can deliver the instant power needs of the servo, while keeping weight to a minimum.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Unideal

        Supercaps are not really capable of delivering large currents; they're meant as a buffer for stuff that draws little current (like RTCs and CMOS storage) for which you might not want to use a primary button cell (because of replacement issues) or rechargeable cells (additional charge circuitry, degradation).

        Depending on the current drawn by the Pixhawk, slapping a reasonably large cap on its logic power supply line together with a series diode, so that when the servos cause the battery voltage to drop it won't propagate to the Pixhawk, would be my try to fix this.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: Unideal

          If the diode + capacitor solution turns out to be insufficient, I'd get a step-up converter to boost the battery voltage to 12..18V, then an large-ish cap (4700uF, 25V), then a step-down converter to feed the Pixhawk at its required voltage.

        2. Brenda McViking

          Re: Unideal

          errrr... supercaps ARE capable of delivering HUGE currents actually. You're thinking of conventional capacitors. A bank of 6 maxwell supercaps (58F, 16V) can have 170A drawn from it at max load, which is pretty darn big. It won't provide it for long, but this type of application is exactly what they're good at.

  3. A K Stiles


    Well known problem in big metal ships. Apparently they used to sort it with some strategically placed magnets (or a big lump of steel), though I couldn't tell you the specifics. Probably easier to test that by just having a play around with an energised LOHAN in a big open field, followed by a beer or two for refreshment.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Lionel Baden

        Re: Compass

        Much better to just strap somebody on the roof to hold it far away enough from the van !

        1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

          Re: Re: Compass

          I agree. Volunteers please...

          1. Christopher Lane

            Re: Compass

            Me!!! Me!!! Pick Me!!! All expenses (and beer) paid I trust...

          2. Parax

            Re: Compass

            Could have asked mr Paraglider to take the avionics pod for a skyward trip...

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Compass


      Well known problem in big metal ships. Apparently they used to sort it with some strategically placed magnets (or a big lump of steel)

      Well known problem on airplanes as well. Even on fiberglass gliders with little to no metal components a compass will be noticably out of alignment if not corrected. (And TINY amounts of metal can already influence it.) A sunroof and aluminium roofrack are not going to cut it, there's still way to much metal in close proximity.

      On aircraft the compass has a small tray for mounting small magnets or iron blocks, used to counteract the influence of the aircraft frame on the indication.

      I doubt the LOHAN compass will have any sort of adjustable compensation built in. It would still be a good idea to slug it up a hill, set it on a non magnetic table (Preferably something you coble together from some old planks without using ANY nails or screws) pointing due north, power everything up and stand well back while noting what the compass reads. Then turning it 90 degrees, rinse, repeat.

      On the video is also seems to me like the canard has some trouble returning to neutral after making a full deflection. Is this just an illusion or is the servo drawing much more power at that point?

    3. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Compass in ships

      Look up what a binnacle is. Since the advent of iron ships, they have been incorporating magnets in the binnacle to correct for the field distortion caused by the ship.

      That's what the Navigator's Balls are for!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Compass in ships

        Unfortunately it may be a little difficult in practice to get the Playmonaut to make the necessary adjustments on board while comparing readings with the vehicle based compass. The upside is that if an attempt to do so succeeds, venture capitalists will be falling over themselves to fund the development of general purpose micro-robots.

    4. Peter Simpson 1

      Re: Compass

      According to wikipedia, that always correct fount of knowledge, in the UK, they're referred to as "Kelvin's balls".

      Translate *that*...

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Compass

        I know, I just could not resist the double-entendre.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Looking at those spikes, wouldn't a fat capacitor across the servo battery also help? Cells have a higher internal resistance than capacitors: a 10000uF 10V electrolytic has an esr of 0.038 ohms at -10C (reducing as temperature rises). AA Lithium cells tend to have a maximum safe discharge of the order of hundreds of mA, which suggests to me that the internal resistance is fairly high.

    1. Pypes

      Re: Spikes

      My thoughts too. The low voltage DC nature would make ultra-caps a good candidate (with just a medium sized electrolytic for low impedance decoupling) That should give the batteries plenty of time to recover.

    2. Peter Simpson 1

      Re: Spikes

      If it was *my* project, I'd be looking more carefully into why that first servo smoked, and what was going on to cause those current spikes on the servo power rail.

      Clamping zeners, supercaps, extra batteries are just band-aids. You need to get to the root of that problem, lest it resurface at flight time. If you have a second set of servos and another power unit, perhaps a bench test with a scope on the power rail is in order? Something's not right there, and it needs to be gotten to the bottom of.

      Maybe a clue here?

      Not clear if you're powering servos from the 3DM power module, but this page explicitly says not to:

  5. lampbus

    Waggle Worry

    I like the 15 second canard waggle, but what steps have been taken to prevent launch in mid waggle ? could be a big problem as the acceleration due to rocket is probably massive compared to the time taken for the servo to return to neutral.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Waggle Worry

      Chances are that the canards probably won't have a huge effect at the launch altitude because of the rarefied atmosphere.

      They will come into their own as the 'plane descends.

      1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

        Re: Re: Waggle Worry

        That's our feeling.

  6. ukgnome

    I wonder if Mrs gnome would let me bolt a space plane to my MPV?

    Jolly well done all ---->

    Oh, and did you decide on your tree protector backronym thing?

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      I'm lining up the best backronyms for a vote.

      1. Martin Budden

        And the backronym for the roofrack, and the backronym for the van? Suggestions have been made ;-)

        1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

          Bloody hell, we've got a backronym backlog.

  7. Parax

    Any idea on how the air pressure on the control surfaces at 100km/h at sea level compares to the air pressure at altitude?

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      I don't, but the design guys do. Suffice it to say, a test at 100km/h close to the ground is going to give the surfaces a much harder time that at altitude, for the same velocity. Added to that, the airflow over the canards is much more brutal when the plane's strapped down on the top of a van, so we're sure they can stand the heat.

  8. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Hmm. A bit concerned you seem to be having a lot of trouble with the servos, and those current spikes look a bit suspicious to me. Are they fed plain DC or PWM 'soft' start?

  9. Peter Simpson 1

    You folks

    ...are having altogether too much fun with these SPB projects.

    Keep it up!

    // virtual beer...apply where needed.

  10. Eagleman

    Pedantry rules

    Be aware, a BEC (battery eliminator circuit) is not designed to regulate output to the servos, but rather to the (much lower current) receiver in an r/c system. It eliminates the need for a separate receiver battery.

    And the current spikes are almost certainly due to excessive friction in the canard pivot system. Miniature ball bearings may be a solution. Perhaps a pair each side supporting each canard shaft.

    Great project - keep it up......

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pedantry rules

      Or, given the short operating life, PTFE bushes. Unlike ball bearings, they don't ice up (or rather, if they do the coefficient of friction of ice on PTFE is still very low.)

      So - a BEC is just what we old people used to call a "voltage regulator".

    2. Johndoe888

      Re: Pedantry rules

      A BEC is indeed for supplying both the receiver and the servos, but the current rating has to be sufficient for the load. 2 amp for 2 or 3 standard or micro servos, 3 amp for 4 servos, etc. The main issue with a BEC is the voltage drop across it, typically they use a TO92 package voltage regulator requiring an input voltage several volts above the regulated output, this may cause the same issue due to servo load spikes causing it to drop out :(

      I favor the existing setup with something like a 4700 uf capacitor connected across the the battery supply but close to the load, the issue is spikes rather than the battery capability.

      Spending £1 on a capacitor and another test drive would seem to be the way to go :)

      1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

        Re: Re: Pedantry rules

        Another test drive is indeed in order. We're getting various suggested bits in to deal with the voltage current issue, and will report back in due course.

  11. John Brown (no body) Silver badge


    But that's only 62mph. Shirley you ought to be testing at 142kph?

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