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LOHAN enjoys some hot hardware-in-the-loop action

Autopilot brain surgeon Linus flies 630km/h virtual Vulture 2

Take one spaceplane autopilot, a German brain surgeon, and throw a virtual Vulture 2 courtesy of a Tennessee X-Plane ace into the mix, and you've got the perfect recipe for some hot Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) action.

Screen grab of the first Vulture 2 HIL simulation

While we at SPB HQ tackle the rocket ship's servo power situation, Linus Penzlien has been working on a HIL simulation so we can "fly" the aircraft using the Pixhawk autopilot's APM:Plane software, supplied with "sensor and GPS data like it would experience in flight" from X-Plane.

It's highly esoteric stuff to be sure, and hats off to Linus for getting the things set up on his own while our other Pixhawk wrangler Andrew Tridgell and his fellow CanberraUAV team members prepare for the forthcoming UAV Challenge in Oz.*

Screen grab of the first Vulture 2 HIL simulation

Linus's first HIL test a couple of weeks back was over the municipal airport of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico - close to Spaceport America. He reported he couldn't get the canards configured properly, although the rudder servos were fine.

He said: "You can probably imagine that it was spinning wildly at first and tumbling for a long time until it finally flew very fast at 630km/h."

Screen grab of the first Vulture 2 HIL simulation

To get the whole thing working correctly, Linus and Tridge are going to bring APM:Plane software-in-the-loop (SITL) simulation into play.

All of this is in parallel to work on the Vulture 2's custom mission parameters, so in the end we should be able to run the entire flight - including magnetic tree avoidance - from the comfort of a PC and with a high degree of accuracy.

Splendid stuff, but we still need your cash to run the real flight over the rather less comfortable New Mexico desert. Our Kickstarter campaign is in rude health - and thanks to all those who've backed us to date - but we need a final push to reach the finishing line. Over to you...®


*CanberraUAV won the 2012 challenge, and are no doubt among the top runners this year. Good luck to Tridge and the chaps.

More from the lovely LOHAN:

  • You can find full LOHAN coverage right here.
  • If you're new to LOHAN, seek out our mission summary for enlightenment.
  • There are photos our our magnificent Vulture 2 spaceplane here, and detailed structural plans here.
  • For your further viewing pleasure, we have all our photographic material stored on Flickr.
  • Our LOHAN and Paper Aircraft Released Into Space (PARIS) videos live on YouTube.
  • We sometimes indulge in light consensual tweeting, as you can see here.

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