CUAir, Cornell University Unmanned Air Systems, is an interdisciplinary project team working to design, build, and test an autonomous unmanned aircraft system capable of autonomous takeoff and landing, waypoint navigation, and reconnaissance. Some of the team’s research topics include airframe design and manufacture, propulsion systems, wireless communication, image processing, target recognition, and autopilot control systems. Check us out on Facebook and YouTube, and take a look below at our latest airplane, Hyperion!
CUAir is an interdisciplinary project team combining aspects of computer science, engineering, and business. The team aims to provide students from all majors at Cornell with an opportunity to learn about unmanned air systems in a hands-on setting.
CUAir competes in the annual Student Unmanned Air Systems (SUAS) Competition sponsored by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) at the PAX River Naval Base in Maryland.
Major and Graduation Year: Mechanical Engineering, 2015
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|November 3, 2014
CUAir Launches "Help Us Soar Higher" Campaign
|June 24, 2014
Cornell Places 2nd Overall in 2014 AUVSI SUAS Competition
|April 8, 2014
CUAir Heads to DC for National Robotics Week
|March 8, 2014
A Successful Maiden Flight for Helios
|October 30, 2013
CUAir Goes to AUVSI Conference!
|June 23, 2013
CUAir Takes Home First at the 2013 AUVSI SUAS Competition
|April 3, 2013
CUAir takes home Peoples Choice Award at 16th annual BOOM competition!
|March 28, 2013
Aeronautics/Alternative Energy Expo
|February 25, 2013
Test Flight: February 25th, 2013
|February 22, 2013
Test Flight: February 22nd, 2013
|February 2, 2013
Ithaca Sciencenter Showtime Presentation
|June 17, 2012
AUVSI SUAS Competition 2012
|May 13, 2012
Test Flight: May 13th, 2012
|May 12, 2012
Test Flight: May 12th, 2012
|April 22, 2012
Test Flight: April 22nd, 2012
|April 7, 2012
Test Flight: April 7th, 2012
|March 11, 2012
Test Flight: March 11th, 2012
|February 4, 2012
Test Flight: February 4th, 2012
Take a look at what others have written about CUAir.
Aeolus II, the system developed by CUAir is able to conduct successful missions through the integration of airframe, imagery, and navigation systems. The air system itself is an off-the-shelf Senior Telemaster Plus V2 kit, which has been reinforced for better flight integrity and modified for carrying a payload. A gimbal-mounted Canon Rebel XS Digital SLR camera is used for gathering imagery up to 10.1 megapixels. Image acquisition is controlled on-board the aircraft through a fit-PC2 computer, which can be remotely accessed through a 5.8 GHz wireless bridge. The autopilot used is the Piccolo II from Cloud Cap Technology operating on 900 MHz. Mission planning and aircraft control is managed through Piccolo Command Center (PCC), the application included with the autopilot by Cloud Cap Technology. The Simulated Remote Intelligence Center mobile bridge is established via a 2.4 GHz wireless data connection. Images are sent through the 2.4 GHz wireless bridge to a ground station computer running proprietary targeting software developed by CUAir. The software matches telemetry information received from the PCC to images captured on the plane, and can detect targets through both manual and automatic target recognition.
The Cornell University Unmanned Air Systems project team claimed 1st place in Mission as well as a 2nd place Overall finish with the Aeolus II system!
The majority of Hyperion's airframe is constructed of high-strength epoxy-based composite materials including fiberglass, carbon fiber, and kevlar. These materials have very high strength-to-weight ratios, allowing the airframe to be both durable and lightweight. This increases the lifespan of the aircraft, while also extending its flight time.
The payload, primarily the imaging requirements, is the driving factor in the design of the airframe. As discussed below, the imaging system needs as much coverage of the ground as possible to ensure mission success, therefore the airfoil selection and wing size are designed to meet the calculated optimal cruise airspeed for maximum ground coverage. A non-conventional inverted V-tail was chosen for superior crosswind performance and maneuverability.
Figure: CAD of main payload components: a DSLR camera mounted on a gimbal.
Hyperion's payload is designed to accomplish two main tasks defined by the AUVSI SUAS competition: imaging targets and interacting with the Simulated Remote Intelligence Center (SRIC). The main components in the payload are a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera mounted in a custom built, dual axis gimbal, a fit-PC 2 computer, and the wireless antenna for SRIC.
Our target imaging strategy strives for optimal ground coverage by using medium resolution images taken at regular intervals. This ties into the navigation system, requiring the aircraft to fly over as much of the field area as possible to ensure good coverage. This strategy is highly autonomous, requiring no operator in the loop, and provides the best quality images of the largest area of any methods we investigated, increasing our probability of imaging all of the targets.
The onboard payload computer is responsible for controlling the camera and gimbal, sending payload data between the air system and ground station, and performing the SRIC task.
Figure: Computer simulation of air flow patterns.
A non-conventional inverted V-tail was chosen for superior crosswind performance and maneuverability.
Figure: Photo of Hyperion's power boards.
The Hyperion aircraft and its payload are powered by five Lithium Polymer (LiPo) batteries. Three 33.3V batteries supply a maximum of 2,800W to a three-phase, brushless motor for propulsion, while an 11.1V and an 18.5V battery power the payload. Two custom regulator circuits ensure that all components receive low-noise power at their appropriate voltages.
Figure: Diagram of Cloud Cap Technology's Piccolo Autopilot system network. Image courtesy of Cloud Cap Technology.
Hyperion is capable of autonomous navigation thanks to the Piccolo II autopilot by Cloud Cap Technology. The on-board autopilot has direct access to the aircraft's flight sensors and controls, and uses a detailed internal model of the flight system to provide stable, controlled flight. Hyperion can navigate a set of GPS waypoints, and is capable of changing flight plans on the fly.
Figure: CUAir's custom-built target recognition software.
The Hyperion ground system is a custom built distributed computing system based on a master-slave model. The manual and automatic target searching components, the autopilot navigation ground station, and SRIC communication component are all operated and coordinated by a central Command Center application. This application has many duties, such as sending and receiving information from the aircraft, saving all received data and images from the aircraft in a database, and exporting information about found targets.
Two applications exist for identifying targets in the images taken by the aircraft. One is a manual target recognition application, which allows one or more users to search through each image taken by the aircraft manually tag targets that are seen. The other application is automatic target recognition, which can autonomously search through the received images and use computer vision techniques to find areas within the images that have a high probability of containing a target.
Hyperion's ground station has two major communication tasks. The first is the communication between all of the different ground station components. This is achieved using gigabit network switches, which connect all of the ground station computers together through Ethernet.
The second communication task is maintaining a strong link to the aircraft. This link is maintained using three separate antennas, one 900MHz for the navigation system, and two 5.8GHz Ubiquiti Nanostation antennas mounted on an automatic tracking station that keeps them constantly pointed at the aircraft.
The communication system is what links the Hyperion Air System to the Ground System, allowing for navigation, target searching, and SRIC operations to be monitored and/or controlled by users. The navigation link uses a 900MHz band, while the SRIC and imaging links use 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz bands respectively.
Hyperion's communication system is designed to operate at distances of up to a half a mile, while achieving a data rate of 30MBps or greater for the images. Based on the size of the images and rate at which they are taken, a minimum bandwidth of 21.3MBps is required to transfer all of the data in the allotted time. This minimum is exceeded in even the worst case scenario, and data rates can typically reach a maximum of 50MBps during normal operation.
With Hyperion, Cornell University Unmanned Air Systems repeated as the winners of mission performance. Coupled with another first place in journal paper, CUAir claimed its title as World Champions.
The Helios aircraft is the second fully-custom airframe built by CUAir. Helios uses the same proven aircraft configuration as Hyperion, but features several major improvements that make it a more efficient and user friendly vehicle.
Helios is almost entirely composed of high-strength composite materials such as carbon fiber and fiberglass. It has a fully-loaded weight of 28 pounds and a wingspan of 9.5 feet. A variety of aerodynamic features in the wings and fuselage reduce drag, helping to increase flight-time.
The design of Helios makes it a very stable airplane, a beneficial quality for capturing images. Finally, the airframe is user friendly and can be assembled by a single person in less than 10 minutes.
For the third year in a row, the CUAir team placed first in Mission Performance and ultimately brought home a second place finish overall.
The application period for the Fall 2014 recruitment session has ended. Please check back later for information on our next recruiting session. Thank you for your interest in being a part of CUAir.
Thank you sponsors! As an independent student organization, CUAir relies heavily on external sources for funding. Without the generous support of our sponsors, we would not be where we are today: a world-class team in the area of autonomous aircraft design and fabrication. CUAir depends on these contributions to excel and expand our efforts. With this support, we aim to continue our success at the competition next June.
Sponsorship benefits include tax deductable donations, increased recruiting presence on Cornell University's campus, direct access to the CUAir members, and national visibility on both the CUAir website and aircraft.
For general questions about the team, recruitment, or sponsorships, please submit the following form and we will contact you shortly.