For my 3rd year engineering design project, we had to solve a real-world, open-ended design problem. This problem was related to my major, computer engineering. Design tools used included model simulation, sensitivity analysis, linear programming, knowledge- based systems and computer programming. Complementing these tools were discussions on writing and public speaking techniques, codes, safety issues, environmental assessment and professional management. All these topics were with the consideration of our available resources and cost.
Together me and my fellow colleagues Julian Di Leonardo, Jake Nusca and Shane Gautreau tackled a problem presented by 3Point Aviator Inc. 3Point Aviator Inc. presented the need for the development of a customized stand-alone flight data recorder capable of tracking aircraft flight data and pilot behaviors, for use in providing advanced training statistics with the purpose of improving trainees’ aviation ability. A custom solution has been proposed, that of which encompasses the requirements provided by 3Point Aviation’s training facilities.
The device is to track and record a number of key points of interest (KPIs) as the aircraft flies. It must track pitch, roll, yaw, altitude, location and heading, as well as ground speed and airspeed. It must record the data at a reasonable sample rate, and be able to store data for up to 48 hours. Upon the aircraft’s return to the hangar, the device should be able to connect wirelessly to a nearby server and upload the collected flight data to the server.
Additionally, the device should sense when the aircraft is departing from and returning to the hangar and be able to turn itself on and off automatically, without pilot intervention. Finally, the design should have no physical integration with the aircraft whatsoever. This means that it must have its own power source, and it cannot integrate with the aircraft’s sensors.
The design developed was chosen with a certain set of criteria in mind. The design was to be highly accurate, low in cost, power efficient, and reasonably small in form factor. Each component used in the final design was chosen due to its opportune satisfaction of the criteria they were compared against. The parts combined make up a final design that was also analyzed against the criteria.
A final design solution was constructed by evaluating individual subcomponents. Components that make up the AHRS design include sensors, data storage, battery, wireless communication device, and a computing unit that controls and connects all components.
For the sensor configuration, the VectorNav VN-200 will be used. The VN-200 is a chip the size of a quarter that encompasses nearly all of the sensors required to track the data required. The only parameter that the VN-200 does not cover is airspeed. To measure this, the Eagle Tree Airspeed Microsensor will be used, which is a pitot tube which runs to a sensor that converts the pressure information to digital data.
In order to process the data, the two sensors will be attached to a Raspberry Pi, a credit-card-sized computer powerful enough to run basic systems. To power the unit for long periods of time, a Lithium Polymer battery will be used. For storing the recorded data, an ultra-high speed (UHS), high-capacity SD card will be used with a minimum of 8GB of storage, which is more than enough to store. Finally, to transmit the data to the external server, a small USB Wi-Fi dongle will be used.
The total cost for the design, including all hardware, assembly, software development, and testing amounts to $12,593.43. This figure does not include taxes or shipping and handling, and does not account for end-of-life buyback.
In order to reduce risks and uncertainties some assumptions made for our final design include:
- The device is being operated within its operational and environmental limits.
- The device is being safely mounted onto the interior of the aircraft, with the pitot tube
- The server that data is uploaded to is responsible for the handling and analysis of the data.
AHRS placement on a Fairchild PT-26 Cornell aircraft