Project NUAV is an initiative to give students hands-on experience in UAV development. From airframe design and integration of electro-mechanical payload systems to the development of flight algorithms and companion computing, our subprojects combine hardware and software systems. In doing so, NUAV is an interdisciplinary project consisting of computer engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, bioengineering, and computer science students. Throughout the academic year, students have the opportunity to learn skills in CAD, rapid prototyping, Python, ROS, computer vision, airframe construction, and safe flying practices. From these foundations, students are able to tackle more advanced goals that our current research initiatives are pursuing. Below is a brief description of each of NUAV’s subprojects with more specific located under the ‘Subprojects’ tab above.
- Swarm Carrier: Now the flagship project of NUAV, Swarm Carrier is an initiative to deploy groups of autonomous UAVs from a carrier airframe. Designed for rapid surveying, the system uses a heavy-lift multirotor with a payload of up to 4 swarm drones for deployment at range and operation within spacially denied environments such as forests or amongst buildings. Each swarm drone carries an autonomy package consisting of a Pixhawk flight controller, NVIDIA companion computer, and stereo cameras that will allow them to collaboratively conduct searches and navigate with obstacle avoidance. The ultimate goal of the system is to develop a search and rescue payload capable of deploying UAV swarms from large autonomous vehicles, small aircraft, or helicopters.
- Rocket Locator: As a collaboration with AerospaceNU’s Karman and Competition Rocketry projects, Rocket Locator is an autonomous system capable of localizing crashed or lost rockets during launches. With the goal of being an easy-to-use launch utility, the system works off of incorporating an additional transponder within rocket electronics bays. From this radio-frequency source, autonomous UAVs fitted with antenna arrays locate the position of landing sites and relay position and imagery data to a ground station. Rocket Locator is working on a compact and field-deployable vehicle that can aid teams in safely locating and recovering rockets following launches.
- Quad Camp NU: Quad Camp is an introductory class held by NUAV’s Hardware subgroup to expose new students to fundamental concepts of UAV design, construction, and flight. Taught every fall semester, the curriculum gives students a guide on how to build their own first-person-view (FPV) racing quadcopter. In teams, members practice soldering, learn ideal building practices, and gain an understanding of radio-control, flight mechanics, and electronics concepts. During building sessions, students also have access to flight simulators which teach them the basics of flight and prepare the teams to fly the drones that they built. Following a group fly-in for this purpose, classes in PCB and airframe design are taught to give students a more in-depth exposure to CAD, rapid prototyping, and electronics design concepts.
- Drone Racing: NUAV’s drone racing team is the competitive core of Northeastern University’s FPV drone pilots. Since the spring of 2018, students have built, designed, and tested newer and better racing drones for high-speed maneuvers, agility, and precise operation. Shortly after its inception, the team qualified to compete within the Collegiate Drone Racing Association’s National Championship in 2018 and 2019. Alongside this, several pilots also competed within MultiGP’s global championships in 2018 and 2019 and finished within the top 90 ranked pilots in the world. Our racing team holds fly-ins throughout the semester where students are able to bring RC projects to fly or practice competitive racing on custom courses.
- Solar Wing: Long Range UAV: In August of 2019, Solar Wing took off for its final flight, a flight to test its airworthness with the additional weight and realistic charging abilities. The aircraft flew until it reached its set altitude, but due to maneuverability issues, the flight had to land early. Regardless of this early landing, Solar Wing was successfully charging during flight and had collected vital flight data pertinent to future projects. With the completion of the final flight, Solar Wing had accomplished its goal of creating a long range UAV with solar power charging capabilities. The project had come a long way from a utilizing a commercial airframe with cheap solar cells, to a fully member created airframe with efficient malleable solar cells. Dedicated project members have begun the documentation of all project data so it may be used in the years to come.