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Motion control solution delivers pinpoint accuracy on drone test rig

Motion control solution delivers pinpoint accuracy on drone test rig

A high performance test rig installed in the Brahmal Vasudevan Multi Terrain Aerial Robotics Arena within Imperial College London is enabling engineers to test the next generation of aerial robotics for urban environments and extreme conditions. The researchers in the Arena can simulate different terrains in the air, the ocean and on land. The space also enables the engineers to create extreme conditions such as fire, smoke, and heat to simulate how the next generation of drones will perform in harsh environments.

Central to the facility is a massive and highly sophisticated test rig. Measuring 12m x 5m, the test rig frame provides a mounting for high speed digital cameras that capture and record the movement of the drones under test. The frame is required to move under control with load of 200kg, and the structure and motion control components had to ensure minimal deflection, as even small errors in movement would be magnified in operation.

To develop the test rig, Imperial College turned to motion control expert LG Motion, renowned for its portfolio of precise, reliable, multi-axis control components which can be modified and enhanced to provide custom solution packages.

The frame structure is built around modular aluminium profiles from Minitec with four Minitec belt drive actuators mounted on the corners of the installation. The Minitec LR 90 linear guide, consists of a single rail with shaft fixing, two timing belt pulleys with tooth belt-tensioner, and an LR 16-90 slide and tooth belt. Precise motion control comes via an Arcus PMX-4EX-SA multi axis controller. Encoder feedback from each axis ensure that the axes are synchronised.

Overall, the construction and design of the motion control components can deliver more capability than is currently required but it was felt desirable to build in some ‘future proofing’ for requirements currently un-defined.

Dr Mirko Kovac, director of the newly opened Brahmal Vasudevan Multi Terrain Aerial Robotics Arena, said: “We see the UK at the forefront of a billion dollar aerial robotics industry, and new test facilities like this will help the country to realise this ambition.”

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