The mdCockpit application software was developed specially by microdrones to enhance the use of microdrones aerial vehicles and support their various functions. The software is designed as a universal programme for the control of our aerial vehicles.
It can be split into three main functions: Waypoint Editor for flight planning, the Downlink Decoder for receiving telemetric data during the flight, and a module for analysis of the flight data recorder.
In addition, mdCockpit features possibilities for configuring and adjusting parameters of the microdrones aerial vehicles. As such, you benefit from an extremely powerful tool with which you can plan, configure and analyse your UAV missions.
mdCockpit is an application which brings together all functions for planning, monitoring and analysing your flights. This powerful software is used in particular to manage the Downlink flight information, flight recorder data or features such as Waypoint.
Software updates for the aerial vehicles are installed on the microdrones and managed via mdCockpit. In our introductory video you can see how to plan complex flight routes with little effort using Waypoint Editor.
A successful UAV mission hinges not only on the hardware involved, but equally on detailed planning and monitoring of the flight. A detailed analysis of the flight data helps ensure the next UAV deployment runs even more efficiently, all facilitated by mdCockpit.
To carry out automated flights using Waypoint navigation, mdCockpit contains a user-friendly flight planning module. Here it is even possible to change an entire flight route at short notice or generate completely new routes with a few mouse clicks. All routes can be saved on the hard drive of the ground control notebook and retrieved in just a few seconds.
The Downlink Decoder receives the aerial vehicle telemetry during the flight and informs the pilot of the current position, the status of the vehicle, as well as of any issues. The route is also followed and recorded.
The sensor information recorded from the aerial vehicle on the micro SD card during the flight can be read and analysed after the flight by mdCockpit.
microdrones aerial vehicles save over 95 different forms of data, 125 times per second onto the SD card during the flight. Based on this data, mdCockpit can carry out detailed analysis and assist the pilot in analysing and remedying any problems. It can help to clarify unforeseeable flight issues very precisely using the flight data recorded.
The mdCockpit application supports multiple languages and Unicode character sets. The languages available are displayed dynamically and can be adjusted at any time during the session.
Should a change of language be required, mdCockpit automatically creates a menu showing only the languages which are available.
mdCockpit pipe server
The mdCockpit application features a »Named Pipe Server«. This module allows other applications access to mdCockpit functions using the Windows pipe file system. As a result other programmes can open files to communicate with mdCockpit. While the pipe file system also supports network access, in addition, it is possible to create a network connection from another PC – as long as the necessary authorisation and clearance exists.
The mdCockpit pipe server features a text-based interface, similar to the command interpreter in the microdrone, which works with command operations. The client requesting data from mdCockpit sends a command to mdCockpit, which mdCockpit processes and sends back as an instant response.
The following section describes the access and the available commands.
Input device for control
The mdCockpit software features a special profile for adapting the joystick to steer the microdrone, e.g. using microdrones PPM9_USART RC module.
- Ease of use, fully automatic »Plug and Play« device recognition and configuration
- Pleasing design and support of common operating systems
- Currently supports 30 languages
- Audio alerts support the pilot using Windows-TTS
- Speech synthesis in the form of warnings, status updates and flight information
- 3D models of the microdrones aerial vehicles which simulate flight behaviour (after landing)
- Export of a flight route in Google Earth™ including graphic display of the route flown
- Assignment of coordinates to the images taken by the onboard camera
- Automatic recording of flight information and parameters received in the microdrones’ flight data recorder
- Status bar with current information on the flight, battery status, RC quality, GPS signal quality as well as display of the quality of the data stream received from the aerial vehicle.
- Calculation of the current battery voltage with audio alerts or warnings
- Recognition of failure signals / signals on the same channel
- Monitoring of RC quality – warning in case of poor connection
- Monitoring of Downlink quality - warning in case of poor connection
- Monitoring of GPS monitoring quality - warnings in case of poor GPS accuracy
- Detection and active audio warning in case of wind strength being exceeded
- Detection and active audio warning in case of powertrain overload
- Detection and active audio warning in case of pitch and roll axis being exceeded
- Display of last-known GPS position
- Export in real-time of flight route into Google Earth™
- Automatic detection of critical issues in the analysis of flight recorder dat
Simply plan, set up and fly UAV flight paths
The Waypoint Editor enables complete flight planning for automated flights you are planning.
The Waypoint feature is not a standard option for microdrones. You must first activate the option before you can carry out fully automated flights. Furthermore, it is essential that the microdrone be equipped with GPS. With these prerequisites in place, Waypoint Editor in mdCockpit can enable precise flight planning within a few short minutes.
Planned flights can be saved on the hard drive and loaded in the aerial vehicle at any time without a serial data connection. The flight plan can also be adapted or changed at short notice on site.
Previously planned routes can be repeated as often as the user wishes.
Although not absolutely necessary, flight planning can be made considerably easier using satellite images from Google Earth™, and the Waypoint Editor offers an array of supporting functions to this end. Google Earth™ can also be useful purely from a safety perspective. With the help of Waypoint Editor, you can visualise planned routes in Google Earth™, checking accuracy or identifying possible obstacles. Google Earth™ can be used on- or offline in this way.
The Waypoint Editor can also, however, use other images for route planning. The microdrone itself presents an obvious image source (see illustration). For example, you can create an overview photo from altitude with your microdrone.
After processing the image (converting to BMP etc.) you can utilise it for extremely precise and timely planning of routes. For the obligatory geo-referencing the Waypoint Editor offers several powerful functions.
GIS-Grid Auto-Code-Generation is utilised to automatically create a Waypoint route. This covers a particular regional area and seamlessly maps or assigns the images of the earth’s surface from this area. This function can of course also be used to document progress on a building site or to carry out applications in geodesy.
This Auto-Code function creates a flight route in the form of an orbit around a given point of interest. The function can be used to obtain images from all sides of an object, for example.
To facilitate route planning, Waypoint Editor allows images of maps to be displayed in the background. A photograph taken with a microdrone or a scanned image file, for example, can be uploaded in the background of the route, or an image file can be imported from Windows clipboard. You may also load multiple images in the background to create a large map.
At present mdCockpit can read maps in BMP and JPEG formats. While not absolutely necessary, using Google Earth™ can make importing maps considerably easier. On the other hand, photos taken with the microdrone itself can be particularly up-to-date and accurate.
The illustration on the left shows a geo-referenced map in the background of a map window, taken before the route planning with a md4-200 microdrone from an altitude of ca. 100 m. In this way one can obtain very up-to-date and precise imagery and thus plan similarly precise routes. The route shown in the image runs at times closer than 1 metre to a building (such route planning requires a certain degree of experience and is not for beginners!).
1. Importing Google Earth™-maps
Working with Google Earth™ takes on a particular importance when it comes to importing maps into Waypoint Editor. As high-resolution satellite images are now available in Google Earth™ for a large part of the planet, and as Google Earth™ is available at no cost, it presents a quick and easy way to source maps needed for route planning.
The mdCockpit software contains functions for generating KML files, with which routes in Google Earth™ can be displayed and adjusted in Google Earth™. Combined optimally with the import function for maps from Windows clipboard, they enable automatic georeferencing of the images copied.
2. Importing maps from files
Importing and adjusting images from files requires somewhat more effort than importing from Google Earth™. However, in this way it is also possible to use scanned city maps or images taken by the microdrone itself as maps for route planning. In particular, using up-to-date high resolution images taken from the microdrone opens up superb opportunities for developing extremely exact routes. An image-processing programme is typically needed to prepare the raw images.
The 3D representation of the flight route can be exported to Google Earth™ as a KML file. The flight route is then shown as a path in Google Earth™. This allows a very realistic display of the flight plan. The output will only work if a flight route is defined (at least 1 waypoint) and a version of Google Earth™ is installed on the PC.
The Downlink Decoder is one of the three main functions of mdCockpit. It is used to receive, analyse and display – mostly in graphic form - the telemetry of the aerial vehicle during the flight.
In addition, the pilot is kept constantly informed about critical data via voice messages. Unless otherwise adjusted, the Downlink Decoder also automatically saves the telemetry of the vehicle on the computer hard drive.
The last GPS position of the vehicle is also recorded. During a »normal flight« the vehicle can easily go out of sight – with the Downlink Decoder it can be brought back under control safely, »flying on instruments«.
The Downlink Decoder offers five different displays:
- Display of the flight instrumentation for controlling the vehicle during the flight
- Display for the technical analysis of the current status of the vehicle during the flight
- Display of 3D-flight-tracking-diagram for analysing the flight path
- Display of real-time data for exporting to Google Earth™
- Display for global settings and for registering the aerial vehicle
- Pleasing, intuitive design for operational support e.g. automatic data capture.
- Warning, status and flight support messages, relayed acoustically with Windows Text-To-Speech (TTS) speech synthesis (at present only in English).
- The feature allows the pilot to give his or her full concentration to the flight itself, no longer having to permanently monitor the instrumentation on the PC screen.
- Informative, colour-supported status bars with current information on the flight, battery status, the RC and GPS signal quality. The quality of the data stream received from the aerial vehicle is also communicated and displayed.
- Black-Box: automatic recording of information received for playback and analysis of a flight.
- Assigning of coordinates to the images from the camera under the aerial vehicle.
- Display of the last known GPS position of the vehicle, e.g. to assist in an accident search.
- A chosen number of GPS positions are saved as Waypoint text data.
- Monitoring of current connection quality (RC and Downlink), warnings of being outside of range or of changes in the connection quality.
- Fully automatic recognition of devices (»Plug and Play«) and easy configuration, with no manual adjustment necessary.
About the flight data recorder
Microdrones aerial vehicles contain a flight data recorder, which saves data on 100 different variables and status information on an internal SD card around 125 times per second. The volume of data is around 32KB per second. Thus many hours of flight time can be documented on a conventional SD card.
Potential flight problems can often be detected through analysis of the flight. Statistical analyses can help in optimising flights and extending flying range.
Overview of functions
- Intuitive user interface with automatic SD card recognition
- 3D flight route diagram including display of technical data at all points along the flight path. An export function for Google Earth™ is also integrated.
- Integrated SD player module for precise flight simulation. A life-like 3D model of a md4-200 aerial vehicle is used for the simulation.
- Easy-use line diagram, which visualises the technical data recorded. At present 56 recorded flight parameters can be displayed as graphics. The resolution is up to 10 m/s or quicker.
- Fully automatic data analysis with error recognition, performance indicators,
- FFT analysis of graphics (e.g. in detecting vibrations, possibly caused by damaged rotors) and further functions which we would be delighted to explain in detail in a meeting.