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Imperial College London develops sophisticated drone test rig arena

06 April 2018

The college has recently opened the Brahmal Vasudevan Multi Terrain Aerial Robotics Arena. The Arena is the first of its kind in Europe, enabling engineers to test the next generation of aerial robotics for urban environments and extreme conditions.

Drone being tested (Credit: Shutterstock)

“The test arena will put the UK at the forefront of a billion-dollar aerial robotics industry, and the new test facilities at Imperial College will help the country to realise this ambition,” comments Dr Kovac, from the Department of Aeronautics.

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.

The challenge for LG Motion

The project presented a very unusual application for the engineers at LG Motion. A massive 12 by 5m frame had to be designed and constructed. The frame is required to move under control with a load of 200kg. Highspeed digital cameras are mounted on the frame to capture and record the movement of the drones under test and so the structure and motion control components had to ensure minimal deflection as small errors in movement would be magnified in operation.

The structure uses 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 fixation 2 timing belt pulleys with 2 tooth belt-tensioner with an LR 16-90 slide and tooth belt.

Running the rig is kept under precise control with an Arcus PMX-4EX-SA multi axis controller. Encoder feed-back from each axis ensure that the axes are synchronised or “electronically coupled”.

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

Drone Arena structure (Pictures courtesy of Aerial Robotics Lab, Imperial College London)

Key features of the Arcus PMX-4EX-SA

• Advanced 4-axis controller with USB 2.0 and RS-48S communication

• Encoder feedback support for X, Y, Z and U axis

• 6M maximum pulse rate output

• XYZU linear controlled motion.

Full product specification can be found on:

One-stop shop for motion control with global partners

LG Motion rotary and linear stages can be combined with servo and stepper drives and motion control components and systems supplied by a number of key global partners including Polaris, Steinmeyer, Baumeister & Schack, Empire Magnetics, Arcus, Schneeberger and Heidenhain.

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