Abionica Solutions, a Spanish drone solutions company, has shared its research into what to consider when choosing a flight control computer.
General manager Antonio Bedmar González wrote: “All UAVs integrate a flight control computer, commonly known as an autopilot. Many would say that is the key piece of equipment to get the best out of your air vehicle. Therefore, during the development of your flight control system, it is important to choose the right supplier.”
González advised: “The first question should be, ‘What do you really need?'”
To work this out he suggests undertaking checks such as a certification plan, concepts of operation, operations risk assessment and a system safety assessment.
“Only with that information,” he said, “can you know the architecture you need, the reliability requirements of the units involved and the development assurance level of those units.”
Next you must research the quality of the products, the team’s qualifications and what testing the unit has undergone.
Thirdly, González said that the system should be tailored to your needs: “An autopilot is a customised solution for your aircraft and the units around it. It is never a plug & play solution.”
Fourth, the user should expect to get what they pay for, meaning paying a premium for the right product.
And finally, the Abionica boss said that you should expect to spend a significant amount of time testing your drones with the new flight control computer.
“As you can see,” he wrote in conclusion, “the point of acquiring a certifiable autopilot system for your UAV is not as straight forward as buying something that complies with DO178C and DO254, installing it and start flying.
“It is much more than that, and not having the big picture will certainly lead you to buying expensive pieces of electronics and still not being able to certify your UAS. It may not even make it any safer or reliable.”
Abionica claims to offer the chance to install an autopilot system safely and effectively.
González’ full checklist for when buying a new flight control computer can be found here.