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How To Design Your Own Drone With Analog Devices!

Drones! One of the hottest topics these days. Critically acclaimed because of their military use to in crisis areas and situations. Loved for the unbelievable aerial footage they deliver for photographers and movie producers. Exciting because there are tons of possibilities to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) which we aren’t even thinking of yet.

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No matter if you want to transport a package, film a video or lock a target – there are several things all drones have in common

The technology behind drones is complex especially if you try to design an UAV which obtains more than one rotor and should be easy to control and handle at the same time. We asked Analog Devices to break down the core technologies and parts you need to build a sophisticated drone.

Basically what you want to take a look at before selecting the right parts for your system is estimating the size of your application, the weight, the desired speed, the control system and the remote (including the remote device and the needed distance which has to be bridged wirelessly) and the purpose of your drone. For a small, amateur filming drone you want to focus more on small size, usability and probably a gyroscope for image stabilisation. To build a stronger UAV able to transport different equipment and traveling longer distances you will use higher power and need a strong RF signal for remote control.

In general key concerns will include MEMS, Transceivers, Amplifiers, Data Converters, Power Management, Video Decoders, Switches/Mux, RDC and Motor Control.

For each of these fields we listed different parts and their advantages and features helping you to get an idea what you need in order to realise your own system.

MEMS

MEMS

Sensors are inevitable in order to control and stabilise your drone-design

Efficient and precise sensors, especially gyroscopes and accelerometers are fundamental in order to control the UAV. Through constant sensing it is possible to take over the control of the drone and to get clear and calm aerial video footage.

ADXRS646 – High stability, low noise, yaw rate gyroscope. Good for: Navigation systems and platform stabilization

ADXRS290 – Ultralow noise, dual axis gyroscope. Good for: optical image stabilization, platform stabilization – for improving both the field of view and picture quality for cameras mounted on an UAV

ADIS16485 – Tactical grade six degrees of freedom MEMS inertial sensor. Good for: High end IMU for navigation systems and platform stabilization for manned and unmanned aircraft – provides a much lower cost and smaller solution for high end inertial sensing required for precision flight when compared to traditional laser ring gyroscopes and fiber optic gyroscopes.

ADIS16488A – Tactical grade 10 degrees of freedom inertial sensor. Good for:  Same use/applicability as the ADIS16485 with the addition of magnetometer and barometer sensing

ADIS16480 – Tactical grade 10 degrees of freedom inertial sensor Good for: Same use/applicability as ADIS16488A with the addition of an extended kalman filter.

ADIS16448 – Compact, precision, ten degrees of freedom inertial sensor. Good for: smaller, cheaper, lighter IMU as compared to the ADIS16480/88A for navigation and stabilization, making it well suited for a small UAV with tight size and weight budgets.

Transceivers

ransceiver

Transceivers connect your control device to the UAV

To connect remote control and UAV you need a transceiver fitting your needs. For some smaller consumer drones it might be easier to connect to a smartphone used as controller via WiFi or BLE; however this will limit the range of communication dramatically compared to modern RF solutions. 

AD9361 – 2 x2 RF Agile Transceiver. Good for:  well suited for serving as the data link between the UAV and ground. A complete programmable RF signal chain in one package providing the ultimate SWaP solution for UAVs.

AD9364 – 1 x 1 RF Agile Transceiver. Good for: same use/applicability as AD9361 except as a single channel solution.

Amplifiers

AMP

Want more range for your remote? Use Amps!

From amplifying sensor signals to increasing range of your transceiver – to built a drone your application will benefit from high-quality amplifiers. 

ADA4692-2 – Low Power, Wideband, Low Noise, Rail-to-Rail output, Dual Op Amp. Good for: The combination of low power and low noise make this amplifier an ideal building block for a variety of UAV applications.

AD8418A – Bi-directional, Zero Drift, Current sense amplifier. Good for: This amplifier is well suited for battery monitoring, but can also be used for current sensing for motors and solenoids.

HMC797 – 1-Watt Power Amplifier, DC to 22 GHz. Good for: This is a power amplifier for use with our integrated transceivers or any discreet transmitter if a longer distance communication range is required between the UAV and ground control

Data Converters

Data-Conv-2

Want to use your drone for filming but also to deliver presents? Data converters help you to build scalable UAV platforms

You’re not building the Enterprise but still it makes sense to give data conversion a deeper thought and choose a solution which gives you the flexibility to make changes and upgrades to your design.

AD7689 – 16-Bit, 8-Channel, 250 kSPS ADC. Good for: Low power, Integrated ADC for data acquisition including a multiplexer, inputs can be configured as single ended or differential

AD7980 16-Bit, 1 MSPS ADC. Good for: For use in a multiplexed data acquisition system – A low power ADC with 16-Bit resolution allowing for a high throughput rate for measuring multiple inputs with a single ADC.

AD7173-8 – Low Power, 8-/16-Channel, 31.25 kSPS, 24 Bit, Highly Integrated Sigma-Delta ADC. Good for:  Highly integrated sigma delta based ADC for very high precision measurements in data acquisition systems for analog sensor measurements and health monitoring

AD7175-2 – 24-Bit, 250 kSPS Sigma Delta ADC with 20 uS Settling & True Rail to Rail Buffers. Good for: Highly integrated sigma delta based ADC for very high precision measurements in data acquisition systems for analog sensor measurements and health monitoring

ADAS3022 – 16-Bit, 1 MSPS, 8 Channel Data Acquisition System. Good for: Highly integrated multiplexed SAR based ADC providing a higher throughput rate for fast multiple channel data acquisition

ADAS3023 – 16-Bit, 1 MSPS, 8 Channel Simultaneous Sampling Data Acquisition System Good for: Highly integrated simultaneous sampling SAR based ADC providing a higher throughput rate for fast multiple channel data acquisition

Power Management

Power

If you want to go far you better juice up and make that drone energy efficient!

When developing your UAV you probably want to get as much flight time as possible. This means choosing the right battery pack but also implementing power management in order to decrease energy consumption and increase the flight time per charge.

ADP5053 – Integrated Power Solution with Quad Buck Regulators and Supervisory Circuits. Good for: Highly integrated power solution for providing multiple rails for optimum sub-system power management for power critical applications.

Video Decoders

Video

You know how great aerial footage can look like – use the right video decoders to ensure your UAV lives up to your expectations.

Building one of those fancy drones capturing stunning aerial pictures and videos? Choose the best fit for video decoding and processing below.

ADV7610 – Low Power 165MHz HDMI Receiver. Good for: For use in processing on-board video systems

ADV7844 – Quad HDMI 1.4 Fast Switching Receiver, with 12-Bit, 170 MHz Video and Graphics Digitizer and 3D Comb Filter Decoder. Good for: For use in processing on board video systems

Switch/Mux

MUX

Make sure the flying application works perfectly – or you will have to send a rescue drone.

To prevent malfunction of the system and optimise the data flow you can use a multiplexer.

ADG5248F – Fault Protection and Detection, 0.8 pC Qinj, 8:1 Multiplexer. Good for: Ideal for system monitoring and fault detection in a variety of systems

RDC

RDC

You better know the position of the motors to fly that drone!

To measure the motors angular position and velocity you can use an R/D converter similar to the ones you would use in automotive applications like electric power steering, alternators and so on. In addition LVDT/RVDT sensors for position/ displacement can be used to precisely sense the position of the actuator.

AD2S1210 – Variable Resolution, 10-Bit to 16-Bit R/D Converter with Reference Oscillator. Good for: Position feedback for motor drive

Use LVDT/RVDT for precise actuator position feedback e.g.:

AD598 – LVDT Signal Conditioner

AD698 – Universal LVDT Signal Conditioner

Motor Control

MOtor-Control

To take control of the moving parts of your application you need to install motor control hardware.

If you build a drone using several rotors or just one with flaps for steering you will always need a sophisticated motor controller which allows you to accurately control all motors and servo motors in order to stabilise and fly the UAV.

ADSP-CM408F – Mixed Signal Control Processor with ARM Cortex-M4 and 16-Bit ADCs in 24X24MM 176 lead LQFP. Good for:  For controlling high end servo motors, capable of controlling multiple motors simultaneously. These motors could be controlling flight surfaces or servo valves.

It sure takes a lot more than this brief overview to develop a great drone but maybe you get an impression on how to start and what is possible. EBV and Analog Devices would love to assist you with any idea and help you to solve any technical problems and challenges you have when developing an UAV. Just contact us by clicking here or use the comment section below. 

Already in the final stages of building a drone? Let us know, so we can write about your projects and spread the word!

For more information check out also our RF&Wireless and Consumer homepages!

  1. Daniel Chavez

    I have a customer working on Drone design.
    Interested in contacting the person that wrote this article for consulting.

    Thank you,
    Daniel
    Avnet FAE

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