As we are in the approach of our first flight on batteries with Phoenix PT, the PT electronics & control members are of utmost importance. Read about their department below!

 

Tell us about your department!

E&C consists of 5 motivated members, of which 2 are full-time: Jakob, Aleksandrs, Ward, Vincent, and Tim. Our main objective is to ensure that all the various components work together in harmony. The electronics of the Phoenix can be seen as the nervous system of the aircraft. It controls the different systems and transports data and energy across the plane. A majority of our work is focused on developing software and component drivers. We mainly develop the software at home individually and then test it in our workshop at Rotterdam Airport, where we test our programs in a real-life situation. The other part consists of designing hardware on which the software has to run, this is where Aleks and Tim come in.

 

What do you like most about your department?

The fact that we learn about all the other departments. By working together with all the other departments, we really get a complete overview of how all the various systems work in order to make Phoenix rise up to the skies. In this way, you can really see the fruits of your work when all the components work together as needed.

 

What are the biggest obstacles your department has faced so far?

One issue we face is that there are very few fixed wing drones of this size. This means that finding components that work well for our application is quite hard. As an example, the electric motor we use in our system has a very specific requirement. The aircraft is too large to use motors meant for smaller hobby planes, but also too small to use actual electric airplane motors. We are attempting to solve the issue by getting help from experts and utilizing our own knowledge and some testing to ensure we get a motor and propeller combination that is optimized for our use case.

Another thing that is difficult, is the fact that we have a bunch of components that all need to communicate back to the ground via the PixHawk (which can be seen as the brain of our aircraft). Adding all of the systems, features, and functionalities we need for our purpose is quite difficult. The issues we run into are also issues that you can’t very easily find the solution to. To find solutions we attempt to work together with some of the pixhawk developers. Also, a practical example of how we attempt to lessen any difficulties is that we utilize previously written pieces of code to build new pieces of code off of.

 

What are you as a department most looking forward to?

First of all, he battery-only flight! During that flight, the majority of the systems that need to function for all flights (including the gaseous hydrogen and liquid hydrogen-powered flights) will be tested. If the battery-only flight is successful then we have been able to successfully build a suitable testing bed for our small-scale hydrogen propulsion systems!

Secondly, the Iron Bird test. That will be when we first run all of the systems together before they are integrated into the aircraft. This will be the point in time when we see if the system can work together as a whole