[balloon-makers] homemade autopilot?

Tim Baggett tim at oasis.com
Tue Aug 20 09:33:20 CDT 2002

Good to see you Tom! Only a few short weeks until Fiesta! Yahoo!

Unless my middle age memory has mislead me again (been doing that a lot
recently), Russ Grantham built an autopilot about ten years ago. He showed
me some pictures of a box he mounted up by an aerostar burner. Russ was an
electrical engineer in his pre-ballooning life. He and his wife are now part
owners of World Balloon up on Eubank. If you go up there, tell them "Skinny"
sent you. I used to crew for them in Las Cruces 7 years ago. Carolyn might
even tell you the story about how I earned my nickname. (hint: there was a
large 105 and a dropline involved)

Back on the subject of autopilots, I think Bruce Comstock has done the most
design and building of autopilots. I believe he has built many of the
autopilots used on the RTW flights. As I understand it, Bruce's autopilot
learns from the way you fly and it works to maintain that flight profile.

I think the most difficult part of designing the autopilot would be in
dealing with the very long delay involved between burning and seeing an
increase in the altitude. Even then, each balloon seems to react at a
different rate. In my experience, 8 seconds delay from stimulus to response
in a control look is eternity. In signal processing, my control loops are
usually measured in microseconds!


----- Original Message -----
From: <admin at deering.org>
To: <balloon-makers at mu.org>
Sent: Tuesday, August 20, 2002 11:16 AM
Subject: [balloon-makers] homemade autopilot?

> I'll admit I have no use for such a thing.
> But the idea has been rolling around in my head for a while.  It seems
> it would be simple to take a pressure transducer, connect it to a PIC
> microcontroller, and have a program actuate a solinoid valve.
> There are a number of simple PIC-based altimeters on the internet, and
> are cheap to make.  I have some ideas on the programming that would be
> needed, but it seems simple enough.  The whole thing would fit inside a
> matchbox.
> Any thoughts?
> Tom
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