Just a short report on my new autopilot , the “Ruby” from www.uthere.com.
I have been playing with autopilots for about 3 years now, starting with the Attopilot and the APM 2.0, with various success, the Atto was good for fixed wing and the APM 2.0 good for multirotor, I had no luck with fixed wing however.
With some research, I decided to leave the open source arena and try a Ruby, designed and supported by Jim Hall at Uthere.
I bought the unit from desireRC here in the UK, it comes with the main board, the brain and an expander board, shown as an extra free of charge, but I think it is really essential as it contains the micro SD card, which I will explain later.
The system is really small and very light, the hardware looks about 5 years ahead of the APM, its so compact and lot less complex (less things to fail). The leads are very fine but tough, one thing that annoys me, is a compact bit of electronics and then a ton of inflexible wiring that looks like mains cable, this is soft and flexible and can be easily sunk into an epp foam or tucked away.
You also get a small GPS unit and a pitot/mag sensor all in one unit, plus loads of leads and other bits including a micro sd card with full size adaptor, nice touch, this has been really thought out.
Most of the instructions are on line, and these are comprehensive and clear, although quite long in places. Its states in many places that if you difficulty then contact Jim via email, ok that’s going to be tested.
Installation is very simple, as far as I can see, you can install it in any orientation, upside down, sideways whatever fits best in your plane.
Next comes a bizarre process called the “ritual”. This involves switching on the plane & TX and performing tests on the ground, eg point the plane to the west and move the sticks, point it to the south and squeeze the pitot tube and so on. You then send a file that you find on the SD card to Jim and he analyses it, you also give him the type of plane and details ie wingspan etc.
Within half an hour I received a modified config file that I loaded back onto the sd card, all working on the ground.
This installation was going into our new Falcon flying wing, which Jim has never seen, so he told me to “temper my expectations” for the first flight and to report back any problems.
On Ruby, there are 3 modes, Manual (bypass ruby), Aided and Autonomous , these are operated by a 3 position switch which you really need, a lot of transmitters don’t have these ie DX6i.
We launched the Falcon on a breezy day, and flew in manual for a minute or so, checked the trims , , ,then landed. Went through the clever pre-flight process and launched again. Ruby does not like mid flight trim changes !
We took off in manual, gained some height approx 150 feet, and pushed the stick forward all the way into autonomous which has a few options, simply moving the stick forward makes ruby go into a loiter where you click it in. The Falcon just went into a lazy eight pattern, with the centre roughly where the activation point was, you could see adjusting through the cross wind and maintaining height and speed by modulating the throttle and controls.
Well this is cool, no hours of messing with PIDS or other fiddly things, all done in around 2 hours.
Gaining confidence, I double clicked the switch which states that it should come home and loiter, which it did very efficiently, this is too simple I thought.
Changed battery and up again, this time Aided mode which should be called FPV mode as it makes flying a doddle, Ruby will hold the plane at a speed and height you set regardless of wind and make the plane un-crashable , pull up or down, corner stick, it will react but not allow the plane to get into danger, so you can steer but not over do it.
One nice thing about “Aided Mode” is that you can point the model at a marker, let go of the sticks, and that’s where it will go even cross wind, turn and let go and that’s where its headed, perfect for FPV, especially beginners.
Grand Finale, Now this feature I did not think would work, “Auto land”, well it does. We took the plane up high flipped the switch 5 times as stated in the manual and stood there with finger on the abort button.
If you do this with your plane high above you Ruby will not plunge it back towards you like a missile, it will always create a gentle approach, in our case an anticlockwise loop out and in. You really need to hold your nerve here, as you see your plane heading off away from you, it’s a really uncomfortable feeling, as you don’t know its next move. Ruby brought it around and quite low, about 200 feet out, I thought a walk was inevitable, but ruby squirted the power and gently plopped it onto the ground about 30 yards away, Jim said 30 feet, I was just happy to see it again.
Following tests, (it gets quite addictive), it came and landed on the strip, again all done cross wind.
Jim has been incredibly helpful and funny, the support is worth a lot, you simply don’t get this from a Chinese firm or open source products.
When showing off Ruby to a friend, I lost sight of the Falcon coming from the trees, then suddenly it was there inverted and heading down, amazingly I just flipped the switch (rare non panic mode scenario), ruby flipped it back and flew it up to 75 feet and into the loiter, I reckon the plane was less than 10 feet above the scene of the accident.
OSD: I have now had a few FPV flights using the new OSD add on, again this is a modular system and the osd just clicks on the bottom of the ruby board, done. Wiring is simple too. Being a bit nervous with FPV, this just takes all the stress out of FPV, to start , I climbed to about 200 feet, clicked to loiter and put the goggles on and enjoyed the flight, you can then alter the flight path with your sticks, let go and ruby will bring it back, altitude and airspeed all taken care of.
I have no affiliation with uthere, other than being a customer.
Price $345, Uthere.com UK £239 desrireRC.
Would a buy another? well yes.