MUGEN

Genesis

The basic idea at the beginning of the MUGEN project is to have a quadcopter for a group of friends, enjoy flying it together and taking videos from altitude.

Our friend Stéphane Barbery (aka Oaksun) supported the project on every aspect, including the financial one. Thanks again, Stéphane !

By the way, MUGEN is a character from the Samurai Champloo anime and his name means “infinity” in japanese.

First build

There are a lot of different airframes and solutions for building a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), and we chose the ArdupCopter approach mainly because it is an affordable opensource solution.

Here is the list of the various components bought and used for the first version of MUGEN:

  • GoPro Hero 2 camera
  • second hand Futaba FF9 radio
  • jDrones ArduCopter v1.1 kit with 12×4.5″ propellers and AC-2836-358 (880kV) motors
  • jDrones highrise landing gear (20cm)
  • MB1200/EZ0 sonar from Maxbotics
  • Attopilot voltage/current sensor (90A)
  • Lipo batteries (a 2650mAh and a 3000 mAh, both in 40C) + fiberglass/fireproof bag
  • Graupner Ultramat+ Lipo charger

 

The total cost was approximately 1500€ for this configuration.

The building process is shown here as a timelapse video:

 

 

MUGEN was flying ! That was great :

 

 

Problems

Firstly, I found that the dome of the jDrones kit, altough strong enough, was a real pain in the ass to remove and gain access to the ardupilot, the RC receiver or the GPS.

So I replaced it quickly with the quite ugly, but utterly convenient “tupperware” dome !

There are a lot of different and sometimes complex aspects involved in building and flying a quadcopter/drone and sooner or later, problems occur and you’ll encounter crashes or emergency landings…

This could be due to the battery levels, your radio configuration, a simple human mistake, a broken or damaged propeller/motor, or a software/firmware problem (arducopter). Before mastering all of these aspects, I found out that having a robust airframe and landing gear is quite important.

The highrise landing gear we used was made of thin fiberglass sheets assembled together with nylon screws. If was cost effective and very light, but it appeared to be way too weak and breakable to sustain emergency landings and crashes.

After a few flights, I had to remove them and found out another solution for the landing gear.

I finally used some foam tube as a basic landing gear, and decided to put the GoPro on the tupperware dome.

When we finally decided to have MUGEN do its first “official” fly in the snow together with the friends, we had a very short flight and MUGEN crashed quickly.

I had already noticed that the airframe was not very rigid, and that each arm could move/rotate of a few degrees in the horizontal plane.

But this time, one of the nylon screws of the airframe had broken and one of the arms of the airframe was not rigid enough to allow a proper flight.

The next steps would be then to address the airframe and the landing gear issues…

And that’s what I tried to do with MUGEN mk II