The first prototype UAV is built on a Lite Machines 110 remote control helicopter. The choice of the LM-110 is an ideal platform for debugging both the autopilot and the command and control software. It has nearly indestructible, full flapping plastic rotor blades and can take nearly any abuse from “software bugs” or Pilot Error. Unfortunately, the 0.061 cubic inch (1cc) engine only produces about 0.1 horsepower.
This is no where near enough power to lift the airframe, engine, embedded computer, servo controller, attitude gyros and camera. However, the larger aircrafts are very expensive to crash, so they are cost prohibitive for testing. So instead of having all of the hardware on board, the prototype has the servo controller connected to a laptop via a light serial cable. This tether limits the functionality of the UAV, but allows for easy debugging and off loads the underpowered LM-110. It can barely carry the camera, full fuel, servo controller and battery.
I must say this is a very complex project, but its opensource and many hobbyist’s will benefit from it when it will be finished.