Researcher Bart Remes and his team at the Micro Aerial Vehicle Laboratory at the Delft University of Technology have designed, built, and tested the world’s smallest open source autopilot for small unmanned aircraft. A smaller – and lighter – autopilot allows these small flying robots to fly longer, fit into narrower spaces, or carry more payloads, such as cameras.

That makes them more suitable to be used in for example rescue operations. “Our aim? Make MAVs so small and light that every fireman can fit one in his pocket,” said Remes.

The autopilot is called Lisa/S. It weighs 1.9 grams, more than 30 grams less than its predecessor. The autopilot measures 2 cm by 2 cm. “We programmed new software, Superbitrf, that keeps the autopilot connected to a ground station and a normal RC transmitter at the same time,” said Remes. This combination of functions made it possible to miniaturize the autopilot. Making the autopilot smaller and lighter allows a micro aerial vehicle to stay up in the air longer and carry heavier cameras and sensors. This makes it easier to use MAVs in for example search and rescue operations.

The research team chose to develop Lisa/s open source to make it possible for users to test it and come up with suggestions for improvement. Making all the details available online also helps to make MAVs easily accessible for all.