Students at Mälardalen University are currently working full time constructing an autonomous airplane model, that stabilize and navigate using on-board computers and sensors. The students in the project course are from the Robotics program and from the Master Program in Intelligent Embedded Systems

It is based on a large RC model plane, an electrical powered glider with a 2.5 meter wing span, but the radio control can be switched of – the computers then take over.

The plane has sensors such as GPS, accelerometer, and gyros. They are read by AVR microcontrollers and the plane also carries a Linux board equipped with an ARM Cortex-A8 processor. It also carries a USB camera and an internet connection using a standard 3G USB modem.

The vision is to launch it using a fairly large helium balloon and release it at a few thousand meters. This has many potential uses, as it provides a low cost airborne sensor platform. However, the main goal is for the students to learn practical development of embedded systems.

Percepio AB is a proud sponsor of this project and provides a technical advisor. Other project sponsors are Mimer Information Technology and EIS Semcon. Zetterlunds Leksaker och Hobby have been very supportive and will even provide pilot expertize for the upcoming test flight.

Below are some recent photos from the lab:

The small board in the middle is the Linux system containing the webserver and camera connection. It is a “Beagleboard” with an ARM Cortex A8 processor.


It is a tight fit to get all extra electronics inside the plane.


The wings – now with sponsor logos. About 2.5 meter wing span. The colorful graphics could unfortunatly not be removed that easy…