This might sound like a bit of a crazy idea, but that’s what we’re here for! Anyway, I’d love to build an autopilot system for my (manned) light aircraft (Zenith 601 HDS) . Here’s a link to give you an idea of what the plane looks and performs like (http://www.zenithair.com/zodiac/601-hds.html).
For those that are unfamiliar with the “Experimental” class of manned aircraft in the US; basically, if you build it you can fly it - which differs drastically from the “Certified” class of aircraft, in which each part has to undergo rigorous testing before you’re allowed to used it. So, the assumed liability for any parts being used is on the pilot in an experimental.
All that said, there are several companies that produce autopilots for the experimental class of aircraft, here are a few links to several of those:
There is one company in particular (TruTrak - http://www.trutrakap.com/) that has released a different style of autopilot for light aircraft. The “Standard” setup for aircraft autopilots is to have a panel mounted control system, and two servos mounted inside of the airplane that are attached to the control surfaces via their cable/pushrods (one on the ailerons for roll and one on the elevator for pitch). These servos basically take over control of the airplane when they are engaged. The servos have to be very strong, thus heavy in this configuration.
The “Eco Autopilot” by TruTrak basically uses ’ trim tabs’ attached to each control surface (ailerons and elevators) that are controlled by large RC aircraft servos (a ton lighter than the traditional A/P servo) - there is a panel mounted control unit that can communicate with an external GPS system (like a Garmin) to follow a ground track.
In aviation, iPads are becoming more and more popular for navigation and flight planning (there are tons of apps for that…Foreflight, FlyQ, WingX…). There are also several companies that make AHRS/ADSB systems that work with these apps (Stratus, StratusX, iLevil…) Surprisingly, I haven’t found anyone capable of controlling autopilot with an iPad! Call me crazy, but I think it’s possible to do!
I’m new to the navio system (I’ve got a good amount of experience with the Reach RTK system), so I’m not sure if this is the right unit to do something like this with - so I ask you, the experts - is it possible to mimic a system like the “Eco Autopilot” by TruTrak by creating a flight plan in a flight app (Foreflight), and have my airplane follow it as I fly along using the navio as the autopilot computer and RC aircraft servos to steer the plane?
I look forward to hearing your thoughts!