INDEPENDENT WING CONTROL
solar panels give you virtually free energy is great but the only draw
back is that itís got to be sunny and the solar panels must point towards
the sun. But hang on a moment, our ship is not always going to be
aligned with the sun. So, we need to make the ship capable of aligning
it's solar panels to the sun for optimum collection, regardless of the
direction the boat is going.
Photoresistor comparator test circuit
this be done? We need some way of ďseeingĒ where the sun is, then
using that information to tell the panels where to point. Ideally,
this should be achieved automatically to free the crew and ensure accuracy.
Fortunately, thanks to electronics there are many different ways in which
to measure light, or sunlight - usually by a photo reactive sensor, or
photocell. Provided we set up a suitable photocell such that it
detects direction, we could then tell where the sun is. But only
a few sensors are reliable and rugged enough to be put on a ship that
is going to be exposed to a harsh marine environment.
now that we can see where the sun is we need to be able to use this information
to move the solar panels. Obviously, we need a motor drive to move
the panels. For simplicity we are going to use a radio control type
digital proportional servo. But hang about, doesn't that use
lots of power and we donít want to be wasting power which we could be
using to drive the boat. So we need to make sure we are going to
move the solar panels in the right direction first time. To be sure
we achieve this we will use dual sensors on each side of the ship, plus
there will a scanning sensor mounted on the bridge of the ship.
this data that we can get from the sensors is great but what do we do
with it all. Well, to start with we need to process the data first
as the signals will be coming in various forms i.e. Digital and analogue.
Once this data is in side the control systems we can do some dare I say
it mathematics. This is were it all starts getting rather complicated.
The control system needs to be able toprocess millions of signals every second and determine what action it should take. To make things run even faster we are going to implement mutli processor functions. Meaning that we will have several computer control systems to process the signals. For all this computing power we will be using PICs from Microchip. These are small yet highly powerful devices. PICs are available with loads of onboard hardware functions such as USART PWM capture and so on. I know it's all getting a bit technical, but sometimes you have to knuckle down to get things done. If the terms are a bit worrying, ignore the details for now - just hang in there for the overview.
system that can do all the calculations we want (work) is great, but sometimes
your going to get conditions that you just donít expect. So it must
have some form of override. All the control systems are fitted with
serial ports and can all talk to each other, like one fax machine to another,
but should we need to take control we can log into the system and administrate
the control of the solar panels. This is called going to manual.
This is called going to manual.
WATCH THIS SPACE AS THE PROJECT DEVELOPS TO A FULL BLOWN WORKING PROTOTYPE
processor: microchip PIC comparator
processor: microchip PIC
port override: handheld device or laptop
drive: independently controlled by microchip PIC
Actuator feedback sensor: processed by microchip PIC
More information can be found at http://www.solarnavigator.net
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