Propeller Testing for High Altitude Drone Cargo

Propeller Testing for High Altitude Drone Cargo - LabJack


Every day our team of engineers and support staff gets to interact with incredible people working eagerly to solve new challenges around the world. Many LabJack customers work at large, well known companies in industries like aerospace, biotech, weapons systems and advanced manufacturing. Understandably these types of companies have lawyers, strict policies and critical R&D discoveries to protect from competitors and nation state hackers.

On the other hand LabJack's support engineers spend just as much time and energy supporting upstart businesses and solo-entrepreneurs who just have a few ideas and need an affordable and reliable data acquisition partner to test and improve their designs. One such LabJack customer is NextLeap Aeronautics...


What is NextLeap Aeronautics?

NextLeap Aeronautics Pvt Ltd, based in Bangalore, India, is a company specializing in the design and manufacture of drones tailored to meet the unique requirements of high alpine customers. NextLeap's expertise lies in creating innovative solutions for various industries, including the challenging Himalayan region. In this LabJack customer application, we will delve into one of their exciting projects: the development of a Cargo VTOL drone capable of carrying up to a 50 kg payload at higher altitudes. Although the 14,000+ foot peaks of Colorado pale in comparison to the Himalayas; we love any application that can get test and measurement engineers into the mountains!

Understanding Motor Performance

When designing a drone, analyzing the performance of the motor is crucial. NexLeap engineers needed to assess the motor's capabilities both at sea level and at higher altitudes to ensure optimal performance in the Himalayan region. To accomplish this, they created a test stand equipped with multiple analog and digital sensors to measure thrust, speed, voltage, current, and power consumption of the motor.

The Test Stand: A Glimpse into Bootstrapped Engineering

The test stand plays a pivotal role in evaluating the motor's performance. This equipment is designed to measure essential parameters such as torque, thrust, RPM, voltage, current, and temperature. By collecting accurate data through these sensors, engineers gain valuable insights into the motor's behavior and performance characteristics.  Despite having very limited prior data acquisition and/or testing experience; in a few short weeks, the NextLeap team was able to build their test stand, calibrate their system, collect sensor and motor data, so they could begin improving their designs.

Propeller Test Stand

Integrating Data Acquisition and Motor Control

For seamless communication between the test stand and the motor controller, NextLeap required a flexible Data Acquisition (DAQ) device. The DAQ device needed to not only process the data collected by the analog sensors, but also to facilitate communication with the motor controller through UART (Universal Asynchronous Receiver-Transmitter). Previously, the NextLeap team had some experience working with an arduino, but their demanding mixed signal requirements pushed them to consider a more robust DAQ solution, ultimately selecting LabJack to meet their DAQ goals. They selected the LabJack T7 to handle a blend of analog and digital signals, including their asynchronous serial requirements. 

Design-Build-Test-Learn Drone Design

By repeating their tests and analyzing data from the motor's performance at different altitudes, the test engineers can fine-tune the design of the Cargo VTOL drone. The data obtained from the test stand enables them to make informed decisions regarding the selection of propellers, batteries, electric motors, and other critical components. This ensures that NextLeap drones operate efficiently and reliably, even in the challenging Himalayan terrain.


NextLeap Aeronautics Pvt Ltd, is committed to pushing the boundaries of drone technology. Their project to develop a Cargo VTOL drone capable of carrying heavy payloads at higher altitudes is just one example of the exciting engineering challenges they are taking on. Through the use of the advanced test stand and data acquisition system, NextLeap can rapidly cycle their design-build-testing loop, reducing development time. LabJack is thankful for companies like NextLeap who have adopted our ethernet and USB data acquisition hardware like the T7 into their test fixtures. We encourage R&D engineers of all disciplines from companies small and large to consider LabJack for your next testing application. Our team of Colorado engineers is ready to provide legendary support, flexible hardware and software options and affordable, solution focused recommendations.

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