This post continues my update of progress toward a steerable parachute system that automatically returns rockets to the launch pad.

In early July 2010, coding of the navigation software was done – it worked well in the simulation, but as a reality check I built another truck to at least test it on the ground.

I stripped a $15 toy truck down to the chassis and installed an old hobby servo to steer it:

Here’s the sophisticated steering linkage – a bent paper clip:

Then I stuck the CPU board in there with some batteries to run the truck motor:

There was no R/C radio – the system is autonomous and steers itself.

This one wasn’t as robust as the truck I’d tested back in 2006 or so (see my slides) – that was a $80 toy truck, and big enough to run on grass and drag around a whole laptop and lead-acid battery- but I didn’t need the laptop anymore since the navigation was running on the flight hardware. It was good enough for a quick-and-dirty test in a nearby parking lot.

It was a very useful test – I found lots of bugs, as documented in my notes. But, after a mere 6 or 7 tries over the July 4 weekend, it was successfully navigating its way around the parking lot. The road to flight glory seemed open.