Syncodactyl Design, formerly known as SyncTech, was tasked with the Syncodactyl Avionics Module (SAM) which was designed for the Pegasaurus flight platform. This project was originally intended to answer a request from the BORDERS Program of the Department of Homeland Security. The goal of Syncodactyl’s design is to design an avionics suite that could autonomously guide an aircraft that weighs less than 55 pounds through a surveillance mission.

In early January, it was announced that the three Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University senior design teams were not chosen as finalists for the BORDERS surveillance program. With the loss of BORDERS funding, Syncodactyl Design faced budget cuts and the project slightly changed. Syncodactyl Design decided to focus on a smaller mission. Originally, Synodactyl Design used a live video stream, but now is taking pictures every 10 seconds.

The Syncodactyl Design team decided to use an Mbed microprocessor and an Ardupilot piloting module, working in tandem, to pilot the aircraft. The Mbed microcontroller is assigned to control the camera used for surveillance, along with storing flight data. The Ardupilot controls the actual flight of the aircraft, making flight decisions based on weather and changing conditions. These aspects of the design were controlled by Design Team Lead Sarah Van Leeuwen and Integration Lead Brad Clancy.

The design team had to design a power module that would send power to the aircraft’s engines and the Mbed microcontroller. This power supply system had to regulate voltage to appropriate levels for the electronics, stepping down from a battery voltage of over 20 V to a regulated level of 5 V for the Mbed microcontroller. These aspects of the design were controlled by Power Design Co-Leads Ryan Opat and Marco Malanche.

The SAM may not fly at the end of this semester, due to issues with scheduling and inexperience with certain aspects of the design. It will be tested on a specially designed test bench however, built by Professor Dennis Kodimer, and the data and documents will be passed on to another EE/CE Prelim group. This group will be able to complete Syncodactyl Design’s work.


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