Some of the highlights are:
- new APM_Control attitude controllers.
- new TECS speed/height controller from Paul Riseborough.
- two new flight modes, ACRO and CRUISE
- new camera trigger by distance system, for better aerial mapping
- dozens of small fixes and improvements from two months of development
- lots more documentation, including tuning guides for all the new parameters
The new "APM_Control" attitude controllers have been in development for a long time. Originally developed by Jon Challinger last year, they were extended by Paul Riseborough and made compatible with the existing parameter names. The key advantage of these new controllers is their improved handling of noise, and much better ability to tune for your aircraft. There is a new tuning guide in the wiki which gives detailed instructions on how to make the most of the new capabilities.
One of the big effects you will see with the new attitude controllers is better handling of pitch compensation in turns. The new PTCH2SRV_RLL parameter makes tuning for flat turns much easier, which has been a major source of frustration in the past.
The new controllers also handle sensor noise much better, especially if you use any D term in your roll or pitch controllers.
New Speed/Height Controller
The new TECS speed/height controller is the second major controller change in this release, and will make a world of difference for aircraft with an airspeed sensor. After a lot of testing I decided to make TECS the default in this release, although you can switch back to the old controllers using the ALT_CTRL_ALG parameter if need be. If for some reason you find you do need these old controllers then please let me know, as I am planning on removing the old controllers in the next release.
The previous airspeed controller for speed/height suffered from a major problem that it gave absolute priority to airspeed. If the aircraft could not achieve the target airspeed you had set then it would dive to gain speed, even to the point of diving into the ground. This made it quite fragile, and you had to be very sure of your airspeed configuration.
The new controller operates over a range of airspeed values, set using the ARSPD_FBW_MIN and ARSPD_FBW_MAXparameters. That controller will try to meet both the airspeed and altitude demands of the mission, but if it can't reach the target speed it will happily fly a bit slower, as long as it doesn't get below ARSPD_FBW_MIN. You can control the relative priorities of speed versus height using the TECS_SPDWEIGHT parameter. See the full tuning guide for details.
New ACRO flight mode
After a suggestion from Thomas in the 2.73 release thread, we have added a new ACRO flight mode.
This modes brings rate controlled stabilization to APM:Plane, and should help give you an "on rails" manual flight experience. It is a lot of fun to fly, but it is not for beginners!
We're planning on expanding the ACRO mode in future releases. Right now it is great for "locked in" flying, and also good for loops and handles inverted flight very nicely. It doesn't yet handle knife-edge or prop-hanging.
New CRUISE flight mode
After a suggestion from Hein, we now have a new CRUISE flight mode. This mode is ideal for longer distance flying without a pre-programmed mission. It is like FBWB, but also does ground track heading hold, with heading update via aileron or rudder.
I've been testing CRUISE at my local flying field, and it is the easiest mode to fly in APM. Just steer the plane around the sky, and when you stop steering it locks onto a ground track and holds it. It isn't a good mode for takeoff and landing, but once you are in the air it is great.
New camera trigger system
When using APM for aerial mapping where you want photos taken at regular distances, the previous system was to setup a grid mission with a "camera trigger" mission item at regular intervals within the mission. That worked, but led to overly large and complex missions. You can now just set a single parameter CAM_TRIGG_DIST to the number of meters of flight between photos, and the APM will take care of when to trigger the camera. This makes for much simpler missions, and also works in other flight modes, including FBWB and CRUISE.
More details can be found here