Missing Drone Posters Are a Hilarious Look into the Future

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Sure there are reward posters for missing cats, dogs, and other various pets — but now in Denver, a man named [Merrick] makes a plea for his $2400 missing drone.

We couldn’t help but chuckle at this news story because it could be the tip of the iceberg. As drones become more and more common place, seeing missing posters for them could become pretty normal! The problem is, when you’re using a long-range drone, and flying it in a city, it is very possible to lose your line of sight and lose the device altogether. That is exactly what happened to poor [Merrick] the other day. Thinking quickly, he started making lost drone posters, and after channel 7 news reported on it, it was discovered in an alleyway the following day. The person who found it thought it was government related and didn’t want to mess around with it — it’s a pretty serious looking drone. [Read more...]

Adding a Manual Z-axis To Your Laser

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[Martin Raynsford] sells lasers, and laser cuts stuff for a living — we’re kinda jealous. Anyway, laser cutters from China are great, but sometimes lack certain functionality, so he decided to add his own z-axis feature!

The main laser cutter he uses has a very slow z-axis, and it’s also difficult to control — a job can’t be paused to adjust the height offset, the datum must be set every time manually, and you have to be in the very top level of the menu in order to do anything with it! With this in mind, [Martin] decided to add his own z-axis control, completely separate from the laser’s on board control system.

He’s using an Arduino Pro Mini to control the stepper motor with PWM. His new controller has four buttons — fast and slow, in each direction. He’s used the original end stops to protect the axis, and he’s also added a feature to set a datum by holding down both fast and slow buttons at the same time. It ended up being a very cheap upgrade to his system, and he’s also shared the source for anyone looking to recreate it.

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ISEE-3: We Get Signal

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Out in the depths of space, more than 100 times the distance from the Earth to the moon, there’s a lonely spacecraft gracefully spinning towards an August encounter with our planet. It’s ICE/ISEE-3, a probe long-forgotten by official space agencies. Now, the team dedicated to repurposing this satellite has made contact with this probe using a 20-meter satellite dish in Germany.

When we first heard about the planned communication by volunteers, no one was certain the probe was still alive. It shouldn’t be a surprise this satellite was still functioning; it was launched in 1978, and most of the instruments were still functioning in 2008. Still, this is the first time amateurs – not NASA – had received a signal from the probe

ICEteam, the group of volunteers dedicated to reviving this spacecraft used the huge dish at Boshum observatory to detect the 5 Watt carrier signal coming from the spacecraft. That’s all the probe is sending out right now – no data was received – but this is a huge accomplishment and the first step towards directing ICE/ISEE-3 into an orbit around one of the Earth-Sun Lagrange points.

Side note: Looking at the ephemeris data (target -111) I *think* ICE/ISEE-3 will be above the night side of Earth at closest approach. Can anyone confirm that, and does that mean a future mission at L2?

Video from the ICEteam below.

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Black Orb Just Wants Someone To Talk With

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A team at the Royal College of Art has created Space Replay, a floating black orb that records and plays back conversations from passers-by. Space Replay is a neutrally buoyant helium balloon carrying a small payload. An Arduino, an Adafruit Wave Shield, and a small speaker make up the balloons’ brain. The team used the waverp library to record and play back sounds through their shield. 3 lithium coin cells power the system. A small vacuum formed plastic housing keeps all the internal parts together, as well as acts as a small speaker cone to amplify sounds entering and leaving the orb.

As the video shows, the final result is rather creepy. A slight breeze in a subway station caused the orb to move slowly down the hallway. One would think that space replay would freak a few people out, or at least entice the curious to touch it. Other than one amused elevator rider, the unflappable London public paid no mind to it. Maybe if it had some tea…

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Hackaday Projects: Open to the Public

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We’re letting anybody in — now’s your chance to lay claim to your piece of Hackaday Projects.

We’ve been watching as a few thousand Hackadayers kick the tires and light the fires of our new hosting website: Hackaday Projects. But you can’t keep these things under wraps forever, and we’re happy to open up the service to anyone who would like an account. Join this vibrant little community by setting up your profile (real or anonymous, we don’t really care) and showing everyone what you’ve been working on in that basement lab of yours. Perhaps we should mention that public doesn’t mean finished. We’re still in Alpha with the site, but with the help of the testers over the last few months this is a very respectable alpha!

If you already had a testing account there are a few new things to note. Astute readers who hovered over the link above noticed that it’s a different URL from the one to which you’re accustomed. We registered hackaday.io as the main domain and also hac.io which will eventually be a URL shortener. We also implemented “The Stack” which is the complement to “The Heap” (currently unimplemented). The two serve as… well, why don’t you go and find out for yourself what they’re for? After all, hackers don’t need to be told how to do things, right?

Welcome to Droning On

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Tesla_boat1Welcome to Droning On, Hackaday’s new column covering all things unmanned. In this column we will primarily focus on aerial vehicles, both fixed and rotary wing. Expect to see traditional R/C, as well as First Person View (FPV) models, computer controlled autopilot systems, as well as anything new that shows up on our radar.

First, a little bit of history. The earliest radio control vehicle in history was designed by a man known well to Hackaday, Nikola Tesla. Tesla presented a radio controlled boat at an electrical exhibition in New York in 1898. Tesla called the system “Teleautomaton” and said the craft utilized a borrowed mind. In addition to cruising around a man made pond, the boat could solve equations by blinking lights atop two of its masts. Tesla would encourage viewers to call out math equations, then flash the lights from the boat’s control panel.

For many years R/C as well as its cousins Free Flight and control line were hobbies occupied solely by hackers. One needed to have metal machining skills to build engine parts, draftsman skills to read plans, and carpentry skills to build airframes. Radios were built from tubes. Control, if it may be called such, was all or nothing – so-called “bang-bang” systems. Much like their model railroad compatriots, R/C plane modelers built with the parts they had on hand. Several early DIY R/C planes were controlled by rotary telephone dials. Dial 1 to pull up, 2 to turn left, etc. Control surfaces were moved by rubber powered escapements rather than the servos we’ve come to know and love. Aerodynamics also came into play. With such rudimentary control systems, planes were designed to be inherently stable. Thankfully there were numerous proven air frame designs available from the free flight arena. Slow flight, high dihedral, and docile stall behavior were the rule of the day. Early R/C planes could be thought of as free flight vehicles with occasional suggestions via radio control. Click past the break to find out more about drone history, and to read about the recent FAA judgement.

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A FPGA based Bus Pirate Clone

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A necessary tool for embedded development is a device that can talk common protocols such as UART, SPI, and I2C. The XC6BP is an open source device that can work with a variety of protocols.

As the name suggests, the XC6BP is a clone of the Bus Pirate, but based on a Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA. The AltOR32 soft CPU is loaded on the FPGA. This is a fully functional processor based on the OpenRISC architecture. While the FPGA is more expensive than a microcontroller, it can be fully reprogrammed. It’s also possible to build hardware on the FPGA to perform a variety of tasks.

A simple USB stack runs on the soft CPU, creating a virtual COM port. Combined with the USB transceiver, this provides communication with a host PC. The device is even compatible with the Bus Pirate case and probe connector. While it won’t replace the Bus Pirate as a low-cost tool, it is neat to see someone using an open source core to build a useful, open hardware device.

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