Black Knight Transformer — A Military Octorotor You Can Ride In


We saw this pop up a few times before and to be honest, we weren’t sure if it was actually real or not. This is the Advanced Tactics Black Knight Transformer — the world’s first VTOL (vertical take off and landing) aircraft that also doubles as an off-road vehicle.

Designed and built in California, it just received government approval and Advanced Tactics has released the first driving and flight test video. It was apparently designed as a rapid-response evacuation vehicle for wounded soldiers in war affected zones. It features a whopping eight individually driven rotors that swing out on “transforming” arms during flight. It also has a removable ground drive-train which can be swapped out for an amphibious boat hull, or even a cargo pod!

At the forefront of large-scale multicopter design and manufacturing, we poked around Advanced Tactic’s website a bit and found another one of their projects, the Transformer Panther sUAS — a miniature version of the Black Knight, designed as a small unmanned aircraft system that is also capable of land and sea use.

Stick around after the break to see them in action — and let us know what you think!

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Custom Nixie Tube PSU is a Lesson in Good PCB Design


[Jan Rychter] was sick and tired of not being able to find the right power supply for his Nixie tube projects, so he decided to design his own. [Jan] started out designing around the MAX1771 (PDF) DC-DC controller, but quickly discovered he was having stability problems. Even after seven board revisions, he was still experiencing uncontrolled behavior. He ended up abandoning the MAX1171 and switching to the Texas Instruments TPS40210. After three more board designs, he finally has something that works for him. [Jan] admits that his design is likely not perfect (could have fooled us!), but he wanted to release it to the world as Open-Source Hardware to give back to the community.

The end result of [Jan's] hard work is a 5cm x 5cm board that generates four separate output voltages from a single 12V source. These include both a 3.3V and 5V output for digital logic as well as a 220V out put for Nixie tubes and a 440V maximum output for dekatrons. The circuit also features several safety features including over-current protection, thermal shutdown, and slow-start. Be sure to check out [Jan's] webpage to view out the schematics and technical information for this awesome circuit.

Need some Nixie tubes to go with that circuit? We know some resources for you to check out. Or you could always just build your own. How can you use this board in your next project?

Hackaday Links: May 11, 2014


North Korean drones! Yes, your local hobby shop has the same aerial reconnaissance abilities as North Korea. Props to Pyongyang for getting v-tail mixing down.

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as the look of a well laid out resistor array, and the folks at Boldport have taken this to a new level. It’s an art piece, yes, but these would make fabulous drink coasters.

Here’s something even more artistic. [cpurola] found a bunch of cerdip EPROMs and bent the pins in a weird chainmaille-esque way. The end result is an EPROM bracelet, just in time for mother’s day. It’s a better use for these chips than tearing them apart and plundering them for the few cents worth of gold in each.

[John] still uses his original Xbox for xmbc, but he’d like to use the controllers with his computer. He never uses the third and fourth controller ports, so he stuck those in his computer. It’s as simple as soldering the controller port module to a connector and plugging it into an internal USB port. Ubuntu worked great, but Windows required XBCD.

[Kerry] has modified an FT232 USB/UART thingy as an Arduino programmer before. The CP2102 USB/UART is almost as popular on eBay, a little less expensive, and equally suited for ‘duino programming. It requires desoldering a resistor and soldering a jumper on a leadless package, but with a fine solder tip, it’s not too bad.

Underwater GoPro Hero 2 Sees Clearly Again

go pro hack

GoPros are great action cameras for snagging photos and videos places where you can’t normally bring real camera gear. The problem is, even with the waterproof GoPro case for the Hero 2 — the underwater videos tend to be blurry and out of focus. Unsatisfied with his videos, [Mitchell] decided to make his own lens for the case!

The waterproof case has a removable concave lens, but for whatever reason it’s not very good underwater. Lucky for [Mitchell], it’s quite easily removed with 6 screws, revealing a nice thick gasket and the lens. Instead of trying to go fancy with some glass element from a broken camera, he’s just taken some 1/4″ plexiglass and cut out a piece to fit the case. It was a bit too thick for the original configuration, so he’s actually flipped the retaining ring upside down to space the lens away from the actual camera. A bunch of silicone later and the case is waterproof again with a new lens!

The resulting footage with the new lens looks awesome underwater — take a peek after the break.

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Phenox: Wherein Quadcopters Get FPGAs


The computing power inside a quadcopter is enough to read a few gyros and accelerometers, do some math, and figure out how much power to send to the motors. What if a quadcopter had immensely more computing power, and enough peripherals to do something cool? That’s what Phenox has done with a micro quad that is able to run Linux.

Phenox looks like any other micro quad, but under the hood things get a lot more interesting. Instead of the usual microcontroller-based control system, the Phenox features a ZINQ-7000 System on Chip, featuring an ARM core with an FPGA and a little bit of DDR3 memory. This allows the quad to run Linux, made even more interesting by the addition of two cameras (one forward facing, one down facing), a microphone, an IMU, and a range sensor. Basically, if you want a robotic pet that can hover, you wouldn’t do bad by starting with a Phenox.

The folks behind Phenox are putting up a Kickstarter tomorrow. No word on how much a base Phenox will run you, but it’ll probably be a little bit more than the cheap quads you can pick up from the usual Chinese retailers.

Videos below.

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Unbricking The Da Vinci And Installing Custom Firmware


We’ve seen a lot of projects based around the Da Vinci 3D printer, all deserved, because the Da Vinci is honestly a terrible 3D printer; it has chipped and DRM filament cartridges, a terrible software interface, and completely closed firmware. The first two shortcomings have already been taken care of, and now the door is open for open source firmware on the Da Vinci printer.

[Jason] bricked his Da Vinci when upgrading the firmware, and like any enterprising tinkerer opened up the enclosure and took a look at the electronics board. He found an ATSAM3X8E, a very capable ARM Cortex-M3 microcontroller. This is the same processor in the Arduino Due, making it possible to write code for the Due and upload it to the Da Vinci controller.

After installing Atmel Studio 6, he noticed the printer controller showed up in the device manager, making it a snap to upload updated firmware, unbricking his printer.

With the ability to upload firmware, the problem quickly becomes writing new open source firmware, or at least porting existing firmwares; there are a few people across the internet trying to reverse engineer the board schematic from the PCB. Once that’s done, it should be a trivial matter to make the Da Vinci an open device, and teaching a lesson to every company that thinks they can sell a closed device in what is ultimately an open ecosystem.

The Phidgets Solar Powered Weather Station


Yes, it’s a weather station, one of those things that records data from a suite of sensors for a compact and robust way of logging atmospheric conditions. We’ve seen a few of these built around Raspberry Pis and Arduinos, but not one built with a Phidget SBC, and rarely one that has this much thought put in to a weather logging station.

This weather station is designed to be autonomous, logging data for a week or so until the USB thumb drive containing all the data is taken back to the lab and replaced with a new one. It’s designed to operate in the middle of nowhere, and that means no power. Solar it is, but how big of a solar panel do you need?

That question must be answered by carefully calculating the power budget of the entire station and the battery, the size of the battery, and the worst case scenario for clouds and low light conditions. An amorphous solar cell was chosen for its ability to generate power from low and indirect light sources. This is connected to a 12 Volt, 110 amp hour battery. Heavy and expensive, but overkill is better than being unable to do the job.

Sensors, including temperature, humidity, and an IR temperature sensor were wired up to a Phidgets SBC3 and the coding began. The data are recorded onto a USB thumb drive plugged into the Phidgets board, and the station was visited once a week to retrieve data. This is a far, far simpler solution than figuring out a wireless networking solution, and much better on the power budget.

Via embedded lab