A Friendly Flying Robot Pet

[luca] has always wanted a flying robot, but despite the recent popularity of quadcopters and drones [luca] has never seen a drone that is truly autonomous. Although sometimes billed as autonomous, quadcopters and fixed wing aircraft have always had someone holding a remote, had to stay in a controlled environment, or had some off-board vision system.

Computers are always getting smaller and faster, battery and motor technology is always getting better. That’s why [luca] is building a truly autonomous flying robot for the 2016 Hackaday Prize.

Since [luca] is building a coaxial copter – something that looks like a ducted fan with a few vanes at the bottom – there will be control issues. Normal helicopters use the pitch of the blades and the torque produced by the tail rotor to keep flying straight. A quadcopter uses two pairs of motors spinning in opposite directions to stay level. With just two rotors mounted on top of each other, you would think [luca]’s coaxial copter is an intractable problem. Not so; there are bizarre control systems for this type of flying machine that make it as nimble in the sky as any other helicopter.

The design of this flying robot is a bit unlike anything on the market. It looks like a flying ducted fan, with a few electronics strapped to the bottom. It’s big, but also has the minimum number of rotors, to have the highest power density possible with current technology. With a few calculations, [luca] predicted this robot will be able to hoist an IMU, GPS, ultrasonic range finder, optical flow camera, and a LIDAR module in the air for about fifty minutes. That’s a remarkably long flight time for something that hovers, and we can’t wait to see how [luca]’s build turns out.

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Make Your Own ESP8266 Breadboard Adapter

Want to play around with the ESP8266? You’ll need a breadboard adapter, which allows you to connect the ESP8266 to a breadboard as you refine your design. Sure, you could just buy one, but where’s the fun in that?

[Markus Ulsass] designed a simple breadboard adapter for his ESP8266 that can be easily etched and built at home, but which has most of the features of the commercial versions. His adapter features a voltage regulator that can handle anything up to 7 volts and which has reverse polarity protection and a reset switch that puts the ESP8266 into flash mode, where it can be reprogrammed.

It’s a neat, simple build that makes it easier to tap into the power of the ESP8266 , which can be used to do everything from running a webcam to automating your home.

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, AZERTY

In the US, we don’t hear much about computing from beyond the Anglosphere. We’ve seen some home computer clones from behind the iron curtain, but getting any information about them is hard. If you find an old keyboard with a QWERTZ layout, or even a few Cyrillic characters, in the States, it’s a rarity. To date, the only French computer on Hackaday is an old Minitel dumb terminal. To help rectify this, [Jeremie Marsin], [Thierry Mazzoleni], and [Jean Paul Mari] from Quebec brought the best of the French computing revolution of the 1980s along to this year’s Vintage Computer Festival East

The American-designed French Victor

The evolution of the reigning champion of this exhibit begins with the Micronique Victor Lambda, a licensed copy of a purely American computer, the Interact Home Computer System. This computer featured a 2 MHz 8080A, 8 or 16 kB of RAM, and was quickly discontinued. The French company Micronique quickly bought the original designs and remarketed the computer in France.

In a few short years, Micronique took this design and turned it into the Hector. This machine featured a 5 MHz Z80, 48 kB of RAM, high resolution graphics (243×231 at four colors) and included BASIC and Forth interpreters.

The Victor and Hector were the best home computers at the time, but for every Commodore or Apple, you need a ZX Spectrum. France’s version of this tiny computer with a terrible keyboard was the Matra Alice 32, a computer with a 1 MHz 6803, 16kB of Ram, and a real 80×25 text mode. The Alice is heavily based on the American TRS-80 MC-10, with a SCART connector and an AZERTY keyboard.

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The weirdest computer [Jeremie], [Thierry], and [Jean Paul] brought out? That would be the Excelvision EXL100. The 1980s, for better or worse, were the times of the Z80 and 6502. The EXL100 was running something completely different. This home computer used a TMS7020 CPU from Texas Instruments, a speech synthesizer, and a wireless keyboard. Very strange for the time and relatively inexpensive; in 1984 this computer cost only ₣3190, or about $550 USD.

TMS

[Jeremie], [Thierry], and [Jean Paul] had an exhibit that presented the best the Francosphere had to offer to the computing world in the 80s and 90s. We haven’t seen enough early computers from outside the US, so we’re happy to have met these guys at the 11th annual Vintage Computer Festival East.

Desktop Siege Weapon: Fireball Cannon

Looking for a harmless way to really step up your office warfare game? Why not build a nitrocellulose desktop cannon!?

On of our favorite science DIY YouTube channels, [NightHawkInLight] shows us how he made this awesome cannon — with interchangeable cannon cartridges! It even has a bit of a steampunk feel to it.

Nitrocellulose, or flash cotton as it’s more commonly known, is used by magicians for fireball magic tricks. Similar to flash paper, it burns up very fast and leaves almost no ash or residue. Creating the fireball effect is as simple as igniting it inside a tube — expanding gases take care of launching it out quite violently.

All the action is in the 3/4″ copper tube cartridges that come complete with home-made glow-plugs made from nichrome wire harvested from a broken hairdryer. These interchangeable cartridges allow [NightHawkInLight] to load up ahead of time and fire them off in quick succession.

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World Create Day: Hackaday Meetups Reach Europe and Africa

world-create-day-europe-africaWe are now just three days away from Hackaday World Create Day. On Saturday, April 23rd, the Hackaday community around the world will come together in real life to have fun, share their stories, and to do a little bit of engineering.

A few weeks ago, we put out the call for local meetup organizers and were overwhelmed by the response. The World Create Day events in Europe and Africa span pretty much from pole to pole with meetups in Salangen and Cape Town.

If you are near any of the events on the map, please join in the camaraderie on Saturday If you don’t see a marker near you, it’s not too late, you can still host your own meetup. Follow these easy steps to get your town on the map!

What can you expect from World Create Day? At its simplest, gather together and talk about solving a technology problem facing humanity. This can be submitted as your Challenge 1 entry for the 2016 Hackaday Prize. But many organizers have more planned. We’ve heard from groups who are hosting hardware show-and-tell, others have lined of speakers or workshops, and we always suggest hosting lightning talks where anyone at the meetup can speak for around two minutes.

Hackaday is made up of doers. It’s time we all got together and celebrated what that means. Don’t miss out this Saturday!

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Hackaday Reviews: Flir One Android

The Flir One thermal camera caused quite a stir when it was launched back in 2014. Both the Flir One and its prime competitor Seek Thermal represented the first “cheap” thermal cameras available to the public. At the heart of the Flir One was the Lepton module, which could be purchased directly from Flir Systems, but only in quantity. [Mike Harrison] jumped on board early, cutting into his Flir One and reverse engineering the Lepton module within, including the SPI data required to talk to it. He even managed to create the world’s smallest thermal imager using a the TFT screen from an Ipod Nano.

flircamA few things have changed since then. You can buy Lepton modules in single quantity at DigiKey now. Flir also introduced a second generation of the Flir One. This device contains an updated version of the Lepton. The new version has a resolution of 160 x 120 pixels, doubled from the original module. There are two flavors: The iOS version with a lightning port, and an Android version with a micro USB connector. I’m an Android user myself, so this review focuses on the Android edition.

The module itself is smaller than I expected. It comes with a snap-on case and a lanyard. While you’ll look a bit like a dork wearing the lanyard, it does come in handy to keep the imager from getting lost or dropped. The Flir One has an internal battery, which of course needs to be topped off before it can be used. Mine charged up in about half an hour.

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Supplyframe Design Lab Residency Applications Now Open

The Supplyframe Design Lab in Pasadena, CA is opening soon. This space is dedicated to making great ideas reality. It is packed with state of the art tools, with plenty of room for classes and collaboration.

Professional level tools and an available workshop are just one piece of the puzzle. To be truly successful, great people need to bring the space to life with inspiring builds and forward thinking adventures. If you want to be part of this community, and have been contemplating an idea for your next product or project, consider applying for a funded residency.

Art, Product, and Technology projects will all be considered. Those selected will be funded up to $2,000 per month. We want to see ambitious projects realized at the Design Lab so don’t be afraid to think big. To help in curating the best projects to fund we’d like to see some of your previous work. If you haven’t already, please share some of your builds on Hackaday.io. The first round of funded projects can be under way as early as June 1st.