Controlling a Quadcopter with Gestures

Gesture Controlled Quadcopter

[grassjelly] has been hard at work building a wearable device that uses gestures to control quadcopter motion. The goal of the project is to design a controller that allows the user to intuitively control the motion of a quadcopter. Based on the demonstration video below, we’d say they hit the nail on the head. The controller runs off an Arduino Pro Mini-5v powered by two small coin cell batteries. It contains an accelerometer and an ultrasonic distance sensor.

The controller allows the quadcopter to mimic the orientation of the user’s hand. The user holds their hand out in front of them, parallel to the floor. When the hand is tilted in any direction, the quadcopter copies the motion and will tilt the same way. The amount of pitch and roll is limited by software, likely preventing the user from over-correcting and crashing the machine. The user can also raise or lower their hand to control the altitude of the copter.

[grassjelly] has made all of the code and schematics available via github.

Quadrotor Pod Racing

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A group of multicopter enthusiasts from Argonay, France cordoned off a path through the forest and spent the day racing. The resulting video makes it look like a heck of a good time.

Twenty “drone” pilots all used first-person view (FPV) camera setups for complete immersion, racing at up to 50 kilometers per hour through a 150m course in the woods that was chosen for maximum thrills and spills. The track basically followed a footpath, but the pilots still had to be extremely alert to avoid natural obstacles (we call them “trees”). The narrator adds that the nearly random lighting and camera artifacts added an extra level of difficulty to the event.

After practicing a few times just to get around the track in one piece, they started racing each other in heats. On the final heat, at 3:40 in the video, five copters start off head-to-head and tear out into the woods. Of them, only two cross the finish line.

FPV drone crash scenes still make us wince a little bit. We wonder how many of the participants spent the next few nights in the repair bay.

[Read more...]

Flite Test at NYC Maker Faire

NYC Maker Faire may be a no fly zone this year, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of the Flite Test Crew. We met with Flite Test outside their tent in the R/C and drone area of Maker Faire. [Josh Bixler and Alex Zvada] are two of the hosts of the popular YouTube channel. [Josh] is also well-known for his R/C plane designs, such as the Bloody Wonder and Simple Storch. In addition to hosting, [Alex] is the graphic designer Flite Test. He is also an ace quadcopter pilot, and can be found flying his 250 sized chase quad in many episodes.

Most of Flite Test’s designs utilize Readi-Board, available at Dollar-Tree stores around the USA and Canada. The Flite Test crew is working directly with the manufacturer of this foam to make it, and their designs available all over the world.

The team also takes up incredible challenges such as a flying toaster which actually works, making toast as it files. Their flying cinder block is not to be missed either. Their biggest challenge to date was the Google Project Wing + Amazon Prime Air mashup. The video featured a drone that delivered a drone that delivered a drone that delivered a drone that delivered a stick of gum. Matryoshka dolls have nothing on these guys!

Rotor DR1 and Collaborative Development

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In a post apocalyptic world ravaged by the effects of a virus, a young man searches for his father. He forms a friendship with a young woman and a delivery drone that seems oddly sentient. Together they have to fight through abandoned buildings, and past gangs of thugs, to find…

That’s the hook for Rotor DR1, a web series currently in production. Rotor DR1 isn’t a big budget movie, but an independent series created by [Chad Kapper]. [Chad] isn’t new to film or drones, his previous project was Flite Test, which has become one of the top YouTube channels for drones and radio controlled aircraft in general. With the recent sale of Flite Test to Lauren International, [Chad] has found himself with the time to move forward on a project he’s been talking about for years.

Click past the break for more information, and to check out the Rotor DR1 trailer.

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THP Semifinalist: Autonomous Recharging For Multirotors

quadEven with visions of quadcopters buzzing around metropolitan areas delivering everything from pizzas to toilet paper fresh in the minds of tech blogospherites, There’s been a comparatively small amount of research into how to support squadrons of quadcopters and other unmanned aerial vehicles. The most likely cause of this is the FAA’s reactionary position towards UAVs. Good thing [Giovanni] is performing all his research for autonomous recharging and docking for multirotors in Australia, then.

The biggest obstacle of autonomous charging of a quadcopter is landing a quad exactly where the charging station is; run of the mill GPS units only have a resolution of about half a meter, and using a GPS solution would require putting GPS on the charging station as well. The solution comes from powerful ARM single board computers – in this case, an Odroid u3 – along with a USB webcam, OpenCV and a Pixhawk autopilot.

Right now [Giovanni] is still working out the kinks on his software system, but he has all the parts and the right tools to get this project up in the air, down, and back up again.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a semifinalist in The Hackaday Prize.

Extrinsic Motivation: Smart Antenna Tracker for R/C Aircraft

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Long distance FPV (First Person View) flying can be a handful. Keeping a video feed alive generally requires a high gain directional antenna. Going directional creates the chore of keeping the antenna pointed at the aircraft. [Brandon's] smart antenna tracker is designed to do all that automatically. What witchcraft is this, you ask? The answer is actually quite simple: Telemetry! Many flight control systems have an optional telemetry transmitter. [Brandon] is using the 3DRobotics APM or PixHawk systems, which use 3DR’s 915 MHz radios.

The airborne radio sends telemetry data, including aircraft latitude and longitude down to a ground station. Equipped with a receiver for this data and a GPS of its own, the smart antenna tracker knows the exact position, heading and velocity of the aircraft. Using a pan and tilt mount, the smart antenna tracker can then point the antenna directly at the airborne system. Since the FPV antenna is co-located on the pan tilt mount, it will also point at the aircraft and maintain a good video link.

One of the gotchas with a system like this is dealing with an aircraft that is flying directly overhead. The plane or rotorcraft can fly by faster than the antenna system can move. There are a few commercial systems out there that handle this by switching to a lower gain omnidirectional whip antenna when the aircraft is close in. This would be a great addition to [Brandon's] design.

Flying a Drone with an Oculus Rift 

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Controlling autonomous vehicles remotely with the use of virtual reality headsets seems like an obvious next step. Already, a few UAV companies have begun experimenting with these types of ideas by integrating Oculus Rift developer kits into their hovering quadcopters and drones. Parrot released a video on their blog showing that they developed a head-tracking system for their Bebop Drone in an effort to bring FPV flights to fruition. It looks like a lot of fun and we want to try one of these out asap!

As for technical specifications, they can be found in the YouTube description of the video embedded below. A quick glance showed that the operating system is based on Android and uses WiFi to connect the handheld tablet to the autonomous vehicle floating above. The range is a whopping 2km, giving plenty of freedom to explore. Moving one’s head swivels the attached camera giving a more immersive flying experience.

This isn’t the first example of FPV drones that we have seen. Previously, we covered an Oculus Rift + Head Tracking setup and another similar integration with a Black Armor Drone. We are bound to see virtual reality equipment used to control drones more and more as developers get their hands on cutting edge hardware like the Oculus developer kit 2 hardware which is currently shipping.

[Read more...]

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