Autonomous Balloon Popping

Quadcopter drone for popping balloons

Taking on an autonomous vehicle challenge, [Randy] put together this drone which can locate and pop balloons. It’s been assembled for this year’s Sparkfun Autonomous Vehicle Competition, which will challenge entrants to locate and pop 99 luftbaloons red balloons without human intervention.

The main controller for this robot is the Pixhawk, which runs a modified version of the ArduCopter firmware. These modifications enable the Pixhawk to receive commands from an Odroid U3 computer module. The Odroid uses a webcam to take images, and then processes them using OpenCV. It tries to locate large red objects and fly towards them.

The vision processing and control code on the Odroid was developed using MAVProxy and Drone API. This allows for all the custom code to be developed using Python.

The Sparkfun AVC takes place tomorrow — June 21st in Boulder, Colorado. You can still register to spectate for free. We’re hoping [Randy]‘s drone is up to the task, and based on the video after the break, it should be able to complete this challenge.

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Oculus Rift + Head Tracking = The Ultimate Drone Experience

oculus rift quad

What happens when you strap a stereoscopic camera onto a drone and transmit the video feed directly to your Oculus Rift? A pretty amazing experience, that’s what!

Several students from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology recently finished a term project dubbed Oculus FPV. In it, [Erik Hals], [Jacob Prescott], [Mats Svensson], and [Mads Wilthil] succeeded in combining virtual reality, a head mounted display, and a UAV for a great result.

Drones with cameras are the next big step in search and rescue, remote inspection, and many other use cases in other environments that are typically inaccessible for a human to poke around. What we really like about this project is they also mounted the stereoscopic cameras on a gimbal, allowing for full head movement — this means the pilot can “park” (read “hover”) his drone in remote locations, and then look around, without having to worry about performing complex aerial acrobatics to get the right camera angle.

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R/C Plane Flies with a Cockpit View

baehawkMosaic

That’s not a jet jockey making a low altitude turn up there. In fact, the pilot has his feet planted firmly on the ground. [Reliku] has built a radio controlled BAE Hawk which is flown via First Person View (FPV). FPV models often have a small camera mounted on the exterior of the craft. This camera gives a great field of view, but it isn’t exactly how full scale planes are flown.

[Reliku] took it to the next level by creating a scale cockpit for his plane. The cockpit is accurate to the real BAE Hawk T2, and features back lit simulated screens. Even the pilot got the FPV treatment. Micro servos move the pilot’s right hand in response to aileron and elevator inputs from the radio control system. The pilot’s head has been replaced with the FPV camera, which is mounted on a pan tilt unit. Pan and tilt are controlled by a head tracking system attached to [Reliku's] video goggles. The entire experience is very immersive.

All this is built into a Hobbyking BAE Hawk Electric Ducted Fan (EDF) model, so space is at a premium. Even with the Hawk’s relatively large cockpit, [Reliku] found he was tight on space. While attempting to keep the cockpit scale from the pilot’s view, he found he was barely able to fit a single seat cockpit into a space designed for two! Adding all these modifications to a plane and still keeping the model flyable was not easy, as displayed by [Reliku's] earlier attempt with an F-16.

The ends do justify the means though, as the final model looks great. We’d love to see those static cockpit displays replaced with small LCD or OLED panels for an even more realistic experience!

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Autonomous Plane Flying Across The USA

sky

Somewhere between San Diego and South Carolina is an unmanned aerial vehicle attempting to make the first autonomous flight across the United States. The plane is electric and requires a landing and battery swap every hour or so, however the MyGeekShow guys are so far the only non-military entity to attempt such an ambitious flight.

The plane making the multiple flights is a Raptor 140 capable of cruising at 75 kph for about an hour before requiring a battery swap. Ground control is an RV, loaded up with LCDs and radios; as long as the RV is within a kilometer or so of the plane, the guys should be able to have a constant telemetry link.

Already the guys at MyGeekShow have pulled off a 52 km autonomous flight, following their flying wing in a car. Even though a hard landing required swapping out the carbon fiber spar for an aluminum one, the plane making the truly cross-country flight is still in good condition, ready to land on a South Carolina beach within a week.

You can follow the trip on the MyGeekShow Twitter. The guys are pulling off an incredible amount of updates and even a few live streams from the mobile command station.

UPDATE: It crashed. Tip stalls aren’t your friend, and undercambered wings exist. Good try, though.

How a Maker Proposes

proposal

[Sefi Attias] just sent us a heartwarming little video of how he proposed to his girlfriend [Tania] — using a little help from technology and other makers.

As a maker, [Sefi] was always building things which impressed [Tania], so he thought it was only fitting to make the proposal a one-of-a-kind maker experience.

He started by designing the engagement ring himself, to be 3D printed. It’s an amazingly complex little thing made up of the repeating words of the quote “I will betroth you to me forever”. It was almost too complex in order to print — but they managed to do it in wax, which allowed them to create a mold and then cast the final part in white gold. Once complete, they set a diamond in place to cap it all off.

The second step was the proposal, which was made possible using a quadrotor, a strip of RGB LEDs, and a long camera exposure. To show it off in real-time to [Tania] they setup a projector and screen on the side of the street, providing a surreal window into the park behind them. It was all made possible with the help from over 20 people from the XLN Makerspace and SkyLens (the quadrotor people).

Oh yeah, and she said yes.

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The Autopilot Shield For The Raspberry Pi

Navio

In the world of drones, quadcopters, and unmanned aerial vehicles, the community has pretty much settled on AVR microcontrollers for the low end, and ARM for the high performance boards. If the FAA doesn’t screw things up, there will soon be another market that requires even more computational power, and Navio, the autopilot shield for the Pi, is just the thing for it.

Where high end multicopter and autopilot boards like the OpenPilot Revolution use ARM micros, there’s a small but demanding segment of the hobby that needs even more processing power. Think of something like the Outback Challenge, where fixed-wing drones search the desert for a lost mannequin autonomously. You’re going to need OpenCV for that, and that means Linux.

Navio is a shield for the Raspberry Pi, complete with a barometric pressure sensor, gyros, accelerometer, and compass, and GPS. It’s designed to run a more real-time version of Linux, and has the ability to do some interesting telemetry configurations – putting a 3G modem on the Navio isn’t much of a problem, and since it’s a Raspi, doing image processing of a downward facing camera is just a matter of writing the code.

The Navio team is currently running an Indiegogo campaign, with the baseline version available for $145. That’s pretty close to the price of the OpenPilot Revolution. There’s also a version upgraded with the U-blox NEO-6T that allows for on-board processing of raw GPS data.

Chocolate Quadrotor Proves You Can Make Anything Fly

Chocolate Quadrotor

With the advancements in quadrotor parts and technology over the years, it’s become possible to make just about anything fly if you can strap some high-speed rotors to it. Introducing the first edible quadrotor!

[Michael] enjoys building and flying quadrotors. His girlfriend enjoys baking and making chocolates. One day she had a crazy idea — what if they made a quadrotor together, combining their unique skill sets? [Michael] was a bit skeptical at first. After all, chocolate doesn’t really compare to aluminum or carbon for a frame material… and chocolate melts at room temperature. Regardless — they were curious enough to try it out and see for sure.

First they built a wooden prototype and then created a silicone mold from it. Using Styrofoam and metal spacers for the electronics mounts they filled the mold with chocolate and let it set. A bit of assembly later and they had a chocolate quadrotor. It flies too.

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