Foldable Quadrotor is Origamilicious

A team at the École Polytechnique Fédéral de Lausanne has developed and built a quadcopter with arms that unfold just before takeoff. The idea is that you can fold the device back up when you’re done with it, making it possible to store a bunch more of the quads in your backpack for instance.

The unfolding mechanism relies on the torque of the rotors spinning up to swing the arms into place. Once fully extended, a spring-loaded flap folds up, catches on some magnets, and forms an L-shaped structure that won’t re-fold without human intervention.

quadcopter_animUnder normal flying conditions, quads have a two left-handed propellers and two right-handed ones and the motors spin in opposite directions. In order to do the unfolding, two of the motors need to run essentially in reverse until the frame has clicked into place. They use a sensor (Hall effect?) to detect the arm locking, and then the rotors quickly switch back to their normal rotation before the quad hits the floor. In the video, they demonstrate that they’ve got this so well tuned that they can throw it up into the air to launch. Wow.

Everything’s still in prototype phase, and one of the next goals is “strengthening the arms so they can withstand crashes”, so don’t expect to see these in your local hobby store too soon. In the mean time, you’ll be able to see them in the flesh if you head up to the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Seattle that started today and runs through Friday. If anyone goes, take more video and post in the comments?

Continue reading “Foldable Quadrotor is Origamilicious”

Project Sea Rendering Autonomously Renders Sea Bottoms

[Geir] has created a pretty neat device, it’s actually his second version of an autonomous boat that maps the depths of lakes and ponds. He calls it the Sea Rendering. The project is pretty serious as the hull was specially made of fiberglass. The propulsion is a simple DC motor and the rudder is powered by an RC servo. A light and flag adorn the top deck making the small craft visible to other larger boats that may be passing by. Seven batteries are responsible for all of the power requirements.

Sea Rendering

The craft’s course is pre-programmed in Mission Planner and uses ArduPilot loaded on an Arduino to steer to the defined way points. An onboard GPS module determines the position of the boat while a transducer measures the depth of the water. Both position and depth values are then saved to an SD card. Those values can later be imported into a software called Dr Depth that generates a topographic map of the water-covered floor.

[Geir] has sent this bad boy out on an 18 km journey passing through 337 way points. That’s pretty impressive! He estimates that the expected run time is 24 hours at a top speed of 3 km/h, meaning it could potentially travel 72 km on a single charge while taking 700 depth measurements during the voyage.

Continue reading “Project Sea Rendering Autonomously Renders Sea Bottoms”

Roswell Eat Your Heart Out

When [Ian Wood] accidentally broke the camera on his fancy-pants FPV quadrotor he was a little bit upset. But out of all things we break, we hack something new. [Ian] decided to strap on some RGB LEDs to the drone and turn it into a UFO to scare his neighbors!

Now we know what you’re thinking: RGB LEDs? That hardly constitutes a hack! You’re right — but [Ian] didn’t just simply strap some LEDs on and call it a day. Oh no. He’s using a Teensy micro-controller and the NazaCANDecoder to listen to the CAN bus for RC stick positions, flight mode, altitude, battery data, etc. This means the LEDs are actually responding to the way he flies the drone. And since there was a spare channel on his Futaba RX controller, he’s also got an animation mode that can be controlled from the ground to do whatever he wants. He also got rid of the standard indicator LEDs on the quad and wired them into his new setup. They’re all being controlled by a FastLED library on the Teensy. Check it out in the clip after the break.

Continue reading “Roswell Eat Your Heart Out”

Multicopters and their MultiWii Beginnings

With more than five years down the road in this successful hack, [Alexinparis] and his pioneering Nintendo controller hack have been taking eager enthusiasts to the skies with homebrew multicopters armed with MultiWii firmware.

The MultiWii firmware, like most other glorious moments that gloss these pages, was as a hack, and a darn good one. By harvesting the (I²C-based) accel-gyro sensor package in a Nintendo Wii MotionPlus, [Alexinparis] developed control firmware for an Arduino Pro Mini, and, thus: the MultiWii Controller Board was born. With a successful WiiMotion Plus pcb extraction, an Arduino Pro Mini, and some help from the forums, the dedicated hobbyist could build their own flying platform with customizable firmware enabling bi, tri, quad, hex, octo, Y6, and Y4 propeller configurations.

With a working flight controller, [Alexinparis] sent his firmware skyward in a tricopter built from scratch. For a light-but-sturdy shell, he opted for a lost-foam cast hull made from fiberglass and carbon fiber tow. This hull houses most of the electronics safely inside the hollow shell while maintaining the strength to sustain heavy blows from crashes. (The version shown above features additional carbon fiber reinforcement in the center.)


More than five years later, MultiWii is a mature open-source project with firmware and wiki under constant update. If you’ve ever considered getting started with multicopters, this project stands as a tested-and-tried road to success. In fact, even RC vendor HobbyKing offers low-cost Multiwii PCBs compatible with the firmware. For more details on the project’s humble beginnings, head on over to the RC Groups thread and followup documentation thread.

We’ve seen MultiWii countless times in the past as the firmware in numerous multicopter builds. It’s about time we give [Alexinparis] some well-deserved credit for paving the way.

Continue reading “Multicopters and their MultiWii Beginnings”

Quadcopter Plane Transformer is Awesome

Is it a quadcopter? A plane?  No, it’s both! [Daniel Lubrich] is at it again with a vertical take off and landing transformer he calls the SkyProwler.

The SkyProwler uses a switch blade type mechanism to move from quadcopter mode to plane mode. The wings can be detached to make it a normal quad that has all the typical bells and whistles. It can follow you around with GPS, fly autonomously via way points, and has this cool gimbal mechanism that keeps the GoPro stable as the drone pitches in flight, allowing for a better video experience.

[Dan’s] ultimate goal is a full size passenger model called the SkyCruiser, which uses the same switchblade transformation mechanism as his much smaller SkyProwler. Be sure to check out the video below if you haven’t already, and let us know of any quadcopter / plane hybrids of your own.

Correction: We previously associated [Daniel Lubrich] with the ATMOS program. This was in error and has been removed from the article. The ATMOS UAV is a separate project which we previously covered.

Continue reading “Quadcopter Plane Transformer is Awesome”

1-Hour Quadcopter Build

[marhar] was pretty confident in his quadcopter building skills when he made a bet to build and fly a quadcopter in just one hour! This is a big task but he saved valuable time by using some unlikely parts that were hanging around his parts bin. And to make the task a little more difficult, this build wasn’t done in a nice shop, either. It was built outside on a patio floor with the only power tools available being a hand drill, miter saw and small drill press!

The frame is made from cheap, sturdy and available scrap wood. The center plates are 1/4″ plywood and the arms are 3/4″ square fir strips. Notice the landing gear, yes, those are mini wiffle balls zip-tied to the wooden arms. Although an unlikely candidate for landing gear, they are surprisingly effective.

The flight controller board is an Ardupilot. [marhar] did use a flight controller that he previously had in another quadcopter. He used it as-is, and it worked, but no programming or configuration time is included in the 1-hour limit. Even so, it doesn’t take away from the impressiveness of the build time.  The motors, ESC’s and battery are just standard types used for most multirotors.

[marhar] doesn’t say what he won for completing the ‘copter but we hope it was something good, he deserves it. If you’d like to make something similar, [marhar] gives very detailed instructions and provides templates for the wood parts on his Instructables page. Check out the time-lapse build video after the break…

Continue reading “1-Hour Quadcopter Build”

Drone-enium Falcon

If you own a quadcopter chances are you own more than one. It’s kind of an addictive thing in that way. So dig out that dinged up model and build something awesome around it. We’d suggest making it look exactly like a Millenium Falcon. Okay, to be fair this is built around a custom quadcopter originally designed to carry a camera and GPS but removed for this project. We’re not sure if stock models have enough extra umph to lift a fancy fuselage like this (maybe you’ll weigh in on that in the comments?).

As with any great build this started with a scale drawing. The drawing was printed for use as a cutting template for the expanded polystyrene. Part of what makes it look so fantastic is that the fuselage isn’t 2-dimensional. There is depth in the places that matter and that’s all because of near-mythical foam cutting/shaping skills on [Olivier’s] part.

Final touches are LEDs on front and to simulate the curved engine on the tail. You can almost see this thing picking up a handless [Luke] below Bespin’s floating city. This Falcon flies like… a quadcopter (what did you expect? The Kessel Run in 12 parsecs?), which you can see in the videos after the break. The second clip shows how easy it is to remove the foam body from the quad frame, yet another nice touch!

Of course if Star Wars isn’t your thing you can give trolling the skies as a flying body a shot.

Continue reading “Drone-enium Falcon”