Rotor DR1 and Collaborative Development

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

Even 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

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.

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Google[x]’s Project Wing

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Autonomous delivery is the way of the future. Soon, flocks of flying hover crafts will glide through the air like acrobatic birds of flight bringing home items to those who need them. Whether those objects be food, or electronics, or clothes, pretty much anything under the weight limit of these devices can be sent to people anywhere nearby.

Now, Google has stepped into the ring saying that they are interested in delivering products to individuals in the next few years through an innovation they are calling Project Wing. It aspires to reduce the friction of moving things around. Google released a video introducing the idea which shows a man calling up a service asking for some food for his dog. Instantly, a small delivery vehicle took off from the ground and flew to the intended destination dropping off a package containing delicious doggy treats.

Google clearly states in the video that this type of system is still years away from a readily available consumer product, but it is the first prototype that the company wants to stand behind. Google has marketed the design pretty well so far, and the musical use of [Norman Greenbaum]’s classic 1969 rock song ‘Spirit in the Sky’ was an obvious, yet totally awesome addition to the video. We are curious how services similar to this will affect postal delivery jobs in the future, and also what the legal ramifications will be, but all that information will surely be discussed very soon. In the meantime though, Google has released an interest form that will take the names and emails of those who would like to partner with them in an effort to bring autonomous product delivery to the world.

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Droning On: Maiden Flights

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When we last left off, the Hackaday Drone Testbed was just a box of parts on workbench. Things have changed quite a bit since then! Let’s get straight to the build.

With the arms built and the speed controls soldered up, it was simply a matter of bolting the frame itself together. The HobbyKing frame is designed to fold, with nylon washers sliding on the fiberglass sheets. I don’t really need the folding feature, so I locked down the nylock nuts and they’ve stayed that way ever since. With the arms mounted, it was finally starting to look like a quadcopter.

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Using the correct screws, the motors easily screwed into the frames. I did have to do a bit of filing on each motor plate to get the motor’s screw pattern to fit. The speed controls didn’t have a specific mount, so I attached them to the sides of the arms with double-sided tape and used some zip ties to ensure nothing moved. In hindsight I should have mounted them on the top of the arms, as I’m planning to put LED light strips on the outside of edges of the quad. The LEDs will help with orientation and ensure a few UFO sightings during night flights.

Power distribution is a major issue with multicopters. Somehow you have to get the main battery power out to four speed controls, a flight controller, a voltage regulator, and any accessories. There are PCBs for this, which have worked for me in the past. For the Hackaday Testbed, I decided to go with a wiring harness. The harness really turned out to be more trouble than it was worth. I had to strip down the wires at the solder joint to add connections for the voltage regulator. The entire harness was a bit longer than necessary. There is plenty of room for the excess wire between the main body plates of the quad, but all that copper is excess weight the ‘bench’ doesn’t need to be carrying. The setup does work though. If I need to shed a bit of weight, I’ll switch over to a PCB.

Click past the break to read the rest of the story.

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Axis Glove That Controls a Robot

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This homemade glove and gesture controlled rover was created by [electro18]. It can send temperature, battery level, and object distance to the LCD panel on the wrist. Instead of a typical joystick, this wireless system taps into an embedded accelerometer to maneuver the robot like magic.

The main chassis platform is made of clear acrylic and has additional acrylic strips fixed to the edges for additional strength. A LM35 temperature sensor is wired to the front that monitors the environments that the rover explores. An HC-SR04 Ultrasonic Rangefinder acts as the eyes of the machine. The photodiode is covered with an adaptation of a 6mm heat shrink tube to avoid false readings. Once hooked up and turned on, the robot can be controlled with the futuristic power glove consisting of two parts. An accelerometer strap and a display strap are the biggest parts. The project shows that it is relatively easy to make a system like this. Other items like quadcopters and tiny water boats could be controlled with a similar type of setup.

A video of the axis glove maneuvering the vehicle on a slope can be seen after the break:

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