SkyJack: A Drone to Hack All Drones


Quadcopters are gradually becoming more affordable and thus more popular; we expect more kids will unwrap a prefab drone this holiday season than any year prior. [Samy's] got plans for the drone-filled future. He could soon be the proud new owner of his own personal army now that he’s built a drone that assimilates others under his control.

The build uses a Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 to fly around with an attached Raspberry Pi, which uses everybody’s favorite Alfa adapter to poke around in promiscuous mode. If the SkyJack detects an IEEE-registered MAC address assigned to Parrot, aircrack-ng leaps into action sending deauthentication requests to the target drone, then attempts to take over control while the original owner is reconnecting. Any successfully lassoed drone doesn’t just fall out of the sky, though. [Samy] uses node-ar-drone to immediately send new instructions to the slave.

You can find all his code on GitHub, but make sure you see the video below, which gives a thorough overview and a brief demonstration. There are also a few other builds that strap a Raspberry Pi onto a quadcopter worth checking out; they could provide you with the inspiration you need to take to the skies.

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A Collective Pitch Quadcopter


Quadcopters aren’t a new thing, but for all the advances in multi-rotor craft, they all still fall into the paradigm of, ‘stick a prop on a motor and repeat three more times. [Curtis Youngblood], one of the top RC heli pilots in the world, came up with a very cool drive system for a quad, requiring only one motor and granting each blade collective pitch that allows for absolutely insane acrobatic ability.

There’s only one motor inside the Stingray 500, as [Curtis] calls his new toy. It’s at the rear of this quad’s H-frame, attached to a shaft running down the spine with a pair of pulleys. All four rotors are driven by this spinning shaft.

Because [Curtis] is an acrobatic pilot, he needed a way to control his ‘copter in more than one direction. To do this, he added four servos on each arm of the quad, giving each rotor collective pitch, just like the tail rotor of a real helicopter. The result is a quadcopter that can fly upside-down with the greatest of ease, perform barrel rolls, and all the other maneuver a true 3D RC ‘copter can do.

The awesome guys at Flite Test had [Curtis] visit their hangar and had him do an awesome demo flight. You can check out that video below.

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GimBall Bounces off Trees and Comes Back for More


We’ve seen a lot of flying robots over the years, and for many of them, intimate contact with a stationary object would be a very, very bad thing. [The Laboratory of Intelligent Systems], at EPFL in Switzerland designed GimBall to not only take impacts in stride, but to actually use them as navigational aids. This is similar to an insect bouncing off an obstacle in nature.

GimBall’s design is a bit of a departure from the norm as well. Contra-rotating airplane propellers provide thrust while countering torque. It appears that the propellers are driven by two separate brushless outrunner motors, which would allow for yaw control via mismatched torque. Directional control is provided by a 4 articulated vanes on the bottom of the craft. Standard RC servos move the vanes. While not as common as quadcopters today, this “tail sitting” design has been around for decades. The Convair XFY “Pogo” is a good example of an early tail sitter design.

What makes GimBall so novel is its exoskeleton. A carbon fiber gimbal encircles the entire craft. Around the gimbal is a geodesic sphere made up of carbon fiber rods and plastic joints. The sphere acts like a shock absorber, allowing GimBall to harmlessly bounce off objects. The gimbal ensures that impacts won’t upset the craft’s attitude. Check out the video after the break to see how these two systems form an impressive shell which completely separates GimBall’s chassis from the outside world. GimBall can actually use its shell to “rotate” around obstacles.

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PropVario, a Talking Variometer/Altimeter for RC Sailplanes


Lift. For a sailplane pilot it means the difference between a nice relaxing flight, or searching for an open area to land. Finding lift isn’t always easy though. This is especially true when the sailplane is hundreds of meters above a pilot whose feet are planted firmly on the ground. That’s why [Tharkun] created PropVario. PropVario is a combination variometer and altimeter for Radio Controlled sailplanes. We’ve seen a few variometers in the past, most often for full-scale sailplane or hang glider pilots. Almost every full-scale plane has a variometer as part of its suite of gauges – usually called a rate of climb or vertical speed indicator.

R/C pilots don’t have the luxury of looking at a gauge while flying though. At altitude even large 2 meter gliders can appear to the naked eye as no more than a dot. It would be somewhat embarrassing to lose sight of your glider because you were checking gauges. The solution is actually simple. A varying audio tone indicates the rate of climb of the plane. Higher pitched tones mean the plane is going up. Lower pitched tones mean the plane is descending. This system, coupled with a simple radio transmitter, has been in use by R/C sailplane pilots for years.

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DIY Mini Quadcopter Frame is Light and Strong


[Oscar] has been busy lately building DIY mini quadcopters. We saw his controller design earlier in the month. Back then he was using it with his walking robot designs. Now [Oscar] has posted up some information on his quadcopter work. Even though [Oscar] is new to mini quads, he began by designing his own frame. He started his frame design by using a cut down version of the well-known 949 frame. [Oscar] chose polystyrene for his motor mounts, which turned out to be the downfall of the frame. Polystyrene proved to be much too flimsy to handle the vibrations of the motors and props. The vibrations were transmitted to the accelerometers, which resulted in a model that was very hard to control. You can see this in the first video after the break.

For his second attempt, [Oscar] started with a proven design from HobbyKing. HobbyKing’s fiberglass mini quadcopter frame is sturdy, but heavy, and expensive to replace (If the parts are even in stock). The frame did work though, so he used it as a starting point for his second DIY frame. The new frame is based upon fiberglass shafts. [Oscar] used hot glue to join the shafts to the motor mounts. Each joint was wrapped in string, which was then coated with hot glue. We’d suggest thin cyanoacrylate glue in the future for these types of joints. Only a few drops of CA soaks up into the string, creating an extremely light and strong joint. [Oscar’s] frame ended up at about half the weight of the HobbyKing frame, but was stiff enough for a successful flight test, as can be seen in the second video after the break.

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Pocket Sized Sattelites for Asteroid Detection


We’ve seen kicksats before, small pocketable single board satellites designed to orbit Earth. At this year’s Maker Faire, the team behind these kicksats has a new plan: using them to determine the orbits of earth-passing asteroids and hopefully not giving us any forewarning of our imminent extinction.

Instead of simply orbiting Earth, the new plan for these kicksats is to deploy them into the path of an oncoming asteroid such as Apophis so the radio transmissions from each satellite can pinpoint where exactly the asteroid is, something Earthbound optical and radio telescopes struggle with.

Despite the small size, the hardware on each kicksat is pretty impressive; each mini satellite has a solar cell on each side, a low-power MSP430 microcontroller with a radio module, and a few sensors. The system is designed so anyone can pick up the telemetry from these satellites with a small Yagi antenna and an RTL SDR TV tuner dongle.

An impressive bit of kit, but if holding a satellite or asteroid in your hand is more your thing, the same team behind the kicksat put up a whole bunch of 3D models of asteroids and space probes. They’re actually quite impressive when they’re printed out.

Tearing an old laptop apart to build a ground control station

Being tired of assembling and disassembling parts/cables every time he went outside to fly his plane, [Elad] figured that he’d be better off building his own ground control station.

The core of the station is based on an old laptop with a broken screen he had laying around and (luckily) an older laptop screen he had found. As the latter only accepted LVDS, an adapter that could generate theses signals from the standard laptop’s VGA output was needed. [Elad] therefore disassembled his laptop and fit all the parts in a Pelican case he bought, as well as a lead-acid battery, a 12V to 19V stepup converter (to power the laptop), temperature/voltage/current sensors with their displays, 40mm fans, an AC/DC converter to charge the battery and finally a pico-UPS to allow uninterrupted use of the station when switching between power sources.

Because [Elad] didn’t have access to any machinery, PVC foam was used to maintain all the parts in place. Autonomy of his station is around 2.5hours on a single 12V 7Ah battery.