Repairing a Plane in Antarctica

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One of our tipsters just sent us in an amazing story about repairing a plane in Antarctica — and flying it home!

On December 20, 2012 a Basler BT-67 Turbo 67 (DC-3T) — named Lidia — went down in Antarctica. Thankfully out of its 15 passengers there were no fatalities. For full details on the crash you can check out the accident description on the Aviation Safety Network.

Lidia was built back in the 1940′s, with its wings apparently put together by Rosie the Riveter herself in 1943. Its virgin flight was in 1944. Today, it is operate(d) as a tour plane, and before the accident it was conducting a tour of the Holtanna Glacier in Antarctica.

The plane sat in the snow for almost a year, before a team came back to repair it and bring it home. The expedition lasted two months, and they brought with them two new engines, a new cockpit, landing gear, and fuselage repair supplies. They’ve shared an incredible slideshow of photos that are available on Facebook, or you can stick around after the break to watch a video slideshow of the process.

Can you even begin to imagine repairing a car in Antarctica conditions — let alone a freaking airplane?

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Stealth Camper Van

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Sometimes you need to sleep where you’re not supposed to. In this case, [MisterE] wanted to cut the costs associated with his climbing trips. He took a 2001 GMC Savana cargo van and turned it into a stealthy mobile living space. The project is from back in 2008 and we almost waved off from featuring it. But when you start to look at all of the creative space-saving solutions in the hack we think you’ll agree it’s worth a look.

Since he’s a climber that means time in the mountains, which can be quite cold. The sides and floor of the van were insulated to about R19 before the build work itself started and there’s a small wall-mounted heater. For comfort, a fouton was a must for sleeping but also for its double use as a sofa. For style the only choice here was bead-board to cover all of the walls. There is a small kitchenette that is mainly just a sink (we’ve seen running water in vehicles before). A couple of extra batteries power all of the electronics: audio, laptop, etc. When asked, [MisterE] confirms that he added hidden storage areas for his more pricey gear. Total cost on the project came it at $11,500. About nine for the van and the rest for improvements.

He mentions he blew an inverter because of grounding issues while starting the van. As long as he turns it off before start-up he’s fine. Shouldn’t there be a better way to build protection into this? Please leave a comment after the break and let us know what you’d do differently.

[Thanks Mac]

3kW Electric Scooter

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[Exco] had been playing around with the idea of building an electric scooter for a while now, and over the holidays he decided to just do it.

Similar to the motorized long board we shared last month, this scooter makes use of an RC hobby motor — in this case, a 63mm 3kW brushless outrunner (for a RC plane), coupled with a 100A ESC. He bought the scooter (“kick board”) off eBay for cheap, and spent a few days in the machine shop modifying it. It has better wheels now, and custom milled aluminum brackets for mounting the motor. The drive system uses a belt and pulley with a sliding rail to provide tensioning.

To power it, he bought a bunch of 2.5Ah, 18V LiPo packs on eBay originally from a Makita drill set. He then sorted out the cells, removed the dead ones, and soldered everything together for his own Frankenstein pack to balance them. The final configuration features twenty-one 18650 lithium cells. He even shrink wrapped it, which makes it look relatively professional!

It’s controlled by a push-button potentiometer hooked up to the ESC. Theoretical top speed is about 27km/h @ 1285RPM, and they managed to get it up to 25km/h in a real test. There’s more info over at the Endless Sphere forum, and we’ve got two test videos for you after the break.

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Ride, Captain, Ride Aboard Your Arduino-Controlled Autopiloted Sailboat

[Jack], a mechanical engineer, loom builder, and avid sailor wanted an autopilot system for his 1983 Robert Perry Nordic 40 sailboat with more modern capabilities than the one it came with. He knew a PC-based solution would work, but it was a bit out of reach. Once his son showed him an Arduino, though, he was on his way. He sallied forth and built this Arduino-based autopilot system for his sloop, the Wile E. Coyote.

He’s using two Arduino Megas. One is solely for the GPS, and the other controls everything else. [Jack]‘s autopilot has three modes. In the one he calls knob steering, a potentiometer drives the existing hydraulic pump, which he controls with a Polulu Qik serial DC motor controller. In compass steering mode, a Pololu IMU locks in the heading to steer (HTS).  GPS mode uses a predetermined waypoint, and sets the course to steer (CTS) to the same bearing as the waypoint.

[Jack]‘s system also uses cross track error (XTE) correction to calculate a new HTS when necessary. He has fantastic documentation and several Fritzing and Arduino files available on Dropbox.

Autopilot sailboat rigs must be all the rage right now. We just saw a different one back in November.

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Building An Engine Control Unit With The STM32F4

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If you’re looking to soup up your whip, the first place you’ll probably look is the engine control unit. This computer shoved in the engine compartment controls just about every aspect of your car’s performance, from the air/fuel ratio, the ignition timing, and the valve controls. Upgrading the ECU usually means flashing new firmware on the device, but [Andrey] is taking it one step further: he’s building his own ECU using the STM32F4 Discovery dev board.

[Andrey]‘s ride is a 1996 Ford Aspire, but while he was developing his open source ECU, he wanted to be able to drive his car. No problem, as going down to the junkyard, picking up a spare, and reverse engineering that was a cheap and easy way to do some development. After powering this spare ECU with an ATX supply, [Andrey] was able to figure out a circuit to get sensor input to his microcontroller and having his dev board control the fuel injector.

With a few additional bits of hardware [Andrey] has his open ECU controlling the fuel injection, ignition, fuel pump, and idle air valve solenoid. Not a bad replacement for something that took Ford engineers thousands of man hours to create.

[Andrey]‘s ECU actually works, too. In the video below, you can see him driving around a snow-covered waste with his DIY ECU controlling all aspects of the engine. If the engine sounds a little rough, it’s because a wire came loose and he was only using two cylinders. A bit of hot glue will fix that, though.

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Electric Snow Scooter

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[Dane] decided he wanted to make a rather large electric scooter, capable of taking him through even the most inclement weather — that’s right, even snow.

Well, after about 18 months of stop and go work it is finally complete — for now. It features an impressive 7kW brushless 3-phase motor, a massive lithium ion battery pack and more custom parts then you could shake a stick at!

The frame started out as one of those big push scooters from the 80′s, in fact, it is the same as the one shown in Macklemore’s Thrift Shop video (pic)! But since then it has had many a modification done to it — it looks as though the front end is the only part that wasn’t touched!

He’s got an incredible build log  his website, so if you want to build your own (you will once you’ve seen the video after the break), it’s a great starting point.

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Motorized Longboard

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What were you building in your junior year of highschool? Well, for [Aaron Cofield], he built a motorized longboard.

He started with a plain longboard in the design he liked, gave it a nice paint coat (aesthetics over functionality people!) and then started looking into motorizing it. As it turns out there’s actually a pretty handy blog dedicated to converting longboards to electric. After many hours of research he settled on a 2400W RC prop motor and a 150A high performance RC car ESC unit. Who knew it was that simple!

A few metal brackets, some belts, sprockets, an idler and a whole ton of lithium-ion batteries later and the build is complete! He’s currently controlling it with an RC car remote, but had plans to control it using a Wii nunchuck and Arduino. The test runs this past summer got the board going about 20mph!

It looks done for now, but we’re sure he’s going to be continuing to refine it next summer — stick around after the break to see one of its first test drives!

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