Hackers in Africa are building their own aircraft

hacked-heli

While you’re trying to come up with an idea for your next project this guy’s been building his own helicopter from whatever parts he can find. He’s just one of the aeronautical hackers featured in a story in the Daily Mail. The article’s narrative leaves us with many questions, but there’s enough info to make it worth a look.

In addition to the heli seen above there are also a couple of airplane builds to gawk at. Africa has already produced a couple of very ingenious hacks like [William Kamkwamba's] projects which improved his village infrastructure. He gained enough notice from his work to land a scholarship to continue his education and that opportunity has also been afforded the creators of these aircraft.

At first we figured this helicopter project was possible because of lack of air traffic regulation in this part of the world. That’s not the case as [Onesmus Mwangi] — who makes his living as a farmhand – has been forbidden to fly the craft by local police. There may be another opportunity for him to fly later in life. He’s received funding to study aircraft maintenance abroad.+

Unfortunately we couldn’t find any video of this thing in action. If that’s unacceptable to you try getting your fix from this human-sized octocopter.

[Thanks Brandon]

Hacking in Cameroon for profit and entertainment

[Bill Zimmerman] is in Cameroon and has been posting some really interesting articles about life in the central African nation. It comes as no surprise that imported goods can be prohibitively expensive for many of the country’s residents, so building tools and goods is way to improve life and save money. The image above is a metalworking cooperative where any number of products are manufactured from recycled materials, often using tools that the craftsmen made themselves. Their wares are amazingly wide-ranging; crow bars, motorcycle seats, buckets, plows, hammers, knives, cold chisels, and much more. The video after the break shows the tradesmen hard at work. See some video of the cooperative after the break.

But adults aren’t the only ones getting in on the action. Remember [William Kamkwamba] who built a wind generator for his villiage? It seems the tinkering spirit runs deep in the children of Cameroon as well. [Bill] came across some kids who grabbed leftovers like the soles of sandals, scraps of rope, and empty sardine tins to build a steerable toy car.

[Read more...]

Homing pigeon email

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Yes, you read that correctly: electronic mail carried by birds. [Ferdinand] tipped us off to this story, which involves combining new and old methods in transferring data. The Unlimited Group, a firm in a remote section of South Africa, transfers loads of encrypted documents to a second office 50 miles away. A pricey broadband connection would take between 6 hours and two days to transfer a standard load (4GB) of data between these locations. On the other hand, Winston (seen above) can complete an equivalent flight within 45 minutes. A memory card is strapped to his leg, and using his wit and instinct, Winston finds his way home. For those without their calculators on hand, Winston’s bandwidth is between 7x and 63x faster than what they had before. If his flash card were to be upgraded to 16GB, that would be an instant fourfold increase on top of current gains. As [Mark] pointed out on the Daily Mail website, homing pigeons still need to be taken back to their departure point.

This solution still has its advantages over a courier: they are lower in cost, they work over longer hours, and have potentially faster delivery speeds. Multiple pigeons can be transported back at once, and released with data as needed.

UAV medical couriers

We’re skeptical about most technology that’s designed to help remote villages (yes, even that one), but these new UAV medical couriers look like a great idea. The turn around time for medical sample analysis in remote South African villages can be excruciating. A team of engineers have attempted to adapt two different unmanned aerial vehicles for transport of medical samples. These could be either blood or saliva that needs testing. Test results would be relayed via phone as they are now, but the initial transport time would be much faster. The larger of the two UAVs can carry up to 500g; that’s enough to haul two units of blood for transfusion. The UAVs can be launched by hand and can survive winds up to 45kph. They fly their preprogrammed routes autonomously and don’t require any operator intervention. The team has flown two successful trials and is waiting for approval from the South African Civil Aviation Authority. For safety, they’re only transporting samples that can be sterilized before flight. New Scientist has a short video after the break. [Read more...]