Contender For World’s Most Unsettling Drone?

We’re not sure what FESTO is advertising with their odd flying beach ball. Amongst inspirational music it gently places its translucent appendage over a water bottle and then engulfs it with an unsettling plastic sound. With a high pitched whine it hovers away with its prey and deposits it in the hand of a thirsty business man, perhaps as a misguided nurturing instinct.

Despite discovering a new uncanny valley, the robot is pretty cool. It appears to a be a hybrid airship/helicopter on a small-scale. The balloon either zeros out the weight of the robot or provides slightly more lift. It’s up to the propellers to provide the rest.

We like the carbon fiber truss around the drone. It’s a really slick build with barely an untamed wire. This seems like a much safer design than a quadcopter for indoor flying. If its end effector wasn’t so creepy it would be even cooler. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Contender For World’s Most Unsettling Drone?”

You Need a Self-Righting Thrust-Vector Balloon Copter

Cornell University’s microcontroller class looks like a tremendous amount of fun. Not only do the students learn the nitty-gritty details of microcontroller programming, but the course culminates in a cool project. [Brian Ritchken] and [Jim Liu] made a thrust-vector controlled balloon blimp. They call this working?!?!

Three balloons provide just enough lift so that the blimp can climb or descend on motor power. Since the machine is symmetric, there’s no intrinsic idea of “forward” or “backward”. Instead, a ring of eight LEDs around the edge let you know which way the blimp thinks it’s pointing. Two controls on the remote rotate the pointing direction clockwise and counter-clockwise. The blimp does the math to figure out which motors to run faster or slower when you tell it to go forward or back.

The platform is stabilized by a feedback loop with an accelerometer on board, and seems capable of handling a fairly asymmetric weight distribution, as evidenced by their ballast dangling off the side — a climbing bag filled with ketchup packets that presumably weren’t just lifted from the dining halls.

It looks like [Brian] and [Jim] had a ton of fun building and flying this contraption. We’d love to see a distance-to-the-floor sensor added so that they could command it to hover at a given height, but that adds an extra level of complexity. They got this done in time and under budget, so kudos to them both. And in a world full of over-qualified quadcopters, it’s nice to see the humble blimp getting its time in the sun.

Yep, you heard right… this is yet another final project for a University course. Yesterday we saw a spinning POV globe, and the day before a voice-activated eye test. We want to see your final project too so please send in a link!

Hackaday Links: March 16, 2014

hackaday-links-chain

Tape decks are fertile hacking ground. In this offering from [Erich] the speed of the motor has been turned into a MIDI instrument. Drive it faster and the pitch rises, slower and it falls. There are all kinds of other magnetic tape hacks around here, this tape delay is a classic.

[Dbever] needed a reason to use a big 7-segment display module. He opened up the drill press at his Hackerspace, Pumping Station One, and added a sensor which shows the RPM of the drill on the display. Hackaday was lucky enough to be invited for a tour of the space last fall.

There’s a lot of hype about 3D printing… and rightly so since it’s the radest; which is even better than being “the most rad”. But if you don’t have access to one that shouldn’t stop you. Here’s an example of making robot parts using polymorph instead of 3D printing (or laser cutting) them.

If you’re living in the east-coast metroplex and are unable to travel to Maker Faire Bay Area this Spring you can still get in on some live hacking. Check out MassHack which takes place the same May weekend but in Boston instead of San Fran.

Blimps; not as cool as quadcopters but orders of magnitude less likely to go down in flames (as it were). Draw some inspiration for your own build from silent_runner. The graceful travel of these lighter-than-air-craft make for an interesting camera platform. Here’s a POV video inside of a church, and some shots from the ground while in the woods. [Thanks Oliver]

We try not to pimp crowd-funding campaigns just for the sake of getting them to the goal. But we hope you’ll agree that the Gamebuino we saw a few months back makes a strong argument for backers. Their Indiegogo for the Arduino-compatible handheld gaming rig is over half-way there after just a couple of days.

An Arduino hydrogen blimp… oh the humanity!

arduino-hydrogen-balloon

This sort of flying contraption seems more suited for indoor use. Well, except for the fire hazard presented by building an Android controlled hydrogen blimp. The problems we often see with quadcopters come into play when a motor wire comes loose and the thing goes flying off in a random direction. Loosing a motor on this airship will be no big deal by comparison.

Because the build relies on the buoyancy of the gas, light-weight components are the name of the game. The frame of the chassis is built from balsa wood. It supports two tiny DC motors which are almost indistinguishable in the image above. An Arduino nano and wireless receiver monitor commands from the transmitter and drive the propellers accordingly.

You may have noticed that we categorized this one as a chemistry hack. That’s because [Btimar] generated the hydrogen himself. He used an Erlenmeyer flask with a spout for the chemical reaction. After placing several heat sinks and other scraps of solid aluminum in the flask he poured on the lye solution. This generates the H2 but you need to keep things cool using ice to keep the reaction from getting out of control. We’re going to stick with helium filled blimps for the time being!

See this beast flying around [Btimar’s] living room in the clip after the break.

Continue reading “An Arduino hydrogen blimp… oh the humanity!”

R/C blimp uses a party balloon for lift

Here’s a really tiny r/c blimp that doesn’t need several cubic feet of Helium to get off the ground.

Instructables user [masynmachien] has been building r/c blimps for over a decade now, and this latest build is meant to have the same specs as this nanoblimp. The build is based on an 11-inch party balloon that can provide about 11 grams of lift. This doesn’t allow for much leeway in terms of weight, so [masymachien] used hacked-up servos for the motors.

The blimp is an exercise in saving weight – just about every component that can be removed from the build is thrown away. The results are pretty impressive. The entire blimp weighs about 10 grams on the ground. [masynmachien] also tried a 14-inch balloon with an 808 key fob camera with very good results.

The blimp looks pretty good when flying around a room. [masymachien] seems to have a lot of control from a minimal component count. You can check out the party blimp in action after the break.

Continue reading “R/C blimp uses a party balloon for lift”

For the Trade Show Booth That Has Everything, a Blimp!

Trade shows are all about attracting attention and getting people to learn about your product, so what could be better than a custom-built RC blimp? Sure, you could just buy one, but what’s the fun in that? After several design iterations, [Tretton37] came up with a blimp known as the [LeetZeppelin] controlled by an Arduino, an XBee module, as well as a Wiimote controller connected to a computer.

The hack itself is a great example of repurposing off-the-shelf materials into something more interesting and unique. In addition to the components listed above, hobby servos were modded to allow for thrust motor control in conjunction with Legos for the gearing and “pillow-block bearings.” A list of the “important” parts used in this hack is furnished on their site as well as a video of it in action, which is also after the break.

As for the results of this hack as a trade-show attention grabber, Fredrik Leijon had this to say: “We think that all the gazing at the sky and half opened mouths proves that it was a huge success!”

Ollie the socially awkward autonomous blimp

[Pritika] is a user experience design student who just finished up an autonomous blimp project designed to react to voices and communicate, “his friendliness and eagerness to be noticed.”

The instructable [Pritika] posted goes through the build – a 850mAh LiPo battery powers an Arduino Pro Mini, which controls two 3.6 gram servos. While not much in the way of electronics, the real beauty behind this build is the implementation. From watching the video of Ollie interacting with people, we’re pretty sure [Pritika] met her objective of making her pet blimp friendly and unobtrusive.

With quadrocopters getting so much attention as of late, it’s interesting to see development in lighter-than-air robotics. Our back of the envelope math (which is almost certainly wrong) tells us that Ollie’s ‘body’ can lift 60 grams when filled with Helium, and double that with Hydrogen. While this isn’t much lifting capacity, it’s not inconceivable that a slightly larger blimp could have more sensors or a live video feed, especially considering the 16 gram ornithopter we covered last year.

Check out a video of Ollie after the jump.

Continue reading “Ollie the socially awkward autonomous blimp”