Lighthouse Locates Drone; Achieves Autonomous Battery Swap

The HTC Vive’s Lighthouse localization system is one of the cleverest things we’ve seen in a while. It uses a synchronization flash followed by a swept beam to tell any device that can see the lights exactly where it is in space. Of course, the device has to understand the signals to figure it out.

[Alex Shtuchkin] built a very well documented device that can use these signals to localize itself in your room. For now, the Lighthouse stations are still fairly expensive, but the per-device hardware requirements are quite reasonable. [Alex] has the costs down around ten dollars plus the cost of a microcontroller if your project doesn’t already include one. Indeed, his proof-of-concept is basically a breadboard, three photodiodes, op-amps, and some code.

His demo is awesome! Check it out in the video below. He uses it to teach a quadcopter to land itself back on a charging platform, and it’s able to get there with what looks like a few centimeters of play in any direction — more than good enough to land in the 3D-printed plastic landing thingy. That fixture has a rotating drum that swaps out the battery automatically, readying the drone for another flight.

If this is just the tip of the iceberg of upcoming Lighthouse hacks, we can’t wait!

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Outlet charging station retrofitted with the guts of a WiFi router

While wandering around the aisles of his local electronics store this Westinghouse USB charging station caught [James’] eye. He sized it up and realized it would make the perfect enclosure for a small WiFi router. And so began his project to turn a TP-Link TL-WR703NĀ into a DIY Pwn Plug.

The basic idea is to include hidden capabilities in an otherwise normal-looking device. For instance, take a look at this ridiculously overpriced power strip that also happens to spy on your activities. It doesn’t sound like [James] has any black hat activities planned, but just wanted an interesting application for the router.

He removed the original circuit board from the charging station to make room for his own internals. He inserted a cellphone charger to power the router, then desoldered the USB ports and RJ-45 connector for the circuit board to be positioned in the openings of the case. He even included a headphone jack that breaks out the serial port. There’s a lot of new stuff packed into there, but all of the original features of the charging station remain intact.