Laser power system keeps UAVs flying indefinitely

Drone technology is driving the aerospace industry as companies trip over each other trying to develop the next big thing. Here’s a good example of what we’re talking about. Lasers can no be used to keep a UAV in the air indefinitely. The trick is to add an array of photovoltaic cells specifically tuned to an IR laser’s wavelength. A ground system then directs a high-intensity laser beam onto the aircraft’s cell array to transfer energy while in flight.

After the break you can catch a video from a trade show where a Lockheed Martin employee describes the successful testing of such a system. But there’s a lot more information available in the white paper (PDF) which Laser Motive has released. They’re the folks behind the technology who have teamed up with LM to implement the system. The laser unit on the ground can track a UAV visually, but there is also a method of using GPS coordinates to do so in the case of overcast skies.

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RC plane made specifically for UAVs

We’ve seen our fair share of remote-controlled planes turned into UAVs and FPV platforms, but the Techpod is the first airplane we’ve seen specifically designed to be used as a camera-equipped robotic airplane.

The Techpod is the brainchild of [Wayne Garris]. He has been flying camera-equipped FPV airplanes for a while now, but recently realized the current offerings of remote control planes didn’t match his needs. [Wayne] decided to design his own plane specifically designed with a pan/tilt camera mount in the nose.

[Wayne]‘s prototype was designed with some very fancy aeronautical design software packages and milled out of foam. From the videos after the break, we can see the Techpod flies beautifully, but needs the Kickstarter community to bring his model to the masses.

The specs for the Techpod put it up there with other high-performances FPV and UAV models; with its 102 inch (2590 mm) wingspan and a pair of batteries wired in parallel, the Techpod can stay aloft transmitting video for up to one hour.

Video of the plane in action after the break.

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The shockerDrone; a shocking mod for the AR Drone

You’ve all seen taser like devices built from disposable cameras. We have seen them mounted to rubber gloves, finger tips, even potato gun ammo! We had not yet seen them on a quadcopter. This was quickly remedied once we had one to play with. Meet the shockerDrone, a Parrot AR Drone with built in shocker attachment.

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The dark pi rises

Ever wonder how an aerospace engineer would build a telepresence rover? Well, if [algorythmic] can be used as our reference, he’d cram a Raspberry Pi AND an Arduino into an RC truck frame.  The arduino is being used for motor control while the Raspberry pi is doing the communicating back and forth to the base. He’s using a ps3 controller as his interface and has slightly modified his PS3 eye for better night viewing.

Before you start shouting that using the raspberry pi AND the arduino is massive overkill, let us remind you that people don’t necessarily go buy/build all the parts for each project with a long-term goal in mind. He could have had both sitting there and realized that he didn’t need to add parts to either of them.

With the Raspberry Pi at the helm, this opens up all kinds of possibilities for adding features to make this an autonomous vehicle. Looking around his blog a little bit, it seems he’s done some visual recognition as well as voice control in the past. This could be interesting!

 

The $100 tri-copter

We’ve seen lots of budget tri-copters, but $100 seems like a heck of a deal to us! Watching this video, you can see this home made tri-copter is incredibly agile and seems to handle quite well. Whats amazing is that [hallstudio] claims that it cost roughly $100. That price is really good compared to even the cheapest multi copters out there.

Much of the manufacturing cost associated with this kind of thing has been removed as the body is just cheap wood from the local hardware store. He even did an admittedly sloppy rig for his tail rotor, not that it looks like it has hurt his performance.  One cool feature is the fact that you can fold the front arms backward, allowing for the tri-copter to be shoved into a bag for easy transportation.

You can find a complete parts list on his video, but it looks like maybe his cost doesn’t figure in the cost of the radio controller. There are no build instructions, but a quick google search leads us to the rcexplorer tricopter which seems to be the template he used. There are full build details there.

 

[via Hackedgadgets]

Autonomous fixed-wing drone threads the needled in a parking garage

We’ve got something of a love affair going on with quadcopters, but there’s still room for a little something on the side. This fixed-wing drone can pull off some pretty amazing navigation. MIT’s Robust Robotics Group is showing off the work they’ve done with the plane, culminating in a death-defying flight through a parking garage (video after the break). This may not sound like a huge accomplishment, but consider that the wingspan is over two meters and repeated runs at the same circuit brought it within centimeters of clipping support columns.

Unlike the precision quadcopters which depend on stationary high-speed cameras for feedback, this drone is self-contained. It does depend on starting out with a map of its environment, using this in conjunction with a laser rangefinder and inertial sensors to plot its route and adjust as necessary. We think the thing must have to plan a lot further ahead than a quadcopter since it lacks the ability to put on the brakes and hover. This is, however, one of the strengths of the design. Since it uses a fixed-wing approach it can stay in air much longer than a quadcopter with the same battery capacity.

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Tiny Quadcopter gets an update, on the verge of flying without PC

Crazyflie, the itty bitty quadcopter that uses a PCB for its frame is at the cusp of being able to fly without a PC. We were enamored with it when we first spotted it, and the Crazyflie has only gotten better. As you can see, a new PCB gives it a slightly more stylized look, but that’s not all. There have been major improvements to the design of the software, and various parts of the hardware. They’re waiting for the final prototype to arrive from the factory to test the ultimate goal, PC-less flight.  We’re not sure why this tiny quadcopter is so enthralling, but it sure has us captivated.

Be sure to check out another flight video after the break.

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