3D Printed Drone Follows the Leader

[peabody124, aka James] has been active in the drone world for several years now, first with OpenPilot, then TauLabs, and now with his own Spark and Sparky2 boards. [James]’ latest creation is a 3D printed quadcopter using both his Sparky2 board and his Sparky2BGC Brushless Gimbal Controller.

[James] had always wanted a quad which would follow him and his friends while they were having fun, sort of like his own flying camera platform. His current setup is finally approaching that goal. [James] designed his new quadcopter to use his Sparky2 flight controller and the KISS 18 amp Electronic Speed Controller (ESC). He also incorporated a brushless gimbal to keep his Mobius action cam pointed at a whatever the drone may be tracking.

To keep the internal intern-boardslayout clean, [James] designed a power distribution board which solders right up to the ESCs. The internal layout is seriously clean, with flat panels which keep the electronics safe during crashes.

The crash protection turned out to come in handy, as [James] managed to hit a couple of drone-eating trees during testing. Thankfully, having a 3D printed quad means spare parts are just a few hours of printing away. Check out the video below for footage of [James]’ test flights, and of the quad tracking his cell phone via an RF link.

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DIY FPV Goggles Born From Necessity of Cheapness

So now that you’ve built your quadcopter and can fly it without crashing most of the time, what’s next? How about metaphorically hopping into the pilot’s seat with a First Person View setup. Great idea… but the cost of the required gear can be a deal breaker. FPV goggles alone range from the low to high hundreds. [sneaky] was using his laptop screen for his FPV setup and decided to try to make is own FPV goggles.

The display is just a small LCD screen that was purchased off eBay. Craft foam board was cut, bent, glued and duct taped to form a box about the same size as the LCD screen which is also secured to the box with duct tape. [sneaky] then cut the opposite side of the box to fit his face before he lined it with 1/2″ weatherstripping foam. Staring at an LCD screen just inches from your face is sure to cause some discomfort. A Fresnel lens inserted in between the user’s eyes and the LCD reduces eye strain to make long flights tolerable. The whole assembly is then held to your noggin via a recycled ski goggle strap.

In the end, [sneaky] likes his new goggles better than his old laptop screen and sun shade setup. The goggles aren’t too heavy and he can wear them comfortably for a while. We’ve seen a DIY FPV goggle setup in the past that uses individual lenses for each eye rather than one large Fresnel lens.

Controlling a Quadcopter with Gestures

[grassjelly] has been hard at work building a wearable device that uses gestures to control quadcopter motion. The goal of the project is to design a controller that allows the user to intuitively control the motion of a quadcopter. Based on the demonstration video below, we’d say they hit the nail on the head. The controller runs off an Arduino Pro Mini-5v powered by two small coin cell batteries. It contains an accelerometer and an ultrasonic distance sensor.

The controller allows the quadcopter to mimic the orientation of the user’s hand. The user holds their hand out in front of them, parallel to the floor. When the hand is tilted in any direction, the quadcopter copies the motion and will tilt the same way. The amount of pitch and roll is limited by software, likely preventing the user from over-correcting and crashing the machine. The user can also raise or lower their hand to control the altitude of the copter.

[grassjelly] has made all of the code and schematics available via github.

Flite Test at NYC Maker Faire

NYC Maker Faire may be a no fly zone this year, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of the Flite Test Crew. We met with Flite Test outside their tent in the R/C and drone area of Maker Faire. [Josh Bixler and Alex Zvada] are two of the hosts of the popular YouTube channel. [Josh] is also well-known for his R/C plane designs, such as the Bloody Wonder and Simple Storch. In addition to hosting, [Alex] is the graphic designer Flite Test. He is also an ace quadcopter pilot, and can be found flying his 250 sized chase quad in many episodes.

Most of Flite Test’s designs utilize Readi-Board, available at Dollar-Tree stores around the USA and Canada. The Flite Test crew is working directly with the manufacturer of this foam to make it, and their designs available all over the world.

The team also takes up incredible challenges such as a flying toaster which actually works, making toast as it files. Their flying cinder block is not to be missed either. Their biggest challenge to date was the Google Project Wing + Amazon Prime Air mashup. The video featured a drone that delivered a drone that delivered a drone that delivered a drone that delivered a stick of gum. Matryoshka dolls have nothing on these guys!

Rotor DR1 and Collaborative Development

In a post apocalyptic world ravaged by the effects of a virus, a young man searches for his father. He forms a friendship with a young woman and a delivery drone that seems oddly sentient. Together they have to fight through abandoned buildings, and past gangs of thugs, to find…

That’s the hook for Rotor DR1, a web series currently in production. Rotor DR1 isn’t a big budget movie, but an independent series created by [Chad Kapper]. [Chad] isn’t new to film or drones, his previous project was Flite Test, which has become one of the top YouTube channels for drones and radio controlled aircraft in general. With the recent sale of Flite Test to Lauren International, [Chad] has found himself with the time to move forward on a project he’s been talking about for years.

Click past the break for more information, and to check out the Rotor DR1 trailer.

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THP Semifinalist: Autonomous Recharging For Multirotors

Even with visions of quadcopters buzzing around metropolitan areas delivering everything from pizzas to toilet paper fresh in the minds of tech blogospherites, There’s been a comparatively small amount of research into how to support squadrons of quadcopters and other unmanned aerial vehicles. The most likely cause of this is the FAA’s reactionary position towards UAVs. Good thing [Giovanni] is performing all his research for autonomous recharging and docking for multirotors in Australia, then.

The biggest obstacle of autonomous charging of a quadcopter is landing a quad exactly where the charging station is; run of the mill GPS units only have a resolution of about half a meter, and using a GPS solution would require putting GPS on the charging station as well. The solution comes from powerful ARM single board computers – in this case, an Odroid u3 – along with a USB webcam, OpenCV and a Pixhawk autopilot.

Right now [Giovanni] is still working out the kinks on his software system, but he has all the parts and the right tools to get this project up in the air, down, and back up again.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a semifinalist in The Hackaday Prize.

Extrinsic Motivation: Smart Antenna Tracker for R/C Aircraft

Long distance FPV (First Person View) flying can be a handful. Keeping a video feed alive generally requires a high gain directional antenna. Going directional creates the chore of keeping the antenna pointed at the aircraft. [Brandon’s] smart antenna tracker is designed to do all that automatically. What witchcraft is this, you ask? The answer is actually quite simple: Telemetry! Many flight control systems have an optional telemetry transmitter. [Brandon] is using the 3DRobotics APM or PixHawk systems, which use 3DR’s 915 MHz radios.

The airborne radio sends telemetry data, including aircraft latitude and longitude down to a ground station. Equipped with a receiver for this data and a GPS of its own, the smart antenna tracker knows the exact position, heading and velocity of the aircraft. Using a pan and tilt mount, the smart antenna tracker can then point the antenna directly at the airborne system. Since the FPV antenna is co-located on the pan tilt mount, it will also point at the aircraft and maintain a good video link.

One of the gotchas with a system like this is dealing with an aircraft that is flying directly overhead. The plane or rotorcraft can fly by faster than the antenna system can move. There are a few commercial systems out there that handle this by switching to a lower gain omnidirectional whip antenna when the aircraft is close in. This would be a great addition to [Brandon’s] design.