Turning anything into a drone

drone

For his graduate project, [Jasper] wanted to do something with a quadcopter drone. Not content with simply building any old drone, he decided to make a kit that turns anything into a drone. Everything from a bicycle wheel, to a computer keyboard, and even a phone is more than able to take flight with [Jasper]‘s Drone It Yourself kit.

The DIY drone kit consists of a few 3D printed parts that include four clamps and mounts for the four engines. Also on board are ESCs, a battery, receiver, and an OpenPilot autopilot that will hopefully keep a drone in any shape imaginable hovering in the air. All this packaged in a sleek aluminum briefcase make it look like something out of an eccentric Bond film parody.

This project isn’t for sale – at least until the Brookstone catalog steals the idea – but you can get the bill of materials directly from [Jasper], just in case you’d like to make your own random flying object.

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The Burrito Bomber

Burrito Bomber

The Burrito Bomber, created by the folks at Darwin Aerospace, claims to be “the world’s first Mexican food delivery system.” The delivery process starts with the customer placing an order through the Flask based Burrito Bomber webapp. The customer’s location is grabbed from their smartphone using the HTML5 Geolocation API and used to generate a waypoint file for the drone. Next, the order is placed into a delivery tube, loaded onto the drone, and the waypoint file is uploaded to the drone. Finally, the drone flies to your location and drops the delivery tube. A parachute deploys to safely deliver the tasty payload.

The drone is based on a Skywalker X-8 airframe and the Quantum RTR Bomb System. The bomb system provides the basic mechanism to hold and drop a payload, but Darwin Airspace designed their own 3D printed parts for the delivery tube. These parts are available on Thingiverse. The drone is controlled autonomously by ArduPilot, which uses the webapp’s waypoint output to guide the drone to the target and release the payload.

Unfortunately, this can’t be a commercial product yet due to FAA regulations, but the FAA is required to figure out commercial drone regulations by 2015. Hopefully in 2015 we’ll all be able to order burritos by air.

For all the source and models, check out the group’s Github. There’s also a video of the bomber in action after the break.

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Raspberry Pi Quadcopter

It was bound to happen sooner or later, but that doesn’t diminish the awesomeness of [Matthew]‘s Raspberry Pi-powered quadcopter.

[Matthew]‘s quadcopter is similar to all the other flying drones we’ve seen before with one important difference – all the processing, from reading the gyroscopes to computing exactly how much power to give each motor – is handled by a Raspberry Pi. This task is usually the domain of a microcontroller, as these calculations need to happen in real-time. The Linux distro [Matt] is running on his Pi has a lot more overhead than a simple AVR or ARM microcontroller, so doing everything that needs to be done in real-time isn’t guaranteed. With a bit of clever programming, [Matthew] managed to make sure all the necessary tasks were taken care of in time. It’s still not a real-time operating system, but for this project at least, it’s good enough.

Since the Raspberry Pi in [Matthew]‘s quadcopter is much more powerful than a microcontroller, there’s plenty of head room to SSH into the ‘copter while it’s flying. There may even be enough processing power to stream video to a web server; we honestly can’t wait to see what [Matthew] does with his flying Linux computer in the future.

You can check out [Matthew]‘s code over on the git or watch a few flight test videos over on his youtube.

 

Adding Node.js based sensors to the Parrot AR drone

[Max Ogden] wanted the option to add sensors to his Parrot AR Drone. This a commercially available quadcopter which runs Linux. This makes it rather easy for him to use Node.js to read the sensors from an Arduino board. The use of the Arduino is merely for easy prototyping. It is only needed to bridge the drone’s serial port with a sensor’s delivery method, so just about any microcontroller could be substituted for it.

There are some hardware considerations to take into account. The manufacturer was nice enough to populate a 0.1″ pitch pin socket on the serial port (if only this kind of invitation to mess with hardware was an industry standard). But the device expects 3.3V levels so pick your hardware accordingly. There is one commenter who tried the project for themselves and found that the drone wouldn’t boot up with the Arduino already connect — he had to boot and then complete connections. Troubles aside this makes adding your own sensor payload very simple and you don’t have to wait until landing to get at the data.

Maybe we’ll have to add some shock voltage data reporting to our shockerDrone.

Using UAVs to find mannequins lost in the outback

Every other year the Australian Research Center for Aerospace Automation, the government of Queensland, Australia  and other government and research institutions hold a contest to develop technology for unmanned aerial vehicles for the wastes of central Australia. Canberra UAV – a group of autonomous drone enthusiasts from the Make, Hack, Void hackerspace – took part in this UAV challenge this year. They ended up with one of the most successful UAVs to every compete, and while they didn’t quite finish the competition they were one of the most successful entries to date.

The goal of the Search and Rescue Outback Challenge is to take off from a landing strip, search for a mannequin named Outback Joe, and deliver 500 ml of life-giving water via air drop. Out of 72 teams entered in to this year’s Outback Challenge, only 6 were allowed to take off – safety restrictions, don’t you know – and all but two hadn’t been destroyed via ‘rapid, unplanned descent’ during qualifications.

UAV Canberra was the only team able to search the entire 5 nautical mile radius search area with their cameras and find Outback Joe. Contest judges gave them permission to drop their payload, but unfortunately the bottle of water was snagged on the engine.

In the many iterations of the Search and Rescue Outback Challenge, UAV Canberra is only the second team to locate a mannequin in the outback, and the first to do it autonomously. A shame, then, that they were unable to claim a victory, but we’ll look forward to their entry in the next Search and Rescue competition.

You can check out a few videos of the Canberra UAV team’s flights after the break.

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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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