“Drones” Endanger Airborne Wildfire Fighting

usdaThere is no denying that personal drones are in the public eye these days. Unfortunately they tend to receive more negative press than positive. This past weekend, there were news reports of a wildfire in California. Efforts to fight the fire were hampered when no less than five drones were spotted flying in the area. Some reports even stated that two of the drones followed the firefighting aircraft as they returned to local airports. This is the fourth time this month firefighting planes have been grounded due to unmanned aircraft in the area. It’s not a new problem either, I’ve subscribed to a google alert on the word “Drone” for over a year now, and it is rare for a week to go by without a hobby drone flying somewhere they shouldn’t.

The waters are muddied by the fact that mass media loves a good drone story. Any pilotless vehicle is now a drone, much to the chagrin of radio control enthusiasts who were flying before the Wright brothers. In this case there were two fields relatively close to the action – Victor Valley R/C Park, about 10 miles away, and the Cajun Pass slope flying field, which overlooks the section of I-15 that burned. There are claims on the various R/C forums and subreddits that it may have been members from either of those groups who were mistaken as drones in the flight path. Realistically though, Victor Valley is too far away. Furthermore, anyone at the Cajun pass flying site would have been fearing for their own safety. Access requires a drive through 3 miles of dirt road just to reach the site. Not a place you’d want to be trapped by a wildfire for sure. Who or whatever was flying that day is apparently lying low for the moment – but the problem persists.

Rules and Regulations

In the USA, the FAA rules are (finally) relatively clear for recreational drone operations. The layman version can be found on the knowbeforeyoufly.org website, which was put together by the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), and other groups in partnership with the FAA.

Continue reading ““Drones” Endanger Airborne Wildfire Fighting”

Caption CERN Contest – Not your father’s POV Display

Accidents happen – but the awesome quotes you all sent in for Week 15 of the Caption CERN Contest were no accident. A huge thank you for our biggest week yet! The scientists in this week’s image are definitely cleaning up after some type of nasty accident. At first blush it looks like an electrical problem in the coils of what appears to be part of a beam line. With all that soot and radiation dangers to boot, only the photographer and the people in the image know for sure!

The Funnies:

  • “This is the second server these idiots have fried! What the hell’s a Hulu, and why are they trying to watch Gilligan’s Island with it?” Thanks to some unplanned quantum tunneling, Berners-Lee was even further ahead of his time than he thought” – [The Green Gentleman] (Two weeks in a row!)
  • “I found the bug. Who gets to tell Joe he’s sterile?”- [jonsmirl]
  • “‘I told the Captain that she couldn’t take any more’ – Scotty” – [md_reeves]

The winner for this week is [Mr. mmWave] himself, [Tony Long] with “Hardware Accelerator moto – Fail Fast, Fail Often. Also applies to Accelerator Hardware.” [Tony] will be debugging his next microwave mm band ham radio with a Logic Pirate From The Hackaday Store! Congratulations [Tony]!

Week 16: This is not your father’s POV Display!

cern-16-smScientists at CERN have come up with some amazing science advancements. They’ve also needed ways to display the data they collect. This image may depict some incredible new way to display data collected from a high power physics experiment – or it could be a scientist’s project for the CERN science fair. We may never know.

The album is titled CHAMBRE A ETINCELLES DANS EXPO TECHNOL, which roughly translates to “Sparks in the technology expo room”. The lines traveling between the three horizontal display devices definitely appear to be aligned. Are they sparks of electricity? You tell us!

buspirate2Last week’s prize was a Logic Pirate. This week we’re giving away a Bus Pirate from The Hackaday Store.

Add your humorous caption as a comment to this project log. Make sure you’re commenting on this contest log, not on the contest itself.

As always, if you actually have information about the image or the people in it, let CERN know on the original image discussion page.

Good Luck!


Week 14’s image may have had us at a loss for words, but it definitely didn’t slow down the intrepid caption contest entrants on Hackaday.io! Thanks to everyone who entered. We still have no idea what that device is, though we are sure that we wouldn’t want to be standing under it. Just look at those 4×4 sections of lumber holding everything up. What’s the French translation for “sketchy as hell”? The device definitely includes a pressure or vacuum vessel of some sort. Beyond that, your guess is as good as ours. We’ll keep an eye on CERN’s image discussion page in case an answer does pop up.

The Funnies:

  • “Damn it Athol, stop harping about protocol and hand me the duck tape. This is nuclear physics, not rocket science!” – [The Green Gentleman]
  • “This will mix a mean Margarita for the party tomorrow, I promise you!.”- [Mats L]
  • “To long have we tried to smash particles, now we will blend them.” – [paul]

The winner for this week is [LongHairedHacker] with: “After weeks of complicated assembly the team finally found out that the IKEA Årc, was in fact not a fusion reactor. It did make a hell of an espresso though.”

As promised, [LongHairedHacker] will be taking home a Bus Pirate From The Hackaday Store!Congratulations!

Week 15

cern-15-smAccidents happen! When you’re working on the bleeding edge of science and technology, things don’t always go as planned. In this image, we’re looking at what appears to be the result of some sort of failure. We’re not sure what the piece of equipment was, but “was” is the proper term – as it’s now charred to a crisp.

The two scientists investigating the damage don’t seem to be worried about the radiation warning posted on the end of the machine’s aperture. Hopefully they know what they’re doing! 

Last week’s prize was a Bus Pirate. This week we’re giving away another Dangerous Prototypes design, a Logic Pirate from The Hackaday Store.


Add your humorous caption as a comment to this project log. Make sure you’re commenting on the contest log, not on the contest itself.

As always, if you actually have information about the image or the people in it, let CERN know on the original image discussion page.

Good Luck!


SNES Controller Modified to be Completely Wireless

[Pat] was looking for a way to wirelessly control his Fire TV unit. He could have just went with one of many possible consumer products, but he decided to take it a step further. He modified a unit to fit inside of an original SNES controller. All of the buttons are functional, and the controller even features a wireless charger.

[Pat] started out with a Bluetooth video game controller marketed more playing video games on tablets. The original controller looked sort of like an XBox controller in shape. [Pat] tore this controller open and managed to stuff the guts into an original SNES controller. He didn’t even have to remove the original SNES PCB. [Pat] mentions that it was rather tedious to rewire all of the buttons from the original controller, but in the end it wasn’t too difficult. The only externally visible modification to the original controller is a small hole that was made for a power button.

In order to make this unit completely wireless, [Pat] also installed a Qi wireless charging module. Now, placing the controller on a charging pad will charge up the small LiPo battery in just about 45 minutes. This controller would be the perfect addition to a RetroPi or other similar project. If you’re not into Bluetooth, you can try using a Logitech receiver instead. Continue reading “SNES Controller Modified to be Completely Wireless”

Amazon Fire TV Update Bricks Hacked Devices

The Amazon Fire TV is Amazon’s answer to all of the other streaming media devices on the market today. Amazon is reportedly selling these devices at cost, making very little off of the hardware sales. Instead, they are relying on the fact that most users will rent or purchase digital content on these boxes, and they can make more money in the long run this way. In fact, the device does not allow users to download content directly from the Google Play store, or even play media via USB disk. This makes it more likely that you will purchase content though Amazon’s own channels.

We’re hackers. We like to make things do what they were never intended to do. We like to add functionality. We want to customize, upgrade, and break our devices. It’s fun for us. It’s no surprise that hackers have been jail breaking these devices to see what else they are capable of. A side effect of these hacks is that content can be downloaded directly from Google Play. USB playback can also be enabled. This makes the device more useful to the consumer, but obviously is not in line with Amazon’s business strategy.

Amazon’s response to these hacks was to release a firmware update that will brick the device if it discovers that it has been rooted. It also will not allow a hacker to downgrade the firmware to an older version, since this would of course remove the root detection features.

This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to most of us. We’ve seen this type of thing for years with mobile phones. The iPhone has been locked to the Apple Store since the first generation, but the first iPhone was jailbroken just days after its initial release. Then there was the PlayStation 3 “downgrade” fiasco that resulted in hacks to restore the functionality. It seems that hackers and corporations are forever destined to disagree on who actually owns the hardware and what ownership really means. We’re locked in an epic game of cat and mouse, but usually the hackers seem to triumph in the end.

This Message will Self Destruct… as You Read It?

A group of Harvard chemists have come up with a novel use for fire. Through experimentation, they have been able to build what they call an InfoFuse. As the name implies, it’s essentially a burning fuse that can “transmit” information.

The fuse is made from flash paper, which is paper made from nitrocellulose. Flash paper burns at a relatively constant speed and leaves no smoke or ash, making it ideal for this type of project. The chemists developed a method of conveying information by changing the color of the flame on the paper. You might remember from high school chemistry class that you can change the color of fire by burning different metal salts. For example, burning copper can result in a blue flame. This is the key to the system.

The researchers dotted the flash paper with small bits of metal salts. As the flame reaches these spots, it briefly changes colors. They had to invent an algorithm to convert different color patterns to letters and numbers. It’s sort of like an ASCII table for fire. Their system uses only three colors. The three colors represent eight possible combinations of color at any given time. Just two quick pulses allow the researchers to convey all 26 letters of the English alphabet as well as ten digits and four symbols. In one test, the researchers were able to transmit a 20 character message in less than 4 seconds.

[Ben Krasnow] found the Harvard project and just had to try it out for himself. Rather than use colors to convey information, he took a more simple approach. He started with a basic strip of flash paper, but left large tabs periodically along its length. As the paper burns from end to end, it periodically hits one of these tabs and the flame gets bigger momentarily.

[Ben] uses an optical sensor and an oscilloscope to detect the quantity of light. The scope clearly shows the timing of each pulse of light, making it possible to very slowly convey information via fire. Ben goes further to speculate that it might be possible to build a “fire computer” using a similar method. Perhaps using multiple strips of paper, one can do some basic computational functions and represent the result in fire pulses. He’s looking for ideas, so if you have any be sure to send them his way! Also, be sure to check out Ben’s demonstration video below. Continue reading “This Message will Self Destruct… as You Read It?”

Add CNC to your…Propane Tank??!?

It’s starting to be that time of year again; the Halloween-themed hacks are rolling in.

[John Lauer] needed a propane-powered flame effect for his backyard ICBM “crash site”. Rather than pony up for an expensive, electronically-controlled propane
valve, he made a custom bracket to connect a stepper motor to the propane burner’s existing valve.

With the stepper motor connected up, a TinyG stepper motor controller and [John’s] own graphical interface, ChiliPeppr, take care of the rest.

The hack is almost certainly a case of “everything looks like a nail when you have a hammer” but you have to admit that it works well and probably didn’t take [John] all that much time to whip up. Maybe everyone should have a couple spare stepper motors with driver circuitry just lying around ready to go? You know, just in case.

All the details of the build are in the video. If you’re done watching the flames, skip to around 2:50 where we see the adapter in action and then [John] steps us through its construction.

You may have seen coverage of the TinyG motor controller here before.

Additional thanks to [Alden Hart] for the tip.