SDR as a Police and Fire radio scanner

police-scanner-sdr

If you’ve lost interest in that DVB dongle you bought to give software defined radio a try you should bust it back out. [Harrison Sand] just finished a guide on how to use SDR to listen in on Police and Fire radio bands.

The project, which results in the crystal clear audio reception heard after the break, uses a whole lists of packages on a Windows box to access the emergency bands. SDRSharp, which has been popular with other DVB dongle hacks, handles the hardware work. In this case the dongle is a Newsky TV28T v2 module that he picked up for a few bucks. He’s also using some support programs including the Digital Speech Decoder which turns the data into audio.

We wonder how many areas this will work for. It was our understanding that law enforcement was moving to encrypted communications systems. But all we really know about it is that you can jam the system with a children’s toy.

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Giving an Electric RC Plane an Afterburner

RC Afterburner

The folks at Flitetest decided to add some extra power to an electric DH.100 Vampire RC plane by adding a butane afterburner. After some testing, and a bit of fire, they were able to make it fly.

Their afterburner uses a small butane canister for fuel. A servo motor actuates the valve on the canister, forcing fuel into a tube. This tube is set up to regulate the flow of butane and ensure it vaporizes before reaching the afterburner.

At the afterburner, a circular piece of tubing with holes is used to dispense fuel, much like a barbecue. This tube is connected to one side of a stun gun’s flyback generator, and the metal surrounding it is connected to the other. The stun gun creates sparks across the gap and ignites the fuel.

With the extra components added, the landing gear was removed to save weight and the plane was given a nice coat of paint. They started it up for a test run, and the plane’s body caught fire. After some rework, they managed to take off, start the afterburner, fly around, and belly land the plane. It achieved some additional thrust, but also sounds and looks awesome.

After the break, check out a video walkthrough and demo. We promise you fire.

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Beefing up a smoke alarm system with video, temperature, and connectivity

Here’s a little smoke detector hack which [Ivan] has been working on. He wanted to extend the functionality of a standard detector and we’re happy to see that he’s doing it with as little alteration to the original equipment as possible (this is a life-saving device after all). He sent all the build images for the project to our tips line. You’ll find the assembly photos and schematic in the gallery after the break.

As you can see his entry point is the piezo element which generates the shrill sound when smoke as been detected. He connected this to his own hardware using an optoisolator. This allows him to monitor the state of the smoke alarm on his server. It then takes over, providing a webpage that display’s the board’s temperature sensor value and streams video from an infrared camera.

Of course this is of limited value. We’ve always made sure that our home was equipped with smoke detectors but the only time they’ve ever gone off was from normal cooking smoke or after an extremely steamy shower. But still, it’s a fun project to learn from and we’ve actually got several of the older 9V battery type of detectors sitting in our junk bin.

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Heat-seeking firebot drowns out the flames

This robot can find and extinguish fires automatically. It is the culmination of an Embedded Design class project from last school year. [Dan] and his classmates developed a turret that holds both a spray nozzle and heat sensor which would be a fantastic building block for a real-life tower defense game.

The jewel of the sensor array is a TPA81 thermopile array. Note the use of the term ‘array’ in the name. This is more like eight temperature sensors aligned with each other. By monitoring them all, the direction from which the most heat is coming can be determined. Once it’s zeroed in on the fire getting water to the right place can be a difficult task. That’s where the other sensors come into play. An accelerometer allows the bot to determine the angle of the spray nozzle (a weed sprayer was used in this case). An ultrasonic range finder and few algorithms let the Arduino which drives it all make sure that the arc of the water lands on the hot spot. This is all shown quite clearly in the clip below the jump.

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Control Giant Fireballs With Your Mind

[Matt Oehrlein] and [Ed Platt] from the i3 Detroit hackerspace created the Mind Flame project. The project uses Electroencephalography (EEG) sensors from NeuroSky to measure the user’s concentration level. When you’re concentrating hard enough, the Mind Flame launches a giant fireball, which probably breaks your concentration pretty quickly.

Propane is accumulated in tanks, and then released past a hot surface carbide igniter. It looks like an Arduino is used to open the valve, and the result is a massive fireball controlled by your brainwaves.

The Mind Flame was demoed at the Detroit Maker Faire as a competition. Two participants face off to see who can concentrate the hardest and make the device launch three fireballs first. In the future, they want to incorporate new competitive elements. One example is placing wooden houses in the line of fire, and letting opponents try to burn down their adversary’s house before their’s is set ablaze.

You can check out an interview about the project here.

[Via Make]

An interview with [Justin Gray]

When it comes to the subject of hacking, we all have different ideas of what is the coolest. Some prefer bits and solder, some prefer hammers and fire.  [Justin Gray] has built a name for himself doing a broad mixture of the two. Mainly known for his fire sculpture bots, [justin] also has a fab shop where he builds electric motorcycles.

Make magazine recently did a fun interview with some great pictures that show a little bit of [justin's] work.

Justin’s advice for aspiring hackers:

9. What advice do you have for young makers who are inspired by your work?
I think that people who are inspired my work should decide to build and be committed to build and stop listening to the people who insist on going the normal route in life. For kids, keep playing, keep imagining, keep painting and making art.

Join us after the break to see a little bit of robot demolition fun.

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A little fire breathing pony to call your own

[Lvl_joe] has been having a little fun with fire and an animatronic pony. The skeletal horse seen above is a child’s toy denuded of its original plush shell. That’s a good thing, because those synthetic fibers don’t play very nicely with flames. The toy originally retailed for around $300 bucks, but if you’re lucky, like [Joe], you can get one second-hand for $25 or less.

Since the horse is already motorized, it’s not too hard to patch into the drivers. Here an Arduino is used to take input from a Wii Nunchuck, letting you swing the fire sprayer to and fro. A grill igniter makes sure it’s not just spraying automotive starter fluid everywhere. You can hear the click of that tiny spark repeatedly firing in the demo video after the break. The starter fluid comes in an aerosol can. A custom trigger system holds the can in a PVC pipe, and actuates the valve with a Bowden cable.

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