Hackaday Prize Entry: Recording RC Planes With Third Person View

With the latest advancements in small, cheap video transmitters, it’s no surprise First Person View remote-controlled aircraft are so popular. It’s the easiest way to get into a cockpit without having to spend thousands of dollars and fifty or so hours on a pilot’s license. Despite all the technical challenges of FPV flying, there’s still one underserved part of recording RC aircraft: third person view, or as it’s more commonly called, ‘handing a camcorder to your friend.’

[Walker Eric] would like to do something about that. He’s always wanted nice videos of him flying his plane, and he can’t film and fly at the same time. He can build a robot, though, and that’s his entry for The Hackaday Prize.

[Walker]’s project uses a base station with a camcorder mounted on a gimbal. The electronics for this setup are surprisingly simple – just a GPS beacon transmitting telemetry down to the base station. By comparing this data to a GPS receiver on the ground station, the direction of the plane can be computed.

There are a few problems with this setup. Altitude measurement with GPS isn’t very accurate, so [Walker] is using a pressure sensor as an altimeter on the GPS beacon. The current setup works great, and is a fantastic improvement over the OpenCV setup [Walker] tested out before moving to GPS.

[Walker] already has some incredible video of him flying some planes and quads around his local field shot with this system. You can check those out below.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

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Wifibroadcast Makes WiFi FPV Video More Like Analog

Normal WiFi is not what you want to send video from your quadcopter back to the first-person-view (FPV) goggles strapped on your head, because it’s designed for 100% correct, two-way transmission of data between just two radios. Transmission of analog video signals, on the other hand, is lossy, one-way, and one-to-many, which is why the longer-range FPV flights all tend to use old-school analog video transmission.

When you’re near the edge of your radios’ range, you care much more about getting any image in a timely fashion than about getting the entire video sequence correctly after a delay. While WiFi is retransmitting packets and your video is buffering, your quadcopter is crashing, and you don’t need every video frame to be perfect in order to get an idea of how to save it. And finally, it’s just a lot easier to optimize both ends of a one-way transmission system than it is to build antennas that must receive and transmit symmetrically.

And that’s why [Befinitiv] wrote wifibroadcast: to give his WiFi FPV video system some of the virtues of analog broadcast.

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Uber-Cheap FPV Snow Sled

Has the winter blues got you RC vehicle guys down? Well, cheer up! Spring is just around the corner. In the meantime though, you can take a page out of [BenNBuilds’] book and build an FPV Snow Sled.

So how is using this Snow Sled in the winter different from any other RC vehicle? [BenNBuilds] controls it from inside his house where he stays warm and toasty. The on-board FPV camera sends video back to a receiver in the house where it can be either displayed on an LCD screen or on FPV goggles. Plus, being able to see the sled from the window doesn’t hurt either when getting in a sticky situation!

The craft it self was made on the cheap from spare parts that were kicking around. The frame is made from foam board and is powered by a ducted electric fan. A rudder similar to that of a hovercraft or swamp boat provides the steering. Since [BenNBuilds’] transmitter had a couple extra channels, he hooked up a pan and tilt system for his FPV camera. Check out the video of this puppy in action after the break….

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Hackaday Links: March 1, 2015

The somewhat regular Hardware Developers Didactic Galactic was a few days ago in San Francisco. Here’s the video to prove it. Highlights include [James Whong] from Moooshimeter, the two-input multimeter, [Mark Garrison] from Saleae, and a half-dozen other people giving talks on how to develop hardware.

[Taylor] made a portable NES with a retron, a new-ish NES clone that somehow fits entirely in a glop top IC. The controllers sucked, but [Taylor] made a new one with touch sensors. All that was required was eight transistors. The enclosure is an Altoid tin, and everything works great.

Here’s a YouTube channel you should subscribe to: Ham College. The latest episode covers the history of radio receivers and a crystal radio demonstration. They’re also going through some of the Technical class question pool, providing the answers and justification for those answers.

[Prusa] just relaunched prusaprinters and he’s churning out new content for it. Up now is an interview with [Rick Nidata] and his awesome printed container ship.

The tip line is overflowing with ESP8266 breakout boards. Here’s the simplest one of them all. It’s a breadboard adapter with stickers on the pin headers. Turn that into a right-angle breadboard adapter, and you’ll really have something.

Here’s something that’s a bit old, but still great. [Dillon Markey], one of the stop-motion animators for Robot Chicken modified a Nintendo Power Glove for animation duties. It seems to work great, despite being so bad. Thanks [Nicholas] for the link.

[David] the Swede – a consummate remote control professional we’ve seen a few times before – just flew his tricopter in a mall so dead it has its own Wikipedia page. Awesome tricopter, awesome location, awesome video, although we have to wonder how a few really, really bright LEDs would make this video look.

Here’s an item from the tip line. [Mark] wrote in with an email, “Why do you put names in [square brackets] in the blog entries? Just curious.” The official, [Caleb]-era answer to that question is that sometimes people have bizarre names that just don’t work in text. Imagine the sentence, “[12VDC] connected the wires to the terminal” without brackets. The semi-official answer I give is, “because.”

DIY Head Mounted Display Based On Movie Based On Stephen King Story

Ever since [will1384] watched “The Lawnmower Man” as a wee lad, he’s been interested in virtual reality. He has been messing around with it for years and even had a VictorMaxx Stuntmaster, one of the first available head mounted displays. Years later, the Oculus Rift came out and [will1384] wanted to try it out but the $350 price tag put it just out of his price range for a discretionary purchase. He then did what most of us HaD readers would do, try building one himself, and with a goal for doing it for around $100.

The main display is a 7″ LCD with a resolution of 1024×600 pixels and has a mini HDMI input. Some DIY head mounted display projects out on the ‘web use ski goggles or some sort of elastic strap to hold the display to the wearer’s head. [will1384] took a more industrial approach, literally. He used the head mounting system from a welding helmet. This not only has an adjustable band but also has a top strap to prevent the entire contraption from sliding down. Three-dimensional parts were printed out to secure the LCD to the welding helmet parts while at the same time creating a duct to block out external light.


Inside the goggles are a pair of 5x Loupe lenses mounted between the user’s eyes and the LCD screen. These were made to be adjustable so that the wearer can dial them in for the most comfortable viewing experience. The remote mounted to the top strap may look a little out-of-place but it is actually being used to capture head movement. In addition to a standard wireless remote, it is also an air mouse with internal gyroscopes.

An Extremely Tiny 5.8GHz FPV Transmitter

Flying RC aircraft with a first person view is the latest and greatest thing in the hobby. In a fact that I’m sure will be shocking to 90% of people, you don’t need to buy a Phantom quad fly FPV. The guys at Flite Test show how you can build a tiny 5.8GHz FPV transmitter for under $100.

The parts used for this build are pretty much jelly bean parts at this point, but [Peter] at Flite Test is going for extremely lightweight parts for this build. He found an NTSC board camera that only weighs 1g and added a wide-angle lens. The transmitter is a tiny 200mW module that only weighs about 2g.

Why are the Flite Test crew going for small and light FPV setups? They just launched a new line of planes that can be built from a single piece of foam board. If you have a small micro quad, you can easily add FPV to it with this rig.

Complete FPV Setup for Your Drone

[Ioannis] is like anyone else who has a quadcopter or other drone. Eventually you want to sit in the cockpit instead of flying from the ground. This just isn’t going to happen at the hobby level anytime soon. But the next best option is well within your grasp. Why not decouple your eyes from your body by adding a first-person video to your quad?

There are really only four main components: camera, screen, and a transceiver/receiver pair to link the two. [Ioannis] has chosen the Sony Super HAD CCTV camera which provides excellent quality at the bargain basement price of just $25 dollars. A bit of patient shopping delivered a small LCD screen for just $15. The insides have plenty of room as you can see. [Ioannis] connected the screen’s native driver board up to the $55 video receiver board. To boost performance he swapped out the less-than-ideal antenna for a circular polarized antenna designed to work well with the 5.8 GHz radio equipment.

It seems that everything works like a dream. This all came in under $100 which is half of what some other systems cost without a display. Has anyone figured out a way to connect a transmitter like this to your phone for use with Google Cardboard?