Keep Tabs on Passing Jets with Pi and SDR

Obviously Software Defined Radio is pretty cool. For a lot of hackers you just need the right project to get you into it. Submitted for your approval is just that project. [Simon Aubury] has been using a Raspberry Pi and SDR to record video of planes passing overhead. The components are cheap and most places have planes passing by; this just might be the perfect project.

We’re not just talking static frames with planes passing through them, oh no. Simon used two hobby servos and some brackets to gimbal his Pi camera board. A DVB dongle allows the rig to listen in on the Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) coming from the planes. This system is mandated for most commercial aircraft (deadlines for implementation vary). ADS-B consists of positioning data being broadcast from planes using known frequencies and protocols. Once [Simon] locks onto this data he can accomplish a lot, like keeping the plane in the center of the video, establishing which flight is being recorded, and automatically uploading the footage. With such a marvelously executed build we’re certain we will see more people giving it a try.

[Simon] did a great job with the writeup too. Not only did he include a tl;dr, but drilled down through a project summary and right to the gritty details. Well done documentation is itself worth celebrating!

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Auto-Balancing Gimbal Keeps your Coffee from Spilling

[Joe] works in one of those fancy offices that has some… unique furniture. Including a swinging boardroom table. See where we’re going with this? [Joe] made his own coffee cup gimbal.

The gimbal itself is made out of solid steel, welded together for maximum durability. He first built it out of plastic to test the concept, but then quickly moved to the all-metal solution. It’s a 2-axis gimbal featuring very powerful brushless DC motors, capable of balancing even a light-weight DSLR — however we think balancing a coffee cup is much more entertaining. It does this with ease, even when sitting on the treacherous swinging boardroom table (of DOOM).

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Super Simple Gimbal For Multi-Rotor Aircraft Laughs In The Face Of Complexity

Super Simple Multi Rotor Gimbal

After the first flight of your newly built multi-copter, you will immediately want to add a camera. This sequence of events follows the laws of physics and is as predictable as gravity. Just strapping a camera on by way of a fixed bracket may technically solve that problem, but it creates another. A multi-copter tilts and rolls as a result of changing flight direction. If the multi-copter tilts and rolls, so does your camera. This is where a gimbal comes in handy, it adjusts the camera in an equal and opposite direction than that of the aircraft. If the aircraft tilts forward, the gimbal tilts the camera backward the same amount. The result is a steady camera for capturing some sweet videography.

Super Simple Multi Rotor GimbalTeam SSG over at rcgroups.com has come up with what they are calling the Super Simple Gimbal. Their vision was a gimbal that would be inexpensive, easy to build and add minimal weight to the aircraft. On a normal gimbal, there are two motors or servos, each one specifically controls a single axis of movement. On the SSG, there are 2 servos but they do not move independently from one another. The camera is mounted to a plate that is supported on one end by a piece of silicone tube which becomes a fulcrum for the system. The other side of this plate is supported by 2 linkages (also made of silicone tube) that are themselves connected to the servos. If both servos move up, the camera is tilted down. If the right servo moves up and the left down, the camera is tilted to the left.

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GimBall Bounces off Trees and Comes Back for More

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We’ve seen a lot of flying robots over the years, and for many of them, intimate contact with a stationary object would be a very, very bad thing. [The Laboratory of Intelligent Systems], at EPFL in Switzerland designed GimBall to not only take impacts in stride, but to actually use them as navigational aids. This is similar to an insect bouncing off an obstacle in nature.

GimBall’s design is a bit of a departure from the norm as well. Contra-rotating airplane propellers provide thrust while countering torque. It appears that the propellers are driven by two separate brushless outrunner motors, which would allow for yaw control via mismatched torque. Directional control is provided by a 4 articulated vanes on the bottom of the craft. Standard RC servos move the vanes. While not as common as quadcopters today, this “tail sitting” design has been around for decades. The Convair XFY “Pogo” is a good example of an early tail sitter design.

What makes GimBall so novel is its exoskeleton. A carbon fiber gimbal encircles the entire craft. Around the gimbal is a geodesic sphere made up of carbon fiber rods and plastic joints. The sphere acts like a shock absorber, allowing GimBall to harmlessly bounce off objects. The gimbal ensures that impacts won’t upset the craft’s attitude. Check out the video after the break to see how these two systems form an impressive shell which completely separates GimBall’s chassis from the outside world. GimBall can actually use its shell to “rotate” around obstacles.

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Showing off a high-performance brushless motor camera gimbal

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Here’s [Tom Parker] showing off a brushless motor gimbal stabilizer for his GoPro camera. We saw a similar project a couple of weeks back that featured a 3d printed quadcopter mount. This offering is meant to be held in your hands. It keeps the subject in frame even if the cameraman’s hands pitch and roll (we figured aeronautical terms were best here). This image shows him demonstrating a level camera as he quickly rolls the frame from one side to the other. It doesn’t compensate for yaw, which is something he may change in the next iteration. We already like the results he’s getting with it.

About 3:15 into the video demo below we get a very quick description of the build itself. He started it as a project at University. Fabrication included work on a 3D printer, laser cutter, and vacuum forming machine. The grips are bicycle handlebar components. To overcome the stabilization system the operator has access to a joystick. Without this you’d never be able to aim the camera up or down because of auto-leveling.

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Brushless gimbal 3D printed and bolted to quadcopter

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A handful of 3D printed parts, some brushless motors, and a bit of control hardware add a flair of cinematography to this quadcopter.

[Sean] sent in a tip about his work after seeing yesterday’s feature of a brushless gimbal being used to improve image stability with a shoulder mounted camera. That rig was designed to be used with a quadcopter, and this hacks shows why. It’s obvious from the demo footage that the gimbal — which is mounted directly to the frame of the TBS Discovery quadcopter — does a great job of keeping the image steady. The panning and tilting in directions contrary to the physics of flight make for a much more interesting video experience. Watch the inset video which is a live feed from the aircraft to the pilot. As the quadcopter makes very sharp banking turns you wouldn’t even be able to tell the pitch or roll have changed in the HQ version.

You can see a pair of images detailing the 3D printed parts and the assembled gimbal below.

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3D printed HOG drive

3d-printed-hog-drive

Here’s a 3D printed Hemispherical Omnidirectional Gimballed Drive system which you can make at home. That’s a mouthful which is why it is commonly referred to as a HOG drive. Never heard of one? Well you need to keep up with your Hackaday because about 20 months ago we featured this amazing robot project that uses one. The design is a tricycle orientation with the HOG drive as the only powered ‘wheel’. But it’s not really a wheel, it’s a half-sphere (a hemisphere which is not pictured above but attaches to the motor spindle) which can provide thrust in any direction depending on which way the motor is spinning a how the gimbal bracket is oriented.

Unfortunately [Dan] isn’t showing off a vehicle that is powered by the device just yet. But from what we’ve seen in the demo after the jump it is fully functional. His target project for the system is a line-following robot which we hope to post as a follow-up when he reaches that goal.

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