An Android Controlled Arduino Drone


Who among us has not wanted to create their own drone? [Stefan] wrote in to tell us about a project for high school students, where a Styrofoam glider (translated) is converted into an Android (or PC) controlled drone.

[Stefan] tells us that the inspiration for this project comes from 100 years ago, when “steam-engines were THE thing” and children became introduced to modern technology with toy engines. “Today, mechatronic designs are all around us and this is an attempt to build the equivalent of the toy steam engine.” This project showcases how modern tools make it easy for kids to get involved and excited about hardware hacking, electronics, and software.

At the heart of the glider is an Arduino Pro Mini which communicates with either a computer or an Android phone via Bluetooth. It is especially interesting to note that the student’s used Processing to create the Android app, rather than complicating things by using Eclipse and Android Development Tools (ADT). While the more detailed PDF documentation at the end of the project page is in German, all of the Processingand Arduino code needed to build the project is provided. It would be awesome to see more Bluetooth related projects include a simple Android application; after all, many of us carry computers in our pockets these days, so we might as well put them to good use!

Do you have any well documented projects that introduce young and budding engineers to hardware or software hacking? Let us know in the comment section or send us a tip!

PropVario, a Talking Variometer/Altimeter for RC Sailplanes


Lift. For a sailplane pilot it means the difference between a nice relaxing flight, or searching for an open area to land. Finding lift isn’t always easy though. This is especially true when the sailplane is hundreds of meters above a pilot whose feet are planted firmly on the ground. That’s why [Tharkun] created PropVario. PropVario is a combination variometer and altimeter for Radio Controlled sailplanes. We’ve seen a few variometers in the past, most often for full-scale sailplane or hang glider pilots. Almost every full-scale plane has a variometer as part of its suite of gauges – usually called a rate of climb or vertical speed indicator.

R/C pilots don’t have the luxury of looking at a gauge while flying though. At altitude even large 2 meter gliders can appear to the naked eye as no more than a dot. It would be somewhat embarrassing to lose sight of your glider because you were checking gauges. The solution is actually simple. A varying audio tone indicates the rate of climb of the plane. Higher pitched tones mean the plane is going up. Lower pitched tones mean the plane is descending. This system, coupled with a simple radio transmitter, has been in use by R/C sailplane pilots for years.

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Launching a glider from space


We get a ton of tips about weather balloon launches taking hobby electronics into space. But every once in a while one of them stands out from the rest. This project does send an electronic payload into space, but it also lets [David] fly his hardware back from near-space using an RC airplane.

The return vehicle is unpowered, but that shouldn’t be a problem as launching from a weather balloon will provide plenty of altitude for the flight. Because the temperature experienced in that part of the atmosphere is so cold [David] had to take several things into account. Obviously you want your batteries and control electronics to be insulated from the cold. But something that doesn’t usually pop into mind are issues with the servo motors which run the glider’s flaps. They usually have some white grease on the gears. At temps as low as -50C that grease will harden and make the servo stop working so he made sure to clean the gears thoroughly before the flight.

Unfortunately [David] had several problems capturing images and recorded video from the ground station. But his write up is still a fun read and the clip after the break gives a general overview of the entire project from the nose camera of the glider.

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Nook Simple Touch as a glider computer

Look at the beautiful screen on that Nook Simple Touch. It has a lot of advantages over other hardware when used as a glider computer running the open source XCSoar software. The contrast of the display is excellent when compared to an LCD or AOMLED. That’s quite important as gliding through the wild blue yonder often includes intense sunlight. The display is also larger than many of the Android devices that have been used for this purpose. There are a few drawbacks though. One is that unlike other Android devices, this doesn’t have a GPS module built into it. But the price point makes up for the fact that you need to source an external module yourself.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the device used as a navigational display. This other hack put a simple touch on a sailboat for the same direct-sunlight-readability reason. For $100, and with the ability to root the system for use as an Android device, we expect to see this to keep popping up all over the place as a simple interface for a multitude of projects.

After the break you can see a video comparing the software running on a Nook display to one on a Dell Streak 5 LCD tablet.

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Water glider prototype

[Byrel Mitchell] wrote in to share some details on this water glider which he has been working on with his classmates at the Nonlinear Autonomous Systems lab of Michigan Technological University. As its name implies, it glides through the water rather than using propulsion systems typically found on underwater ROVs. The wings on either side of the body are fixed in place, converting changes in ballast to forward momentum.

The front of the glider is at the bottom right of the image above. Look closely and you’ll see a trio of syringes pointed toward the nose. These act as the ballast tanks. A gear motor moves a pinion connected to the syringe plungers, allowing the Arduino which drives the device to fill and empty the tanks with water. When full the nose sinks and the glider moves forward, when empty it rises to the surface which also results in forward movement.

After the break you can find two videos The first shows off the functionality and demonstrates the device in a swimming pool. The second covers the details of the control systems.

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Hackaday Links: July 25, 2012

Ever wonder what CPU dev boards look like?

In the realm of highly confidential hardware, it doesn’t get much more secret than upcoming CPUs coming out of Intel. Somehow, a few CPU dev boards wound up on eBay, and [Leon] was cool enough to save all the pictures (Polish, Google translation, or translate in the sidebar). There are a few ongoing auctions right now, but we’d settle for this LGA 1156 breakout board. So cool.

No, we’re not linking directly to the free stuff

TI is giving away a brushless motor controller powered by a Stellaris ARM processor. [Chris] says he’s ordering one to figure out how to make a Stellaris dev board out of the giveaway. This controller is designed for e-bikes, so at the very least we see a few ginormous UAVs in someone’s future.

More rocket stuff!

One of [Bill]‘s older hacks was taking a CVS disposable digital camera (remember that?) and stuffing it into the nose code of an Estes D-powered rocket. There’s a ton of videos of the flights [Bill] put up on YouTube.

On another note, [CyberPunk] built a half-scale model of a swing-wing rocket launched glider (pics: 1, 2, 3, 4). He’s currently building the full-size version capable of carrying RC and video gear and wants some feedback.

So, CAD on a tablet?

[spuder] caught wind of a tablet-based engineering notebook a few people are working on. They’re looking for some feedback on their demo video. We think it’s cool – especially the ability to share stuff between devices – but CAD on a tablet makes us extremely skeptical. Tell them what you think; we’d love to see this make it to our phone.

Now if they only made one for editing WordPress posts….

Test-driven development just got cooler. Here’s a Tamagotchi for Eclipse that you ‘feed’ by going from red to green and refactoring your code. Be careful, because having the same code test as red twice will kill your little code ninja.

And now I’ll rant about you.

A few days ago, I posted [Becky Stern]‘s light-up handlebars project, and one comment surprised me. Who says guys can’t sew? It’s time to confront the gender roles that show up whenever sewing is used in a project. I’m doing a tutorial on how to sew a parachute, but I need your help. It’ll be a two-parter: one on how to actually use a sewing machine, and another for how to make a ‘chute. Is there anything else you’d like to see?

Robotic falconry: winged unit lands on you!

It doesn’t have four rotors, but this advanced-glider is every bit as impressive as the most complicated of quadrotor offerings. It’s the first glider that can successfully perch on your arm. We can’t help but think back to the owl in the original Clash of the Titans movie.

The team at the Aerospace Robotics and Control Lab of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is happy to show off the test flights they’ve been conducting. We’ve embedded two of them after the break which show the unit landing on this person’s arm, and on the seat of a chair. The image above shows a montage of several frames from the flight, and gives us a pretty good look at the articulated wings. You can seen them both bent in the middle of the flight to zero in on the landing zone. In addition to this there are flaps on the trailing edge of the wings and tail. The flight path is a bit wandering since the glider has no vertical tail to stabilize it.

Now if they can make it harvest power from overhead electrical lines they’ve got a spy-bird which can be dropped from a plane (or from a drone).

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