Robots listen only to the leader when building a roving quadcopter landing pad

Swarm robotics is really starting to produce some interesting results. This image is from the video embedded after the break that show a group of five robots creating a landing platform for a quadrotor helicopter. The four that actually make up the platform are not in contact with each other, but instead following commands from the leader. We’re impressed by the helicopter’s ability to target and land on the moving platform. Takeoff appears to be another issue, as the platform bots stop moving until the quadcopter is airborne again.

These robots are part of a Graduate project at Georgia Tech. [Ted Macdonald] has been working along with others to implement an organizational algorithm that guides the swarm. The method requires that the robots have an overview of the location of all others in the swarm. This is done with high-speed cameras like we’ve seen in other robotic control projects. But that doesn’t discourage us. If you already have a flying robot as part of the swarm, you might as well add a few more to serve as the eyes in the sky.

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ATtiny13 powered handheld helicopter game

[Owen] just finished putting together a portable helicopter game. It’s pretty impressive, especially since he used an ATtiny13 microcontroller. That chip uses an 8-pin dip package, offering only five I/O pins (six if you use the reset pin) and 1k of programming space.

The game runs on a small cellphone-type LCD screen. The helicopter remains somewhere in the center column of the screen as the maze that makes up the game board approaches one step at a time. The single button that controls the helicopter will raise it with each step of the maze when held down, or allow it to fall when released. The player’s progress is shown as a hex value in the upper left corner of the screen. When you hit a wall, your score will be shown next to the high score for the game and will be saved in EEPROM if it’s a new record. As the game progresses, the maze gets harder based on the score. Check it out in a video clip after the break.

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Automatic Micro-Copter Cameraman

For those of you that are extreme sports participants, this “MikroKopter” may be the solution you’ve been waiting for.  When combined with a helmet mounted camera, this additional view should do a great job of capturing your every trick.

This setup attaches a camera to a six-rotor mini helicopter to follow and video the action. In true drone form, the camera is controlled automatically via a “point of interest” tracking transmitter.  The helicopter, however, appears to be controlled by a human operator.

There is really a lot going on with this setup from the micro helicopter itself to the tracking system (really neat how it calculates the camera angle), so be sure to check out their website. Also, be sure to check out the video of everything in action after the break. Continue reading “Automatic Micro-Copter Cameraman”

An odd little box

Here’s an odd little box that might get those creative juices flowing for the upcoming Halloween season. [Jeremy’s] creepy glowing box has a pair of ping-pong ball eyes which diffuse the red light from a pair of LEDs. Both the lid and they eyes move, and the whole thing is set up for wireless control.

The majority of the parts came from a toy RC helicopter that [Jeremy] had sitting in his junk bin. After close inspection he found that the electronics included to motor drivers for the two rotors, as well as two servo motors which worked to steer the aircraft. One of those servos has been repurposed to aim the gaze of they eyes left and right, the other servo is used to lift and close the lid of the box. This leaves the two motor controllers, one of which switches the LEDs on and off. The other doesn’t really have a purpose yet. He tried adding one wheel to the box, but turning that on just makes the whole thing crash to the floor. Check out what he’s done so far in the clip after the fold.

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Transforming robot is more than meets the eye


Let’s face it – building robust robots isn’t exactly easy. When designing them, builders often focus on a single method of locomotion in attempts to create a robust, reliable means of transportation. Whether it moves on the ground or in the air, there are always compromises to be made when designing a robot with the ability to travel over variable terrain. Looking to change that, researchers at the Center for Distributed Robotics have recently unveiled a robot that can travel on the ground with ease, then take to the skies in a matter of seconds.

The robot is rolls along the ground on a set of wheels mounted at either end. When it is time to fly, it pushes itself up onto one end before extending its rotors. As you can see in the video below, the transition occurs pretty quickly.

The current prototype is pretty fragile and carries quite the hefty price tag . More robust revisions are already in the works, so expect to see more in the coming months.

[Thanks Sandeep]

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Human-powered quadcopter flies live tomorrow

A team from the University of Maryland will be taking their human-powered helicopter to the air tomorrow. The current flight record for this type of vehicle is just over 19 seconds of flight at a height of about 8 feet. What surprises us about this attempt is that they’re not pedaling just one main rotor. It seems that the most success in man-powered helicopter flight has come from helicopters with a total of four rotors.

The image seen above is a 2009 test of just one of the four rotor arms that will go into UMD’s finished chopper. Fully assembled it will be about 1/3 the size of a football field, dwarfing the autonomous quadcopters we usually see around here. Get the details about the design from the video after the break. It’s interesting to hear [Dr. Antonio Filipone] talk about the need to generate both the lift and the thrust, where human-powered fixed-wing aircraft only need the thrust. He predicts that human-powered helicopter flight is possible, but that it will only lift the aircraft, with little possibility of moving it in one direction or the other.

The team is attempting to grab the $250,000 Sikorsky Prize with their creation. We wish them the best of luck.

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Quadcopter pair plays table tennis without the table

This pair of quad-rotor helicopters does a better job of keeping a ping-pong ball in the air than we could. The two flying drones are performing inside of the flying machine arena, a 1000 cubic meter indoor space surrounded by nets with a foam-padded floor. This makes for a prototype-friendly space, protecting the copters from hard landings and the experimenters from the maiming that might accompany a runaway robot.

This project is headed by researcher [Raffaello D’Andrea]. Previously, we’ve seen his work on a distributed flight array. This time around he’s not working with configurable modules, but completely separate units. Don’t miss the video after the break to see several iterations used to keep a ball in the air. Each bot has the head of a tennis racket mounted at its center. Throw a ball at them and they’ll to what they can to prevent it touching the ground.

While we’re on the topic, we caught a story on NPR about hobby drones. Sounds like their growing popularity has caught the attention of the non-hacker community and restrictions might be on the way. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and make your own flyer while it’s still the wild-west of personal drones.

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