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. [Read more...]

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

transformer_copter

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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Toy helicopter charging fix

[Onefivefour] was surprised that his E-flite Blade MCX radio controlled helicopter came with a charger that used AA batteries to recharge the lithium batteries in the flying unit. Yeah, that’s a bit crazy. He set out to modify the base unit to work with AC power. There are four batteries inside this base unit, one of them powers the charge detector circuit and the others are used to juice-up the chopper’s rechargeable cells. He took a 5V regulated charger from a Motorola cellphone and modified it to interface with the contacts for the three AA cells. Like the Magic Trackpad hack, he did this without altering the holder by cutting a couple of pencils to length and attaching the positive and negative contacts from the AC charger to them. Check out the video after the break for a walk though, noting how he still has the option to go back to battery power if he so chooses.

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Helicopter POV display is a masterwork

helicopter hack LED mod

Yes! A radio control helicopter with a fairly high-resolution persistence-of-vision display is a beautiful thing. [Mziwisky's] handiwork is the result of several steps along the prototyping path. He built up a POV test rig on a breadboard, designed his first PCB for the project, and then went to work building it. After initially being inspired by a POV ceiling fan [Mziwisky] looked around to see if anyone else had already added a display to a helicopter. Indeed, this has been done before but there were very few details on the build.

The helicopter has two blades and each have the same hardware on them and gobbled up about ten hours of assembly time each. He basically built a printed circuit board using the blades as a substrate by attaching adhesive copper foil. This makes up the matrix for the LEDs and connects to a small circuit board with an ATmega8 and some shift registers mounted on the inside end of the blade. There’s also a 180 mAh LiPo battery pack, and a hall effect sensor to synchronize the display on each. The results are spectacular, as you can see in the video after the break, but there’s a few bugs left to work out in order to fully tame the 32 LEDs on each rotor.

Kind of looks like the future is happening right now.

[Read more...]

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