Autonomous Drones Now Carry People

There are a handful of companies trying to build the first autonomous car, but this project makes us think that they all might be heading in the wrong direction. [Thorstin] wanted to use a quadcopter to transport people, and built a working prototype of an autonomous quadcopter-esque vehicle that is actually capable of lifting a person.

The device isn’t actually a quadcopter anymore; that wouldn’t be able to generate enough lift. It has sixteen rotors in total, making it a sexdecacopter (we suppose). This setup generates 282 pounds of static thrust, which as the video below shows, is enough to lift an average person off of the ground along with the aluminum alloy frame and all of the lithium ion batteries used to provide power to all of those motors.

With the PID control system in place, the device is ready for takeoff! We like hobby projects that suddenly become life-sized and rideable, and we hope to see this one fully autonomous at some point too. Maybe soon we’ll see people ferried from waypoint to waypoint instead of being driven around in their ground-bound autonomous cars.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Density Altitude Gauge

Despite what extraordinarily overpowered quadcopters suggest, the air pressure of whatever a flying machine flys at is extremely important. Pressure is dependent on altitude and temperature, and there are hundreds of NTSB investigations that have concluded density altitude – pressure altitude corrected for nonstandard temperature variations – was the reason for a crash. Normally density altitude is computed through a slide rule or a flight computer, with the pilot entering in altitude and temperature, but somehow accidents still happen. For his entry to The Hackaday Prize, [Neil McNeight] is building an automated density altitude calculator to automate the process entirely.

Instead of having a pilot enter the altitude and temperature into a flight computer manually, [Neil]’s device grabs the current altitude from a GPS unit, and reads the temperature with a tiny sensor acquired from SparkFun. With just a little bit of math, this device will spit out the altitude an airplane or ‘copter thinks it’s at.

While the FAA won’t allow instruments that are cobbled together on a breadboard, this does have a few applications in the RC world. There are extremely high performance racing quadcopters out there now, and knowing how the craft will perform before flying it will save a few props.


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Strap yourself in and let this robot arm shake the bejesus out of you

This man is strapped onto the business end of a huge robotic arm. If you’ve seen videos of industrial robots on automobile assembly lines and the like, you know how fast and strong these machines are. But this isn’t headed for the factory floor, it’s a new flight simulator built do train Australian fighter pilots.

Researchers at Deakin University were looking for a way to give a fighter pilot a more realistic simulator experience. What they ended up with is an apparatus that can spin continuously on two axes. This lets the pilot feel what it might be like to stall and have the aircraft spinning out of control.

The video after the break is not to be missed. You’ll see the test pilot (read: guinea pig) flung this way and that to the point that we almost decided this should be a “Real or Fake” post. But we’re confident that this actually exists. We expect that future renditions will include the front portion of the aircraft and be completely enclosed in a projection dome, just like the Lexus driving simulator.

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