Hackers in Africa are building their own aircraft

hacked-heli

While you’re trying to come up with an idea for your next project this guy’s been building his own helicopter from whatever parts he can find. He’s just one of the aeronautical hackers featured in a story in the Daily Mail. The article’s narrative leaves us with many questions, but there’s enough info to make it worth a look.

In addition to the heli seen above there are also a couple of airplane builds to gawk at. Africa has already produced a couple of very ingenious hacks like [William Kamkwamba's] projects which improved his village infrastructure. He gained enough notice from his work to land a scholarship to continue his education and that opportunity has also been afforded the creators of these aircraft.

At first we figured this helicopter project was possible because of lack of air traffic regulation in this part of the world. That’s not the case as [Onesmus Mwangi] — who makes his living as a farmhand – has been forbidden to fly the craft by local police. There may be another opportunity for him to fly later in life. He’s received funding to study aircraft maintenance abroad.+

Unfortunately we couldn’t find any video of this thing in action. If that’s unacceptable to you try getting your fix from this human-sized octocopter.

[Thanks Brandon]

Watermelon air boat

watermelon-air-boat

We think you’ll turn a few heads in Central Park if you’re driving a water melon around when everyone else is piloting sailboats. This watermelon is both sea worthy and radio controlled thanks to the work which [Starting Electronics] put into it.

We used this image because it shows you what’s inside of the hull, but you don’t want to miss the thing motoring around an above-ground swimming pool in the clip after the break. The hollowed out shell is quite buoyant and has no problem staying afloat and upright with the addition of a propeller. The parts from a remote control airplane kit have been mounted on a wooden scaffold. This provides plenty of thrust with a servo motor moving turning the prop for directional control. There is no dagger board so the craft is a bit slow to respond to turns. But how responsive do you expect a floating melon to be?

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How to watch your own videos on a plane: barf bag

Air travellers take note, [Asthmaticatom] figured out how to comfortably watch your own videos on the plane. We know you always have your phone with you, now you just need to find a barf bag. A little bit of papercraft turns the waste disposal device into a neat little hanging dock.

The bag in the image above is actually upside down. A rectangle the same size as your phone’s screen is ripped out of the top. The metal clasp used to seal the top of the bag is rolled up to hold the phone securely in place. The bottom of the sack has a flap which acts as a one-way catch. When it is shoved into the crevice on top of the monitor it holds the whole thing in place.

Of course we don’t remember ever having been on a plane where there was a monitor in the seat in front of us, but perhaps we’re just buying tickets on the wrong airlines.

[via Reddit]

Autonomous fixed-wing drone threads the needled in a parking garage

We’ve got something of a love affair going on with quadcopters, but there’s still room for a little something on the side. This fixed-wing drone can pull off some pretty amazing navigation. MIT’s Robust Robotics Group is showing off the work they’ve done with the plane, culminating in a death-defying flight through a parking garage (video after the break). This may not sound like a huge accomplishment, but consider that the wingspan is over two meters and repeated runs at the same circuit brought it within centimeters of clipping support columns.

Unlike the precision quadcopters which depend on stationary high-speed cameras for feedback, this drone is self-contained. It does depend on starting out with a map of its environment, using this in conjunction with a laser rangefinder and inertial sensors to plot its route and adjust as necessary. We think the thing must have to plan a lot further ahead than a quadcopter since it lacks the ability to put on the brakes and hover. This is, however, one of the strengths of the design. Since it uses a fixed-wing approach it can stay in air much longer than a quadcopter with the same battery capacity.

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Human-shaped planes troll NYC

It looks like a genetic leap has unleashed the age of mutants, but this is really just a few guys trolling New York City with some custom RC aircrafts. The video after the break shows the fliers up close. They’re pretty much full size, we’d guess 5’10″ from head to heel. The outstretched arms and body act as wings, while the legs act as ailerons and rudders. But from afar (or even a medium distance) it’s quite difficult to make out the flat surfaces… they look like office workers loosed from their cubicles. Unfortunately we don’t have more than a flight demo to share with you. If you know where to find build info (or any extra details at all actually) don’t forget to send in a tip We wonder if these are the same guy who made the flying hero we posted back in July?

There’s another nugget of delight right at the beginning of the video. A sweet octocopter which looks much like this one was used to capture the aerial footage.

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Look, it’s a helicopter! it’s a plane! it’s a rolling robot!

The helicopter-plane-ball-bot sounds like a creation [Homer Simpson] would come up with, but it’s a fairly accurate description of what this machine can do. It was developed by researches at Japan’s ministry of defense. The single propeller lets it operate much like a helicopter. But when it needs to get somewhere quick, the body repositions itself with the propeller at the front, while those black panels function as wings. Finally, the spherical body lets it travel along surfaces, vertical or horizontal. It can even roll along the ground.

After the break you can see a flight demo video from the 2011 Digital Contents Expo. It makes us wonder about the control interface. Which part of this is the front side, and how does it know which direction the operator intends to steer it? Perhaps there is feedback on the cardinal orientation of the control unit? We don’t have the answers to these queries, but we think there’s something very Sci-Fi about it. It brings to mind the Dog Pod aerostatic defensive grid from Neal Stephenson’s novel The Diamond Age.

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FanWing is like a harvester in the sky

The FanWing aircraft concept has been around for a while but this is the first time we’ve seen working models. It gets rid of the propeller and adopts a rotating cylinder for propulsion. The look reminds us of a combine harvester and in a way it does reap the air, pulling the craft through the sky. We’re not holding our breath for the decommission of jet propulsion in the wake of this method, but we’d love to see some fun-loving death from above whenever you can get your own off the ground. Check out the video clips after the break to see, and hear, this in action.

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