Here’s your flying car

We’ve seen quadrocopters galore over the past few years. We’ve never seen one big enough to lift a person until now.

[Thomas], [Stephan], and [Alexander] of e-volo have been working on a gigantic, human-lifting multicopter for a few years now. A few days ago, their prototype took to the air carrying a fully human pilot. There aren’t a whole lot of details on their build, but from what we can tell the flight was powered entirely by batteries.

The test vehicle looks to be a study in minimalism. The landing gear looks to be a repurposed yoga ball, and the chassis is just four pieces of aluminum tube welded into a cross. The the power plant for the prototype is four brushless motors in each quadrant of the vehicle. That’s right – there are 16 motors spinning around the pilot.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a build based on Doctor Robotniks designs. Earlier this year, some guy in China built a very nice deathtrap an octocopter. The e-volo team definitely has the leg up in safety considerations – they have actual design and engineering studies

The good news is the e-volo team wants to improve their prototype and sell it to the masses. The bad news for Americans is the FAA hasn’t taken too kindly to electric flying machines. The team is working on a hybrid drive version, and as long as the weight is kept down, we can always get an ultralight cert.

Check out the video of some 16-blade hovering action after the break.

Robotic Schadenfreude – quadrotor blooper reel

quadrotor_fail

While quadrotors might just become the killing machines of choice some time in the future, we’re pretty sure it will be awhile before they run amok and wipe humans off the face of the planet, if the following video is any indication.

The team over at UPenn’s GRASP Lab film everything they do when it comes to quadrotors for posterity’s sake. When your awesome job consists of directing quadrotors through all sorts of acrobatic hijinks however, mistakes are going to happen. Thankfully, the team doesn’t keep these a secret, and while we’re typically wowed by what these flying machines can do, it’s also pretty fun to see them fail in such spectacular fashion.

If you have a spare minute, kick back, fire up the video, and enjoy the mechanical mayhem that ensues. We certainly sleep better at night knowing that while these things are awesome, a well-placed hula hoop is all it takes to ensure continued human supremacy.

[Read more...]

Spherical military drone coming to a sky near you

spherical_drone

We’re always fascinated by flying drones around here, and this latest creation by Japan’s Ministry of Defense is no exception. The spherical drone, which looks far simpler than this drone we saw several months back, looks pretty benign at first glance. Once it starts moving however, you can see just how slick it is.

Reports say that it can hit a top speed of 40 mph, but it seems that the fun is relatively short-lived, as the drone runs out of juice after about 8 minutes. While it is flying, the drone appears to be incredibly agile and fairly easy to control. The built-in camera isn’t top end, but it looks more than sufficient for general surveillance use.

While we love quadrocopters and all of the cool acrobatics they pull off, there’s something awesome about a drone that can hit the ground at speed, roll, and take off again without incurring any serious damage.

Anyone care to start work on a civilian prototype with a longer battery life?

Mini quadrocopter is Crazy awesome

crazyflie_quadrocopter

Quadrocopters are all the rage lately, and while we have seen our fair share of large devices, [Arnaud Taffanel, Tobias Antonsson, and Marcus Eliasson] have been dutifully working to buck that trend. Their CrazyFlie is a miniature quadrocopter that uses its PCB as the main structure of the device.

Since the goal was to use a PCB as its frame, the copter’s footprint from the edge of one motor to the other is a modest 8cm, and it weighs in at a measly 20 grams! The entire platform runs on a Cortex-M3 CPU that takes input from an accelerometer and pair of gyroscopes to help keep its balance. Wireless communications are handled via a 2.4Ghz radio transmitter, and the quadrocopter’s power is supplied by a tiny 110 mAh LIPO battery pack scavenged from an R/C plane.

All of the control and telemetry is handled by a PC, which relays control messages it receives from the pilot’s game pad to the CrazyFlie. We’d love to see if they could retain this small footprint if everything was handled by the quadrocopter itself. Either way, this thing rocks – we most definitely want one!

Stick around to see a quick video of their mini quadrocopter in action, and be sure to check out our coverage of U. Penn’s quadrocopter creations if you are interested in seeing more.

[Read more...]

25C3 hardware workshops

quadcopter

The 25C3 team has a post highlighting some of the hardware workshops that will be happening at Chaos Communication Congress this year. Our own [Jimmie Rodgers] will be in the microcontroller workshop area building kits with many others. The folks from mignon will be bringing several of their game kits for another workshop. We saw quite a few quadcopters at CCCamp and the team from Mikrokopter will be back to help you construct your own drone. They say it only takes five hours for the full build, but space is limited.

Autonomous hovering drones invade Germany

We welcome the swarm of autonomous hovering robot overlords being made by students at Humboldt University. The goal of this project is to build an autonomous hovering platform that is controlled via adapted insect behavior. Navigation comes from monitoring real time inputs, such as air pressure and optical sensors, not by predefined paths and GPS coordinates.  Some examples of this adapted behavior are: navigation via polarized sun light like African ants, and optical flow similar to bees.

You can see the platforms in action on Spiegel Online, but unless you understand German, you won’t get much else out of it.

If any of this seems familiar, it’s because we covered CCCamp 2007, which was near Berlin and had some very similar quadcopters. While the large quadcopter platforms have been around for a while and are steadily coming down in price, there are some new alternatives out there that are quite tempting.  Anyone want to build some autonomy into this little baby?

[thanks fh]

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