Yet another PCB quadcopter

Like most people out there, we’re fascinated by these little buzzing and hovering quadrotors. We’ve really enjoyed the recent trend of miniaturizing them and using PCBs as the frame itself. As [scolton] points out in his instructible, his isn’t the first, the smallest, or the lightest, but he does have some great information and a few tricks up his sleeve that make this a fun project to check out. The 4pcb measures 6.5 inches from motor shaft to motor shaft diagonally. It weighs 138 grams and, with its current batteries,can fly for roughly 8 minutes.

A nice thing about the 4pcb is that it includes brushless motor drivers into the design. Apparently that isn’t very common. What we really like though is the massive amount of reference material [scolton] provides. Not only could you download everything necessary to recreate his work, he links to so many other projects and resources you could probably expand in any direction your heart desires. If you’re considering a quadcopter build in the near future, you might want to bookmark this one.

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Quadrotor squadron plays the [James Bond] theme song in preparation for world domination


If you weren’t already a big fan of quadrotors by this point, we’re pretty sure the video below will get you on the bandwagon in no time flat.

The video was debuted this past week at the TED2012 conference, giving [Daniel Mellinger, Alex Kushleyev, and Vijay Kumar] from the University of Pennsylvania GRASP Lab, a chance to show off their amazing robotics work. The team used a set of autonomous quadrotors to play the [James Bond] theme, complete with keyboard, drums, cymbals, guitar, and maracas.

The coordination of the robots undoubtedly took an incredible amount of time to orchestrate, but after watching the video we think it is well worth the effort. Now of course you can’t simply input a piece of sheet music into the quadrotor control system and expect them to play it, but we imagine that time will arrive before you know it!

Continue reading to see the [James Bond] theme song in full, and be sure to swing by the U Penn site to read more about the project.

Thanks to everyone who sent this one in!

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Variable pitch quadrocopter flies upside down

Straight from the Aerospace Controls Laboratory comes a variable-pitch quadrocopter designed by [Mark Cutler] and [Jonathan P. Howe]. While real, full-sized helicopters always have variable pitch rotors, changing the pitch of the blades on remote control aircraft is a fairly uncommon modification. When it’s done right, though, being able to easily change the thrust direction of a propeller leads to very cool flights, like having an airplane hover nose down.

[Mark] and [Jonathan] identified two interesting techniques that a variable pitch quadrotor can bring to the table. The first is trajectory generation  – because of the added maneuverability, their quadrotor can perform more aggressive banking turns when following a preprogrammed path. The second benefit to their design is quick deceleration. In the first video after the break, you can compare the deceleration rates of a variable pitch and fixed pitch quadrocopter. While the fixed pitch quad continues climbing after being commanded to stop, the quadrocopter outfitted with variable pitch rotors can stop on a dime.

We’re still waiting for the equivalent of the Red Bull Air Races for quadrocopter builds, but when it comes we know what would win the slalom event.

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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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One really big quadcopter that is following in the steps of the Spruce Goose

Behold the Land-Bear-Shark, a quadcopter on a rather grand scale. At a full eight kilograms it’s an easy target to compare the [Howard Hughes] behemoth, but in addition to the weight, this still has yet to make its first flight.

To give you some scale to the image above, the board at the center is an Arduino. It controls the beast, along with the help of a SparkFun IMU board which rides atop. Really, if any quadcopter of this size has a chance of working, this should be the one. The construction is beautiful, making use of carbon fiber rod along with 3D-printed connectors to assemble the frame. A lot of thought has gone into small things like conserving weight used on the landing gear, which are incorporated into the bottom corner brackets. The batteries are connected in a manner that makes them easy to adjust, acting as ballast for balancing the craft.

We’re keeping our fingers crossed that this will be more than the tongue-in-cheek title of the post which calls it a Quadrotor-shaped sculpture.

[via Adafruit]

Kinect-controlled quadrotor


The team over at the Flying Machine Arena has been busy combining two of our favorite toys – quadrotors and Kinect.

Like many other hacks, they are using Kinect to monitor their joint positions, mapping a handful of actions to the operator’s movements. Once the quadrotor is aloft, it can be directed around the room using the operator’s right hand. The gesture recognition system responds almost instantly, guiding the vehicle in all directions with ease. When the user’s left hand is raised, the quadrotor does a mid-air flip and awaits its next command, while a quick clap of the hands brings the machine to rest on the ground.

For the protection of anyone testing out the system, overhead motion tracking cameras are used to keep track of the Kinect’s position, creating an invisible midair barrier through which the quadrotor is not allowed to pass.

If you have a minute, check out the video below – controlling quadrotors looks way more fun than any Kinect game we’ve come across.

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Robotic Schadenfreude – quadrotor blooper reel


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.

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