Reverse engineering a Futaba SBUS remote control

In the world of model aircraft, Futaba’s SBUS system is a big deal. Instead of having one servo per channel, the SBUS system allows for 16 proportional controls and two digital channels for each receiver. Basically, if you’re building an awesome plane with retracts on the landing gear and bomb bay doors, this is what you want to use. [Michael] wanted to use a few SBUS servos for a project he’s working on, so of course he had to reverse engineer this proprietary protocol.

Each SBUS servo operates over a single 100kbps serial connection with a few interesting twists: the signal is transmitted as big endian, but the individual bytes are little endian, something [Michael] figured out after stumbling across this month old mbed post. [Michael] used a serial library written by [fat16lib] and was able to change the parity and stop bits along with a simple hex inverter. Everything worked perfectly when the servo was connected to a an Arduino Mini.

Even though the SBUS system requires special Futaba servos, we can easily see how useful [Michael]‘s work would be to outrageously complex robots or cnc machines. Check out the video after the break for a quick demo of [Michael]‘s breadboard controlling one of these SBUS servos.

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Make your RC car drive itself with this simple brain swap

arduino-rc-conversion

If the kids have lost interest in that RC car or truck you bought them over the holidays, [Randy Sarafan] from Instructables has a few ideas that might help make the toys fun again, while teaching your kids a bit about electronics in the process. In his writeup, he shows how to swap out the brains of your run of the mill RC truck, enabling it to do far more than was originally intended. The procedure is pretty simple, and something that you can easily involve your kids in, if you’d like.

He uses an Arduino and a motor shield to keep the conversion simple, but this can be done with just about any capable microcontroller you might have on hand. [Randy] added a Parallax Ping sensor to the front of the truck enabling it to avoid objects as it drives itself, but since he cut out the truck’s original control board we’re assuming that there’s no way to override the truck’s actions at present.

[Randy] calls the conversion a “robot” though it seems like more of a semi-autonomous rover if you ask us. Regardless, revamping an old RC car is certainly far better than letting it collect dust on a shelf, or worse, tossing it out during spring cleaning.

Continue reading to see a short video of [Randy’s] RC truck in action.

[via HackedGadgets]

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Autonomous metal detector lets you sit back, get rich

thunderbird7-autonomous-metal-detector

As a kid, metal detectors seemed like great fun. Every commercial I saw beckoned with tales of buried treasure “right in my own back yard” – a bounty hard for any kid to pass up. In reality, the process was both time consuming and tedious, with little reward to be had. [Gareth] liked the idea of scouring the Earth with a metal detector, but he liked sitting and relaxing even more. He decided he could easily partake in both activities if he built himself an autonomous metal detecting robot.

He stripped down a hand held metal detector, and installed the important bits on to the front of an R/C chassis. An Arduino controls the entire rig via a motor shield, allowing it to drive and steer the vehicle while simultaneously sweeping the metal detector over the ground. He fitted the top of the rover with a camera for remotely watching the action from the comfort of his patio, along with a laser which lets him pinpoint the location of his new found goods.

Continue reading to see a short video of the robot in action, and be sure to check out his site for more build details.

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Driving with Android

[Elrik] converted an RC car so that it can be controlled with an Android phone. He wisely uses the accelerometer for steering with a button for forward and another for reverse. There’s even control for the headlights. The car itself has had a servo retrofit for steering but it’s the Bluetooth module that catches our eye. It’s a GP-GC021 which you can get your hands on for under $20. It has a serial UART for easy interface with a microcontroller at up to 9600 baud.

Now you can convert over that larger vehicle to use Bluetooth instead of WiFi, just don’t hurt yourself. And if you’re just starting out with writing Android apps, don’t miss our series: Android Development 101.

Fankart and the HolyF***k!ted fan

Inspired by a ducted fan project to simulate lunar landers he had seen recently, [Charles Guan] decided to do the next logical thing and make a ducted fan driven shopping cart.  The first iteration had a bare prop mounted to the front of the cart. Steering was done by mounting a servo to the front wheels.  This ridiculously dangerous shopping cart can be seen in the videos buzzing around the halls and parking lots of MIT. The second iteration that has the ducted fan drive seems not only slightly safer, but somewhat quicker as well. He does mention that the prop shape isn’t really optimal for a ducted design, so expect future revisions to be everything you would expect from a fan powered shopping cart.

He has built a more practical mobile shopping cart, if there is such a thing, called Lolriokart. This thing probably deserves its own post as well as it is a fully drive-able shopping cart. You can see a video of it in action after the break.

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BAMF2010: Spy TRAKR – no lasers, $14,861 cheaper

Maybe $15K for an elaborate balancing telepresence robot is a bit out of one’s league. In that case, another Bay Area Maker Faire exhibitor — Wild Planet — has you covered. Faire attendees got a hands-on sneak preview of the upcoming Spy Video TRAKR, a video-transmitting radio-controlled toy that’s programmable and extensively hackable.

The TRAKR has an impressive pedigree. It’s a collaborative effort between three successful and creative technology companies: Wild Planet, makers of the Spy Gear toy line; MOTO Development Group, designers of the Flip Video camera; and Making Things, software designers for the Make Controller.

So just how hackable are we talking? The Spy Video TRAKR is intended right out of the box to use downloadable apps, and allows development of new programs in C. The controller and vehicle each contain their own ARM9 processor, and the ’bot features 8 megs of RAM, an SD card slot and USB client and host (yes, host) ports. And that’s all with the cover still on. Pop the lid, and you’ll find links to online schematics and neatly-labeled breakout headers for deeper exploration.

The Spy Video TRAKR is expected to ship in October with a target price of $139 or less. Additional photos after the break.

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Controlling an R/C car with a pic16F84

[GuySoft] sent in this project. He doesn’t normally mess with electronics, but decided to give it a try. He chose a fairly complicated project to be his first, but seems extremely comfortable with it. This project was to control his R/C car with a pic16f84. That chip was chosen simply because it was the only one available at local stores. Though we’ve seen much more complicated projects in the past, he does a great job of showing exactly what has been done. He shares his thoughts and source code with us as well. He has express a little frustration about the closed source compiler he was using, so if anyone has any suggestions for him, he would probably appreciate it.  The funny part is that he mentions that people would just tell him to “get an AVR”. We think the readers here will probably be happy with how he pulled it off.

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