New FAA rules are making radio-controlled aircraft a rough hobby to enjoy here in the USA. Not only are the new drone enthusiasts curtailed, but the classic radio-controlled modelers are being affected as well. Everyone has to register, and for those living within 30 miles of Washington DC, flying of any sort has been effectively shut down. All’s not lost though. There is plenty of flying which can be done outside of the watchful eye of the FAA. All it takes is looking indoors.
It goes without saying that a radio controlled mini flame thrower can be nothing but a bad idea and you should never, ever build one. But once you watch the video below, you’ll be tempted to try. But don’t do it – you’ve been warned.
That said, the video below shows that [Make-log]’s remarkably compact build is chock full of safety interlocks and sports a thoughtful and informative user interface. It’s fueled by a small can of spray deodorant whose valve is actuated by a servo and ignited by a spark-gap igniter. Alas, this final critical component is no longer available from SparkFun, so if you choose to roll your own – which you shouldn’t – you’ll need to find a substitute.
We’ve featured an unreasonable number of flame thrower projects before, including a ton of wrist–mounted units. Of course if you’re a musically inclined pyromaniac, you’ll also want to check out this mini Doof Warrior setup too.
[Andrey Nechypurenko] has posted the second part of his robotics ground vehicle design guide. In his first post [Andrey] detailed the mechanical design decisions he faced. [Andrey] now begins covering the electrical components, starting with manual control using a standard radio control system. To accomplish this an RC system was used with an MD22 h-bridge driver and a picoUPS.
The MD22 is a neat motor control board which can take the PWM signals from the radio controller and use this to drive the DC motors. Optionally it can also use an I2C interface, giving a nice migration path to integrate with a microcontroller. Until that happens this can’t really be called a robot — its more of an RC vehicle. But the iterative design and build process he’s using is a good one!
The picoUPS provides on-board battery charging. Due to its UPS heritage it also allows the vehicle to be powered from an external supply, which has proved useful during development. Finally, a 5v regulator was required to supply the on-board digital logic. [Andrey] wanted a quick drop in solution with a budget large enough to allow for future expansion and went with the Pololu D15V35F5S3 which can supply 3.5 amps in a small and easy to use module.
After breadboarding the system [Andrey] fabricated a PCB to integrate all the components. The next step is to add sensors and and embedded computer to the platform.
There is no denying that personal drones are in the public eye these days. Unfortunately they tend to receive more negative press than positive. This past weekend, there were news reports of a wildfire in California. Efforts to fight the fire were hampered when no less than five drones were spotted flying in the area. Some reports even stated that two of the drones followed the firefighting aircraft as they returned to local airports. This is the fourth time this month firefighting planes have been grounded due to unmanned aircraft in the area. It’s not a new problem either, I’ve subscribed to a google alert on the word “Drone” for over a year now, and it is rare for a week to go by without a hobby drone flying somewhere they shouldn’t.
The waters are muddied by the fact that mass media loves a good drone story. Any pilotless vehicle is now a drone, much to the chagrin of radio control enthusiasts who were flying before the Wright brothers. In this case there were two fields relatively close to the action – Victor Valley R/C Park, about 10 miles away, and the Cajun Pass slope flying field, which overlooks the section of I-15 that burned. There are claims on the various R/C forums and subreddits that it may have been members from either of those groups who were mistaken as drones in the flight path. Realistically though, Victor Valley is too far away. Furthermore, anyone at the Cajun pass flying site would have been fearing for their own safety. Access requires a drive through 3 miles of dirt road just to reach the site. Not a place you’d want to be trapped by a wildfire for sure. Who or whatever was flying that day is apparently lying low for the moment – but the problem persists.
Rules and Regulations
In the USA, the FAA rules are (finally) relatively clear for recreational drone operations. The layman version can be found on the knowbeforeyoufly.org website, which was put together by the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), and other groups in partnership with the FAA.
One of [Andrey]’s previous designs used a Pololu tracked chassis. But this time he designed everything from scratch. In his first post on the a20, [Andrey] describes the mechanical design of the vehicle. In particular focusing on trade-offs between different drive systems, motor types, and approaches to chassis construction. He also covers the challenges of using open source design tools (FreeCAD), and other practical challenges he faced. His thorough documentation makes an invaluable reference for future hackers.
[Andrey] was eager to take the system for a spin so he quickly hacked a motor controller and radio receiver onto the platform (checkout the video below). The a20s final brain will be a Raspberry Pi, and we look forward to more posts from [Andrey] on the software and electronic control system.
[Vlad] wrote in to tell us about his latest project—an RC boat that autonomously navigates between waypoints. Building an autonomous vehicle seems like a really complicated project, but [Vlad]’s build shows how you can make a simple waypoint-following vehicle without a background in autonomy and control systems. His design is inspired by the Scout autonomous vehicle that we’ve covered before.
[Vlad] started prototyping with an Arduino, a GPS module, and a digital compass. He wrote a quick sketch that uses the compass and GPS readings to control a servo that steers towards a waypoint. [Vlad] took his prototype outside and walked around to make sure that steering and navigation were working correctly before putting it in a boat. After a bit of tweaking, his controller steered correctly and advanced to the next waypoint after the GPS position was within 5 meters of its goal.
Next [Vlad] took to the water. His first attempt was a home-built airboat, which looked awesome but unfortunately didn’t work very well. Finally he ended up buying a $20 boat off of eBay and made a MOSFET-based motor controller to drive its dual thrusters. This design worked much better and after a bit of PID tuning, the boat was autonomously navigating between waypoints in the water. In the future [Vlad] plans to use the skills he learned on this project to make an autopilot for the 38-foot catamaran his dad is building (an awesome project by itself!). Watch the video after the break for more details and to see the boat in action.
Commercial R/C aircraft have been getting smaller and smaller with each passing year. In the early 2000’s, a palm-sized plane or helicopter was the dream of many an R/C enthusiast. Today, you can pick them up for around $20 USD at the local mall. The smallest models however, are still built by an elite group of modelers. Weighing in at a mere 3 grams, [Martin Newell’s] P-51D mustang model certainly puts him into that group. While the P-51’s 11.6 cm wingspan may not make it the smallest plane in the world, its many functions make it incredible.
The Mustang is an 8 channel affair, with elevator, throttle, rudder, ailerons, flaps, navigation lights, working retracts, and flashing cannon lights. That’s Wright, we did say retracts, as in retractable landing gear on a 3 gram model.
All the Mustang’s flight surfaces feature fully proportional control. However, there are no closed loop servos involved. The flight surfaces use magnetic actuators, consisting of a tiny neodymium magnet surrounded by a coil of magnet wire. We’re not sure if the signals to these actuators is straight PWM or if [Martin] is varying the frequency, but the system works. The retracts use heat-sensitive Nitinol “muscle wire” along with a bellcrank system to make sure the landing gear is up and locked after takeoff, and comes down again before a landing.
We don’t have any in-flight video of the Mustang, but we do have footage of an even smaller 1.2 gram plane [Martin] has been flying lately. Click past the break to check it out!