Screaming fast RC Hovercraft


Of all the homemade RC Hovercraft floating around out there, this build is not only one of the better looking: it’s also unexpectedly quick. [ScratchBuiltAircraft] sourced foam board from the local dollar store to construct the hovercraft’s body and a heavy-duty garbage bag with a hole cut in the center for the skirt. Air reaches the skirt area from the hovercraft’s EDF (Electric Duct Fan — the big one on the back) which pumps the air through a rectangular hole in the base.

A servo mounted behind the fan controls the rudders, while the rest of the electronics and the battery are cleanly tucked away beneath foam body pieces. We’re not sure what kind of top speed the Turnigy motor provides, but it’s probably impressive assuming it can keep from flipping over. Watch it blast off with a bit too much lift in the video below.

For something a bit slower, there’s always the solar powered hovercraft from earlier this summer.

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A real car remote controlled with an Arduino… what could go wrong?

[Gilad] tipped us about his latest project, where he adds plenty of pneumatics and electronics into his wife’s car to remote control it.

The brake/throttle pedals are actuated by pistons controlled by electronic valves, and a standard DC motor is in charge of turning the wheel. The Arduino code tells us that the valves will be opened as long as the remote up/down channel is above/under given values. The frame is based on Festo aluminium profiles and we’re not sure where the mains used for the DC/DC converters is coming from.  As the valves use 24V and the motor 12V, standard N-Mosfets and power relays are used for voltage conversion. The remote controller [Gilard] used is actually 20 years old, so the output signal of the receiver isn’t actually really clean.

We do hope to never see this car on the road….

Robot theater isn’t so much for the actors as the stagehands


[Chris Rybitski] developed this low-profile robot to help move scenery on stage. The test footage shows it to be spry and able to move hundreds of pounds of cargo. The demo shows the addition of a wooden platform about twice the length of the metal chassis with casters at each end to support the extra weight. It seems to have no problem moving around with the weight of a couple of human passengers on board.

Crafty systems for changing huge sets has long made the theater a natural breeding ground for hacks. Balanced turn tables, rails systems, and the like are common place. But we think this has a ton of potential. Right now the electronics seem convoluted, as there is an Arduino running the motors which connects to the LAN using an Ethernet shield and that Linksys wireless router.

We think he should patch directly into the serial port of the router. If he loads DD-WRT or OpenWRT he can easily make the remote control a web interface. We also wonder about the possibility of making it a line-follower that can precisely position itself automatically using patterns on the floor.

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Giving an RC tank a fire control computer


[Vincent] plays around with remote control tanks, and even though his current model is a WWII-era armor piece, he’d still like modern accoutrements such as a fire control computer and laser sighting for his main gun. His latest project did just that (French, Google translation) with the help of an Arduino, a few modifications to the receiver, and an IR rangefinder.

The stock RC tank includes servos to move the turret and the requisite electronics to fire an Airsoft gun. The precision of the mechanical movements inside the turret weren’t very precise, though, so [Vincent] had to gear down the servos to turn large movements into slight adjustments. After that, he installed an IR rangefinder and laser diode onto the barrel that allowed the gun to sight a target and read its distance.

After some experimentation with the rangefinder and laser, [Vincent] plotted data from firing a few BBs at a whole bunch of distances and targets. The graph came out fairly linear, and after plugging this into a graphing calculator, he was able to find an equation that took into account the distance and angle so the Arduino-powered fire control computer would hit its mark.

The accuracy of the gun is very impressive, all things considered. [Vincent] is able to accurately fire BBs downrange and hit an 8×12 cm target at five meters. You can check out that action below.

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Chromebook hack controls your television


[Michael Kohn] only accomplished about half of what he set out to, but we still think his TV channel switcher from a Chromebook turned out nicely. When starting the project he wanted to include a grid of listing so that he could choose a specific program, but decided that scraping the data was too much work for this go-round.

The Chromebook doesn’t include an IR transmitter so he built one using an MSP430 chip. He had previously built a little transmitter around an AVR chip and was surprised to find that the internal oscillator on that was quite a bit more accurate than on the MSP430. Timing is everything with the Manchester encoded signals used for IR remote controls so he used his oscilloscope to tune the DCO as accurately as possible.

The app shown on the screen was written in Javascript. Google published some example code on using RS232 with the computer; [Michael] used this resource to provide communications between the computer and the microcontroller.

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Remote control command center includes RF and IR functions


We’re still not quite sure what to call these projects, but as we’ve said before, it’s a pleasure to see what people are doing to use one remote control to rule them all. The project being developed by [Kalle Löfgren] seeks to simplify the remote controlled items in his home by combining all control into one smart phone app. The linchpin of the system is this command center which lets a smart phone send IR and RF commands to various devices (translated).

We’ve seen this done with pretty beefy microcontrollers, like this project that uses a PIC32. But the communications going on between the smartphone and the base station are very simple, as are the remote control commands which are being relayed. So we’re not surprised to find that this setup just uses an ATmega88, IR LED, Bluetooth Module, and RF module. There is no connection to a computer (the USB simply provides power via a cellphone charger). If you’re interested in how [Kalle] sniffed the protocol for each remote he wrote two other articles which you can find in the write-up linked above.

Adding fireplace control to your home automation


[James] has an admirable home automation system which he’s been working on for years. It does things like monitor the state of the garage door, control the lights, and it even notifies him of a power failure. One thing that wasn’t on the system yet are the fireplaces he has in his home. The hardware you see above is how he patched into the fireplace remote control system in order to automate them.

The remote control uses RF to communicate with a base station. Unlike controlling home theater components which use IR, this makes it a bit more difficult to patch into. Sure, we’d love to see some reverse engineering of the protocol so that a simple radio module could be used, but [James] chose the route which would mean the least amount of hacking on his part. He soldered wires onto the PCB for the buttons and connected to them using reed relays. These let the Arduino simulate button presses.

With the rig connected to the home network he has a lot of options. The system can sense if the house is occupied. If it determines that no one is home it will switch off the fireplaces. [James] also mentions the ability to monitor for carbon monoxide or house fires, switching off the gas fireplaces in either case.