RC plane made specifically for UAVs

We’ve seen our fair share of remote-controlled planes turned into UAVs and FPV platforms, but the Techpod is the first airplane we’ve seen specifically designed to be used as a camera-equipped robotic airplane.

The Techpod is the brainchild of [Wayne Garris]. He has been flying camera-equipped FPV airplanes for a while now, but recently realized the current offerings of remote control planes didn’t match his needs. [Wayne] decided to design his own plane specifically designed with a pan/tilt camera mount in the nose.

[Wayne]‘s prototype was designed with some very fancy aeronautical design software packages and milled out of foam. From the videos after the break, we can see the Techpod flies beautifully, but needs the Kickstarter community to bring his model to the masses.

The specs for the Techpod put it up there with other high-performances FPV and UAV models; with its 102 inch (2590 mm) wingspan and a pair of batteries wired in parallel, the Techpod can stay aloft transmitting video for up to one hour.

Video of the plane in action after the break.

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What does the government think about that drone in your home?

The world is buzzing about drones right now. Even we’re joining in the fun with some antics of our own. Right now, it is basically a legal free-for all since no one is enforcing regulation, but is that about to change? Should it?

Lets start off by establishing the definition of a “drone”. For this article, we’ll settle for any “unmanned aerial vehicle”, though we can all agree that that limiting this to airspace is fairly restrictive. This is the specific type that are making the news right now and quite possibly catching the eye of people who make the rules.

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Rocket telemetry from UAV hardware

When we posted our call for rocketry hacks and builds, we expected to see a few altitude sensors and maybe a GPS module or two. Apparently, we forgot similar hardware is very popular in the remote-controlled aircraft world, and can be successfully added to a rocket as [Kevin] and his ArduPilot equipped J motor rocket showed us

The ArduPilot is a small Arduino comparable board designed for UAVs, quadcopters, and other whirligigs not powered by rocket motors. To get real-time telemetry from his rocket, [Kevin] attached a GPS receiver and an XBee transmitter. When launched on an H165 motor, [Kevin] was able to keep a radio lock on his rocket, allowing him to pull down data in real-time.

There are a few drawbacks to using the ArduPilot to collect flight data; the ArduPilot only reports ground speed, a somewhat useless feature if the vehicle is going straight up. Also, there is no way for [Kevin] to record data to an SD card; the ground team must be able to receive the XBee, lest bits of data go missing. For most rockets the radio issue shouldn’t be a problem. [Kevin] launched the same hardware on a J motor and was able to receive data from 3600 AGL.

Spoofing GPS and getting your own UAV

A couple folks over at the Radionavigation Lab at UT Austin successfully spoofed GPS to take control of a small helicopter drone this weekend. Of course, this attracted the attention of the Department of Homeland security, so you’d better stock up on GPS spoofing equipment while there’s still time.

The DHS, CIA, and US Military have a huge interest in spoofing GPS; Iran stole a drone late last year using the same method. The UT Austin team used only about $1000 worth of equipment to take control of an autonomous drone and pilot it away under unauthorized control. Of course with matters of homeland security, the open-source hacker scene has yet to publish how this spoofing attack was actually done, but here’s a paper covering what is needed to remotely control up to four GPS-guided drones.

While waiting on the details of this build to be made public, feel free add your own insight in the comments as to how this attack was actually performed.

Awesome little UAV flies 1 km

After going to an SMD soldering workshop at the Stuttgart hackerspace ShackSpace, [Corvus] decided to be an over achiever and build a flight controller for his very own unmanned aerial vehicle.

The airplane itself is a regular store-bought foam contraption, and not terribly interesting in and of itself. Autonomous flight piques some interest, though. A custom flight controller PCB was designed and built by [Corvus] to work alongside a tiny STM32 Linux board. These two boards, combined with the OpenPilot project allow the plane to keep altitude, bearing, speed, and position in check autonomously. Telemetry between the ground station and vehicle is handled by UAVTalk and a ThinkPad.

In the video after the break, [Corvus] piloted the plane up to altitude, then directed it to fly 500 meters North and turn around. The result was an autonomous flight of over one kilometer. The next stage of the project is implementing some SLAM applications with optical path finding and obstacle avoidance.

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Engine Hacks: A pulse jet UAV by any other name would still be a cruise missile

Imagine our surprise when we learned [Bruce Simpson], who made headlines in 2003 with his $5000 DIY cruise missile, is still alive, not illegally interned in a black ops prison, and still doing what he does best: building really awesome remote-control airplanes.

The first successful mass-produced pulse jet aircraft was the German V-1 flying bomb. The V-1 had a very primitive guidance system, but the unmanned pulse jet aircraft quickly evolved into a few target drones used by the US Air Force. There was never any significant advancement towards improving the fuel consumption, noise level, or heat signature of pulse jets, so they were superseded by the superior turbojet. Despite their failings, pulse jets are remarkably easy to build and amazingly fast.

Instead of being antagonized by the New Zealand and United States governments, [Bruce] spends most of his time now working on pulse jet projects. He’s flown quite a few modified R/C planes and has an electronic Engine Control Unit for his jets. One of his most impressive projects is the 100 pound thrust pulse jet that was later attached to a go-kart. His no weld version of a pulse jet can be built in even the most minimalist work shop and is the epitome of an easy-to-build jet engine.

To get an idea of how fast [Bruce]‘s planes can be, check out his Long-EZ R/C pulse jet in action after the break.

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WASP UAV gets some new toys, now intercepts your phone calls too


If you had the pleasure of attending last year’s DEFCON conference, you are no doubt familiar with [Mike Tassey] and [Richard Perkins]. There, the pair showed off a work in progress DIY aerial drone named WASP. Short for Wireless Aerial Surveillance Platform, WASP was impressive when we brought it to your attention last year, but the duo has spent some time completing their project, adding a few extra features in the process.

The drone still packs the same pico-ITX computer which now runs Backtrack5, and utilizes a 340 million word dictionary for cracking WiFi networks (pardon the pun) on the fly. While updated pen testing tools are well and good, the most impressive update is that the drone can now act as a standalone GSM tower. This allows the pair to trick nearby phones into routing calls through WASP before being relayed to their carrier’s network.

Once WASP is launched, the plane flies autonomously along a preset route, sniffing, hacking, cracking and gathering data until [Tassey and Perkins] summon it back to Earth. The drone is as impressive as it is scary, and we can’t wait to hear what the pair has to say about it this time around.

Continue reading to watch a video demo of WASP taking to the skies and doing its thing.

[via PopSci]

[Thanks, DainBramage1991]

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