Hackaday Links: November 1, 2015

It seems almost compulsory that we start off with a dose of Star Wars. Here’s an epic AT-ST build that motorizes the iconic walker.

That two-legger isn’t going to be lonely. It bigger-slower brother, the AT-AT got a bit of motorized love as well.

What? You were expecting a BB8 build? We have one of those too. [DrYerzinia] has begun a design that hides a quadcopter inside of the BB8. The four 17″ DJI propellers fold up when not in use, extending through hatches in the outer shell when it’s time to take flight. This retains the rolling design you’ve already come to love in the BB8 and we’re going to keep our eyes on it!

Do you have a Teensy and some extra WS2812 strips hanging out on your bench? [etix] put his to use with an ambilight clone. This works really well: simple hardware which connects via USB to communicate with VLC. We applaud [etix’s] choice of Kung Fury as a demo video… a truly bizarre and entertaining short movie. +1000 for its use of VHS tape artifacts.

We just missed Halloween, but this set of wings is far too great of a build to be reserved for that one day. Alas, there is only the demo video but seeing the huge feathered structures fold and unfold is really impressive!

[Truebass] added an artistic accent to one of the walls in his home. He had several cellphone chargers from old phones in his junk bin. These were used to regulate power for some white LEDs. The finished sconces are made from chip-board covered in cherry veneer, all leftover from previous projects.

Want to drink your beer out of beer-byproducts? How about your coffee out of coffee-byproducts. It sounds strange, but 3DOM is marketing it that way, encouraging you to print your beer stein with this beer-byproduct-based 3D printer filament. They also offer coffee filament and have plans for future oddball building materials. Printer inception?

We ran a post about the secret computer of the New York subway system. There wasn’t a ton of information there, but that could change. The New York Historical Society is running a Kickstarter to expand their Computing History made in NY.

Move Over Red Bull, Hot Wire Foam Cutter Now Gives You Wings

Not many people will argue with flying RC airplanes is super fun. One big bummer is when a crash damages a part beyond repair. Sure, the RC pilot could keep buying replacement parts but doing so will add up after a while. RC plane builder and general guy with a cool name, [HuckinChikn], decided to build a hot wire foam cutter so making replacement wings would be quick and cheap.

The actual hot wire part is nothing special, just some wire pulled taut across a frame and a 24 vdc power supply pumping out current and heating the wire so it melts any foam in its path. The unique part of the build is that one side of the hot wire frame is secured in place and only allowed to pivot about that point. The other side of the frame traces an airfoil-shaped pattern. This setup allows [HuckinChikn] to make tapered wings. The difference between a straight wing and a tapered wing is similar to that of a cylinder and cone.

hotwire foam wing cutter

Check out the video after the break for a quick demonstration how easy it is to make a wing when you have the right tool!

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Retrotechtacular: On the Wings of Goodyear

At the opposite end of the spectrum from the various blimp and rigid-hull airships Goodyear has created over the years stands the Goodyear Inflatoplane, the company’s foray into experimental inflatable aircraft. Goodyear had recently created a rubberized nylon material they called Airmat, the faces of which were connected internally by nylon threads. This material was originally developed during research into the viability of emergency airplane wings.

The United States military became interested in the Inflatoplane after Goodyear had performed successful testing of demonstration model GA-33. They believed that the Inflatoplane could be dropped from the air in a rigid container to facilitate an emergency rescue, or trucked around with the rest of the cargo as a last resort for just exactly the right situation. It seems like a good idea on paper. The Inflatoplane could stay packed into a fairly small container until it was needed. The GA-468 one-seater model could go almost 400 miles on 20 gallons of fuel, and required less pressure to inflate than the average car tire.

This episode of the Discovery Channel series WINGS includes a real-time demonstration of taking an Inflatoplane from crate to air set to late ’80s montage music. It takes the pilot a full five minutes to unfurl and  the plane, and he does it on a nice and level grassy spot by a lake that looks more like a cozy picnic spot than threatening enemy territory. While it’s better than not having an inflatable emergency aircraft, it just isn’t that practical.

Goodyear had all kinds of plans for future improvements, such as a vertical takeoff model and a rocket-powered version. But the Inflatoplane military initiative was grounded around the time that someone speaking for the Army deadpanned that they “could not find a valid military use for an aircraft that could be taken down by a well-aimed bow and arrow.”

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Robotic falconry: winged unit lands on you!

It doesn’t have four rotors, but this advanced-glider is every bit as impressive as the most complicated of quadrotor offerings. It’s the first glider that can successfully perch on your arm. We can’t help but think back to the owl in the original Clash of the Titans movie.

The team at the Aerospace Robotics and Control Lab of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is happy to show off the test flights they’ve been conducting. We’ve embedded two of them after the break which show the unit landing on this person’s arm, and on the seat of a chair. The image above shows a montage of several frames from the flight, and gives us a pretty good look at the articulated wings. You can seen them both bent in the middle of the flight to zero in on the landing zone. In addition to this there are flaps on the trailing edge of the wings and tail. The flight path is a bit wandering since the glider has no vertical tail to stabilize it.

Now if they can make it harvest power from overhead electrical lines they’ve got a spy-bird which can be dropped from a plane (or from a drone).

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Steampunk wings: bigger, heavier, and steampunkier

This pair of backpack-mounted wings was conceived after seeing the Angel/Archangel character in the movie X-Men: The Last Stand. They measure 14’6″ inches across, but they fold up so that the wearer can actually get around in them. The mechanism is built from MDF, using several layers of gears cut from the material as well as pieces that act as the skeleton for the appendages. This makes them look and work well, but adds a lot of weight as the project comes in at about 25 pounds.

The steampunk wings we saw a few days back were partly inspired by this set. But this pair is more true to the Steampunk concept, relying on pneumatics instead of electricity for motion. A pair of pneumatic rams originally made to cushion the closing of screen doors let the wearer automatically extend the unit. As you can see in the video after the break, this happens quickly and gracefully. They do have to be folded back up by hand, and we’d bet you need a second person to assist with this, but we could be wrong.

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Personal flight from the steam age

From a small-sized backpack these wings slowly grow to full size in a Steampunk costume that hearkens back to DaVinci flight designs.

The mechanism that unfolds the wings was fashioned from parts of a baby gate and an old back massager. The massager features a pair of orbs that are meant to move slowly up and down your back. This is what accounts for the slow unfurling of the wings. After a bit of prototyping with Popsicle sticks [Dannok] and his daughter figured out the best arrangement for the pivoting skeleton. From there, the slats from the baby-gate were used to build the frame, then covered with fabric to finish the wing element for this Halloween costume.

A 12 volt gel battery powers the device, which is activated with a brass pull-chain meant for a light fixture. Once full extended, as seen above, the wingspan is eight feet. Don’t miss the pair of videos we’ve embedded after the break which show the workings of the device.

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