24C3 Build Your Own UAV

The 24th annual Chaos Communications Congress in Berlin is already off to a great start. The first talk we attended was [Antoine Drouin] and [Martin Müller] presenting Paparazzi – The Free Autopilot. Paparazzi is an open source hardware and software project for building autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles. The main hardware board has an ARM processor and GPS. It uses inertial and infrared sensors to determine orientation and altitude. The four infrared thermopiles measure the air temperature. The ground is warmer than the sky and if you compare the temperature in the direction of each wing tip your can tell what angle the airplane is at. It’s really that simple.

They did a pretty amazing live demo. Using the network connection they controlled a UAV flying in France and another in Germany. Both planes were streaming live video from belly mounted cameras. One relaying through a home DSL connection and the other through a UMTS cellphone. They were able to change way-points on the fly and issue flight pattern commands. There is a ground crew at each location with a security pilot that will switch the controls to manual if things get out of hand.

18 thoughts on “24C3 Build Your Own UAV

  1. @2: why would the nsa/fbi/any other 3 lettered government organization care about a personal uav?

    I know the FAA doesn’t particularly like uav’s in controlled airspace, but that is a whole other can of worms.

  2. >why would the nsa/fbi/ care about a personal uav?

    Because with the right sensors it “COULD” be programmed to crash head-on in to a full sized aircraft (carrying some small amount of explosive.) Not that any sane person would do that, but they don’t know who you are and they don’t trust anybody.

  3. the faa doesn’t give a hoot about what you build as long as it is under a certain size or if it is going to be carrying passengers. homeland security might get suspicious if you buy the model airplane stuff and explosive materials and bomb making stuff though…

  4. This kind of thing actually gets into a bit of a gray area. The FAA has an advisory circular giving guidelines for operating model aircraft that recommend not exceeding 400 feet of altitude or flying within 3 miles of an airport. (http://rgl.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgAdvisoryCircular.nsf/0/1ACFC3F689769A56862569E70077C9CC?OpenDocument&Highlight=91)
    Generally if you stay within these rules they’re not going to care. HOWEVER, the FAA has notified manufacturers of small UAVs that these rules don’t apply if they’re being used for commercial purposes. If you’re building your own UAV as a hobby, you’re probably OK following the model aircraft rules.

  5. >homeland security might get suspicious

    It was while building my weather balloon, I had the idea of making a Glider that would fly it’s way back home. I was told that the balloon was fine because it had no control (it came down on a parachute,) but as soon as you have any some sort of directional control the Feds want to know about it. That’s what I was told, don’t know if it’s true or not.

  6. In the Paparazzi Wiki, they controlled 3 planes and not 2. 1 in France, 1 in Germany and 1 in Turkey.

    The future European rules, for smalls UAVs are very simple, keep it under 400ft, have less than 150kg, max speed of 70kts, range 500m. Important, no flying in populated territory, unless with special authorization.
    US rules shouldn’t be very different.

  7. RC airplanes are ok because they are controlled by a pilot from the ground. But the moment you build a flying vehicle capable of guiding itself to a fixed location (i.e. guidance system, autopilot etc), it becomes illegal (or if not outright illegal, something that the feds are going to want to look further into anyway). Doesn’t matter if its got a rocket engine, jet engine, propeller, rotor blades, warp drive or whatever, its the fact that it can fly without someone on the ground controlling it that the feds care about.

    There was a guy in New Zealand a few years ago who built an autonomous jet powered vehicle (the “DIY Cruise Missile”) and got shut down (some of the evidence suggests that the NZ government was pushed by the USA to shut down the project)

  8. We’ve got a whole site on DIY Drones (at http://diydrones.com, of course), including on the FAA regs (many of the above comments are confused).

    Basically, for non-commercial/recreational use you need to stay below 400ft, line of sight, pilot in control (meaning you can take over at any time), away from populated areas. For commercial use you need a COA. The FAA is working on some future rules that will establish a special category under 4lbs, but I doubt that the rules above will change much.

  9. our techpod was designed for this purpose .you can read more about it here http://evuas.com/ .

    What Chris Anderson says is absolutely true . The FAA essentially sees hobby UAVs as equal to RC airplanes however RC airplanes enjoy self regulation through entities like the AMA http://www.modelaircraft.org/
    at the present time there is no self regulation of autonomous aircraft (the AMA does not sanction it) . if the hobby autonomous aircraft is going to survive we must self regulate .

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