THP Hacker Bio: Peter McCloud

By far one of the craziest entries for The Hackaday Prize is [Peter McCloud]’s Goliath, an enormous gas-powered quadcopter. It weighs about 240 pounds, is powered by a 30 horsepower v-twin lawnmower engine, is lifted into the air with homemade props milled on a CNC machine. It’s a frightening build even when the engine isn’t turning. When running, it’s an awesome display of power and technology.

Goliath has had a few setbacks of late, snapping two composite props in its first attempt at hovering. This hasn’t deterred [Peter]; he’s picking up the pieces and he’ll have this monstrous quad hovering in a week or two. A good thing, because the judges are paring the quarterfinalists just three weekends from now.

Check out [Peter]’s bio below.

Goliath currently takes up most of my free time but I also enjoy going out on our boat wakeboarding and tubing each summer. I also swim, kayak, skateboard, snowboard, read, travel and have my private pilot’s license.

I work for the Aerosciences Branch at NASA Johnson Space Center as a contractor.  I mostly do aerothermodynamics, using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) to define the heating environments for ascent and entry.

I’ve had the chance to work on Shuttle, CST-100 and Orion.

ships

I really enjoy building things, especially if it’s space- and aviation-related.

My 2001 Toyota 4runner. The check engine lights are always coming on (they are on right now) and I’m constantly having to work on it.  I’ve replaced the head gasket twice, done an engine swap, replaced the catalytic converters and a dozen other things.  That being said, it’s a useful vehicle with it’s cargo space and towing capability.

Linux.

While I have experience with electronics, I don’t do a lot, so my sole piece of electronics equipment is a Craftsman Multi-Meter I was given as a teenager.

The pieces that make up the 48GB of memory installed in my Linux workstation at the office.

Python, followed by anything else that’s not FORTRAN.  While working on the Shuttle program, I had to work with FORTRAN programs that were formatted for punch cards, on which the programs were originally written.

  • Kitplane
  • Eventually a bigger version of Goliath to carry people
  • Spaceship

I had just started building Goliath a few months before THP was announced, so it was perfect timing.

Everything…

GimbalBot. It’s pretty cool looking and [zakqwy] is doing a great job documenting the project. To me, he’s the ideal Hackaday member because he provides great feedback and does a great job of encouraging other people with their projects.

It’s not coming along perfectly. As the latest article described, I’m frantically working to get two new propellers built and to find the right one-way bearings. I can’t say that wrecking two of the propellers was completely unforeseen.

I did fully expect to damage something during all the testing. Like my wife pointed out, at least we didn’t have to use the fire extinguisher that we had at the ready.  Projects like this aren’t going to come out right the first time.

I’m really impressed by all the projects and hackers that are on the site.  Also, if it wasn’t for my amazing wife, building Goliath wouldn’t be possible.

16 thoughts on “THP Hacker Bio: Peter McCloud

  1. I remember walking across campus with my always present box of cards, tripping and spilling those @#%! things over the sidewalk. That’s the day I learned the value of the autonumber feature on the card punch machine.
    BTW, have you considered renaming Goliath to “Deathwish 2014”. The way that prop shattered had all kinds of scenarios runnung through my mind.

  2. Somehow I fail to see the attraction of Goliath. Beside its construction looking heavy, a single large rotor will be more efficient than a quadcopter design, and (even with a tail rotor) fewer moving parts. So for that, why not just build an unmanned small helicopter?
    As another commenter has called it, ‘Deathwish 2014’ seems rather a good moniker.

    1. Sort of similar thought here. I can understand wanting to use a internal combustion engine to power a quadcopter to increase power/energy density. What I don’t get about this project is the control part. The whole reason to use four inefficient fans instead of one efficient one is that independent control of the fans can be used to stabilize and control the quadcopter.

      In Goliath (aka DW2K14), as far as I can tell, the rotors all spin at the same speed because they are linked by gears and toothed belts. Without fancy gearboxes, one-way bearings, and/or extra motors somewhere, I don’t see the possibility of independent speed control. If you are going to use a completely independent (from lift generation) system to control the aircraft, use a more efficient system to create lift. The control system will be very similar regardless of how you create the lift part (other than more rotor torque compensation).

    1. There are a number of pre-made props on the market, but props are optimized for a specific thrust and RPM, and I haven’t found any that match the thrust and RPM I’m looking for because Goliath is a unique application. One of the guidelines for THP is to be as open as possible and I have yet to see any open source propellers available.

      1. The power curve on most props are so (so so so so) very wide its the very rare case where you can’t find a usable prop. If you need to wring out the very last drop of thrust using a custom prop your rig is either vastly over weight or under powered. In your case, I can’t imagine why you can’t find a suitable pitch prop in a larger diameter, cut it down to size and rebalance it. As many people have mentioned, just looking at your photo’s, your current home made props look way too small.

  3. Those props are just like the fans in your computer. The shorter the arms the faster they go the higher the forces go outwards for diddly squat more air. At some point it’s all noise and no work.
    I couldn’t remember where but, the other day on HAD or a post’s web page there was shown the 3D printed frame to hold 6 tiny computer fans in a game console. 6 with one sixtieth of the lube per fan to make them work for the same time. How about never lay that stuff on carpet or bedding. The cooling is just good enough on a clean flat surface. Yea this is off the topic, but this is how it is done cheap. And it flies.
    For an aviation mind bender look up Clement Ader’s batwing original steampunk ca.1895!
    But then he did stereo sound in 1881.

      1. Some people accumulate a lot of information and manage to connect it in non-obvious ways. In many cases, the ability to do this actually decreases their ability to use linear and logical speech patterns – in essence, they forget that mere mortals need decorative trim.

        Allow me to translate:

        “Those props are just like the fans in your computer. The shorter the arms the faster they go the higher the forces go outwards for diddly squat more air. At some point it’s all noise and no work.”

        A propeller is something of a tradeoff between blade angle, blade length and blade width. Short blades are less efficient than long blades, as they have less area and must spin faster to create an equivalent amount of thrust. There are side effects caused by spinning faster – efficiency decreases (without something to keep the air from being flung sideways, such as a cowling around the blades) as speed increases. He’s pointing out that the propeller’s working envelope may be less than optimal. As a rule, spinning a smaller prop faster reaches a point of diminishing returns and increasing loudness as the prop velocity approaches the speed of sound.

        “I couldn’t remember where but, the other day on HAD or a post’s web page there was shown the 3D printed frame to hold 6 tiny computer fans in a game console. 6 with one sixtieth of the lube per fan to make them work for the same time.”

        This was a stretch even for me. I couldn’t connect the dots to the word “lube”.
        I can only suggest that more than one hacker has succumbed over time to the ravages of alcohol, drugs or worst of all – bad diets consisting of sugar, carbs and caffeine. These things destroy your brain over time, as well as your eyes and nervous system. Some hackers attempt to do all of the above, combined with cigarettes and a complete lack of exercise… the damage adds up.

        “How about never lay that stuff on carpet or bedding. The cooling is just good enough on a clean flat surface. Yea this is off the topic, but this is how it is done cheap. And it flies.”

        I think he wrote “cooling” but meant thrust.
        However, he is likely pointing out that the computer fan flying device may not be efficient enough to overcome efficiency losses caused by attempting to levitate in a drag-inducing environment. Or perhaps he’s accidentally augered a fan into a bed sheet on more than one occasion. I don’t suggest that anyone start googling the use of box fans in beds.
        Some knowledge is truly not worth possessing.

        “For an aviation mind bender look up Clement Ader’s batwing original steampunk ca.1895!”

        French Guy built a plane that flew. Sadly. He neglected to consider the importance of controlling yaw or roll. Hilarity Ensued, as only the germans understood control surfaces.
        In typical french fashion, he had constructed usable propellers, a properly streamlined fuselage, wings that worked and a lightweight steam power plant that got him in the air.

        Clement flew before the wright brothers, but there’s a difference between mastering the sky and uncontrolled flight into terrain at the helm of your Jules Verne flying art project.
        But he got up there, and that says something. He also seduced a lot of impressionable young women of a certain age (not the good ones) who were mesmerized by his somewhat embroidered tales of being the first to fly. Being able to see future glory in a heap of poorly understood and badly engineered parts is what sets people like our original subject apart from those of us who understand the engineering well enough to quietly think: What an idiot!

        “But then he did stereo sound in 1881.”
        Ader was an electrical engineer. He was a little like Steve Jobs. He built the telephone system in paris and made pots of cash. He then built first stereo transmitting and listening equipment – the iphone of his day- in Paris and was then responsible for the first stereo broadcasts (well, wirecasts) in the world.

        He did the airplane stuff because he had lots of money and had been quite successful.
        PS –
        Never underestimate the power of a french man in search of love and admiration from the fairer sex. He can do anything in most cases – and generally succeeds at least once or twice before reality sets in and brings the whole thing crashing to the ground.

  4. Project Goliath is at best misguided, at worst an accident waiting to happen. I totally get Goliath as an experiment under controlled conditions but if that thing comes in contact with buildings an/or people, phyisics will pretty much guarantee a “what were you thinking” outcome, not to mention it will send the regulators running to their computers to crank out more anti-quadcopter laws.

  5. As I understand it, the whole point of a quadcopter is that its attitude can be controlled by varying the relative speeds of the two opposite pairs of motors, and it can remain airborne or at least make a controlled descent if any one motor or prop fails. How do these advantages translate to a version with a single motor? Are there four independent clutches? The comments mention clutches, but the parts list does not.

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