3D Printed Drone Follows The Leader

[peabody124, aka James] has been active in the drone world for several years now, first with OpenPilot, then TauLabs, and now with his own Spark and Sparky2 boards. [James]’ latest creation is a 3D printed quadcopter using both his Sparky2 board and his Sparky2BGC Brushless Gimbal Controller.

[James] had always wanted a quad which would follow him and his friends while they were having fun, sort of like his own flying camera platform. His current setup is finally approaching that goal. [James] designed his new quadcopter to use his Sparky2 flight controller and the KISS 18 amp Electronic Speed Controller (ESC). He also incorporated a brushless gimbal to keep his Mobius action cam pointed at a whatever the drone may be tracking.

To keep the internal intern-boardslayout clean, [James] designed a power distribution board which solders right up to the ESCs. The internal layout is seriously clean, with flat panels which keep the electronics safe during crashes.

The crash protection turned out to come in handy, as [James] managed to hit a couple of drone-eating trees during testing. Thankfully, having a 3D printed quad means spare parts are just a few hours of printing away. Check out the video below for footage of [James]’ test flights, and of the quad tracking his cell phone via an RF link.

15 thoughts on “3D Printed Drone Follows The Leader

      1. Wood is an astounding material because of its long fibers. You can’t 3D print fibers. If you need something light and strong use wood, or fiberglass, or carbon fiber. Metal too, but for bigger sizes, where a lattice structure would be big enough.

  1. From what I can tell it requires a human to be flying it, just tries to point the camera in the general direction of a certain coordinate based on its current GPS position and compass.

    Would be cool if it could actually fly after something and orient itself to keep the subject in its field of view.

    Are there any more accurate way to track an object’s relative 3D position from yourself in the 1-100m range?

    1. Check out the 3D robotics Pixhawk – they’re doing it now with the compass setup. Both pointing the camera and flying the drone. In “Follow Me” mode, the system will operate without pilot interaction (though you should always have a safety pilot ready to take over).

  2. i did some work with a parrot AR drone where the drone would communicate back to an app on an android device that was attempting to do face detection, and once it found a face, it would do it’s best to keep the face in frame.

    you couldn’t move too quickly, or it would get lost.. which was useful for a handoff sort of thing.

  3. If he gets it working, I want one for while I’m riding my dirt bike. That would be some killer footage – assuming the drone doesn’t crash into me.

    From a tracking standpoint, I wonder if a transponder would help it.

    1. Yea I like road biking and that is one of the things I want to test. I suspect for that to work well I’ll need what you suggest – a better tracking element the rider wears that accounts for velocity etc. I definitely have some ideas in my head about it.

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