Hackaday Links: May 13, 2018

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The dumbest thing this week is Uber’s flying car concept of the future. The braintrust at Uber envisions a world of skyports, on rooftops or on the ground that will handle 200 takeoffs and landings per hour. That is 4800 per day at a maximum. The record for the number of total takeoffs and landings for any airport was set last year at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji airport with 969 takeoffs and landings in a twenty-four hour period. Yes, Uber wants to put the world’s busiest airport in a parking lot or something. Just wait, it gets dumber. Uber’s ‘flying car’ looks like a standard quadcopter, but with stacked, non-contrarotating props, for safety. These aircraft will be powered electrically, although it’s not quite clear if this is a hybrid setup (which could actually be practical now, but without regulatory precedent) or something built around an enormous battery (impractical for anything bigger than a 152 in this decade).

This aircraft is just a render, and Uber expects it to be certified for commercial flight in two to five years. This is nearly impossible. Uber plans to fly these aircraft autonomously. This will never happen. Additionally, Uber will not manufacture or design the aircraft. Instead, they will partner with a company that has experience in aerospace — Bell or Embraer, for instance — making the render a moot point, because ultimately Uber is just going to go with whatever Bell or Embraer have on the drawing board. Uber’s entire business plan is “move fast and break laws”, which will not serve them well with the FAA. The mere mention of Uber’s self-flying car has lowered the level of public discourse and has made us all dumber.

Here’s a great example of how cheap TVs are getting. [tmv22] built a 55 inch, 4k digital photo frame for $400. The TV was one Walmart was blowing out for two hundred and sixty dollars. Add in an Odroid C2 and some various cables and hardware, and you have an absurd digital photo frame for a few benjamins.

Espressif is getting investment from Intel’s venture capital division. Espressif, is, of course, the company behind the incredibly popular ESP8266 and ESP32 chipsets designed for the Internet of Things. Before the ESP8266 module popped up for sale on SeeedStudios, no one had heard of Espressif. Intel, on the other hand, is the largest semiconductor company on the planet and recently exited the maker IoT space because of the complete and utter failure of the Curie, Joule, Edison, and Galileo product lines. I would bet a significant portion of Intel’s failure was due to their inability to release datasheets.

Awesome news for synth heads. Behringer is cloning just about every classic synth and drum machine. At Superbooth 2018, Behringer, manufacturers of the worst mixers on the planet, revealed their clone of the Roland SH-101 synthesizer. It’s called the MS-101, and yes, it has the keytar grip. Also announced is a clone of the TR-808, Odyssey One, the OB-Xa, Arp 2600, and M100 modules. Here’s some context for you: a good Detroit techno show consists of an SH-101, TB-303, TR-808 and TR-909, all made by Roland in the 80s. These vintage synths and drum machines, at current prices, would cost about $10,000, used. The prices for these clone synths haven’t been announced, but we’re looking at a Detroit techno show for $1000. That’s nuts. Here’s a video of the 808.

39 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: May 13, 2018

  1. Espressif didn’t release much documentation on the ESP8266 either initially, to be fair. For a long time all that was available was pirate datasheets in Chinese, hence all the uncertainty over whether or not the pins were 5V tolerant.

    1. Espressif wasn’t even considering the hobbyist market (let alone a *western* one), we were only paying $3 for it, and the data *was* available if a bit garbled. The response was a complete surprise to them.

      A giant like Intel trying to actively push into the space with a product that costs $$$ bloody well needs to document their shit.

  2. lol Uber’s going to be traveling at X distance above the traffic! At 200 takeoffs an hour the traffic will now be X distance above the traffic on the ground.

    The jetsons displayed sky travel in all its glory – traffic jams in the sky!

          1. No beating the manual gearbox (except maybe flappy paddle but i’ve never tried it) auto makes you lazy and the clutch and brake being the same peddle annoys me

          1. An external roll cage is of little use if the occupants get splattered against it. Currently air bags are good for 35mph or less, free fall can easily exceed that.

      1. It does annoy me with all this talk of developing flying cars, because we already have then and they’re called helicopters. So when people say “it’s 2000 and XX, where’s my flying car”, they’re really saying “why aren’t helicopters cheaper, and also easier to fly, maybe quieter and get better gas mileage too while we’re writing a wish list”.

  3. I totally agree that the Uber concept is absolutely incompatible with aircraft regulations and sensible engineering. I know people will say that everything was once impossible and such bullshit, do let me break it down:

    1. No autorotation capability because of the fixed pitch, low inertia rotors inherent in such multirotors. This means any failure of the power supply, communication bus, control system, etc. means you’re dying in the next 30 seconds. Some of these can be solved with proper engineering, like local, completely independent redundant systems.

    2. Mechanical failure of the top rotor means the debris will pass through the bottom rotor, destroying it, thereby taking away yaw control and either pitch or roll control. Good luck landing that. This could be solved using contra-rotating propellors, which would give the system enough redundancy to survive failure of one set of rotors, assuming the two opposing sets remaining can provide sufficient lift while the third set is mainly used to maintain control. Alternatively, 6 separate propellors could be used, to be able to survive a single failure. A double failure of two adjacent propellors would probably will kill you.

    3. Multi-rotor craft are very inefficiënt and will probably be incapable of long distance travel; they can’t take you to the next city.

    4. Uber wants to transport people within cities, which means the “skyports” will need to be near densely occupied areas, completely ignoring the fact that multi-rotor craft are noisy beyond compare, because of the very high speed propellors and their proximity to each other. A regular helicopter will be silent compared to such screening monsters. Most cities already prohibit low-flying helicopters because of the noise and safety concerns, with obvious exemptions for law enforcement and emergency medical teams. Take-off and landing is never going to happen.

    1. In one section of the video it looks like they might tilt the props like a Osprey does? It’s not very clear at all and maybe that segment was animated by different people than did the rest of the concept art.

    2. As someone who lives a block from an urban helipad at a hospital, the noise regulations will certainly kill anything louder than modern helicopters. Even these sometimes wake us up. On the flip side, watching helicopters land on a building is still awesome.

      Also, V22 Osprey have flown through our city a couple of times on a path frequently taken by helicopters, and to say they announced their aproach is an understatement. Who knows, maybe the military just doesn’t value stealth and it’s actually easy to disrupt this whole aviation thing.

    3. 1) In addition, a ballistic parachute system is possible.
      3 and 4) It is only a multi-rotor system when taking off and landing. In between, it uses a single propeller for propulsion and is wing-borne like a typical general aviation aircraft. That makes it much more efficient than a helicopter and thus capable of acceptable (60 mile plus margin) range on electric alone. It is also much quieter than a helicopter during cruise and while the multirotor design increases the pitch of the sound, this sound does not penetrate as far as the low thudding of helicopter rotors. And by being electric, it has no engine noise. Uber is working closely with NASA and ex-NASA folk on mitigating noise problems. It’ll be much less than helicopter noise levels and much less than jet noise.

  4. It’s unbelievable to me how many companies try to fool people who don’t know any better by throwing out concept art. The average person can’t tell the difference at all.

  5. From the linked article : “The prototypes look more like drones than helicopters, with four rotors on wings. Company officials say that will make them safer than choppers, which operate on one rotor.”

  6. Thank you for your proper lead, “The dumbest thing this week…”. I am so sick of people trying to say that multirotors are the vehicles of the future. They aren’t for so many reasons (safety, efficiency, etc) but everyone latches on to this idea that any day now, packages, people and everything will be flying through the air.

  7. Not sure what the basis is of Behringer’s mixer rep, given the price. I find it hilarious that the used prices of old Roland gear is nearly what it went for new though.

  8. If you’re going to snark on Uber, please at least use more relevant facts. Gatwick has more movements per hour than Chhatrapati Shivaji. And since you’re not landing big jets with miles of separation between, consider that Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh is by far the busiest airport in the world during the EAA fly-in. However, any of those are about as relevant as how many cruise ships a pier can handle a day, because the proposed Uber craft is more like a helicopter with automated landing system than a fixed wing airplane. Some heliport stats would be much more relevant. While the Uber announcement might be breathy to the point of giddy, it’s a press release – it’s expected to be. Meanwhile, the lazy sneer at it has managed to drag HAD to a lower level of discourse.

    1. Yes. Vehicle scale is important – you don’t get to move very many 100-ton tubes with 400 people each from a small patch of dirt. If nothing else, just emptying, cleaning and filling the damn things with screaming babies is time-consuming, regardless of how good your traffic control is.

      More relevantly, see the number of vehicle movements to/from a mall carpark.

      And please, “traffic”? Do you not realise how much of a multiplier it is to have that third dimension available, not to mention that with fine-grained route planning rules and autopilots, you now have basically no intersections, no traffic lights and no queueing except at popular-destination chokepoints.

      Uber being a pack of unmitigated shits is orthogonal to all the questions of technology, etc. Quadrotor is probably not the answer but that’s a different issue. Tiltrotor is a neat/efficient idea, once we manage build one that doesn’t keep falling out of the sky and/or breaking all the time.

  9. While we are at it bashing Uber, who really needs it, consider this, when Pan Am built is headquarters in NYC, they envisioned a heliport on its roof. It did not work out because of the crosswinds problem when they wanted to fly passengers to either of the NY Airports. I think they made two test flights from up there, and it did not work out. This was before the city’s two heliports opened by the way.

  10. Feh.
    The company behind the ESP8266 getting a good sized infusion of capital? It sounds almost like a bad fiction blurb. Now let’s see what happens to the next generation of devices they make.

    And incidentally the processor behind the two Galileo boards did have documentation available, it only was available via an NDA. And I declined the offer when I found out about it.

    1. Could we not have a wifi and bluetooth enable 486 with a good big fpga stirred in amongst it and loads of io? Then we could have a full PC on a badge. But the documents would all have to be there and easily obtained

  11. When did this fad begin of mocking actually cool new technology developments? I feel like the knee-jerk mocking was not nearly so common a decade ago.

    Seriously, are we not nerds? Have we become so jaded? Count me out of this new trend!

    1. Which Links article are you referring to?
      Or are you referring to something in the comments.
      If you are referring to the “mocking” of the Uber plan, I don’t feel that is an
      “actually cool new technology development[…]” but poorly thought out marketing sensationalism.
      NASA proposed (about a dozen years ago) the same concept, electric powered individual aircraft in metro areas.
      It does not scale well even if the battery limitations are overcome. Thousands of people in the metro skies at any one time???? There will be crashes, they will be common, and they will be spectacular. Debris hitting buildings, cars, pedestrians… Even the few self driving car fatalities in recent months would pale by comparison in a 3D environment.

      1. Okay, so are you saying NASA was stupid to propose it? Because NASA doesn’t deploy transit services or really anything that directly provides services to consumers (other than intangibles, like scientific data, photos, videos, and analysis). NASA develops concepts, sometimes even prototypes, and then hopes industry steps forward to develop it to actual consumers. WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT UBER IS DOING. And Uber is hiring those people from NASA to do it, as well as partnering with NASA to solve all the necessary problems.

        All the drawbacks you listed are things we already deal with on surface streets, but with the added complication of having to navigate in just 2D, dodge pedestrians and all manner of things attached to the ground. We have all manner of death and mayhem on commutes today because of this and because we have like hundreds of millions of amateur drivers driving at high speed near each other, versus in the air with professional pilots (you did read about Uber’s proposal, right?) given an entire extra dimension for deconfliction.

        Of course there are challenges in deploying such a system. However, I just can’t believe we might actually get flying cars, but the feedback on nerdy websites is so grotesquely jaded and negative. What is wrong with us?? Where did we go astray?

        1. The way we do it on roads is by having guard rails, so to do that in 3D you’d have to have giant guard tunnels made of guard rails all over the place?

          Also, in 2D the US has like 40000 deaths a year in traffic, so let’s for fun cube that for 3D, 40Kx40K is 1 600 000 000
          Oh, that’s a lot of business for funeral homes and cleaning crews, Trump will be happy about all those jobs

      2. Even without any mishap,. the noise.. it would be insane, and the constant people in front of you window.
        And talking of windows, I bet there will be many assholes who would find a way to park the damn thing in the sky in front of your window for hours, and block air routes for no logical reason.
        And empty their trash over your house while droning past.

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