At the end of 2018, a spate of drone sightings caused the temporary closure of London Gatwick Airport, and set in train a chain of events that were simultaneously baffling and comedic as the authorities struggled to keep up with both events and the ever widening gap in their knowledge of the subject.
One of the more inept actions of the Sussex Police was to respond by arresting the first local drone enthusiast they could find on Facebook, locking up a local couple for 36 hours and creating a media frenzy by announcing the apprehension of the villains before shamefacedly releasing them without charge.
So how has the new drone law progressed, since it was decided that Something Must Be Done? Enthusiasts have continued as before, and the multirotor community is as technically creative as ever. We were fortunate enough to host the Lets Drone Out podcast at MK Makerspace back in those halcyon days before the pandemic and see the state of the art in sub-250g craft, and with those and commercial offerings such as the DJI Mavic Mini all requiring no registration there is increasingly little need for an enthusiast to purchase a larger machine. The boost to the British drone industry we were promised has instead been a boost for the Chinese industry as we predicted, and of course we’re still waiting for the public inquiry into the whole mess. Something tells us Hell will freeze over first.
Our understanding of the sensory capabilities of animals has a lot of blanks, and often new discoveries serve as inspiration for new technology. Researchers from the University of Leeds and the Royal Veterinary College have found that mosquitos can navigate in complete darkness by detecting the subtle changes in the air flow created when they fly close to obstacles. They then used this knowledge to build a simple but effective sensor for use on drones.
Extremely sensitive receptors at the base of the antennae on mosquitoes’ heads, called the Johnston’s organ, allow them to sense these tiny changes in airflow. Using fluid dynamics simulations based on high speed photography, the researchers found that the largest changes in airflow occur over the mosquito’s head, which means the receptors are in exactly the right place. From their data, scientists predict that mosquitos could possibly detect surfaces at a distance of more than 20 wing lengths. Considering how far 20 arm lengths is for us, that’s pretty impressive. If you can get past the paywall, you can read the full article from the Science journal.
Using their newfound knowledge, the researchers equipped a small drone with probe tubes connected to differential pressure sensors. Using these sensors the drone was able to effectively detect when it got close to the wall or floor, and avoid a collision. The sensors also require very little computational power because it’s only a basic threshold value. Check out the video after the break.
We probably don’t have to promote the benefits of a third hand or PCB holders in general, such is their obvious utility. While you can arrange some boxes and pile up tools on your bench to get a similar result, a good grip and flexibility to move the PCB around during soldering or performing any other work on it makes life just so much easier. Thanks to 3D printing there have been plenty of inspiring designs that go beyond the usual clumsy-yet-cheap croc clip version of it, and [SunShine] adds one on to the list with his spring-loaded print-in-place PCB gripper, demonstrated in this video and available on Thingiverse.
The gripping part’s design is based on a spring-loaded box [SunShine] created a little while back — which you can read more about in his Instructable. The holder itself comes in two varieties: one that brings its own stand, and one that has a GoPro mount. The first one is really more to show off the design, and while the gripping part is fully functional, it might not perform too well with heavier boards and easily tip over. Sure, a bigger bottom or mounting it to something more sturdy will fix that, but so will the GoPro-mount version, which also adds the whole flexibility aspect.
Magnets (especially those ball magnets!) are endlessly fascinating, aren’t they? It’s almost dangerous to combine them with LEDs, because how are you supposed to get anything done with something like [andrei.erdei]’s Arduino Magnetic Board beckoning from beyond your keyboard?
This tons-of-fun board uses ball magnets to light up RGB LEDs as they roll around on the sexy Plexiglas field. Underneath the LED matrix is an orchestra of 36 reed switches — those little glass gas-filled grains of rice with axial leads that snap together or fly apart in the presence of magnetic fields. The LEDs are controlled with an Arduino Pro Mini, and so is the 8Ω speaker for sound effects.
[andrei.erdei] has already developed a few applications for this delightful desk toy, and they’re all on GitHub. There’s a chase game that involves tilting the board to catch the next red dot with the magnet, a light painting game, and a sequencer that mimics the ToneMatrix. Roll past the break to check out the series of short demo videos.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has kept many of us socially isolated from friends, family, and colleagues for several months at this point. But thanks to modern technology, the separation has only been in the physical sense. From job interviews to grade school book reports, many of the things we’d previously done in person are now happening online. The social distancing campaign has also shown that virtual meetups can be a viable alternative to traditional events, with several notable hacker conventions already making the leap into cyberspace.
With this in mind, we’re proud to announce HackadayU. With weekly online videos and live office hours, these online classes will help you make the most of your time in isolation by learning new skills or diving deeper into subjects with experienced instructors from all over the world. Whether you’re just curious about a topic or want to use these classes to help put yourself on a new career path, we’re here to help.
In a community like ours, where so many people already rely on self-study and tutorial videos, these four week classes are perfect for professional engineers and hobbyists alike. To make sure HackadayU is inclusive as possible, classes will be offered on a pay-as-you-wish basis: we’ll pick up the tab for the instructor’s time, and you kick in whatever you think is fair. All money collected will be donated to charities that help feed, house, and educate others. We know these are tough times, and the hope is that HackadayU can not only benefit the members of our core community, but pass on some goodwill to those who are struggling.
As we’ve looked at the subject of face masks in the first two parts of this series, our emphasis has been on a physical step to aid your chances of making it through the COVID-19 pandemic in one piece. But given that the upheaval caused by all the social changes enacted to protect the population are likely to leave an indelible mark on those who live through them, there are significant aspects of surviving all this that go beyond the physical.
This will be a once-in-a-lifetime event for many people, a significant number will find it traumatic in some way, and for many of those people there will be an immediate and then ongoing effect on mental health. If anyone is in doubt as to from what position this is coming, I count myself among that number.
The Pressure Of A Once In A Lifetime Event
Different countries have placed their own public health restrictions on their populations, but it’s likely that many of you are in some form of lockdown situation, with social or communal activities and locations closed or curtailed, going out restricted, and with all around you in the same situation. A perfect storm of having social outlets removed while simultaneously being stuck at home perhaps with family or housemates you’d prefer not to spend too much time with is not ideal. Add to that the multiple stresses from the pandemic itself as well as other news stories from our turbulent world, and it’s hardly a surprising that it’s taking a toll. Continue reading “Surviving The Pandemic As A Hacker: Take Care Of Your Mental Health”→
For years [Centas] dream was to take the stars to his home and build a fiber optic ceiling. Even though there are many fiber optic star ceiling kits commercially available, we are glad he decided to go full DIY on this project as the result is simply astonishing.
[Centas] chose to make a model of a section of the sky as it is visible from his home and generated a map of 1,200 stars with the planetarium software Celestia. The most time-consuming part of making a star ceiling is always poking lots of holes for the fibers. In [Cenas] case this turned out to be especially cumbersome as he decided to install the fibers after hanging the ceiling panel so he came up with a method to catch the fiber with a fishing pole after pushing it through from the bottom. The finished ceiling looks really great though with its rounded edges that contain RGB LED strips for side illumination. [Cenas] also painted the ceiling after installing the fibers so they are not visible when they are not lit but there is still enough light shining through the paint.