Custom Strain Gauges Help Keep Paraglider Aloft

No matter what they’re flying, good pilots have a “feel” for their aircraft. They know instantly when something is wrong, whether by hearing a strange sound or a feeling a telltale vibration. Developing this sixth sense is sometimes critical to the goal of keeping the number of takeoff equal to the number of landings.

The same thing goes for non-traditional aircraft, like paragliders, where the penalty for failure is just as high. Staying out of trouble aloft is the idea behind this paraglider line tension monitor designed by pilot [Andre Bandarra]. Paragliders, along with their powered cousins paramotors, look somewhat like parachutes but are actually best described as an inflatable wing. The wing maintains its shape by being pressurized by air coming through openings in the leading edge. If the pilot doesn’t maintain the correct angle of attack, the wing can depressurize and collapse, with sometimes dire results.

Luckily, most pilots eventually develop a feel for collapse, sensed through changes in the tension of the lines connecting the wing to his or her harness. [Andre]’s “Tensy” — with the obligatory “McTenseface” surname — that’s featured in the video below uses an array of strain gauges to watch to the telltale release of tension in the lines for the leading edge of the wing, sounding an audible alarm. As a bonus, Tensy captures line tension data from across the wing, which can be used to monitor the performance of both the aircraft and the pilot.

There are a lot of great design elements here, but for our money, we found the lightweight homebrew strain gauges to be the real gem of this design. This isn’t the first time [Andre] has flown onto these pages, either — his giant RC paraglider was a big hit back in January.

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1/3 Scale Hybrid RC Car With A Scratch-Built 125cc V10 Engine

Scale model engines are fascinating pieces of engineering, and RC cars are always awesome to play with, no matter your age. [Keith57000] has gone over the top on both, creating a seriously impressive hybrid RC car built around a custom 125 cc V10 engine.

[Keith57000] started building the V10 engine back in 2013, after completing a 1/4 scale V8. The build is documented in a forum thread with lots of pictures of his beautiful craftsmanship. Most of the mechanical components were machined on a manual lathe and milling machine. No CNC, just lots of drawings and measurements, clever use of dividing heads, and careful dial reading. The engine also features electronic fuel injection with a MegaSquirt controller.

The rest of the car is just as impressive as the power plant. The chassis is bent tube, with machined brackets and carbon fiber suspension components. Two electric skateboard motors are added to give it a bit more power. The three speed gearbox is also custom, built with gears scavenged from a pit bike and angle grinder. It uses two small pneumatic pistons to do the shifting, with a clever servo mechanism that mechanically switches the solenoid valves. Check out all fourteen build videos on his channel for more details.

An amateur project of this complexity is never without speed bumps, which [Keith57000] details in the videos and build thread. It has taken seven years so far, but it is without a doubt the most impressive RC car we’ve seen. His skill with manual machine tools is something we rarely get to see in the age of CNC. We’re looking forward to the finished product, hopefully screaming around a track with a FPV cockpit.

Hackaday Links: September 20, 2020

The announcement of Autodesk’s changes to the Fusion 360 personal use license terms this week caused quite a dustup. Our article on the announcement garnered a lot of discussion and not a few heated comments. At the end of the day, though, Autodesk is going to do what it’s going to do, and the Fusion 360 user community is just going to have to figure out how to deal with the changes. One person who decided to do something other than complain is Justin Nesselrotte, who came up with a quick and easy bulk export tool for Fusion 360. This gets to the heart of the issue since the removal of export to STEP, IGES, and SAT files is perhaps the most painful change for our community. Justin’s script automatically opens every design and exports it to the file type of your choice. Since the license changes go into effect on October 1, you’d better get cracking if you want to export your designs.

Over on Twitter, Hackaday superfriend Timon gives us a valuable lesson in “you get what you pay for.” He found that a bunch of his header pin jumper cables weren’t even remotely assembled properly. The conductors of the jumper wire were only loosely inserted into the terminal’s crimp, where apparently no crimping pressure had been applied. The wires were just rattling around inside the crimp, rather than making sold contact. We’ve covered the art and science of crimping before, and it’s pretty safe to say that these jumpers are garbage. So if you’re seeing weird results with a circuit, you might want to take a good, close look at your jumpers. And as always, caveat emptor.

The GNU Radio Conference wrapped up this week, in virtual format as so many other conferences have been this year, and it generated a load of interesting talks. They’ve got each day’s proceedings over on their YouTube channel, so the videos are pretty long; luckily, each day’s stream is indexed on the playbar, so along with the full schedule you can quickly find the talks you’re interested in. One that caught our eye was a talk on the Radio Resilience Competition, a hardware challenge where participants compete head-to-head using SDRs to get signals through in an adversarial environment. It sounds like a fascinating challenge for the RF inclined. More details about registering for the competition can be had on the Radio Resilience website.

You know those recipe sites that give you a few choices on what to make for dinner based on the ingredients you have on hand? We always thought that was a clever idea, and now something like it has come to our world. It’s called DIY Hub, and it aims to guide makers toward projects they can build based on the parts they have on hand. Users create projects on the site, either hosting the project directly on the site or providing a link to projects on another site. Either way, the project’s BOM is cataloged so that users can find something to build based on parts stored in their “Garage”. Granted, most of us suffer from the exact opposite problem of not knowing what to build next, but this could be an interesting tool for stimulating the creative process, especially for teachers and parents. It’s currently in beta, and we’d love to see a few Hackaday.io projects added to the site.

And finally, we got a tip to an oldie but a goodie: How to Build a Castle. No, we don’t expect to see a rash of 13th-century castle builds gracing our pages anytime soon — although we certainly wouldn’t be opposed to the idea. Rather, this is a little something for your binge-watching pleasure. The BBC series, which was actually called Secrets of the Castle, was a five-part 2014 offering that went into great detail on the construction of Guédelon Castle, an experimental archaeology project in France that seeks to build a castle using only the materials and methods available in the 1200s. The series is hosted by historian Ruth Goodman and archaeologists Peter Ginn and Tom Pinfold, and it’s great fun for anyone interested in history and technology.

Boost Your Animation To 60 FPS Using AI

The uses of artificial intelligence and machine learning continue to expand, with one of the more recent implementations being video processing. A new method can “fill in” frames to smooth out the appearance of the video, which [LegoEddy] was able to use this in one of his animated LEGO movies with some astonishing results.

His original animation of LEGO figures and sets was created at 15 frames per second. As an animator, he notes that it’s orders of magnitude more difficult to get more frames than this with traditional methods, at least in his studio. This is where the artificial intelligence comes in. The program is able to interpolate between frames and create more frames to fill the spaces between the original. This allowed [LegoEddy] to increase his frame rate from 15 fps to 60 fps without having to actually create the additional frames.

While we’ve seen AI create art before, the improvement on traditionally produced video is a dramatic advancement. Especially since the AI is aware of depth and preserves information about the distance of objects from the camera. The software is also free, runs on any computer with an appropriate graphics card, and is available on GitHub.

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Finally, A Differently Useless Machine

Traditionally, the useless machine is a simple one that invites passersby to switch it on. When they do, the machine somehow, some way, turns itself off; usually with a finger or finger-like object that comes out from the box in what feels like an annoyed fashion. Honestly, that’s probably part of what drives people to turn them on over and over again.

But [Bart Blankendaal] has managed to turn the useless machine on its head. When this machine is switched to the on position, unseen forces inside the box will spin the toggle switch around 180° to the off position.

What’s really happening is that an Arduino is getting a signal from the toggle switch, and is then rotating it on a ball bearing with a stepper motor driven through an H-bridge.

It shouldn’t be too hard to make one of these yourself, given that [Bart] has provided the schematic and STLs. If we weren’t living in such touchy times, we might suggest building one of these into your Halloween candy distribution scheme somehow. Sell the switch as one that turns on a candy dispenser, and then actually dispense it after three or five tries.

Many see useless machines as tangible examples of existential quandary. Here is one that takes that sentiment a bit further by snuffing out a candle.

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ESP8266 Turned Secretive WiFi Probe Request Sniffer

When a Wi-Fi device is switched on, it starts spewing out probe requests to try and find a familiar access point. These probe requests contain the device’s MAC address and the SSID of the hotspot it’s looking for, which can potentially be used to identify a specific device and where it’s been. After experimenting with these probe requests, [Amine Mehdi Mansouri] has created OpenMAC, a tiny ESP8266 based sniffer that could be hidden anywhere.

The device consists of an ESP-07S module, a regulator circuit for getting power from a USB-C connector, and a button for power cycling. An external antenna is required for the module, which can be selected based on the size or gain requirements for a specific deployment. [Amine] tested the OpenMAC at a local library (with permission), in combination with a number of his own little Wi-Fi repeaters to expand the reach of the network. All the recorded MAC addresses were logged to a server, where the data can be used for traffic analysis in and around the library, or even for tracking and locating specific devices.

This is nothing new, and is relatively common technique used for gathering information in retail locations, and could be also be used for more nefarious purposes. Newer versions of iOS, Android, and Windows 10 feature MAC address randomization which can limit the ability to track devices in this manner, but it isn’t always activated.

We’ve seen a number of projects that exploit probe requests. FIND-LF can be used for locating devices in your home, and Linger fools probe requests sniffers by replaying previously recorded requests.

TI And Cadence Make PSpice Free

We like simulation software. Texas Instruments long offered TINA, but recently they’ve joined with Cadence to make OrCAD PSpice available for free with some restrictions. You’ve probably heard of PSpice — it’s widely used in academia and industry, but is usually quite costly. You can see a promotional overview video below.

The program requires registration and an approval step to get a license key. The downloaded program has TI models along with other standard models. There seem to be few limits as long as you stick to the supplied library. According to the datasheet, there are no size or simulation complexity limitations in that case. If you want to use other models, you can, but that’s where the limitations hit you:

There is no limitation of how many 3rd party models can be imported into the design. However, if 3rd party models are imported, a user will be able to plot a maximum of 3 signals at a time of their choice when any 3rd party model is imported from web.

We aren’t completely sure what “from web” means there, but presumably they just mean from other sources. In any event, you still get AC, DC, and transient analysis with plenty of options like worst-case timing analysis. Mixed signal designs are supported and there is a wealth of data plotting options, as you would expect.

This is a great opportunity to drive some serious software that is widely used in the industry. The only thing that bummed us out? It runs under Windows. We couldn’t get it to work under Wine, but a Windows 10 VM handled it fine, although we really hate running a VM if we don’t have to.

Still, the price is right and it is a great piece of software. We also liked the recent Micro-Cap 12 release, but we don’t expect any updates for that. Of course, LTSpice is quite capable, too.

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