Raspberry Pi Zero Beams Back Video From 100,000 Feet

The Project Horus team routinely launches high-altitude balloons in Australia. However, despite their desire for it, they haven’t beamed back live video. Until now. Horus 55 beamed video back to the ground from over 100,000 feet using a Raspberry Pi and some software-defined radio gear. Be sure and check out their video, below.

You might think this is easy, but there are many technical hurdles. First, the transmitter needs some power, but the thin atmosphere creates problems with cooling. In addition a really good receiving station is required, and the project wanted to stream that video to the Internet, which they were able to do.

The balloon carried a Raspberry Pi Zero W to capture and compress video. A LimeSDR Mini provided the DVB-S transmission on 70cm along with a power amplifier to get to about 800mW. Power dissipation in the payload was about 6 watts and required a special heat sink system to operate. The payload was powered by eight lithium AA primary cells, which perform well at low temperatures.

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Move Over Cesium Clock, Optical Clocks Are Taking Over

We normally think of atomic clocks as the gold standard in timekeeping. The very definition of a second — in modern times, at least — is 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of a stationary cesium-133 atom at a temperature of 0K. But there is a move to replace that definition using optical clocks that are 100 times more accurate than a standard atomic clock.

In recent news, the Boulder Atomic Clock Optical Network — otherwise known as BACON — compared times from three optical clocks and found that the times differed a little more than they had predicted, but the clocks were still amazingly accurate relative to each other. Some of the links used optical fibers, a method used before. But there were also links carried by lasers aimed from one facility to another. The lasers, however didn’t work during a snowstorm, but when they did work the results were comparable to the optical fiber method.

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Skid Steer Robot Chassis Takes A Beating

[Engineering After Hours] wanted a highly maneuverable robot chassis with a tight turning radius. Skid steering seemed to be the perfect solution, but the available commercial options didn’t take his fancy. Thus, a custom build was the answer – with impressive results.

The build packs two large RC motors, one for each side, with each driving two wheels through a belt drive. This reduces the electronics required to the bare minimum for skid steering. It’s all assembled within a plasma-cut metal chassis which is more than tough enough to take some hard knocks.

One of the primary goals on the build was to eliminate the risk of vibrations and shock damaging the motors and gearboxes. Many off-the-shelf designs couple the wheels directly to gearbox output shafts, potentially damaging the expensive components over time. In this design, a separate bearing assembly is used to take the load from the wheels instead.

It’s a great example of how an engineering-first approach can build a sturdy ‘bot with a minimum of fuss. Outfitted with some fat off-road tyres the performance is impressive, with the ‘bot having no trouble tearing it up in mud, snow, and water.

We’ve seen other great builds from [Engineering After Hours] before, like the active aero RC build. Video after the break.

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Nixie Shot Timer Adds Useful Elegance To Espresso Machine

Once you’ve ground the beans and tamped the grounds just so, pulling the perfect shot of espresso comes down to timing. Ideally, the extraction should last 20-30 seconds, from the first dark drips to the tan and tiger-striped crema on top that gives the espresso a full aftertaste.

[Marco] has a beautiful espresso machine that was only missing one thing: an equally beautiful shot timer with a Nixie tube display. Instead of messing with the wiring, [Marco] took the non-invasive approach and is using a DIY coil to detect the magnetic field of the espresso machine’s pump and start a shot timer.

An LM358-based op-amp magnifies the current induced by the machine and feeds it to an Arduino Nano, which does FFT calculations. [Marco] found a high-voltage interface driver to switch 170 V to the Nixies instead of using two handfuls of transistors. Grab yourself a flat white and check it out after the break.

The last Nixies may have been mass-produced in the 1980s, but never fear — Dalibor Farny is out there keeping the dream alive and making new Nixies.

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Real Time Object Detection For $59

There was a time when making a machine to identify objects in a camera was difficult, even without trying to do it in real time. But now, you can do it with a Jetson Nano board for under $60. How well does it work? Watch [Murtaza’s] video below and see what you think.

The first few minutes of the video piqued our interest, and good thing, too, because the 50 lines of code get a 50-plus minute video! It is worth watching, though, because there’s a lot of good information about how to apply this technique in your own projects.

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Bare-Metal STM32: Please Mind The Interrupt Event

Interruptions aren’t just a staple of our daily lives. They’re also crucial for making computer systems work as well as they do, as they allow for a system to immediately respond to an event. While on desktop computers these interrupts are less prominent than back when we still had to manually set the IRQ for a new piece of hardware using toggle switches on an ISA card, IRQs along with DMA (direct memory access) transfers are still what makes a system appear zippy to a user if used properly.

On microcontroller systems like the STM32, interrupts are even more important, as this is what allows an MCU to respond in hard real-time to an (external) event. Especially in something like an industrial process or in a modern car, there are many events that simply cannot be processed whenever the processor gets around to polling a register. Beyond this, interrupts along with interrupt handlers provide for a convenient way to respond to both external and internal events.

In this article we will take a look at what it takes to set up interrupt handlers on GPIO inputs, using a practical example involving a rotary incremental encoder.

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Hackaday Podcast 111: 3D Graphics Are Ultrasonic, Lobotomizing Alexa, 3D-Printing Leaky Rockets, And Gaming The Font System

Hackaday editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams curate a week of great hacks. Physical displays created in 3D space are a holy grail, and you can make one with 200 ultrasonic transducers, four FPGAs, and a lot math. Smart speakers have one heck of a microphone array in them, it’s yours for the hacking if you just roll your own firmware. Hobby servos can be awful, but this week we saw they can be made really great by cracking open the DC motor to add a simple DIY position sensor. And lasers are making their way into car headlights; we illuminate the situation in this episode.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (~60 MB)

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