There’s no more famous road endurance race than the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where teams compete to see how far they can drive in a single 24-hour window. The race presents unique challenges not found in other types of racing. While RC airplanes may not have a similar race, [Daniel] a.k.a. [rctestflight] created a similar challenge for himself by attempting to fly an RC airplane non-stop for as long as he could, and a whole host of interesting situations cropped up before and during flight.
In order for an RC plane to fly for an entire day, it essentially needs to be solar powered. A large amount of strategy goes into a design of this sort. For one, the wing shape needs to be efficient in flight but not reduce the amount of area available for solar panels. For another, the start time of the flight needs to be balanced against the position of the sun in the sky. With these variables more or less fixed, [Daniel] began his flight.
It started off well enough, with the plane in an autonomous “return to home” mode which allowed it to continually circle overhead without direct human control. But after taking a break to fly it in FPV mode, [Daniel] noticed that the voltage on his battery was extremely high. It turned out that the solar charge controller wasn’t operating as expected and was shunting a large amount of solar energy directly into the battery. He landed and immediately removed the “spicy pillow” to avoid any sort of nonlinear event. With a new battery in the plane he began the flight again.
Even after all of that, [Daniel] still had some issues stemming from the aerodynamic nature of this plane specifically. There were some issues with wind, and with the flight controller not recognizing the correct “home” position, but all in all it seems like a fun day of flying a plane. If your idea of “fun” is sitting around and occasionally looking up for eight and a half hours. For more of [Daniel]’s long-term autonomous piloting, be sure to take a look at his solar tugboat as well.
Continue reading “24 Hours Of Le Airplanes”
Guitar Hero was a cultural phenomenon a little over a decade ago, and showed that there was a real fun time to be had playing a virtual instrument on a controller. There are several other similar games available now for different instruments, including one called Trombone Champ that [Hung Truong] is a fan of which replaces the traditional guitar with a trombone. The sliding action of a trombone is significantly different than the frets of a guitar, making it a unique challenge in a video game. But an extra challenge is building a controller for the game that works by playing a real trombone.
Unlike a guitar which can easily map finger positions to buttons, mapping a more analog instrument like a trombone with its continuous slide to a digital space is a little harder. The approach here was to use an ESP32 and program it to send mouse inputs to a computer. First, an air pressure sensor was added to the bell of the trombone, so that when air is passing through it a mouse click is registered, which tells the computer that a note is currently being played. Second, a mouse position is generated by the position of the slide by using a time-of-flight sensor, also mounted to the bell. The ESP32 sends these mouse signals to the computer which are then used as inputs for the game.
While [Hung Truong] found that his sensors were not of the highest quality, he did find the latency of the control interface, and the control interface itself, to be relatively successful. With some tuning of the sensors he figures that this could be a much more effective device than the current prototype. If you’re wondering if the guitar hero equivalent exists or not, take a look at this classic hack from ’09.
Continue reading “Trombone Controls Virtual Trombone”
Try to put yourself in the place of an engineer tasked with building a camera in 1961. Your specs include making it easy to operate, giving it automatic exposure control, and, oh yeah — you can’t use batteries. How on Earth do you accomplish that? With a very clever mechanism powered by light, as it turns out.
This one comes to us from [Alec Watson] over at Technology Connections on YouTube, which is a channel you really need to check out if you enjoy diving into the minutiae of the mundane. The camera in question is an Olympus Pen EES-2, which was the Japanese company’s attempt at making a mass-market 35-mm camera. To say that the camera is “solar-powered” is a bit of a stretch, as [Alec] admits — the film advance and shutter mechanism are strictly mechanical, relying on springs and things to power them. It’s all pretty standard camera stuff.
But the exposure controls are where this camera gets interesting. The lens is surrounded by a ring-shaped selenium photocell, the voltage output of which depends on the amount of light in the scene you’re photographing. That voltage drives a moving-coil meter, which waggles a needle back and forth. A series of levers and cams reads the position of the needle, which determines how far the lens aperture is allowed to open. A clever two-step cam allows the camera to use two different shutter speeds, and there’s even a mechanism to prevent exposure if there’s just not enough light. And what about that cool split-frame exposure system?
For a camera with no electronics per se, it does an impressive job of automating nearly everything. And [Alec] does a great job of making it interesting, too, as he has in the past with a deep-dive into toasters, copy protection circa 1980, and his take on jukebox heroics.
Continue reading “A Solar-Powered Point-and-Shoot, Circa 1961”
It’s taken years to perfect them, but desktop 3D printers that uses a conveyor belt instead of a traditional build plate to provide a theoretically infinite build volume are now finally on the market. Unfortunately, they command a considerable premium. Even the offering from Creality, a company known best for their budget printers, costs $1,000 USD.
But if you’re willing to put in the effort, [Adam Fasnacht] thinks he might have the solution. His open source modification for the Ender 3 Pro turns the affordable printer into a angular workhorse. We wouldn’t necessarily call it cheap; in addition to the printer’s base price of $240 you’ll need to source $200 to $300 of components, plus the cost of the plastic to print out the 24 components necessary to complete the conversion. But it’s still pretty competitive with what’s on the market. Continue reading “Infinite Axis Printing On The Ender 3”
Playing music as part of a group typically requires that not only are all of the instruments tuned to each other, but also that the musicians play in a specific key. For some musicians, like pianists and percussionists, this is not terribly difficult as their instruments are easy to play in any key. At the other end of the spectrum would be the diatonic harmonica, which is physically capable of playing in a single key only. Other orchestral instruments, on the other hand, are typically made for a specific key but can transpose into other keys with some effort. But, if you have 3D printed your instrument like this bass clarinet from [Jared], then you can build it to be in whichever key you’d like.
The bass clarinet is typically an instrument that comes in the key of B flat, but [Jered] wanted one that was a minor third lower. Building a traditional clarinet is not exactly the easiest process, so he turned to his 3D printer. In order to get the instrument working with the plastic parts, he had to make a lot of the levers and keys much larger than the metal versions on a standard instrument, and he made a number of design changes to some of the ways the keys are pressed. Most of his changes simply revert back to clarinet designs from the past, and it’s interesting to see how simpler designs from earlier time periods lend themselves to additive manufacturing.
While [Jared] claims that the two instruments have slightly different tones, our amateur ears have a hard time discerning the difference. He does use a standard clarinet bell but other than that it’s impressive how similar the 3D printed version sounds to the genuine article. As to why it’s keyed differently than the standard, [Jared] points out that it’s just interesting to try new things, and his 3D printer lets him do that. We’d be happy to have another instrument in our 3D printed orchestra, too.
Continue reading “3D Printing The Key To A Bass Clarinet”
With climate change concerns front of mind, the world is desperate to get to net-zero carbon output as soon as possible. While direct electrification is becoming popular for regular passenger cars, it’s not yet practical for more energy-intensive applications like aircraft or intercontinental shipping. Thus, the hunt has been on for cleaner replacements for conventional fossil fuels.
Hydrogen is the most commonly cited, desirable for the fact that it burns very cleanly. Its only main combustion product is water, though its combustion can generate some nitrogen oxides when burned with air. However, hydrogen is yet to catch on en-masse, due largely to issues around transport, storage, and production.
This could all change, however, with the help of one garden-variety chemical: ammonia. Ammonia is now coming to the fore as an alternative solution. It’s often been cited as a potential way to store and transport hydrogen in an alternative chemical form, since its formula consists of one nitrogen atom and three hydrogen atoms.However, more recently, ammonia is being considered as a fuel in its own right.
Let’s take a look at how this common cleaning product could be part of a new energy revolution.
Continue reading “Japan Wants To Decarbonize With The Help Of Ammonia”
A problem which beset early telephone engineers was that as the length of their lines increased, so did the distortion of whatever signal they wanted to transmit. This was corrected once they had gained an understanding of the capacitance and inductance of a long cable. The same effects hamper attempts to place microphones on long lines, and [Leo’s Bag of Tricks] has a solution for doing that using Cat5 cable. The application is audio surveillance, but we think the technique is useful enough to have application elsewhere.
The solution which you can see in the video below the break will be familiar to teletype aficionados who have encountered current loops, in that it creates an analogue current loop. There is a standing DC current in the tens of miliamperes, and this has the audio imposed upon it by an amplifier and shunt transistor. The audio can be easily retrieved using a pair of small transformers, leading to efficient transfer over as much of a kilometer of Cat5 cable. We’re guessing it’s not quite audiophile quality, but it’s useful to know that a current loop can be just as useful in the analogue domain as in the digital. If the subject interests you, we did a feature on them a few years ago.
Continue reading “Current Loop Extends Wired Microphones Past 1 Km”