Large Tip Driven Copter Turns Very Slowly

Picking propeller size for any aircraft, but especially VTOLs, it’s a tradeoff between size and RPM. You can either move a large volume of air slowly or a small volume of air quickly. Small and fast tend to be the most practical for many applications, but if you’re thinking outside the box like [amazingdiyprojects], you can build a massive propeller and make it fly at just one revolution per second. (Video, embedded below the break.)

One of the challenges of large propellers is their high torque requirements. To get around this, [amazingdiyprojects] drives the 5m diameter propeller from the tips using electric motors with propellers. The blades are simple welded aluminum frames covered with heat-shrunk packing tape, braced with wires for stiffness.

The flight controller, with its own battery, is prevented from spinning with the blades by counteracting the spin of a small DC motor. Each blade is equipped with a servo-driven control surface, which can give roll and pitch control by adjusting deflection based on the blade’s radial position.

[amazingdiyprojects] control setup is very creative but somewhat imprecise. Instead of trying to write a custom control scheme, he configured the old KK2.15HC flight controller for a hexacopter. Each control servo’s PWM signal routes through a commutator disc with six sectors, one for each motor of the virtual hexacopter. This means each of the servos switches between six different PWM channels throughout its rotation. To compensate for lag when switching between channels, [amazingdiyprojects] had to tune the offset of the commutator disc otherwise it would veer off in the wrong direction. After a second test flight session to tune the flight controller settings, control authority improved, although it is still very docile in terms of response.

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Solar Plane Might Be Able To Last Through The Night

“Just add solar panels to the wings” is a popular suggestion for improving the flight times of fixed-wing drones. However, the reality is not so simple, and it’s easy to hurt rather than help flight times with the added weight and complexity. The team at [Bearospace Industries] has been working on the challenge for the while, and their Solar Dragon aircraft recently had a very successful test flight, producing about 50% more power than it was consuming.

Instead of just trying to slap solar panels to an existing plane, an airframe should ideally be designed from the ground up as a balancing act between a range of factors. These include weight, efficiency, flight envelope, structural integrity, and maximum surface area for solar panels. All the considerations are discussed by [Bearospace] in an excellent in-depth video, which is an indispensable resource for anyone planning to build a solar plane.

[Bearospace] put all the theory into practice on Solar Dragon, which incorporates over 250 W of high-efficiency Maxeon C60 solar cells on the wing, tail, and triangular fuselage. The cells were wired to match their maximum power point voltage as closely as possible to the plane’s 3S lithium-ion battery pack, enabling the solar cells to charge the battery directly. To prevent overcharging, a solid state relay was used to disconnect the solar cells from the battery as required.

The batteries maintained the same average state of charge during the entire one-hour late morning flight, even though the panels were only connected 65% of the time. The team expects they might be able to get even better performance from the cells with a good MPPT charger, which will be required for less than ideal solar conditions.

Solar Dragon has a much larger payload capacity than was used during the test flight, more than enough for an MPPT charger and a significantly larger battery. With this and a long list of other planned improvements, it might be possible for the Solar Dragon to charge up during the day and fly throughout the night on battery power alone. One interesting potential approach mentioned is to also store energy in the form of altitude during the day, and use the aircraft’s slow sink rate to minimize battery usage at night.

Solar planes come up every few months on Hackaday, with [rctestflight] being one of the usual suspects. You also don’t need solar panels for long flight times, as [Matthew Heiskell] proved with a 10-hour 45 minute flight on battery power alone.

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E-paper Price Tags Combined To Create A Large Wireless Display

E-paper price tags have become popular for retail stores over the past few years, which is great for hackers since we now have some more cheap commodity hardware to play with. [Aaron Christophel] went all on creating grid displays with E-paper price tags, up to a 20×15 grid.

E-paper price tags are great for these kinds of projects, since they are wireless, lightweight, and can last a long time with the onboard batteries. To mount the individual tags on the plywood backboard,[Aaron] simply glued Velcro to the backboard of the tags. The displays’ firmware is based on the reverse engineering work of [Dmitry Grinberg], flashed to a few hundred tags using a convenient 3D printed pogo pin programming jig. All the displays are controlled via a Zigbee USB dongle plugged into a PC running station software.

[Aaron] is also experimenting with the displays removed from their enclosure and popped into a 3D printed grid frame. The disadvantage is the loss of the battery holders and the antenna, which are both integrated into the enclosure. He plans to get around this by powering the displays from a single large battery, and connecting an ESP32 to the displays via ISP or UART.

This project comes hot on the heels of another E-ink grid display project that uses Bluetooth and a rather clever update scheme.

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BPS.Space Succesfully Lands A Model Rocket

If you’ve been following [Joe Barnard]’s rocketry projects for the past few years, you’ll know that one of his primary goals has been to propulsively land a model rocket like SpaceX. Now, 7 years into the rollercoaster journey, he has finally achieved that goal with the latest version of his Scout rocket.

Rocket touching down
We have touchdown!

Many things need to come together to launch AND land a rocket on standard hobby-grade solid fuel rocket motors. A core component is stabilization of the rocket during the entire flight, which achieved using a thrust-vectoring control (TVC) mount for the rocket motors and a custom flight computer loaded with carefully tuned guidance software. Until recently, the TVC mounts were 3D printed, but [Joe] upgraded it to machined aluminum to eliminate as much flex and play as possible.

Since solid-fuel rockets can’t technically be throttled, [Joe] originally tried to time the ignition time of the descent motor in such a manner that it would burn out as the rocket touches down. The ignition time and exact thrust numbers simply weren’t repeatable enough, so in his 2020 landing attempts, he achieved some throttling effect by oscillating the TVC side to side, reducing the vertical thrust component. This eventually gave way to the final solution, a pair of ceramic pincers which block the thrust of the motors as required.

Another interesting component is the landing legs. Made from light carbon fiber rods, they are released by melting a rubber band with nichrome wire and fold into place under spring tension. They also had to be carefully refined to absorb as much impact as possible without bouncing, which killed a few previous landing attempts.

Scrolling back through [Joe]’s videos and seeing the progress in his engineering is absolutely inspiring, and we look forward to his future plans. These include a functional scale model of the belly-flopping starship, a mysterious “meat rocket”, and the big one, a space shot to exceed 100 km altitude.

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3D Printed Braiding Machine Brings Back Some History

Mechanizing the production of textiles was a major part of the industrial revolution, and with the convenience of many people are recreating the classic machines. A perfect example of this is [Fraens]’ 3D printed braiding machine, which was reverse engineered from old photos of the early machines.

The trick behind braiding is the mesmerizing path the six bobbins need to weave around each other while maintaining the correct tension on the strands. To achieve this, they slide along a path in a guide plate while being passed between a series of guide gears for each section of the track. [Fraens] cut the guide plate components and the base plate below it from acrylic and mounted them together with standoffs to allow space for the guide gears.

Each of the six bobbins contains multiple parts to maintain the correct tension. The strands are fed through a single guide ring, where the braid is formed, and through pair of traction gears. All the moving parts are driven by a single 24 V motor and can produce about 42 cm of a braided cord per minute, and you can even set up the machine to braid around an inner core.

This braiding machine is just one in a series of early industrial machines recreated by [Fraens] using 3D printing. The others include a sewing machine, and a power loom, and a generator.

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Hackaday Prize 2022: A Hefty Hoverboard Rover

Popular consumer products often become the basis of many hacker projects, and hoverboards are a good example of this. [Tanguy] is using the drivetrain from a pair of hoverboards to build a beefy little rover platform with independent suspension.

Since hoverboards were designed to move around fully grown humans, the motors have the torque to spare for this 25 kilogram (55 pound) rover. For rough terrain, each of the four motor/wheel combos is mounted to arms bolted together with 3D printed parts and thick laser-cut aluminum. Suspension is simple and consists of a couple of loops of bungee cord. The chassis uses aluminum extrusion bolted together with aluminum plates and more printed fittings.

It doesn’t look like the rover is running yet, but [Tanguy] intends to power it with an electric scooter battery and control it with his own Universal Robot Remote. He also added an E-stop to the top and a cheap indoor PTZ camera for FPV. We look forward to seeing the functional rover and how it handles terrain.

We’ve seen hoverboard motors get used in other rover projects, but also for scootersskateboards, and even a hydroelectric turbine. It’s also possible to use them as is by mounting them to existing chassis’ to create electric carts.

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Ultimate Bokeh With A Projector Lens

Bokeh is a photography term that’s a bit difficult to define but is basically soft, aesthetically pleasing background blur, often used to make a subject stand out. Also called “background separation” or “subject isolation”, achieving it optically requires a fast lens with an aperture below 2.8 or preferably lower. These lenses can get very expensive, but in the video after the break [Matt] from [DIY Perks] blows all the commercially available options out of the water. Using an old episcope projector, he built a photography rig with background separation equivalent to that of a non-existent 35mm f0.4 lens.

Unlike most conventional projectors used to project a prerecorded image, episcopes were used to project an image of physical objects, like books. To use this lens directly in a camera is impossible, due to the size of the imaging circle projected out the back of the lens. At a diameter of 500mm, there is simply no imaging sensor available to capture it. Instead, [Matt] built a projection screen for the image and photographed it from the opposite side with a normal camera.

The projection screen was made by sandwiching a sheet of diffuser film between two sheets of clear acrylic held in a frame of aluminum extrusions. To block out all other light, [Matt] added aluminum shrouds on either side of the screen, which also serves to mount the lens and a camera. The shroud on the lens’ side is mounted on a separate aluminum frame, enabling the image to be focused by adjusting the distance between the screen and lens. Linear rods and bearings on 3D printed mounts allow smooth motion, while a motor-driven lead screw connected to a wired remote does the actual adjustment. The gap between the two halves was covered with bellows made from black paper. Continue reading “Ultimate Bokeh With A Projector Lens”