SpiderMAV Drone Shoots Webs To Perch And Stabilize

Introducing your friendly neighborhood SpiderMAV, a micro aerial vehicle that shoots webbing to enable it to hang from ceilings and stabilize itself horizontally using low power. It’s inspired by the Darwin’s bark spider that spins a circular web with anchor lines up to 25 meters (82 feet) long.

SpiderMAV perching and stabilizing modules

For the DJI Matrice 100 drone to hang from a ceiling, a compressed gas cylinder fires a magnet with a trailing polystyrene line up to a steel beam. The line can then be reeled in to the desired length. For horizontal stabilization, line-trailing magnets are fired horizontally instead and then reeled in to tension the lines.

To test the effectiveness of the system, a cross wind was produced using a fan. With the DJI’s attitude-hold mode, maximum X, Y and Z deviations were 136, 386 and 106 mm respectively. With the stabilization, however, the deviations were reduced to 47, 80 and 74 mm. The power requirements were also reduced to essentially nil. Watch it in action in the videos below.

SpiderMAV is the brainchild of Imperial College London’s Aerial Robotics Laboratory, led by [Mirko Kovac], and is still experimental. For example, a magnet release mechanism has yet to be built in. Perhaps a sharp tug by the reeling mechanism, or a sudden thrust by the drone would release the magnets. Or the permanent magnets could be replaced with electromagnets, provided the required current doesn’t offset the efficiency gains. What solutions can you come up with? Let us know in the comments.

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Hackerfarm Brings Light to Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has a long road to recovery, and part of this is the damaged infrastructure: much of the electricity distribution network was destroyed, and will take months or years to rebuild. The Japanese hacker group [Hackerfarm], founded by Hackaday friend [Akiba], is looking to help by sending some of their solar lanterns to provide off-grid light.

They’ve already shipped one batch, and are using the proceeds from sales of these paper lanterns to send more of them to Puerto Rico, where they will be given out to those who need them. The group has carried out similar projects before, distributing lanterns to Tsunami-hit areas of Japan and to Rwanda, where a women’s group builds and sells the lanterns. It seems like a great cause, and the design of the lanterns is pretty neat. We love that they provide an introduction to soldering and serve a higher purpose at the same time.

We’ve mentioned Hackerfarm before, both as part of a growing rural hackerspace scene, and because of their insane EL-wire creations and choreography. And [Akiba] gave a great talk at last year’s Supercon where he discussed the ins and outs of getting virtually anything done in Shenzhen. Check it out if you haven’t already.

Who Owns Arduino?

Who owns Arduino? We don’t mean metaphorically — we’d say that’s the community of users and developers who’ve all contributed to this amazing hardware/software ecosystem. We mean literally. Whose chips are on the table? Whose money talks? It looks like ARM could have a stake!

The Arduino vs Arduino saga “ended” just under a year ago with an out-of-court settlement that created a private holding company part-owned by both parties in the prior dispute over the trademark. And then, [Banzi] and the original founders bought out [Musto]’s shares and took over. That much is known fact.

The murky thing about privately held companies and out-of-court settlements is that all of the details remain private, so we can only guess from outside. We can speculate, however, that buying out half of the Arduino AG wasn’t cheap, and that even pooling all of their resources together, the original founders just didn’t have the scratch to buy [Musto] out. Or as the Arduino website puts it, “In order to make [t]his a reality, we needed a partner that would provide us with the resources to regain full ownership of Arduino as a company… and Arm graciously agreed to support us to complete the operation.” That, and the rest of the Arduino blog post, sure looks like ARM provided some funds to buy back Arduino.

We reached out to [Massimo Banzi] for clarification and he replied:

“Hi arm did not buy nor invest in arduino. The founders + Fabio Violante still own the company. As I wrote in the blog post we are still independent, open source and cross platform.”

We frankly can’t make sense of these conflicting statements, at least regarding whether ARM did or didn’t contribute monetary resources to the deal. ARM has no press release on the deal as we write this. Continue reading “Who Owns Arduino?”

Review: New 3G and Cat-M1 Cellular Hardware from Hologram

In July we reported on the launch of the Hologram developer program that offered a free SIM card and a small amount of monthly cellular data for those who wanted to build connectivity into their prototypes. Today, Hologram has launched some new hardware to go along with that program.

Nova is a cellular modem in a USB thumb drive form factor. It ships in a little box with a PCB that hosts the u-blox cellular module, two different antennas, a plastic enclosure, and a SIM card. The product is aimed at those building connected devices around single-board computers, making it easy to plug Nova in and get connected quickly.

This device that Hologram sent me is a 3G modem. They have something like 1,000 of them available to ship starting today, but what I find really exciting is that there is another flavor of Nova that looks the same but hosts a Cat-M1 version of the u-blox module. This is a Low Power Wide Area Network technology built on the LTE network. We’ve seen 2G and 3G modems available for some time now, but if go that route you’re building a product around a network which has an end-of-life concern.

Cat-M1 will be around for much longer and it is designed to be low power and utilizes a narrower bandwidth for less radio-on time. I asked Hologram for some power comparison estimates between the two technologies:

AVERAGE current consumption comparisons:

Cat-M1: as low as 100 mA while transmitting and never more than 190 mA
Equivalent 3G: as high as 680 mA while transmitting

PEAK current consumption comparisons (these are typically filtered through capacitors so the power supply doesn’t ever witness these values, and they are only momentary):

Cat-M1: Less than 490 mA
Equivalent 3G: As high as 1550 mA

This is an exciting development because we haven’t yet seen LTE radios available for devices — of course there are hotspots but those are certainly not optimized for low power or inclusion in a product. But if you know your ESP8266 WiFi specs you know that those figures above put Cat-M1 on a similar power budget and in the realm of battery-operated devices.

The Cat-M1 Nova can be ordered beginning today, should ship in limited quantities within weeks, with wider availability by the end of the year. If you can’t get one in the first wave, the 3G Nova is a direct stand-in from the software side of things.

I suspect we’ll see a lot of interest in Cat-M1 technology moving forward simply because of the the technology promises lower power and longer support. (I’m trying to avoid using the term IoT… oops, there it is.) For today, let’s take a look at the 3G version of the new hardware and the service that supports it.

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SiFive Announces RISC-V SoC

At the Linley Processor Conference today, SiFive, the semiconductor company building chips around the Open RISC-V instruction set has announced the availability of a quadcore processor that runs Linux. We’ve seen RISC-V implementations before, and SiFive has already released silicon-based on the RISC-V ISA. These implementations are rather small, though, and this is the first implementation designed for more than simple embedded devices.

This announcement introduces the SiFive U54-MC Coreplex, a true System on Chip that includes four 64-bit CPUs running at 1.5 GHz. This SoC is built with TSMC’s 28 nm process, and fits on a die about 30 mm². Availability will be on a development board sometime in early 2018, and if our expectations match the reality of SiFive’s previous offerings, you’ll be able to buy this Open SoC as a BGA package some months after that.

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Impressive Electric Quad Bike

[EV4] is a small Polish company that makes electric vehicles, like this rather cool electric quad It’s an impressive build, including two 1 kW motors and a tilting turning system that makes it more maneuverable than most quad bikes. It has big, wide tires, a raised battery and longitudinal arms that mean it can climb over obstacles. That all makes it great for off-road use, and it’s just 60 cm (just under 24 inches) wide, which is much smaller than most quad bikes. It also has a top speed of 35 km/h, which would make it somewhat illegal to use on the public roads in many places. As someone who can’t ride a two-wheel bike because of a lousy sense of balance, I’d love to build something like this. Has anyone got plans for something similar?

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A Bit Of Mainstream Coverage For The Right To Repair

Here at Hackaday, we write for a community of readers who are inquisitive about the technology surrounding them. You wouldn’t be here if you had never taken a screwdriver to a piece of equipment to see what makes it work. We know that as well as delving inside and modifying devices being core to the hardware hacker mindset, so is repairing. If something we own breaks, we try to work out why it broke, and what we can do to fix it.

Unfortunately, we live in an age in which fixing the things we own is becoming ever harder. Manufacturers either want to sell us now hardware rather than see us repair what breaks, or wish to exercise total control over the maintenance of their products. They make them physically impossible to repair, for example by gluing together a cellphone, or they lock down easy-to-repair items with restrictive software, for example tractors upon which every replacement part must be logged on a central computer.

This has been a huge issue in our community for a long time now, but to the Man In The Street it barely matters. To the people who matter, those who could change or influence the situation, it’s not even on the radar. Which makes a piece in the British high-end weekly newspaper The Economist particularly interesting. Entitled “A ‘right to repair’ movement tools up“, it lays out the issues and introduces the Repair Association, a political lobby group that campaigns for “Right to repair” laws in the individual states of the USA.

You might now be asking why this is important, why are we telling you something you already know? The answer lies in the publication in which it appears. The Economist is aimed at politicians and influencers worldwide. In other words, when we here at Hackaday talk about the right to repair, we’re preaching to the choir. When they do it at the Economist, they’re preaching to the crowd who can make a difference. And that’s important.

You may recognise the tractors mentioned earlier as the iconic green-and-yellow John Deere. We’ve written about their DRM before.

Neon sign, All Electronics Service, Portland, Visitor7 [CC BY-SA 3.0].