Open Source Paramotor Using Quadcopter Tech

Have you ever dreamed of flying, but lack the funds to buy your own airplane, the time to learn, or the whole hangar and airstrip thing? The answer might be in a class of ultralight aircraft called powered paragliders, which consist of a soft inflatable wing and a motor on your back. As you may have guessed, the motor is known as a paramotor, and it’s probably one of the simplest powered aircraft in existence. Usually little more than big propeller, a handheld throttle, and a gas engine.

But not always. The OpenPPG project aims to create a low-cost paramotor with electronics and motors intended for heavyweight multicopters. It provides thrust comparable to gas paramotors for 20 to 40 minutes of flight time, all while being cheaper and easier to maintain. The whole project is open source, so if you don’t want to buy one of their kits or assembled versions, you’re free to use and remix the design into a personal aircraft of your own creation.

It’s still going to cost for a few thousand USD to get a complete paraglider going, but at least you won’t need to pay hangar fees. Thanks to the design which utilizes carbon fiber plates and some clever hinges, the whole thing folds up into a easier to transport and store shape than traditional paramotors with one large propeller. Plus it doesn’t hurt that it looks a lot cooler.

Not only are the motors and speed controls borrowed from the world of quadcopters, but so is the physical layout. A traditional paramotor suffers from a torque issue, as the big propeller wants to twist the motor (and the human daring enough to strap it to his or her back) in the opposite direction. This effect is compensated for in traditional gas-powered paramotor by doing things like mounting the motor at an angle to produce an offset thrust. But like a quadcopter the OpenPPG uses counter-rotating propellers which counteract each others thrust, removing the torque placed on the pilot and simplifying design of the paraglider as a whole.

If you still insist on the fixed-wing experience, you could always get some foam board and hope for the best.

[Thanks to Luke for the tip.]

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Adding Upgrades To A Stock Motorcycle

In today’s world of over-the-air firmware upgrades in everything from cars to phones to refrigerators, it’s common for manufacturers of various things to lock out features in software and force you to pay for the upgrades. Even if the hardware is the same across all the models, you can still be on the hook if you want to unlock anything extra. And, it seems as though Suzuki might be following this trend as well, as [Sebastian] found out when he opened up his 2011 Vstrom motorcycle.

The main feature that was lacking on this bike was a gear indicator. Even though all the hardware was available in the gearbox, and the ECU was able to know the current gear in use, there was no indicator on the gauge cluster. By using an Arduino paired with an OBD reading tool (even motorcycles make use of OBD these days), [Sebastian] was able to wire an LED ring into the gauge cluster to show the current gear while he’s riding.

The build is very professionally done and is so well blended into the gauge cluster that even we had a hard time spotting it at first. While this feature might require some additional lighting on the gauge cluster for Suzuki to be able to offer this feature, we have seen other “missing” features in devices that could be unlocked with a laughably small amount of effort.

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Scooter Hauls Kids With A Little Heavy Metal

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Similarly, where there’s a paying customer and a well stocked metalworking shop, there will also be a way. That’s about all the backstory you need to understand this latest creation from [Richard Day] of 42Fab. A customer asked him to build something that didn’t exist, and in a few hours he not only fabricated it from scratch but documented the whole thing for our viewing pleasure.

The object in question is a mount that would allow the customer to pull a “Burley Bee” kid trailer behind their electric scooter. The trailer is only meant for a bicycle, but the expected stresses of getting pulled around by a scooter seemed similar enough that [Richard] figured it should work. Especially since the ride height of the scooter lined up almost perfectly with the trailer’s tongue. The trick is, he wanted to avoid making permanent changes to either the scooter or the trailer.

On the scooter side, [Richard] came up with a clamp arrangement that would squeeze onto the frame. This gave him plenty of strength, without having to put any holes in the scooter. To create the clamp he took two pieces of 1/4″ x 2″ steel flat bar and welded 5/16″ nuts to them. By drilling the threads out of outer nuts they act as bushings, so cranking down on the bolts draws the two pieces together. To simplify the alignment, he welded the nuts to the bars while the bolts were threaded in, so he knew everything would be in place.

For the trailer side, he took another piece of flat steel and turned it into a “U” shape by cutting almost all the way through the back of it and then folding it over in his vice. A bead of metal was then laid in the cut with the welder to strengthen it back up. [Richard] used this opportunity to demonstrate the difference between pushing and pulling the torch while welding, which is an interesting tip to file away. A hole drilled through the two sides and a little grinding, and it’s ready to mount.

Between the two fabricated components is some flat stock welded at an eyed up angle. As [Richard] says in the video, the nice thing about these one-off projects is that you can basically design on the fly. Plus you can always use a hammer to make some final adjustments.

While his isn’t the first bike trailer hack we’ve seen here at Hackaday, it would be fair to say it’s something of a rarity around these parts. Usually we get word of somewhat larger bits of kit getting dragged around.

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GPS Overlays Give Real Life Racing A Video Game Feel

Racing is certainly exciting for the person rocketing around the track fast enough to get the speedometer into the triple digits, and tends to be a decent thrill for the spectators if they’ve got good seats. But if you’re just watching raw race videos on YouTube from the comfort of your office chair it can be a bit difficult to appreciate. There’s a lack of context for the viewer, and it can be hard to get the same sense of speed and position that you’d have if you saw the event first hand.

In an effort to give his father’s racing videos a bit more punch, [DusteD] came up with a clever way of adding video game style overlays to the recordings. The system provides real-time speed, lap times, and even a miniature representation of the track complete with a marker to show where the action is taking place. The end result is that recordings of Dad’s exploits on the track could pass as gameplay footage from Gran Turismo (we know GT doesn’t have motorcycles, but you get the idea).

The first part of the system is the tracker itself, which consists of a GPS receiver, an Arduino Pro Micro, and an SD card module. [DusteD] powers the device with two 18650 cells in parallel, and a DC-DC boost converter to step it up to 5V. Everything is contained in a 3D printed enclosure that he designed in OpenSCAD, with the only external elements being a toggle switch, a momentary switch, and most critically, a set of LEDs.

These LEDs play into the second part of the system, the software. The blinking LEDs are positioned so they’ll get picked up by the camera, which is then used to help synchronize the data stored on the SD card with the video. [DusteD] came up with some software that will take the speed and position information from the card, and turn it into PNG files with transparent backgrounds. These are then placed on top of the video with the help of FFmpeg. It takes a little adjustment to get everything lined up properly, but as the video after the break shows the end result is very impressive.

This build reminds us of the Raspberry Pi powered GPS helmet camera we featured a few years back, and it’s interesting to see how the two projects achieved what’s essentially the same goal in different ways.

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The Electric Vehicles Of Electromagnetic Field: The Ottermobile And The Ottercar

If you’ve followed these pages over the last few weeks, you’ll have seen an occasional series of posts featuring the comedic electric vehicle creations of the British Hacky Racers series, which will make their debut at the forthcoming Electromagnetic Field hacker camp. So far these intrepid electro-racers have come largely from the UK hackerspace and Robot Wars communities, but it was inevitable that before too long there would arrive some competition from further afield.

[Jan Henrik] and [Niklas Fauth] are a pair of prolific German hardware hackers whose work you may have seen from time to time in other fields. When they heard about Hacky Racers with barely two weeks until they were due to set off for England for EMF, they knew they had to move fast. The Ottermobile and the Ottercar are the fruits of their labours, and for vehicles knocked together in only two or three days they show an impressive degree of sophistication.

In both cases the power comes courtesy of hoverboard wheels with integrated motors. If you cast your mind back to last year’s SHA Camp in the Netherlands, our coverage had a picture of them on a motorised armchair, so this is a drive system with which they have extensive experience. The Ottercar is based upon a lengthened Kettler kids’ tricycle with the larger variant of the hoverboard motors, and unusually it sports three-wheel drive. Control for the rear pair comes from a hoverboard controller with custom firmware, while the front is supplied by a custom board. The Ottermobile meanwhile is a converted Bobby Car, with hoverboard drive. It’s an existing build that has been brought up to the Hacky Racer rules, and looks as though it could be one of the smaller Hacky Racers.

At the time of writing there is still just about enough time to create a Hacky Racer for Electromagnetic Field. Following the example set from Germany, it’s possible that the hoverboard route could be one of the simplest ways to do it.

Power Steering Pump Repurposed for Great Speed

Electric bikes are getting a lot of attention lately. Pretty much anyone can buy a kit online and get a perfectly street legal ride with plenty of range. But if you don’t want to take the kit route, and you’d rather take a tack that will get you noticed more around these parts, take some notes from [Jule553648]’s recent build that definitely isn’t using any parts from a kit.

The motor from the build is an electric power steering pump from a junkyard car. This gets mounted on a one-off rear bike rack and drives the rear tire with help from some gears from a pocket bike gearbox from eBay. A lot of the parts in this build were designed and built using CAD and a machine shop, and the parts for the battery and the power controller were sourced via China to save on cost.

The whole build has a homemade vibe that we find irresistible. The bike can go 35 km/h on level ground without breaking a sweat and has about 40 km of range which is nothing to scoff at. It might even be street legal depending on the wattage of the motor and whether or not you live in Europe (where throttles are generally not allowed on electric bikes). If you’re lacking a machine shop, though, we featured a very well-built kit ebike a while back that you could use as a model to get your feet wet.

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FOSSCON 2018: Hacking the Indego Bike Sharing API

It’s often said that necessity of the mother of invention, but as a large portion of the projects we cover here at Hackaday can attest, curiosity has to at least be its step-mother. Not every project starts with a need, sometimes it’s just about understanding how something works. That desire we’ve all felt from time to time, when we’ve looked at some obscure piece of hardware or technology and decided that the world would be a slightly better place if we cracked it open and looked at what spilled out.

That’s precisely the feeling Eric O’Callaghan had when he looked out the window of his Philadelphia apartment a few years back and saw something unusual. Seemingly overnight, they had built an automated Indego bike sharing station right across the street. Seeing the row of light blue bicycles sitting in their electronic docks, he wondered how the system worked, and what kind of data they might be collecting. He didn’t need to rent a bike, he hadn’t even ridden one in years, but he suddenly had a strong urge to go across the street and learn as much as he could about this system.

He recently presented those findings during FOSSCON 2018 at the International House in Philadelphia, in the hopes that others might be interested in getting involved. Currently Eric is one of the only people who’s investigating the public data Indego offers, and as his personal MySQL database has now surpassed 15 million rows of data, he’s hoping to get some developers with big data experience into the fray. His approach to making this data useful is an interesting one which I’ll dive into after the break.

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