According to legend, King Edward III once said: “If you want to train a longbowman, start with his grandfather.” Consistently making accurate hits with any bow, especially on moving targets, takes many hours of practice. Or, if you’re [Shane Wighton], you can spend a comparable amount of time building, debugging, and rebuilding a robotically-enhanced bow to do it.
The goal was to shoot flying targets out of the air, so [Shane] had to create a system that could track the position of the bow and the target, and automatically adjust the position of the bow and loose the arrow at exactly the right moment to intercept the target. The position tracking was done with the same Optitrack cameras [Shane] used on his robotic basketball hoop, with reflective marking balls on the bow, target, and the release mechanism. The auto-aiming is done with a two-axis rack and pinion mechanism driven by a pair of stepper motors. [Shane] first used the cheapest recurve bow he could find online, which caused accuracy issues likely related to the Archer’s paradox. The setup also made him repeatedly hit himself in the face, because the servo-operated release mechanism would release unexpectedly without having a proper anchor with his draw hand.
[Shane] eventually upgraded to a compound bow, which reduced the tension he had to hold while lining up the shot, but also increased the weight of the system dramatically. This leads him to fully embrace the mech suit look, and use a Steadicam vest to hold the weight of the bow. This finally allowed him to reliably William Tell shots and hit the flying targets.
When shooting archery, if you want to be accurate, you need arrows of uniform specification and quality. One important part of this is making sure each arrow has a spine of similar stiffness. Traditionally, this is checked in a very analog way by using weights and measuring deflection of the arrow spine, but it can be done electronically too with this tester from [dvd8n].
The principle of operation is simple. The arrow is held up by two supports, 28 inches apart. The user then presses down in the center of the arrow, deflecting it by a 1/2 inch where itreaches a stop , and load cells at either end of the tester measure the force required to deflect the arrow by the set amount.
It allows arrows to be electronically measured in a fashion that is compatible with existing standards for measurement. The Arduino hardware which measures the load cells can also easily run conversion maths to display the arrow’s measured stiffness in whatever common spine measurement standard is desired. The system can also weigh the arrows, a useful thing to know for the home fletcher.
That said, [Kamal Carter]’s build is pretty darn cool. He wisely chose to use just about the weakest bows you can get, the kind with strings that are basically big, floppy elastic bands that shoot arrows with suction-cup tips and are so harmless that they’re intended for children to play with and you just know they’re going to shoot each other the minute you turn your back no matter what you told them. Target acquisition is the job of an Intel RealSense depth camera, which was used to find targets and calculate the distance to them. An aluminum extrusion frame holds the bow and adjusts its elevation, while a long leadscrew and a servo draw and release the string.
With the running gear sorted, [Kamal] turned to high school physics for calculations such as the spring constant of the bow to determine the arrow’s initial velocity, and the ballistics formula to determine the angle needed to hit the target. And hit it he does — mostly. We’re actually surprised how many on-target shots he got. And yes, he did eventually get it to pull a [William Tell] apple trick — although we couldn’t help but notice from his, ahem, hand posture that he wasn’t exactly filled with self-confidence about where the arrow would end up.
A cutdown in high-altitude balloon (HAB) parlance refers to detaching a payload, and can refer to the act of severing a line or to the mechanism itself. How is this done? The most common way is the “hot wire” method: a segment of wire is heated rapidly with a high current, causing it to melt through something like a nylon line.
But there’s more than one way to solve a problem, and while documenting different cutdown methods, [KI4MCW] found that a caliper-style archery release plus hobby servo could be used as a high strength cutdown mechanism. An archery release (or bow release) is a tool to assist in holding the string of a bow in the drawn position, and cleanly release it at the touch of a lever or button. It occurred to [KI4MCW] that these features might be made to serve as a payload release as well, and you can see here the crude but successful prototype for a reusable cutdown.
The archery release [KI4MCW] obtained opens its jaws when a trigger-style lever on the side is pulled. The force required to trigger this is remarkably low, and a low-torque economical hobby servo easily does the job. In fact, the force needed to trip the release is so low that [KI4MCW] added a short rubber band to provide some opposing tension on the lever, just to be sure no spontaneous triggers occurred. The device hasn’t flown yet, but the prototype looks promising. Maybe a mechanism like this would be appropriate for a payload like dropping a high-altitude RC glider from a balloon.
Compound bows (unlike recurve bows, their more mechanically-simple relatives) use a levering system with pulleys and spring tension to grant the user a mechanical advantage. We’re not exactly sure what to call [Zünder’s] bow design. He shared his unconventional take on a DIY bow that uses coiled springs as well as some other unique features.
What we really dig about [Zünder]’s design is how easy it is to grasp how it all works. As he demonstrates using the bow, the way the levers, pulleys, and spring tension all work together is very clear. The 3D-printed quiver and arrow rest are nice added touches, and we especially love the use of three toothbrush heads to provide contained support for a nocked arrow. The ring of bristles are sturdy enough to easily support the shaft, and don’t interfere with the arrow’s fletching.