ArduRover Boat Uses Tupperware To Float

There’s nothing quite like the sight of a plastic box merrily sailing its way around a lake to symbolise how easy it is to get started in autonomous robotics. This isn’t a project we’re writing about because of technical excellence, but purely because watching an autonomous tupperware box navigate a lake by itself is surprisingly compelling viewing. The reason that [rctestflight] built the vessel was to test out the capabilities of ArduRover. ArduRover is, of course, a flavour of the extremely popular open source ArduPilot, and in this case is running on a Pixhawk.

The hardware itself is deliberately as simple as possible: two small motors with RC car ESCs, a GPS, some power management and a telemetry module are all it takes. The telemetry module allows the course/mission to be updated on the fly, as well as sending diagnostic data back home. Initially, this setup performed poorly; low GPS accuracy combined with a high frequency control loop piloting a device with little inertia lead to a very erratic path. But after applying some filtering to the GPS this improved significantly.

Despite the simplicity of the setup, it wasn’t immune to flaws. Seaweed in the prop was a cause of some stressful viewing, not to mention the lack of power required to sail against the wind. After these problems caused the boat to drift off course past a nearby pontoon, public sightings ranged from an illegal police drone to a dog with lights on its head.

If you want to use your autonomous boat for other purposes than scaring the public, we’ve written about vessels that have been used to map the depth of the sea bed, track aircraft, and even cross the Atlantic.

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Gliding Back Home From 60,000ft

If you want to play around with high altitudes, weather balloons are the way to go. With a bit of latex and some helium, it’s possible to scrape up against the edge of space without having to start your own rocketry program. [Blake] was interested in doing just this, and decided to build a near space glider which could capture the journey.

There are certain challenges involved with this flight regime, which [Blake] worked to overcome. There was significant investment in the right antennas and radio hardware to enable communication and control of the aircraft at vast distances. Batteries were chosen for their ability to work at low temperatures in the high altitude environment, and excess heat from the transmitters was use to keep them warm.

The glider was also fitted with an Ardupilot Mega which would control the gliders’s flight after separation from the lift balloon. [Blake] had some success flying the aircraft at 60,000 feet, but found that due to communications issues, the autopilot was doing a better job. The initial flight was largely a success, with the glider landing just 9 miles off target due to headwinds.

We’ve seen glider builds on other autopilot platforms, too. Video after the break.

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Simple Quadcopter Testbed Clears The Air For Easy Algorithm Development

We don’t have to tell you that drones are all the rage. But while new commercial models are being released all the time, and new parts get released for the makers, the basic technology used in the hardware hasn’t changed in the last few years. Sure, we’ve added more sensors, increased computing power, and improved the efficiency, but the key developments come in the software: you only have to look at the latest models on the market, or the frequency of Git commits to Betaflight, Butterflight, Cleanflight, etc.

With this in mind, for a Hackaday prize entry [int-smart] is working on a quadcopter testbed for developing algorithms, specifically localization and mapping. The aim of the project is to eventually make it as easy as possible to get off the ground and start writing code, as well as to integrate mapping algorithms with Ardupilot through ROS.

The initial idea was to use a Beaglebone Blue and some cheap hobby hardware which is fairly standard for a drone of this size: 1250 kv motors and SimonK ESCs, mounted on an f450 flame wheel style frame. However, it looks like an off-the-shelf solution might be even simpler if it can be made to work with ROS. A Scanse Sweep LIDAR sensor provides point cloud data, which is then munched with some Iterative Closest Point (ICP) processing. If you like math then it’s definitely worth reading the project logs, as some of the algorithms are explained there.

It might be fun to add FPV to this system to see how the mapping algorithms are performing from the perspective of the drone. And just because it’s awesome. FPV is also a fertile area for hacking: we particularly love this FPV tracker which rotates itself to get the best signal, and this 3D FPV setup using two cameras.

Project Sea Rendering Autonomously Renders Sea Bottoms

[Geir] has created a pretty neat device, it’s actually his second version of an autonomous boat that maps the depths of lakes and ponds. He calls it the Sea Rendering. The project is pretty serious as the hull was specially made of fiberglass. The propulsion is a simple DC motor and the rudder is powered by an RC servo. A light and flag adorn the top deck making the small craft visible to other larger boats that may be passing by. Seven batteries are responsible for all of the power requirements.

Sea Rendering

The craft’s course is pre-programmed in Mission Planner and uses ArduPilot loaded on an Arduino to steer to the defined way points. An onboard GPS module determines the position of the boat while a transducer measures the depth of the water. Both position and depth values are then saved to an SD card. Those values can later be imported into a software called Dr Depth that generates a topographic map of the water-covered floor.

[Geir] has sent this bad boy out on an 18 km journey passing through 337 way points. That’s pretty impressive! He estimates that the expected run time is 24 hours at a top speed of 3 km/h, meaning it could potentially travel 72 km on a single charge while taking 700 depth measurements during the voyage.

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The Burrito Bomber

Burrito Bomber

The Burrito Bomber, created by the folks at Darwin Aerospace, claims to be “the world’s first Mexican food delivery system.” The delivery process starts with the customer placing an order through the Flask based Burrito Bomber webapp. The customer’s location is grabbed from their smartphone using the HTML5 Geolocation API and used to generate a waypoint file for the drone. Next, the order is placed into a delivery tube, loaded onto the drone, and the waypoint file is uploaded to the drone. Finally, the drone flies to your location and drops the delivery tube. A parachute deploys to safely deliver the tasty payload.

The drone is based on a Skywalker X-8 airframe and the Quantum RTR Bomb System. The bomb system provides the basic mechanism to hold and drop a payload, but Darwin Airspace designed their own 3D printed parts for the delivery tube. These parts are available on Thingiverse. The drone is controlled autonomously by ArduPilot, which uses the webapp’s waypoint output to guide the drone to the target and release the payload.

Unfortunately, this can’t be a commercial product yet due to FAA regulations, but the FAA is required to figure out commercial drone regulations by 2015. Hopefully in 2015 we’ll all be able to order burritos by air.

For all the source and models, check out the group’s Github. There’s also a video of the bomber in action after the break.

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Rocket Telemetry From UAV Hardware

When we posted our call for rocketry hacks and builds, we expected to see a few altitude sensors and maybe a GPS module or two. Apparently, we forgot similar hardware is very popular in the remote-controlled aircraft world, and can be successfully added to a rocket as [Kevin] and his ArduPilot equipped J motor rocket showed us

The ArduPilot is a small Arduino comparable board designed for UAVs, quadcopters, and other whirligigs not powered by rocket motors. To get real-time telemetry from his rocket, [Kevin] attached a GPS receiver and an XBee transmitter. When launched on an H165 motor, [Kevin] was able to keep a radio lock on his rocket, allowing him to pull down data in real-time.

There are a few drawbacks to using the ArduPilot to collect flight data; the ArduPilot only reports ground speed, a somewhat useless feature if the vehicle is going straight up. Also, there is no way for [Kevin] to record data to an SD card; the ground team must be able to receive the XBee, lest bits of data go missing. For most rockets the radio issue shouldn’t be a problem. [Kevin] launched the same hardware on a J motor and was able to receive data from 3600 AGL.

OpenVulture, Software For Unmanned Vehicles

barbie

The first talk of ShmooCon was [Ethan O’Toole] and [Matt Davis] presenting their OpenVulture software for unmanned vehicles. In the initial stages, they had just planned on building software for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, but realized that with the proper planning it could be used with any vehicle: airplanes, cars, boats, and subs (or more specifically, their Barbie PowerWheels). The software is in two parts. First is a library that lets you communicate with each of the vehicle’s modules. The second half is the actual navigation software.

They’ve spent a lot of time sourcing hardware modules. They are looking for items that work well, aren’t too expensive, and have a fairly plug and play implementation. For their main processor, they wanted something that wasn’t a microcontroller and could run a full Linux system. The ARM based NSLU2 NAS seems to be the current frontrunner. You can find the opensource software and descriptions of the supported modules on their site.

They’re building the first test UAVs now. One has a 12 foot wingspan for greater lift and stability. We’ve covered the Arduino based Ardupilot and other UAVs in the past.