When Sticks Fly

When it comes to hobby rotorcraft, it almost seems like the more rotors, the better. Quadcopters, hexacopters, and octocopters we’ve seen, and there’s probably a dodecacopter buzzing around out there somewhere. But what about going the other way? What about a rotorcraft with the minimum complement of rotors?

And thus we have this unique “flying stick” bicopter.  [Paweł Spychalski]’s creation reminds us a little of a miniature version of the “Flying Bedstead” that NASA used to train the Apollo LM pilots to touch down on the Moon, and which [Neil Armstrong] famously ejected from after getting the craft into some of the attitudes this little machine found itself in. The bicopter is unique thanks to its fuselage of carbon fiber tube, about a meter in length, each end of which holds a rotor. The rotors rotate counter to each other for torque control, and each is mounted to a servo-controlled gimbal for thrust vectoring. The control electronics and battery are strategically mounted on the tube to place the center of gravity just about equidistant between the rotors.

But is it flyable? Yes, but just barely. The video below shows that it certainly gets off the ground, but does a lot of bouncing as it tries to find a stable attitude. [Paweł] seems to think that the gimballing servos aren’t fast enough to make the thrust-vectoring adjustments needed to keep a stick flying, and we’d have to agree.

This isn’t [Paweł]’s first foray into bicopters; he earned “Fail of the Week” honors back in 2018 for his coaxial dualcopter. The flying stick seems to do much better in general, and kudos to him for even managing to get it off the ground.

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Hackaday Podcast Ep17: Are Cheap Microcontrollers Worth It? Android On Your Bike. Plus Food Printers And Coffee Bots

Join editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams as they recount a week of fascinating hacks. We take a good look at the PMS150C, a microcontroller that literally costs pennies but can only be flashed once. SNES emulators have a new trick up their sleeves to make low-def a lot less low, and you retro enthusiasts will either hate or love the NES zapper chandelier. Elliot’s enamored by a bike computer running Android core, and both Mike and Elliot delve into the food hacking scene, be it meat, chocolate, coffee, or of course frosting!

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (60 MB or so.)

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Flying Sticks Are Now A Thing

Fixed-wing planes and helicopters are no longer the darling of the RC world. Even quadcopters and other multirotors are starting to look old hat, as the community looks to ever more outrageous designs. [rctestflight] has slimmed things down to the extreme with this coaxial bicopter build, also known as the Flying Stick (Youtube video, embedded below).

The initial design consists of two brushless outrunner motors fitted with props, rotating in opposite directions to cancel out their respective torques. Each is mounted on a gimbal, setup to provide control authority. iNav is used as a flight controller, chosen due to its versatile motor mixing settings. The craft was built to test its ability at recovery from freefall, as a follow-on from earlier attempts at building a brushless “rocket” craft.

Performance is surprisingly good for what is fundamentally two props on a stick. Initial tests didn’t quite manage a successful recovery, but the repaired single-gimbal version almost achieves the feat. Multirotors in general struggle with freefall recovery, so more research in this area is definitely worthwhile. Video after the break.

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The Best New Quad Is A Bicopter

RCExplorer, or [David], or just ‘The Swede’, has come up with a bicopter kit. Yes, there are a lot of people making frames and kits for quadcopter, multicopters, drones, and so forth, but [David] is really the leader in weird multicopters. Now, we have the weirdest multicopter imaginable as a kit, complete with firmware that works.

[David] is one of the great unsung heroes of the drone and multicopter world. He’s famous for rocket knives, even though that really doesn’t have anything to do with drones, he bought an airplane for his front yard (again, little to do with drones), he was one of the first to take a glider up to 100,000 feet with a balloon, and he’s been one of the main forces behind tricopters as a superior — or at least cooler — platform for aerial acrobatics and camera work. There’s a lot of work being done to the various firmwares to support tricopters, and we have [David] to thank for that.

Like [David]’s earlier tricopter kits, this frame is made entirely out of carbon fiber plate, square tube, and threaded standoffs. It also looks like batman’s drone. The firmware — the real trick for a bicopter — is stock betaflight, and there are a few problems with the stock firmware. The bicopter doesn’t like flying backwards, tuning is fiddly, and it’s harder to fly than a quad on rails. That’s to be expected with a platform as weird as a bicopter, but this kit does open the door to firmware developers hacking and making the bicopter features better.

This is what delivery drones will look like, once the people who think delivery drones are a good idea learn physics.

While pure bicopters are great, the release of what will surely be a popular bicopter with a good community of firmware developers means the door is open to a simple VTOL fixed wing, not unlike a V-22 Osprey.

Remember, San Francisco tech bros, if you need a delivery drone, you need three things: long range, VTOL capability, and payload capacity. A quad or hexacopter will not get you there, and fixed wings will give you lift for free. There is no Moore’s Law for batteries, and right now if you want to ship a bottle of shampoo 20 miles in 30 minutes, the way to do that is with a drone that looks like a V-22 Osprey. Please, delivery drone bros, learn physics, use a tilt-rotor, and learn to put the battery in the wing. This is how you found a company that will get an easy $100M valuation.

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