Aussies Find The True Meaning Of Drone Flight

Ah, stereotypes. Once they’ve solidified it’s surprisingly hard to shake them. When non-Australians think of a generic Aussie then, the chances are that a Crocodile Dundee type of character will spring to mind — a ‘Strine-speaking outdoorsman with a beer in hand. This group of Aussies aren’t helping the case, with a video posted by Australian drone retailer UAVme and featured by ABC News where a large multirotor lifts a guy in a lawn chair, beer in hand, over a lake to do some fishing.

Antics aside, having enough capacity to lift a person is pretty impressive. The drone in question appears to be a large hexacopter frame with rotors both below and above the boom, achieving an unusual dodecacopter configuration.

Of course we’re entertained by the sight, who wouldn’t envy them a spin under a drone in the relative safety of an environment where an unscheduled landing merely means getting wet? It seems Austrailia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority isn’t quite so happy though, as ABC reports the usual chorus of condemnation. Entertainingly though it’s unclear whether or not our plucky adventurer — named as [Sam Foreman] — has in fact broken any laws given that he’s not flown in restricted airspace, over people or habitation, or above the legal altitude.

This isn’t the first such story we’ve brought you from Down Under, back in 2016 an Aussie landed in hot water for picking up a Bunnings sausage in a bun with his drone.

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Putting The Coanda Effect To Work On A Quadcopter

The Coanda effect is an aerodynamic principle regarding the way fluids tend to flow along curved surfaces. This can be used to direct a flow, and [Tom Stanton] wanted to try out its application on a quadcopter. (Video embedded below.)

The project began by firing up the 3D printer, which made experimenting with a variety of different aerodynamic forms easy. Wishing to avoid simply putting a large obstruction in the way of an otherwise efficient propeller, the experiment first used impellers to direct flow sideways, over the edge of the Coanda domes. The impellers, combined with the Coanda domes, were a factor of 5 less efficient at generating thrust compared to a standard prop setup, but [Tom] persevered.

In testing, the drone was unable to fly outside of ground effect, with its weight exceeding its maximum thrust. However, [Tom] noted that the Coanda domes helped create a cushion of air when flying in this ground effect region that was far more than experienced with a typical prop drone.

Wanting some further success, [Tom] then replaced the impellers with standard drone props. This greatly improved performance, with the drone now able to fly out of ground effect and use far less power. However, its performance was still worse than a standard drone without Coanda domes fitted. [Tom] suspects that this is due to the weight penalty most of all.

While it’s unlikely you’ll see Coanda effect drones going mainstream anytime soon, [Tom]’s project goes to show that you can perform viable aerodynamic research at home with little more than a 3D printer and a fog machine. There’s plenty more fun you can have with the Coanda effect, too. Video after the break.

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Safety Systems For Stopping An Uncontrolled Drone Crash

We spend a lot of time here at Hackaday talking about drone incidents and today we’re looking into the hazard of operating in areas where people are present. Accidents happen, and a whether it’s a catastrophic failure or just a dead battery pack, the chance of a multi-rotor aircraft crashing down onto people below is a real and persistent hazard. For amateur fliers, operating over crowds of people is simply banned, but there are cases where professionally-piloted dones are flying near crowds of people and other safety measures need to be considered.

We saw a skier narrowly missed by a falling camera drone in 2015, and a couple weeks back there was news of a postal drone trial in Switzerland being halted after a parachute system failed. When a multirotor somehow fails while in flight it represents a multi-kilogram flying weapon widow-maker equipped with spinning blades, how does it make it to the ground in as safe a manner as possible? Does it fall in uncontrolled flight, or does it activate a failsafe technology and retain some form of control as it descends?

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Hackaday Links: August 11, 2019

By the time this goes to press, DEFCON 27 will pretty much be history. But badgelife continues, and it’d be nice to have a way of keeping track of all the badges offered. Martin Lebel stepped up to the challenge with a DEF CON 27 badgelife tracker. He’s been tracking the scene since March, and there are currently more than 170 badges, tokens, and shitty add-ons listed. Gotta catch ’em all!

Nice tease, Reuters. We spotted this story about the FAA signing off on beyond-visual-line-of-sight, or BVLOS, operation of a UAV. The article was accompanied by the familiar smiling Amazon logo, leading readers to believe that fleets of Amazon Prime Air drones would surely soon darken the skies with cargoes of Huggies and Tide Pods across the US. It turns out that the test reported was conducted by the University of Alaska Fairbanks along an oil pipeline in the Last Frontier state, and was intended to explore medical deliveries and pipeline surveillance for the oil industry. The only mention of Amazon was that the company reported they’d start drone deliveries in the US “in months.” Yep.

Ever wonder what it takes to get your widget into the market? Between all the testing and compliance requirements, it can be a real chore. Nathaniel tipped us off to a handy guide written by his friend Skippy that goes through the alphabet soup of agencies and regulations needed to get a product to market – CE, RoHS, WEEE, LVD, RED, CE for EMC. Take care of all that paperwork and you’ll eventually get a DoC and be A-OK.

A French daredevil inventor made the first crossing of the English Channel on a hoverboard on Sunday. Yes, we know it’s not an “actual” hoverboard, but it’s as close as we’re going to get with the physics we have access to right now, and being a stand-upon jet engine powered by a backpack full of fuel, it qualifies as pretty awesome. The report says it took him a mere 20 minutes to make the 22-mile (35-km) crossing.


We had a grand time last week around the Hackaday writing crew’s secret underground lair with this delightful Hackaday-Dilbert mashup-inator. Scroll down to the second item on the page and you’ll see what appears to be a standard three-panel Dilbert strip; closer inspection reveals that the text has been replaced by random phrases scraped from a single Hackaday article. It looks just like a Dilbert strip, and sometimes the text even makes sense with what’s going on in the art. We’d love to see the code behind this little gem. The strip updates at each page load, so have fun.

And of course, the aforementioned secret headquarters is exactly what you’d picture – a dark room with rows of monitors scrolling green text, each with a black hoodie-wearing writer furiously documenting the black arts of hacking. OpenIDEO, the “open innovation practice” of global design company IDEO, has issued a challenge to “reimagine a more compelling and relatable visual language for cybersecurity.” In other words, no more scrolling random code and no more hoodies. Do you have kinder, gentler visual metaphors for cybersecurity? You might win some pretty decent prizes for your effort to “represent different terms and ideas in the cybersecurity space in an accessible and compelling way.”

Drone On Drone Warfare, With Jammers

After the alleged drone attacks on London Gatwick airport in 2018 we’ve been on the look out for effective countermeasures against these rogue drone operators. An interesting solution has been created by [Ogün Levent] in Turkey and is briefly documented on in his Dronesense page on Crowdsupply. There’s a few gaps in the write up due to non-disclosure agreements, but we might well be able to make some good guesses as to the missing content.

Not one, but two LimeSDRs are sent off into the air onboard a custom made drone to track down other drones and knock them out by jamming their signals, which is generally much safer than trying to fire air to air guided missiles at them!

The drone hardware used by [Ogün Levent] and his team is a custom-made S600 frame with T-Motor U3 motors and a 40 A speed controller, with a takeoff weight of 5 kg. An Adventech single board computer is the master controller with a Pixhawk secondary and, most importantly, a honking great big 4 W, 2.4 GHz frequency jammer with a range of 1200 meters.

The big advantage of sending out a hunter drone with countermeasures rather than trying to do it on the ground is that, being closer to the drone, the power of the jammer can be reduced, thus creating less disturbance to other RF devices in the area – the rogue drone is specifically targeted.

One of the LimeSDRs runs a GNU radio flowgraph with a specially designed block for detecting the rogue drone’s frequency modulation signature with what seems to be a machine learning classification script. The other LimeSDR runs another *secret* flowgraph and a custom script running on the SBC combines the two flowgraphs together.

So now it’s the fun part, what does the second LimeSDR do? Some of the more obvious problems with the overall concept is that the drone will jam itself and the rogue drone might already have anti-jamming capabilities installed, in which case it will just return to home. Maybe the second SDR is there to track the drone as it returns home and thereby catch the human operator? Answers/suggestions in the comments below! Video after the break. Continue reading “Drone On Drone Warfare, With Jammers”

Designing Compact Gasoline Generator Prototype For Drone Use

Lithium batteries and brushless motors helped make multirotor drones possible, but batteries only last so long. Liquid fuels have far greater energy densities, but have not  been widely applied in these roles. [Tech Ingredients] has been experimenting with a compact gasoline-fueled generator, with the aim to extend drone flight times well beyond what is currently possible with batteries (Youtube link, embedded below).

The build began with a single-cylinder, four stroke engine. However, torque spikes and vibration made things difficult. After some iteration, the design settled on employing two single-cylinder two stroke engines, fitted with a timing belt to keep them 180 degrees out of phase. In combination with a pair of balanced flywheels, this keeps vibration to a minimum. Brushless motors are used as generators, combined with rectifier diodes and capacitors to smooth the voltage output. The generator is intended to be used in parallel with a lithium battery pack in order to ensure the drone always has power available, even in the event of a temporary malfunction.

This is a build with plenty of promise, and we can’t wait to see what kind of flight time can be achieved once the system is finished and flight ready. We’ve seen others experimenting with hybrid drones, too.

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Hybrid Drones Could Have Massively Extended Flight Times

Multirotor drones truly took off with the availability of lithium polymer batteries, brushless motors, and cheap IMUs. Their performance continues to improve, but their flight time remains relatively short due to the limits of battery technology. [Nicolai Valenti] aims to solve the problem by developing a hybrid generator for drones.

The basic concept consists of a small gasoline engine, connected to a brushless motor employed as a generator. The electricity generated is used to run the main flight motors of the multirotor drone. The high energy density of gasoline helps to offset the added weight of the generator set, and [Nicolai] is aiming to reach a goal of two hours of flight time.

There are many engineering problems to overcome. Engine starting, vibration and rectification are all significant challenges, but [Nicolai] is tackling them and has already commenced flight testing. Experiments are ongoing with 500 W, 1,000 W, and 2,000 W designs, and work is ongoing to optimise the engine and electronics package.

It’s a project that holds the potential to massively expand the range of operation for medium to large multirotors, and should unlock certain capabilities that have thus far been limited by short battery runtimes. Gasoline powered drones aren’t a new idea, but we’ve seen precious little in the hybrid space. We look forward to seeiing how this technology develops. Video after the break.

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