Speaking from experience, it’s always fun to build something with the specific intention of destroying it. Childhood sessions spending hours building boats from scrap wood only to take them to a nearby creek to bombard them with rocks — we disrespectfully called this game “Pearl Harbor” — confirms this. As does the slightly more grown-up pursuit of building this one-time-use clay pigeon camera.
The backstory on this build, which dates all the way back to 2017, is that [Thomas] was invited to a birthday bash at the local shooting range for a round of trap shooting. For the uninitiated, trap is a sport that involves launching a clay disc (known as a pigeon) into the air as a moving target and shooting it down with a shotgun. It’s a lot of fun, but [Thomas] was looking for a way to make it even more fun.
After toying with the idea of buying a cheap drone for aerial target practice, he settled on the idea of making a clay pigeon camera. After procuring a cheap keychain camera, he designed a simple wind vane mount for the camera, to keep it pointed in one direction rather than spinning with the pigeon. The wind vane was 3D printed and attached to the pigeon with a skate bearing, and the rig was ready for the range. The snuff film below tells the whole tale; the camera performed admirably and the wind vane did a good job of steadying the camera for all of about five seconds, until the inevitable and dramatic demise of the pigeon.
Watching this makes us feel like we need more projects designed for intentional destruction. Safety first, of course, but we’d be keen to see what everyone comes up with.
Granted, you may never find yourself in the position of being stuck in a raging snowstorm in the middle of the Oregon wilderness, but if you do, this is a good one to keep in mind. According to news stories and the Lane County Sheriff Search and Rescue Facebook page, an unnamed motorist who was trying to negotiate an unmaintained road through the remote Willamette National Forest got stuck in the snow. This put him in a bad situation, because not only was he out of cell range, but nobody knew where he was or even that he was traveling, so he wouldn’t be missed for days.
Thankfully, the unlucky motorist played all his cards right. Rather than wandering off on foot in search of help, he stayed with his vehicle, which provided shelter from the elements. Conveniently, he also happened to have a drone along with him, which provided him with an opportunity to get some help. After typing a detailed text message to a friend describing his situation and exact location, he attached the phone to his drone and sent it straight up a couple of hundred feet — enough to get a line-of-sight connection to a cell tower. Note that the image above is a reenactment by the Search and Rescue team; it’s not clear how the resourceful motorist rigged up the drone, but we’re going to guess duct tape was involved.
When he brought the drone back down a few minutes later, he found that the queued text had been sent, and the cavalry was on the way. The Search and Rescue unit was able to locate him, and as a bonus, also found someone else nearby who had been stranded for days. So it was a win all around thanks to some clever thinking and a little technology.
Remember that “PhoneDrone” scam from a while back? With two tiny motors and props that could barely lift a microdrone, it was pretty clearly a fake, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a pretty good idea. Good enough, in fact, that [Nick Rehm] came up with his own version of the flying phone case, which actually works pretty well.
In the debunking collaboration between [Mark Rober], [Peter Sripol], and the indispensable [Captain Disillusion], you’ll no doubt recall that after showing that the original video was just a CGI scam, they went on to build exactly what the video purported to do. But alas, the flying phone they came up with was manually controlled. While cool enough, [Nick Rehm], creator of dRehmFlight, can’t see such a thing without wanting to make it autonomous.
To that end, [Nick] came up with the DroneCase — a bicopter design that allows the phone to hang vertically. The two rotors are on a common axis and can swivel back and forth under control of two separate micro-servos; the combination of tilt rotors and differential thrust gives the craft full aerodynamic control. A modified version of dRehmFlight runs on a Teensy, while an IMU, a lidar module, and a PX4 optical flow sensor round out the sensor suite. The lidar and flow sensor both point down; the lidar is used to sense altitude, while the flow sensor, which is basically just the guts from an optical mouse, watches for translation in the X- and Y-axes.
After a substantial amount of tuning and tweaking, the DroneCase was ready for field tests. Check out the video below for the results. It’s actually quite stable, at least as long as the batteries last. It may not be as flexible as a legit drone, but then again it probably costs a lot less, and does the one thing it does quite well without any inputs from the user. Seems like a solid win to us.
Ornithopters have been — mostly — the realm of science fiction. However, a paper in Advanced Intelligent Systems by researchers at Lund University proposes that flapping wings may well power the drones of the future. The wing even has mock feathers.
Birds, after all, do a great job of flying, and researchers think that part of it is because birds fold their wings during the upstroke. Mimicking this action in a robot wing has advantages. For example, changing the angle of a flapping wing can help a bird or a drone fly more slowly.
If you regularly fly your drones outdoors, you’ve probably worried about getting your pride and joy stuck in a big tree at some point. But flying indoors doesn’t guarantee you’ll be safe either, as [Scott Williamson] found out. He once got his tiny 65 mm Mobula 6HD quadcopter stuck in a roof beam at an indoor sports complex, and had to set about a daring rescue.
The first job was recon, with [Scott] sending up another drone to survey the situation. From there, he set about trying to prod the stuck quadcopter free with a improvised lance fitted to the front of a larger drone. But this ended up simply getting the larger bird stuck as well. It eventually managed to free itself, though it was damaged severely when [Scott] caught it as it fell. As told to Hackaday, [Scott] thus decided he needed to build a mock-up of the situation at home, to help him devise a rescue technique.
In the end, [Scott] settled on a grappling hook made of paperclips. A drone lofted a long length of VHS tape over the roof beam, and he then attached the grappling hook from ground level. The VHS tape was then used to reel the hook up to the rafters, and snare the drone, bringing it back down to Earth.
It took some perseverance, but [Scott] ended up rescuing his tiny drone from its lofty prison. The part we love most about this story, though, is that [Scott] planned the recovery like a heist or a cave rescue operation.
Early experiments involved building a headset on the cheap by using a smartphone combined with a set of simple headset magnifiers. With some simple modifications to off-the-shelf hardware, [JP] was able to build a serviceable headset with a smartphone serving as the display. Further work relied upon 3D printed blinds added on to a augmented-reality setup for even better results. [JP] also developed methods to use a joystick to fly a real RC aircraft. This was achieved by using an Android phone or ESP32 to interface with a joystick, and then spit out data to a board that produces PPM signals for broadcast by regular RC hardware.
[JP] put the rig to good use, using it to pilot a Parrot Disco flying wing drone. The result is a cheap method of flying FPV with added realism. The first-person view and realistic controls create a more authentic feeling of being “inside” the RC aircraft.
There are places that you can go in person, but for everything else, there’s FPV. Whether you’re flying race quads, diving the depths in a yellow submarine, or simply roving the surface of the land, we want to see your builds. If it’s remote controlled, and you feel like you’re in the pilot’s seat, it’s FPV.
When you say “first person view” many of you will instinctively follow up with “flight” or “drone”. But given the ease of adding a camera and remote control to almost any vehicle, there’s no reason to only fly the FPV skies. (Of course, we want to see your crazy quadcopter builds too.)
This contest isn’t exclusively about the vehicles either. If you’re working on the tech that makes FPV possible, we want you to enter. For instance, this simple quad/drone tracker will help keep your video feed running and your mind on flying. This cockpit will make the immersion more complete. And nobody likes the jello-cam effect that excess vibration can cause, so we’d like to see camera hacks as well.
And of course, your quads. Is your FPV quad too fast, too light, or does it fly too far? Show us. The contest starts now and runs until Jan 3, 2023, and there are three $150 shopping sprees courtesy of Digi-Key on the line. Get hacking!