Drone Filming Chile’s Urban Bike Race Takes Some Fancy Radio Gear

Drones have revolutionized the world of videography in perhaps the biggest way since the advent of digital hardware. They’re used to get shots that are impractical or entirely impossible to get by any other means. The [Dutch Drone Gods] specialize in such work. When it came to filming an urban mountain bike race in a dense Chilean city, they had to bust out some serious tricks.

The FPV video feed was grainy, but good enough to keep the pilot on track. The drone carried a separate second camera for capturing high-quality footage of the run.

Typically, running a drone chase cam behind a biker would require some good first-person flying skills and a quick drone. However, for the Red Bull Valparaiso Cerro Abajo urban downhill event, this alone would not be enough. The tight course winds down staircases between thick concrete walls and even through houses, presenting huge challenges to maintaining signal integrity. Without a clear video signal, the pilot can’t fly the drone without crashing.

To make this all possible, the team used a variety of techniques to help combat the uncooperative radio environment. Directional antennas were used to target different sections of the course. Additionally, a second drone was flown high above the course carrying a radio repeater, helping provide a better line-of-sight contact to the camera drone following the riders when the buildings would otherwise block the signal to the pilot.

Even with all this work, the signal was still scratchy and would cut out at some points. However, with a bit of blind faith when cutting through the worst areas, the [Dutch Drone Gods] and the [Red Bull] team were able to put together an amazing FPV drone shot shadowing [Tomas Slavik] on his run down the extremely difficult urban course.

Details on the precise hardware are scarce. However, it’s something that any experienced drone builder could probably whip up without too much trouble. The idea of using a drone-based repeater is particularly exciting, and something we’re sure could help out many pilots who find themselves operating in difficult urban environments.

We’ve seen plenty of great FPV stories over the years, from early experiments in the 1980s to fun DIY cockpit builds of today. Video after the break.

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A Simple 3D Printed Rover Design

There are plenty of RC cars and robot platforms out there that you can buy. However, there’s an understanding that’s gained from building your own rover from the ground up. Which is precisely what [Alex] got from developing this compact 3D printed rover design.

The design is by no means fast; it’s intended more for crawling around “at a slow deliberate pace” as [Alex] puts it. Off-the-shelf 12 V gear motors are used to provide plenty of torque to get around. The modular design means that it can be built with just wheels, or set up with tracks fitted for additional performance in softer terrain. Skid steering is used to turn the platform.

Fitted with a Raspberry Pi Zero 2W, the rover can be controlled remotely over WiFi. A separate FPV camera and transmitter is then used to stream video remotely to pilot the bot. However, if you’re so inclined, you can probably use the Raspberry Pi to stream the video, too.

It’s a fun build and a great way to learn about building rovers and robots that move. We’ve seen some other interesting tracked rovers before, too. Video after the break.

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Neat Little Airboat Built From Old Drone Parts

Multirotor drones tend to need quality and well-matched parts in order to stay balanced and in the air. However, crash enough drones and you might find you’ve got plenty of mistmatched bits and pieces lying around. In just this vein, [Jason Suter] decided to raid his junk box and built himself a little FPV airboat using spare parts.

The airboat consists of a 3D printed hull, paired with a separate power module. The power module houses the flight controller, and mounts twin motors on the rear. Fitted with three-blade props, they propel the boat and allow it to be steered with differential thrust instead of a rudder. It’s then fitted with a camera to allow it to be piloted with an FPV headset.

Handling still isn’t perfect, and water on the FPV antenna causes some issues with video transmission. However, it’s a fun project that makes good use of old parts. Of course, if you’re having vibration problems with your own FPV projects, consider building a vibration-absorbing mount. Video after the break.
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Building A Quick And Dirty RC Mower With FPV

Mowing the lawn can be a tedious job. Tired of the effort involved, [i did a thing] decided to enlist the help of [Makers Muse] to build a radio controlled mower instead to make the backyard chore a little more interesting. (Video, embedded below.)

The mowing itself is done by a typical push-along garden mower with a gasoline engine. However, it’s fitted with twin DC gear motors harvested from a mobility scooter. The mowers original front wheels were also removed, replaced with casters from the same mobility scooter that donated the drive train. Off-the-shelf speed controllers were then used to run the motors, and hooked up to an RC receiver. The mower could then be steered via a radio controller set up with mixing to enable the twin-motor setup to steer and drive.

An FPV camera was then fitted on the front of the mower, sitting on a stack of kitchen sponges that act as a isolator to negate the effects of the engine vibrations on the camera. The result is a relatively smooth video feed, allowing the operator to sit at a comfortable distance and control the mower via radio and goggles.

It may not be the most effective way of trimming the lawn, but it does look like a fun project, and sometimes that’s all that matters. Of course, you could always upgrade to a fully autonomous mower instead.

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Vibration Isolation Helps Improve FPV Video Feed

First-person view technology has become hugely popular in the RC community, letting the user get a vantage point as though they were actually within their tiny scale vehicle. It can be difficult to get a good, clean video feed though, particularly in models that have a lot of drivetrain vibration. [Engineering After Hours] decided to tackle this problem with a simple vibration isolator design. (Video, embedded below.)

The first step is to analyse the vibration to get an idea of the frequencies that are most important to target. WIth that done, a simple 3D printed camera mount is designed with three flexible joints between the camera and the base which is rigidly coupled to the RC boat or car’s body. The modal analysis tools in Fusion 360 were used to get a rough idea of the frequency response of the system, helping to get things in the ballpark with a minimum of fuss.

The final design does help cut down on vibrations, though it is unable to counteract heavy vibration from driving on extremely rough surfaces. In these cases, [Engineering After Hours] recommends the use of a gimbal instead. Proper damping can be a godsend in many applications; bricks can make a huge difference for your 3D printer, for example.

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High Speed Flight In A Homebrew FPV Cockpit

First-person view, or FPV, has become hugely popular in RC flying circles. A pair of video goggles lets the pilot fly with vision from the plane itself. To make things even more realistic, the team at [FliteTest] built a replica cockpit with working controls and took it down to the field for testing. (Video, embedded below.)

Since the pilot is wearing video goggles, aesthetics aren’t the key here. A RC transmitter was gutted for its gimbal and potentiometers. The former fitted with a long stick for aileron and elevator control, and the latter hooked up to pedals for the rudder. There’s even a proper throttle handle. It’s a low-budget build, with PVC pipe and bungee straps doing much of the work, but that doesn’t detract from the fun factor one bit. The team later upped the stakes, flying a faster model with the rig at speeds up to 120 mph.

Interesting to note is the somewhat visceral reaction by the pilot when crashing, as the combination of first-person view video and realistic controls gives a powerful sense that one is actually in a real plane. FPV flying actually has a longer history than you might expect, with roots as far back as the 1980s. Continue reading “High Speed Flight In A Homebrew FPV Cockpit”

Attack Of The Flying 18650s

When somebody builds a quadcopter with the express purpose of flying it as fast and aggressively as possible, it’s not exactly a surprise when they eventually run it into an immovable object hard enough to break something. In fact, it’s more like a rite of passage. Which is why many serious fliers will have a 3D printer at home to rapidly run off replacement parts.

Avid first person view (FPV) flier [David Cledon] has taken this concept to its ultimate extreme by designing a 3D printable quadcopter that’s little more than an 18650 cell with some motors attached. Since the two-piece frame can be produced on a standard desktop 3D printer in a little over two hours with less than $1 USD of filament, crashes promise to be far less stressful. Spend a few hours during the week printing out frames, and you’ll have plenty to destroy for the weekend.

While [David] says the overall performance of this diminutive quadcopter isn’t exactly stellar, we think the 10 minutes of flight time he’s reporting on a single 18650 battery is more than respectable. While there’s still considerable expense in the radio and video gear, this design looks like it could be an exceptionally affordable way to get into FPV flying.

Of course, the argument could be made that such a wispy quadcopter is more likely to be obliterated on impact than something larger and commercially produced. There’s also a decent amount of close-quarters soldering involved given the cramped nature of the frame. So while the total cost of building one of these birds might be appealing to the newbie, it’s probably a project best left to those who’ve clocked a few hours in on the sticks.

We’ve seen quite a few 3D printed quadcopter frames over the years, but certainly none as elegant as what [David] has created here. It’s an experiment in minimalism that really embraces the possibilities afforded by low-cost desktop 3D printing, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see it become the standard by which future designs are measured.