Montana, rightfully nicknamed the big sky country, is a beautiful state with abundant wide open landscapes, mountains, and wildlife. It’s a fantastic place to visit or live, but if you happen to reside in the city of Butte, that amazing Montana landscape is marred by the remnants of an enormous open pit mine. Not only is it an eyesore, but the water that has filled the pit is deadly to any bird that lands there. As a result, a group of people have taken to some ingenious methods to deter birds from landing in the man-made toxic lake for too long.
When they first started, the only tool they had available was a rifle. Scaring birds this way is not the most effective way for all species, though, so lately they have been turning to other tools. One of which is a custom boat built on a foam bodyboard which uses a plethora of 3D printed parts and sensors to allow the operator to remotely pilot the boat on the toxic lake. The team also has a drone to scare birds away, plus an array of other tools like high-powered lasers, propane cannons, and various scopes in order to put together the most effective response to help save wildlife.
While this strategy runs the gamut of the tools most commonly featured here, from 3D printers to drones to lasers, the only thing that’s missing is some automation like we have seen with other drone boat builds we’ve featured in the past. It takes quite a bit of time to continually scare birds off this lake, even through the winter, so every bit of help the team can get could go even further.
Continue reading “Saving Birds With 3D Printed Boats”
With all the futuristic technology currently at our disposal, it seems a little bizarre that most passenger vehicles are essentially the same thing that they were a century ago. Four wheels, a motor, and some seats would appear to be a difficult formula to beat. But in the 3D printing world where rapid prototyping is the name of the game, some unique vehicle designs have been pushed out especially in the RC world. One of the latest comes to us from [RCLifeOn] in the form of a single-wheeled RC snowmobile.
While not a traditional snowmobile with tracks, this one does share some similarities. It has one drive wheel in the back printed with TPR for flexibility and it also includes studs all along its entire circumference to give it better traction on ice. There are runners in the front made from old ice skates which the vehicle uses for steering, and it’s all tied together with an RC controller and some lithium batteries to handle steering and driving the electric motor.
There were some design flaws in the first iteration of this vehicle, including a very large turning radius, a gearing setup with an unnecessarily high torque, and a frame that was too flexible for the chain drive. [RCLifeOn] was also testing this on a lake which looked like it was just about to revert to a liquid state which made for some interesting video segments of him retrieving the stuck vehicle with a tree branch and string. All in all, we are hopeful for a second revision in the future when some of these issues are hammered out and this one-of-a-kind vehicle can really rip across the frozen wastes not unlike this other interesting snowmobile from a decade ago.
Continue reading “RC Snowmobile Makes Tracks On Ice”
Surfing is a fun and exciting sport but a lot of beginners can get discouraged with how little time is spent actually riding waves while learning. Not only are balance and wave selection critical skills that take time to learn, but a majority of time in the water is spent battling crashing waves to get out past the breakers. Many people have attempted to solve this problem through other means than willpower alone, and one of the latest attempts is [Andrew W] with a completely DIY surfboard with custom impeller jet drives.
The surfboard is hand-made by [Andrew W] himself using a few blocks of styrofoam glued together and then cut into a generic surfboard shape. After the rough shaping is done, he cuts out a huge hole in the back of the board for the jet drive. This drive is almost completely built by [Andrew] as well including the impeller pumps themselves which he designed and 3D printed. The pair of impellers are driven by some beefy motors and a robust speed controller that connects wirelessly to a handheld waterproof throttle to hold while surfing. Once everything was secured in the motor box the surfboard was given a final shaping and then glassed. The final touch was an emergency disconnect attached to a leash so that if he falls off the board it doesn’t speed away without him.
The build is impressive not only for [Andrew]’s shaping skills but for his dedication to a custom jet drive for the surfboard. He spent over a year refining the build and actually encourages people not to do this as he thinks it took too much time and effort, but we’re going to have to disagree with him there. Even if you want to try to build something a lot simpler, builds like these look like a lot of fun once they’re finished. The build seems flawless and while he only tested it in a lake we’re excited to see if it holds up surfing real waves in an ocean.
Continue reading “Surfboard Gets Jet Upgrades”
If you want to send some instruments out on the lake or the ocean, you’ll want something that floats. Sure, if you need to be underwater, or if you can fly over the water there are other options, but sometimes you want to be on the surface. For stability, it is hard to beat a catamaran — a boat with two hulls that each support one side of a deck. If that sounds like the ocean sensor platform of your dreams, try printing the one from [electrosync].
The boat looks super stable and has a brushless motor propulsion system. The design purpose is to carry environmental and water quality monitoring gear. It can hold over 5 kg of payload in the hull and there’s an optional deck system, although the plans for that are not yet included in the STL files.
Continue reading “Printed Catamaran”
There are a number of famous (yet fictional) sea monsters in the lakes and oceans around the world, but in the Caspian Sea one turned out to be real. This is where the first vehicles specifically built to take advantage of the ground effect were built by the Soviet Union, and one of the first was known as the Caspian Sea Monster due to the mystery surrounding its discovery. While these unique airplane/boat hybrids were eventually abandoned after several were built for military use, the style of aircraft still has some niche uses and can even be used as a platform for autonomous drones.
This build from [Think Flight] started off as a simple foam model of just such a ground effect vehicle (or “ekranoplan”) in his driveway. With a few test flights the model was refined enough to attach a small propeller and battery. The location of the propeller changed from rear-mounted to front-mounted and then back to rear-mounted for the final version, with each configuration having different advantages and disadvantages. The final model includes
an Arudino running an autopilot program called Ardupilot, and with an air speed sensor installed the drone is able to maintain flight in the ground effect and autonomously navigate pre-programmed waypoints around a lake at high speed.
For a Cold War technology that’s been largely abandoned by militaries in favor of other modes of transportation due to its limited use case and extremely narrow flight tolerances, ground effect vehicles are relatively popular as remote controlled vehicles. This RC ekranoplan used the same Ardupilot software but paired with a LIDAR system instead of GPS to navigate its way around its environment.
Thanks to [TTN] for the tip!
Continue reading “Ground Effect Drone Flies Autonomously”
Thanks to the availability of cheap, powerful autopilot modules, building small autonomous vehicles is now well within the reach of the average maker. [rctestflight] has long been an enthusiast working in this space, and has been attempting long range autonomous missions on the lakes of Washington for some time now. His latest attempt proved to be a great success. (Video, embedded below.)
The build follows on from earlier attempts to do a 13 km mission with an airboat, itself chosen to avoid problems in early testing with seaweed becoming wrapped around propellers. For this attempt, [Daniel] chose to build a custom boat hull out of fiberglass, and combine both underwater propellers and a fan as well. The aim was to provide plenty of thrust, while also aiming for redundancy. As a bonus, the fan swivels with the boat’s rudder, helping provide greater turn authority.
After much tuning of the ArduPilot control system, the aptly-named SS Banana Slug was ready for its long range mission. Despite some early concerns about low battery voltages due to the cold, the boat completed its long 13 km haul across the lake for a total mission length of over three hours. Later efficiency calculations suggests that the boat’s onboard batteries could potentially handle missions over 100 km before running out.
It goes to show that, even with an off-the-shelf autopilot and mapping solution, there’s still a huge amount of engineering that goes into any successful long-range mission, whether land, sea or air.
Continue reading “Drone Boat Sails Seattle”