Open Source Motion Controller For DIY Drones

DJI recently introduced a slick motion controller that eschews the traditional dual-stick transmitter and allows you to fly their new “FPV Drone” with just one hand. The fact that it looks like it could double as the control stick for an X-Wing is just an added bonus. Unfortunately, that single model is the only thing the $199 USD controller is currently compatible with. Unwilling to get locked into the DJI ecosystem, [Paweł Spychalski] has developed an open source work-alike motion controller that brings gesture flying to home-built quadcopters and airplanes.

Now to be clear, you’ll still need a traditional transmitter to use this device. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, [Paweł] decided to implement his motion controller as an add-on for OpenTX hardware like the RadioMaster TX16S. It simply plugs into the trainer port on the back of the transmitter and acts as a secondary input. This greatly simplifies the design, as it essentially just needs to read angle data from its MPU-6050 gyro/accelerometer and forward it along to OpenTX over the serial port. Plus the fact that it’s connected to the trainer port means you can disable it and return to traditional controls in an instant if anything goes wrong.

Outside of the motion sensing gear, the ESP32-powered peripheral also has a thumb stick and a pair of push buttons nestled into its 3D printed frame. An OLED display provides some user feedback, and a holder for a 18650 cell is mounted to the back side as the controller will need its own power source when [Paweł] gets around to making its connection to the transmitter wireless.

In the video below, [Paweł] takes the motion controller for a test flight and comes away largely satisfied with the results. Some tweaks are in the works as you might expect for a first attempt, but nothing that would prevent you from building your own version today and experiencing what might be the next evolution of RC flying.

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A Camera Slider With A Twist

“Scope creep” is often derided as an obstacle between your idea and the delivery of a finished project. That may be, but sometimes the creep is the whole point. It’s how we end up with wonderful builds like this multi-axis differential camera slider.

We mention scope creep because that’s what [Jan Derogee] blames for this slider’s protracted development time, as well as its final form. The design is a bit unconventional in that it not only dollies the camera left and right but also works in pan and tilt axes, and it does this without putting any motors on the carriage. Instead, the motors, which are located near the end of the slider rails, transmit power to the carriage via loops of 217timing belt. It’s a little like the CoreXY mechanism; rotating the motors in the same direction and speed slides the carriage, while moving them in opposite directions pans the camera. A Sparkfun Pro Micro in the controller coordinates the motors for smooth multi-axis motion, and the three steppers — there’s a separate motor for the tilt axis — sound really cool all working at the same time. Check out the video below for the full story.

We’ve seen a few fun projects from [Jan] before. Check out his linear clock, the persistence of phosphorescence display, or his touchpad for retrocomputers.

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DIY Camera Motion Rig Is Mostly 3D Printed

These days, Youtube is more competitive than ever. Creators put out videos of wildly expensive, complex projects with equally pricy camera gear. [Do It Whenever?] wanted to join the arms race, building his own camera rig for smooth, swooping shots.

The rig consists of a series of 3D printed axes all joined together into a 6-axis motion rig. Additionally, actuators attached to the lens of the camera allow zoom and focus to be be controlled programmatically too. An Arduino runs the show, interpreting G-code and running the various axes, with a Raspberry Pi acting as a gateway to allow the rig to be commanded from PCs or smartphones.

Currently, control is largely manual, by entering G-code commands to move the rig in various ways. The rig can also have its motors temporarily disengaged by a button, allowing the camera to be aimed by hand, before holding the position. In this way, it acts as a highly versatile tripod. Future plans involve more automation if suitable open-source software can be found.

It’s an impressive rig, even if it hasn’t quite found the perfect software to fully exploit its capabilities yet. We’ve seen similar builds before, too. Video after the break.

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Up Your Game With DIY Headset Motion Tracking

While there’s been a lot of advancements in VR gaming over the last couple of years, plenty of folks are still happy enough to just stare at their monitor. But that’s not to say some of those fancy head-tracking tricks wouldn’t be a welcome addition to their repertoire. For players who are literally looking to get their head in the game, [Adrian Schwizgebel] has created qeMotion.

The idea here is simple enough: attach a motion sensor to a standard gaming headset (here a MPU-6050 IMU), and use the data from it to virtually “press” keys through USB HID emulation. Many first person shooter games offer the ability to lean left or right by pressing Q or E respectively, so all [Adrian] had to do was map the appropriate accelerometer readings to those keys for it to work seamlessly with popular titles such as Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege and Insurgency.

The concept might be basic, but the execution is anything but. Rather than just duct taping an Arduino to his headset, [Adrian] designed a very slick 3D printed enclosure for the electronics that sits on his desk. While they haven’t all been implemented yet, the devices features indicator lights and buttons to switch through various modes. The sensor on the headset has similarly been encased in a very professional looking 3D printed box, complete with a nice braided cable to link it to the desk unit.

It’s been awhile since we’ve seen a head tracking project, and most of those utilized something like the Wii Remote. Adding sensors to a person’s head normally wouldn’t be an ideal situation, but if you’re going to be wearing the headset anyway to listen to the game and chat, it’s not really a problem. If your hair is too nice for the qeMotion, you could always try doing something similar with computer vision.

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Speed Up Filming With This Jawdropping 8-Axis Camera Crane

These days, it can feel like a project doesn’t exist unless you’ve posted a video on the Internet about it. [mingul] was in the process of producing his own videos, but found having to repeatedly move and set up the camera tiring. Naturally, a completely overkill eight-axis motion control robot was the solution. Video embedded below the break.

The scale of the build is something to behold. With 4.5 m travel on the X-axis, 6.5 m on the Y, and 2.1 m on the Z, it’s capable of traversing the full length of [mingul]’s workshop. Tilt, pan, and roll axes all feature 540 degrees of rotation, and there’s motors to control zoom and focus on the camera, too. Through software like Dragonframe, it’s possible to program complicated camera moves, and techniques like the classic dolly zoom are a cinch with such a versatile rig. It’s also possible to control the movement in real-time with a wireless Xbox controller.

[mingul] reports the build took a full three months of CNC machining, 3D printing and assembly. It’s a big step above a simple motorized camera slider, but we all have to start somewhere.

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Smoothieboard Gets An Ambitious Update For V2

If you’ve been reading Hackaday for awhile, there’s an excellent chance you’ve seen a project or two powered by the Smoothieboard. The open source controller took Kickstarter by storm in 2013, promising to be the last word in CNC thanks to its powerful 32-bit ARM processor. Since then we’ve seen it put to use in not only the obvious applications like 3D printers and laser cutters, but also for robotic arms and pick-and-place machines. If it moves, there’s a good chance you can control it with the Smoothieboard.

But after six years on the market, the team behind this motion control powerhouse has decided it’s time to freshen things up. The Kickstarter for the Smoothieboard v2 has recently gone live and, perhaps unsurprisingly, already blown past its funding goal. Rather than simply delivering an upgraded Smoothieboard, the team has also put together a couple “spin-offs” targeting different use cases. If Smoothie v1 was King of CNC boards, then v2 is aiming to be the Royal Family.

Smoothieboard v2-Prime with breakouts

The direct successor to the original board is called v2-Prime, and it’s everything you’d expect in an update like this. Faster processor, more RAM, more flash, and improved stepper drivers. There’s also available GPIO expansion ports to connect various breakout boards, and even a header for you to plug in a Raspberry Pi. If you’re looking to upgrade your existing Smoothieboard machines to the latest and greatest, the Prime is probably what you’re after.

Then there’s the v2-Mini, designed to be as inexpensive as possible while still delivering on the Smoothieboard experience. The Mini has the same basic hardware specs as the Prime, but uses lower-end stepper drivers and deletes some of the protection features found on the more expensive model. For a basic 3D printer or laser cutter, the Mini and its projected $80 price point will be a very compelling option.

In the other extreme we have the v2-Pro, which is intended to be an experimenter’s dream come true. It features more stepper drivers, expansion ports, and even an integrated FPGA. Realistically, this board probably won’t be nearly as popular as the other two versions, but the fact that they’ve even produced it shows how committed the team is to pushing the envelope of open source motion control.

Our coverage of the original Smoothieboard campaign back in 2013 saw some very strong community response, with comments ranging from excited to dismissive. Six years later, we think the team behind the Smoothieboard has earned a position of respect among hackers, and we’re very excited to see where this next generation of hardware leads.

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The Complete Beginner’s Guide To Building A CNC Machine

Despite appearances, [This Old Tony]’s latest series has little to do with CNC-ifying an Etch A Sketch. Although he certainly achieves that, more or less, automating the classic toy is just the hook for a thorough lesson in CNC machine building starting with the basics.

Fair warning: we said basics, and we mean it. [Old Tony]’s intended audience is those who haven’t made the leap into a CNC build yet and need the big picture. Part one concentrates on the hardware involved – the steppers, drivers, and controller. He starts with one of those all-in-one eBay packages, although he did upgrade the motion controller to a Mach4 compatible board; still, the lessons should apply to most hardware.

By the end of part one, the Etch A Sketch is connected to two of the steppers and everything is wired up and ready to go for part two, the first part of which is all about inputs and outputs. Again, this is basic stuff, like how relays work and why you might need to use them. But that’s the kind of stuff that can baffle beginners and turn them off to the hobby, so kudos to [Old Tony] for the overview. The bulk of the second part is about configuring Mach4 Hobby, with a ton of detail and some great tips and tricks for getting a machine ready to break some end mills.

For someone looking to get into a CNC build, [Old Tony]’s hard-won CNC experience really fills in the gaps left by other tutorials. And it looks like a third part, dealing with making all this into something more than an automated Etch A Sketch, is in the works. We’re looking forward to that.

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