News reports were everywhere that an autonomous taxi operated by a company called Cruise was driving through San Francisco with no headlights. The local constabulary tried to stop the vehicle and were a bit thrown that there was no driver. Then the car moved beyond an intersection and pulled over, further bemusing the officers.
The company says the headlights were due to human error and that the car had stopped at a light and then moved to a safe stop by design. This leads to the question of how people including police officers will interact with robot vehicles.
Continue reading “Does Your Programmer Know How Fast You Were Going?” →
At the end of 2018, a spate of drone sightings caused the temporary closure of London Gatwick Airport, and set in train a chain of events that were simultaneously baffling and comedic as the authorities struggled to keep up with both events and the ever widening gap in their knowledge of the subject.
One of the more inept actions of the Sussex Police was to respond by arresting the first local drone enthusiast they could find on Facebook, locking up a local couple for 36 hours and creating a media frenzy by announcing the apprehension of the villains before shamefacedly releasing them without charge.
In a final twist to the sorry saga, the couple have sued the force for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment, for which the cops have had to make a £200,000 ($250,117) payout including legal fees.
We reported extensively on the events surrounding the case 18 months ago, and then on a follow-up event at London Heathrow airport. The mass media at the time were full of the official line that drone hobbyists must be at fault, but then as now we were more interested in seeing some hard evidence. As we said then: Show us the drone.
So how has the new drone law progressed, since it was decided that Something Must Be Done? Enthusiasts have continued as before, and the multirotor community is as technically creative as ever. We were fortunate enough to host the Lets Drone Out podcast at MK Makerspace back in those halcyon days before the pandemic and see the state of the art in sub-250g craft, and with those and commercial offerings such as the DJI Mavic Mini all requiring no registration there is increasingly little need for an enthusiast to purchase a larger machine. The boost to the British drone industry we were promised has instead been a boost for the Chinese industry as we predicted, and of course we’re still waiting for the public inquiry into the whole mess. Something tells us Hell will freeze over first.
If you’d like the whole backstory in a convenient and entertaining video format, can we direct you to this talk at CCCamp 2019.
Thanks [Stuart Rogers] for the tip.
Keystone Kops header image: Mack Sennett Studios [Public domain].
They say you can’t manage what you can’t measure, and that certainly held true in the case of this bicycle that was used to measure the speed of cars in one Belgian neighborhood. If we understand the translation from Dutch correctly, the police were not enforcing the speed limit despite complaints. As a solution, the local citizenry built a bicycle with a radar gun that collected data which was then used to convince the police to enforce the speed limit on this road.
The bike isn’t the functional part of this build, as it doesn’t seem to have been intended to move. Rather, it was chosen because it is inconspicuous (read: rusty and not valuable) and simply housed the radar unit and electronics in a rear luggage case. The radar was specially calibrated to have less than 1% error, and ran on a deep cycle lead acid battery for around eight days. Fitting it with an Arduino-compatible shield and running some software (provided on the github page) is enough to get it up and running.
This is an impressive feat of citizen activism to provide the local police with accurate data to change a problem in a neighborhood. Not only was the technology put to good use, but the social engineering involved with hiding expensive electronics in plain sight with a rusty bicycle is a step beyond what we might have thought of as well.
Thanks to [Jo_elektro] for the tip!
Software-defined radio (or SDR) is a relatively new (to average tinkerers, at least) way of sending and receiving radio signals. The interest in SDR exploded recently with the realization that cheap USB TV tuner cards could be used to start exploring the frequency spectrum at an extremely reduced cost. One of the reasons that this is so advantageous is because of all of the options that a general-purpose computer opens up that go beyond transmitting and receiving, as [Chris] shows with his project that ties SDR together with GPS.
There are a lot of opportunities here for anyone with SDR. Maybe an emergency alert system that can tune to weather broadcasts if there’s a weather alert, or any of a number of other captivating projects. As for this project, [Chris] plans to use Google’s voice recognition software to transcribe the broadcasts as well. The world of SDR is at your fingertips to do anything you can imagine! And, if you’re looking to get started in it, be sure to check out the original post covering those USB TV tuner dongles.
If you’ve lost interest in that DVB dongle you bought to give software defined radio a try you should bust it back out. [Harrison Sand] just finished a guide on how to use SDR to listen in on Police and Fire radio bands.
The project, which results in the crystal clear audio reception heard after the break, uses a whole lists of packages on a Windows box to access the emergency bands. SDRSharp, which has been popular with other DVB dongle hacks, handles the hardware work. In this case the dongle is a Newsky TV28T v2 module that he picked up for a few bucks. He’s also using some support programs including the Digital Speech Decoder which turns the data into audio.
We wonder how many areas this will work for. It was our understanding that law enforcement was moving to encrypted communications systems. But all we really know about it is that you can jam the system with a children’s toy.
Continue reading “SDR As A Police And Fire Radio Scanner” →
Here’s an interesting hack. It’s a small pick-up truck with a Dope Cannon attached to it. Sure, it looks more like something you’d see in Syria, but this item was actually seized in Mexico where it was being used to fire 30 pound slugs of Marijuana over the border fence with the US. Usually when you fire artillery there isn’t someone on the target range trying to recover the projectile!
The device uses a PVC barrel to guide the pot-pellet as it’s propelled by compressed air. Hey, swap out the drugs for an energy drink and that sounds pretty familiar. Our qualifying entry for the 2012 Red Bull Creation Contest was an energy drink cannon which used the same setup with a slightly smaller caliber. It makes us wonder if the drug cartel uses little parachutes like we did?
Doesn’t it arouse suspicion to drive something like this around town? You’d think they’d use a box truck or something similar to hide the giant gun.
[Photo Credit: AP via NY Daily News]
When then folks from the MakerShed had a laptop and iPad stolen from their vehicle in Detroit, they found out several important things.
- The Detroit police have more important things to pursue.
- Tracking services are awesome.
- You never know how your adventure will end.
Luckily they were using an online backup system that offered location services as well. While many may disable these prying eyes as a matter of principle when they join, this is one scenario where you’d be happy you had it.
As it turns out, the Detroit police were fairly busy with other things and left the laptop owners to their own devices tracking the stolen goods via the internet. Some fun and interesting detective work involving Google maps, craigslist, and backed up images ended up leading them to the stolen goods.
Once they had a physical address, the police were available to check things out… well, a few days later. When they went to the address with a search warrant… and a battering ram, they found the house lacking tenants, but containing several forms of ID, a stolen laptop, and some Marijuana meant for distribution.
The entire story is interesting, especially the fact that the amateur detective work was capable of providing enough information for a search warrant. This actually makes me wonder how easily one could fabricate all of this information falsely to cause trouble to an innocent person. It looks like it would only take about 15 minutes and some photoshop. Maybe that’s a conversation best left for another time.