RC Car Becomes Useful Little Mower

When we think of lawn mowers, our first thought is of heavy, rusty old machines that take the best part of an afternoon to get started. Of course, there’s always another way, as [Mark] ably demonstrates with his own build. 

Beginning from an unconventional starting point, [Mark] chose a remote control car, of the type that can flip and drive in both orientations. Having lost the controller, he started by ripping out the original electronics. In its place, an ESP32 receives signals from a FlySky RC receiver, and runs the drive motors with a Sparkfun Monster Motor Shield. Another channel on the receiver is hooked up directly to a drone speed controller driving a brushless motor, outfitted with a sawblade to cut the grass.

It’s a small platform, and one that ordinarily you might doubt could do the job. However, for [Mark]’s purposes, the rig works just fine, and has been doing good work for the last two years! We’ve seen mowers hacked before too, like this autonomous rig out in the wild. Video after break.

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An Epic Story Of 1980s FPV Flight

A staple of today’s remote-controlled flight is the so-called FPV transmitter, allowing the pilot of a multirotor or other craft to see the world from onboard, as a pilot might do. It’s accessible enough that it can be found on toy multirotors starting at not much more than pocket money prices, and reliable enough that in its better incarnations it can send back high definition video at surprisingly long range.

In case you think of FPV flight as a recent innovation, the video below the break from [Larry Mitschke] should come as a revelation. In 1986 he was a bona-fide rockstar playing in a band, whose radio-controlled flight hobby led him into creating an FPV system for his planes and soaring above the Texas countryside at significant distance from his base while flying it watching a CRT screen.

The video is quite long but extremely watchable, all period footage with his narration here in 2020. We see his earliest experiments with a monochrome security camera and a video sender, and a whole host of upgrades until finally he can fly three miles from base with good quality video. 70 cm amateur TV makes an appearance with a steerable tracking antenna, he even makes a talking compass for when he loses himself. It’s an epic tale of hacking with what seems rudimentary equipment by our standards but was in fact the cutting edge of available video technology at a time when the state of the video art was moving rather fast. This is the work that laid the path for today’s $30 FPV toys, and for flying FPV from space.

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How To Slice Lightweight Aircraft Parts For 3D Printing

Historically, remote control aircraft were produced much like their early full-sized counterparts. Wooden structures were covered with adhesives and taut fabric membranes. Other techniques later came to the fore, with builders looking to foam and other materials. Of course, these days 3D printers are all the rage, so perhaps one can simply print out a whole plane? As [sahevaantaneja] discovered, it’s not that easy!

One of the foremost problems is the process of slicing. This is where 3D geometry is transformed into the G-code which defines the path taken by the 3D printer during production of a component. Slicer software is generally optimised for working with mostly-solid objects, and some tweaks can be required when working with thin-walled designs.

These challenges come to bear with an aircraft design, which, by necessity must be lightweight. [sahevaantaneja] does a great job of explaining the journey of discovery in which their design was optimised to work with conventional slicers. This allowed the various components to be printed without errors, while retaining their strength to survive in flight.

The design was successful in test flights –  a great reward after much experimentation. We’ve seen other 3D printed designs take flight, too. Video after the break.

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Floating On The Breeze With A Full Size RC Paraglider

For many people the gateway drug to aviation is radio-controlled aircraft, and in [Andre Bandarra]’s case this led to paragliding. Now he has combined the two, turning his full size paragliding wing into an RC aircraft. (Video, embedded below.)

The primary controls of a paraglider are very simple, consisting of two brake lines that connect to the trailing edge of the wing. When a line is pulled, it increased drag on that side of the wing, causing it to turn. [Andre] connected the brake lines to two 3D-printed spools, which are each powered by a large RC servo that he modified for continuous rotation. These are mounted on a slim wooden frame that also holds the battery, RC receiver, an old electronic speed control to step down the battery power, and attachment straps for the wing. Without enough mass, the wing would just get blown around by the lightest of breezes, so [Andre] hooked a cloth bag filled with sand to the frame to act as a counter weight.

On the first test flight the wind was too strong and the sandbag too light, making it impossible to control. The hardest part of the flight is the launch, which requires the help of someone who knows how to fly a paraglider. The second test day had much better success. With only a slight breeze and a heavier sandbag, the contraption flew beautifully, floating slowly across the beach. He admits that there are a number of improvements he can make, but as a proof of concept using parts he had lying around, it was a roaring success.

For paragliding from flat ground, you can always strap a motor to your back, like the open source OpenPPG electric paramotor. For more crazy RC flying contraptions, also keep an eye on guys at [Flite Test].

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Compact 3D Printed Hovercraft Is Loungeroom Floor Fun

Hovercraft come in all shapes and sizes. and while they’ve largely disappeared as a major commercial transit option, they remain popular in the hearts and minds of makers everywhere. [RCLifeOn’s] latest project concerns a compact, indoor-sized hovercraft piloted via FPV, and it looks to be brilliant fun.

The build consists of a 3D printed chassis, with a skirt cut out of a garbage bag and held on with press-fit clamps. Twin ducted fans are employed, one for propulsion, the other for levitation. A 5GHz FPV camera is nestled on top of the rear fan housing to provide a video feed for the pilot.

The craft was somewhat uncontrollable in initial testing. Tweaks to the weight distribution and the addition of a bigger rudder helped tame the rig. [RCLifeOn] also demonstrates a unique way of balancing damaged fan assemblies in the field; it’s a technique we’ll keep in the back of our mind for future use.

The trick to a good hovercraft build is light weight, big control surfaces, and a good skirt. You can even go off-book and use the Coanda effect, if you’re so inclined. Video after the break.

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This Radio Control Sailboat Uses 2X4s

When [PeterSripol] was a kid, he made a simple sailboat from a scrap piece of 2×4 and some napkin sails. He’s not 8 years old anymore, but he decided he wanted to make another 2X4 sailboat using the skills he’s learned since he was a kid.

You’ll have to get past storytime and mice, but the build skill is evident. There’s a RC rudder, a keel with lead shot and overall it is a good looking boat for such a simple build.

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Race RC Cars From Anywhere On Earth

Racing games have come a long way over the years. From basic 2D sprite-based titles, they’ve evolved to incorporate advanced engines with highly realistic simulated physics that can even be used to help develop real-world automobiles. For [Surrogate.tv], that still wasn’t quite good enough, so they decided to create something more rooted in reality.

The game is played in a web browser. Players are assigned a car and view the action from a top-down camera.

Their project resulted in a racing game based on controlling real RC cars over the internet, in live races against other human opponents. Starting with a series of Siku 1:43 scale RC cars, the team had to overcome a series of engineering challenges to make this a reality. For one, the original electronics had to be gutted as the team had issues when running many cars at the same time.

Instead, the cars were fitted with ESP8266s running custom firmware. An overhead GoPro is used with special low-latency streaming software to allow players to guide their car to victory. A computer vision system is used for lap timing, and there’s even automatic charging stations to help keep the cars juiced up for hours of play.

The game is free to play online, with the races currently operating on a regular schedule. We look forward to trying our hand at a race or three, and will be interested to see how the latency holds up from various parts of the world.

We’ve seen other remote RC builds before; usually featuring the power of the Raspberry Pi. We’ve also covered useful techniques for low latency video for real-time applications. Video after the break.

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