To our way of thinking, the whole purpose behind robotic vacuum cleaners is their autonomy. They’re not particularly good at vacuuming, but they are persistent about it, and eventually get the job done with as little human intervention as possible. So why in the world would you want to convert a robotic vacuum to radio control?
For [Lucas], the answer was simple: it was a $20 yard sale find, so why not? Plus, he’s got some secret evil plan to repurpose the suckbot for autonomous room mapping, which sounds like a cool project that would benefit from a thorough knowledge of this little fellow’s anatomy and physiology. The bot in question is a Hoover Quest. Like [Lucas] we didn’t know that Hoover made robotic vacuums (Narrator: they probably don’t) but despite generally negative online reviews by users, he found it to be a sturdily built and very modular and repairable unit.
After an initial valiant attempt at reverse engineering the bot’s main board — a project we encourage [Lucas] to return to eventually — he settled for just characterizing the bot’s motors and sensors and building his own controller. The Raspberry Pi Zero he chose may seem like overkill, but he already had it set up to talk to a PS4 game controller, so it made sense — right up until he released the Magic Smoke within it. A backup Pi took the sting out of that, and as the brief video below shows, he was finally able to get the bot under his command.
[Lucas] has more plans for his new little buddy, including integrating the original sensors and adding new ones. Given its intended mission, we’d say a lidar sensor would be a good addition, but that’s just a guess. Whatever he’s got in store for this, we’re keen to hear what happens.
Based on a 1/150 scale truck and trailer model, the build starts with the tractor unit. It’s disassembled, and its plastic wheels are machined on a tiny lathe so they can be fitted with grippy rubber tires carved out of O-ring material. The front wheels are given hubs and mounted to a motor-driven screw-type steering assembly. A photodetector is used to aid in self-centering. The rear axle is fitted with a geared drivetrain, running off a small DC motor. Multiple gear stages are used to give the build plenty of torque for pulling the trailer. Remote control of the model is achieved over Bluetooth, with an ATtiny3217 tucked inside with motor drivers to run the show.
The microcontroller also runs a full set of driving, tail, and indicator lights. The trailer is fitted with an infrared receiver and a battery of its own. It receives signals from an infrared LED on the tractor unit, which tell the trailer when to turn on the taillights and indicators.
Dragsters are typically about peak performance on a tarmac drag strip. [Engineering After Hours] took a different tack, though, building a radio-controlled amphibious dragster intended to cross small bodies of water.
The build is based on a Traxxas Raptor RC car. However, it’s been heavily reworked from a pickup-like design to become a dragster with a motor mounted in the rear. It’s also been fitted with a foam underbody to allow it to float when stationary. The rear tires have been replaced with 3D-printed versions with large paddles, which provide propulsion in the water.
Initial tests showed the car struggled to make progress in the water, as the paddle tires tended to drag the rear end deeper under water. The tiny dragster tires up front didn’t help it steer, in water either. Large foam discs were added to the front tires to enable them to act as better rudders.
Fitted with its water tires and foam floatation aids, the car can only drive slowly on land, but [Engineering After Hours] points out this is enough to call it amphibious. It does a better job at skittering around on water, and it was able to cross a local pond at low speed.
The V-22 Osprey is an aircraft like no other. The tiltrotor multirole military aircraft makes an impression wherever it goes; coincidentally, a flight of two of these beasts flew directly overhead yesterday and made a noise unlike anything we’ve ever heard before. It’s a complex aircraft that pushes the engineering envelope, so naturally [Tom Stanton] decided to build a flight-control accurate RC model of the Osprey for himself.
Sharp-eyed readers will no doubt note that [Tom] built an Osprey-like VTOL model recently to explore the basics of tiltrotor design. But his goal with this build is to go beyond the basics by replicating some of the control complexity of a full-scale Osprey, without breaking the bank. Instead of building or buying real swash plates to control the collective and cyclic pitch of the rotors, [Tom] used his “virtual swashplate” technique, which uses angled hinges and rapid changes in the angular momentum of the motors to achieve blade pitch control. The interesting part is that the same mechanism worked after adding a third blade to each rotor, to mimic the Osprey’s blades — we’d have thought this would throw the whole thing off balance. True, there were some resonance issues with the airframe, but [Tom] was able to overcome them and achieve something close to stable flight.
The video below is only the first part of his build series, but we suspect contains most of the interesting engineering bits. Still, we’re looking forward to seeing how the control mechanism evolves as the design process continues.
There’s no more famous road endurance race than the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where teams compete to see how far they can drive in a single 24-hour window. The race presents unique challenges not found in other types of racing. While RC airplanes may not have a similar race, [Daniel] a.k.a. [rctestflight] created a similar challenge for himself by attempting to fly an RC airplane non-stop for as long as he could, and a whole host of interesting situations cropped up before and during flight.
In order for an RC plane to fly for an entire day, it essentially needs to be solar powered. A large amount of strategy goes into a design of this sort. For one, the wing shape needs to be efficient in flight but not reduce the amount of area available for solar panels. For another, the start time of the flight needs to be balanced against the position of the sun in the sky. With these variables more or less fixed, [Daniel] began his flight.
It started off well enough, with the plane in an autonomous “return to home” mode which allowed it to continually circle overhead without direct human control. But after taking a break to fly it in FPV mode, [Daniel] noticed that the voltage on his battery was extremely high. It turned out that the solar charge controller wasn’t operating as expected and was shunting a large amount of solar energy directly into the battery. He landed and immediately removed the “spicy pillow” to avoid any sort of nonlinear event. With a new battery in the plane he began the flight again.
Even after all of that, [Daniel] still had some issues stemming from the aerodynamic nature of this plane specifically. There were some issues with wind, and with the flight controller not recognizing the correct “home” position, but all in all it seems like a fun day of flying a plane. If your idea of “fun” is sitting around and occasionally looking up for eight and a half hours. For more of [Daniel]’s long-term autonomous piloting, be sure to take a look at his solar tugboat as well.
We’ve got to be honest, we’ve been keeping an eye on the progress [Vang Hà] has been making on this build for a few weeks now. The first video below is a full tour of the finished project, which is painstakingly faithful to the original, a Caterpiller 390F tracked excavator. As impressive as that is, though, you’ve got to check out the build process that starts with fabricating the tracks in the second video below. The raw material for most of the model is plain gray PVC pipe, which is sliced and diced into flat sheets, cut into tiny pieces using a jury-rigged table saw, and heat formed to create curved pieces. Check out the full playlist for a bounty of fabrication delights, like tiny hinges and working latches.
We can’t possibly heap enough praise onto [Vang Hà] for his craftsmanship, but that’s not all we love about this one. There are tons of helpful tips here, and plenty of food for thought for more practical builds. We’re thinking about that full set of working hydraulic cylinders that operates the boom, the dipper, and the bucket, as well as the servo-operated hydraulic control valves. All of it is made from scratch, of course, and mostly from PVC. Keep that in mind for a project where electric motors or linear actuators just won’t fill the bill.
Each of them have very different designs, and there are plenty of photos as well as insightful details about what was done and how well it worked. That’s exactly the kind of detail we love to read about, so huge thanks to [Harry] for sharing!
In combat robotics, contenders generally maneuver their remote-controlled machines to pin or immobilize their opponent. This can happen as a result of damaging them to the point that they stop functioning, but it can also happen by rending them helpless by working some kind of mechanical advantage. Continue reading “Small Combat Robots Pack A Punch In Antweight Division”→