The build process is an iterative one, with [James] solving problems step-by-step and testing along the way. The first task was to successfully launch a small action figure and his flight seat vertically in a controlled fashion. After a few attempts, a combination of rocket motors and guide rails were settled upon that could achieve the goal. Next up, a drogue parachute system was designed and tested to stabilize the seat at the height of its trajectory. Further work to come involves handling seat separation and getting the action figure safely back to the ground.
While action figures aren’t alive and the ejection seat serves no real emergency purpose, we can imagine it would be a hit at the local flying field – assuming the parachutes don’t get tangled in someone else’s model. For those interested in the real technology, our own [Dan Maloney] did a great piece on the topic. Video after the break.
While the cost of a hobby-grade remote control transmitter has dropped significantly over the last decade or so, even the basic models are still relatively expensive. It’s not such a big deal if you only need to get one for personal use, but for a school to outfit a classroom’s worth of students their own radios, they’d need to have a serious STEM budget.
Which is why [Miharix], himself an educator with a decade of experience, developed a project that leverages the ESP8266 to create affordable RC vehicles that can be controlled with a smartphone’s web browser. There’s a bit of irony at play since the smartphones are more expensive than the RC transmitters would have been; but with more and more school-age kids having their own mobile devices, it takes the cost burden off of the educators. Depending on the age of the students, the teacher would only need to keep a couple of burner phones on hand for student that doesn’t have a device of their own.
In its fully realized form, the project uses an open hardware board that allows standard RC hobby servos to be connected to the GPIO pins of a ESP-12E module. But if you don’t want to go through the trouble of building the custom hardware, you could put something similar together with an ESP development board. From there it’s just a matter of installing the firmware, which starts up a server providing a touch-based controller interface that’s perfect for a smartphone’s screen.
Since the ESP8266 pops up as an Access Point that client devices can connect to, you don’t even need to have an existing network in place. Or Internet access, for that matter. [Miharix] says that in tests, the range between a common smartphone and the ESP8266 is approximately 85 meters (260 feet), which should be more than enough to get the job done.
[James Whomsley] likes flying, and likes flying fast. After reaching a speed of 114 miles an hour with an RC plane, he wanted to go further and break that record. To do so, he looked towards rocket power, and started a new build.
The design consists of a combination of 3D printed parts, laser-cut plywood bulkheads, and foamboard flight surfaces, with a few carbon fiber stiffeners thrown in here and there. For this early prototype, power is solely from hobby rocket motors, providing thrust for 1.6 seconds, meaning flight times are necessarily short. The craft is launched from an aluminium profile rail thanks to a 3D printed sliding guide pin.
Initial tests with two rocket motors were promising, leading to a second trial with a full six motors fitted. The thrust line was a little low, however, and a major pitch-up just after launch meant the plane only reached around 62 miles an hour. [James] still has a ways to go to beat his previous record, so intends to explore adding ducted fan propulsion to get the plane in the air before using the rockets as a speed booster in steady flight.
[Kryzer Channel] takes making a DIY RC car to a whole new level with this prop-driven electric car that is made almost entirely out of cardboard (YouTube video, also embedded below.) By attaching an electric motor with a push prop to the back of the car, [Kryzer] avoids the need for any kind of drive system or gearing. Steering works normally thanks to some scratch-built linkages, but the brake solution is especially clever.
Braking is done by having a stocky servo push a reinforced stub downward, out of a hole in the center of the car. This provides friction against the road surface. After all, on an RC car a functional brake is simply not optional. Cutting the throttle and coasting to a stop works for a plane, but just won’t do for a car.
Layers of corrugated cardboard and hot glue make up the bulk of the car body, and some of the assembly techniques shown off are really slick and make the video really worth a watch. For example, the construction of the wheels (starting around 2:24) demonstrates making them almost entirely out of cardboard, saturated with CA glue for reinforcement, with a power drill acting as a makeshift lathe for trimming everything down. A section of rubber inner tube provides the tire surface and a piece of hard plastic makes a durable hub. Wraps of thread saturated in CA glue, shown here, is another technique that shows up in several places and is used in lieu of any sort of fasteners.
For some people, mowing the lawn is a dreaded chore that leads to thoughts of pouring a concrete slab over the yard and painting it green. Others see it as the perfect occasion to spend a sunny afternoon outside. And then there are those without the luxury of having a preference on the subject in the first place. [elliotmade] for example has a friend who’s sitting in a wheelchair, and would normally have to rely on others to maintain his lawn and form an opinion on the enjoyability of the task. So to retain his friend’s independence, he decided to build him a remote-controlled lawn mower.
After putting together an initial proof of concept that’s been successfully in use for a few years now, [elliotmade] saw some room for improvement and thought it was time for an upgrade. Liberating the drive section of an electric wheelchair, he welded a frame around it to house the battery and the mower itself, and added an alternator to charge the battery directly from the mower’s engine. An RC receiver that connects to the motor driver is controlled by an Arduino, as well as a pair of relays to switch both the ignition and an electric starter that eliminates the need for cord pulling. Topping it off with a camera, the garden chores are now comfortably tackled from a distance, without any issues of depth perception.
Remote-controlling a sharp-bladed machine most certainly requires a few additional safety considerations, and it seems that [elliotmade] thought this out pretty well, so failure on any of the involved parts won’t have fatal consequences. However, judging from the demo video embedded after break, the garden in question might not be the best environment to turn this into a GPS-assisted, autonomous mower in the future. But then again, RC vehicles are fun as they are, regardless of their shape or size.
We humans may not have superpowers, but the sensor suite we have is still pretty impressive. We have binocular vision that autofocuses and can detect a single photon, skin studded with sensors for touch, heat, and pain, and a sense of smell that can detect chemicals down to the parts per trillion range. Our sense of hearing is pretty powerful, too, allowing us to not only hear sounds over a 140 dB range, but also to locate its source with a fair degree of precision, thanks to the pair of ears on our heads.
Attached to the sides of the foam head once it got the [Van Gogh] treatment, the ears funnel sound to tiny electret cartridge microphones. [Leo] learned the hard way that these little capsule mics can’t use the 48-volt phantom power that’s traditionally pumped up the cable to studio microphones; he fixed that problem with a resistor in parallel with the mic leads. A filtering capacitor, an RC network between the cold line and ground on the balanced audio line, and a shield cleverly fashioned from desoldering braid took care of the RF noise problem.
The video after the break shows the build and test results, which are pretty convincing with headphones on. If you want to build your own but need to learn more about balanced audio and phantom power, we’ve got a short primer on the topic that might help.
Gravity is a nice thing to have most of the time, but sometimes it would be nice to be able to ignore it for certain applications. Rock climbing, for example, would be much easier, as would performing bridge inspections in the way that a group of mechanical engineering cadets (students) at The Citadel, a military college in South Carolina, were tasked with doing. Frustrated with the amount of traffic backups that normal bridge inspections caused, they invented a robot that defies gravity, and won a $10k prize for their efforts.
The result is essentially an RC car with a drone built in, or looking at it another way it’s a drone with wheels. The car is able to drive on vertical surfaces to inspect the bridges by using its propellers to force itself onto the surface. The lack of complicated moving parts or machinery, like a cable suspension system or other contraption, makes this device exceptionally versatile for the task at hand, reduces the amount of time needed for inspections, and can do them more safely and without closing lanes of traffic. The group hopes to build a second prototype soon and present it to the Department of Transportation for approval for more widespread use.
The need for tools like these is in high demand now as well, especially in the United States where crumbling infrastructure is often not thought about, taken seriously, or prioritized. Even for bridges that aren’t major pieces of infrastructure, tools like these will prove to be very useful.