Recharging Drones On The Go With A Supercharger

If Techcrunch is to be believed, our skies will soon be filled with delivery robots, ferrying tacos and Chinese food and Amazon purchases from neighborhood-area dispatch stations to your front door. All of this is predicated on the ability of quadcopters to rapidly recharge their batteries, or at the very least swap out batteries automatically.

For their Hackaday Prize entry, [frasanz], [ferminduaso], and [david canas] are building the infrastructure that will make delivery drones possible. It’s a drone supercharger, or a robot that grabs a drone, swaps out the battery, and sends it off to deliver whatever is in its cargo compartment.

This build is a droneport of sorts, designed to have a drone land on it, have a few stepper motors and movable arms spring into action, and replace the battery with a quick-change mechanism. This can be significantly more difficult than it sounds — you need to grab the drone and replace the battery, something that’s easy for human eyes and hands, but much harder for a few sensors and aluminum extrusion.

To change batteries, the team is just letting the drone land somewhere on a platform that’s a few feet square. Arms then move it, pushing the drone to the center, and a second arm then moves in to swap the battery. The team is using an interesting locking cam solution to clamp the battery to the drone. It’s much easier for a machine to connect than the standard XT-60 connector found on race quads.

Is this the project the world needs? Quite possibly so. Drones are going to be awesome once battery life improves. Until then, we’ll have to live with limited flight times and drone superchargers.

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Boost Tube Replacement Through 3D Printing

[Sam] is the lucky owner of a 1990 VW Corrado G60. To the uninitiated, that’s the souped-up, go fast version with the fancy supercharger on top. While performing some mods to the air intake (car-speak for “hacks”), there came a need for a custom tube to eliminate the original silencer box. With available options costing up to $400, suddenly 3D printing a replacement seemed like a better answer.

3D printing intake parts for a supercharged vehicle has some unique challenges. The intake must be able to take the boost pressures seen by the engine, in this case up to around 10 psi. There must be no air leaks at all as this risks confusing the sensors that measure how much air is entering the engine. Lastly, the tube must be able to withstand the hot, and often oily environment under the hood.

The first attempt was completed with TPU filament, which unfortunately did not hold pressure. A followup with PLA fared better, but was unable to withstand the heat present in the engine bay. After some experimentation, a successful print was made in PETG which was more robust. In the final design, [Sam] applied a rubber coating and then some aluminum tape, to both help seal any micro-holes in the 3D printed surface as well as help protect against heat.

After over a month of testing, [Sam]’s data logs indicate the tube is performing well and holding boost. It goes to show that with some perseverance and iterative design, 3D printed parts can often save the day.

Perhaps you’re inspired by this hack but need to jack up your car to work on it? Never fear, you can 3D print those too.

Supercharged, Fuel Injected V10 Engine, at 1/3 Scale

Nearly three years in the making, behold the raw power and precision of this 1/3-scale V10 engine.

Coming in at 125 cubic centimeters displacement, [Keith Harlow]’s fuel injected masterpiece isn’t too far from the size of some motor scooter engines. We doubt the local Vespa club would look upon it as legit mod, but we’d love to see it. [Keith]’s build log is a long series of forum posts, but from what we’ve seen it looks like every part was made by hand with the exception of the fuel injection system. Even the caps for the spark plugs were custom injection molded right in [Keith]’s shop. And it appears that no CNC was used – even those intake headers and the rotors for the supercharger were hogged out of aluminum using a manual mill. The exhaust headers alone are straight up works of art. There’s a staggering amount of work here, which begs the question: why? The answer in this case is obviously, “Because he can.”

Few builds compare to the level of craftsmanship on display here. The Clickspring skeleton clock comes to mind, but for model engine builds we’d have to point to [Keith]’s earlier 1/4-scale V8 engine. And we’ll hasten to add that as much time as [Keith] has spent building these works of mechanical art, he’s probably dedicated just as much time to documenting them and giving back to his community. We can all learn a lesson from that.

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