Friday Hack Chat: All About Drones

In the future, drones will fill the skies. The world is abuzz (ha!) with news of innovative uses of unmanned aerial vehicles. Soon, our flying robotic overlords will be used for rescue operations, surveillance, counter-insurgency missions, terrorism, agriculture, and delivering frozen dog treats directly from the local Amazon aerodrome to your backyard. The future is nuts.

For this week’s Hack Chat, we’re going to be talking all about unmanned aerial vehicles. This is a huge subject, ranging from aeronautical design, the legal implications of autonomous flying machines, the true efficiency of delivering packages via drones, and the moral ambiguity of covering a city with thousands of mobile, robotic observation posts. In short, the future will be brought to us thanks to powerful brushless motors and lithium batteries.

Our guest for this week’s Hack Chat will be [Piotr Esden-Tempski], developer of UAV autopilot hardware for Paparazzi UAV. Paparazzi can be used for autonomous flight and control of multiple aircraft, and we’ll be talking about the types of embedded systems that can be used for these applications. [Pitor] is also the developer of the 1Bitsy ARM dev platform, the Black Magic Probe JTAG/SWD programmer/debugger and the founder of 1BitSquared.

In this Hack Chat, we’ll be discussing Open Source hardware design for UAVs, all things airborne robotics, the sensors that go into these flying robots, the stalled development (ay, another pun) of consumer and prosumer fixed-wing UAVs, ARM embedded systems, and JTAG and SWD programming and debugging. We’re also taking questions from the audience, and here’s the spreadsheet that will guide the discussion.

Here’s How To Take Part:

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This Hack Chat will be going down noon, Pacific time on Friday, September 22nd. Sidereal and solar getting you down? Wondering when noon is this month? Not a problem: here’s a handy countdown timer!

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Flying Defibrillators

It’s a sad reality that, by and large, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) doesn’t save lives. Despite all the “you could save a life” marketing aimed at getting people certified in CPR, the instances where even the prompt application of the correct technique results in a save are vanishingly rare, and limited mostly to witnessed arrests in a hospital. Speaking from personal experience, few things are sadder than arriving on-scene as a first responder to see CPR being performed by a husband on his wife and knowing that no matter what we do, it’s not going to end well.

The problem is one of time. Hearts only rarely just stop beating outright; usually some kind of arrhythmia first causes the heart to beat ineffectively, leading to hypoxia and loss of consciousness. From there it’s about a four-minute trip to brain death, but in that brief window chances are pretty good that the heart can be restarted. That’s why witnessed cardiac arrests in a hospital have better survival rates — the needed electric reboot of the heart with a defibrillator is only as far away as the nearest crash cart.

The advent of the automatic external defibrillator (AED) has increased the odds for survival of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA), but the penetration of AEDs into public settings is far from complete enough to put one within a few minutes reach of everyone who might need one. So it’s only natural that thoughts would turn to delivering AEDs to cardiac incidents by drones. It seems like a great idea, but will it work? Continue reading “Flying Defibrillators”

Automate the Freight: Maritime Drone Deliveries

Ships at sea are literally islands unto themselves. If what you need isn’t on board, good luck getting it in the middle of the Pacific. As such, most ships are really well equipped with spare parts and even with raw materials and the tools needed to fabricate most of what they can’t store, and mariners are famed for their ability to make do with what they’ve got.

But as self-sufficient as a ship at sea might be, the unexpected can always happen. A vital system could fail for lack of a simple spare part, at best resulting in a delay for the shipping company and at worst putting the crew in mortal danger. Another vessel can be dispatched to assist, or if the ship is close enough ashore a helicopter rendezvous might be arranged. Expensive options both, which is why some shipping companies are experimenting with drone deliveries to and from ships at sea. Continue reading “Automate the Freight: Maritime Drone Deliveries”

Amazon Gets a Patent For Parachute Labels

Delivery by drone is a reality and Amazon has been pursuing better and faster methods of autonomous package delivery. The US Patent and Trademark Office just issued a patent to Amazon for a shipping label that has an embedded parachute to ensure soft landings for future deliveries.

The patent itself indicates the construction consisting of a set of cords and a harness and the parachute itself is concealed within the label. The label will come in various shapes and sizes depending upon the size of the package and is designed to “enable the workflow process of shipping and handling to remain substantially unchanged”. This means they are designed to look and be used just like a normal printed label.

The objective is to paradrop your next delivery and by the looks of the patent images, they plan to use it for everything from eggs to the kitchen sink. Long packages will employ multiple labels with parachutes which will then be monitored using the camera and other sensors on the drone itself to monitor descent.

The system will reduce the time taken per delivery since the drone will no longer have to land and take off. Coupled with other UAV delivery patents, Amazon may be looking at more advanced delivery techniques. With paradrops, the drone need not be a multi rotor design and the next patent may very well be a mini trajectory correction system for packages.

If they come to fruition we wonder how easy it will be to get your hands on the labels. Materials and manufacture should both be quite cheap — this has already been proven by the model rocket crowd, and to make the system viable for Amazon it would have to be put into widespread use which brings to bear an economy of scale. We want to slap them on the side of beer cans as an upgrade to the catapult fridge.

Hackaday Prize Entry: Underwater Glider Offers Low-Power Exploration

[Alex Williams] created his Open Source Underwater Glider project as an entry to The Hackaday Prize, and now it’s one of our twenty finalists. This sweet drone uses motor-actuated syringes to serve as a ballast tank, which helps the glider move forward without the use of traditional propellers.

Unlike most UAVs, which use motors to actively move the craft around, [Alex]’s glider uses the syringes to change the buoyancy of the craft, and it simply glides around on its wings. When the craft starts getting too deep, the syringes push out the water and the glider rises toward the surface until it’s ready for another glide.

This low-power solution allows for long-term science projects and research. In addition to conserving power, the glider’s slow travel does not disturb the water or sea life.

[Alex]’s goal is to make his glider open source and 3D printable, combined with off-the-shelf hardware and ArduSub under the hood.

Continue reading “Hackaday Prize Entry: Underwater Glider Offers Low-Power Exploration”

Autonomous Delivery: Your Impulse Buys Will Still Be Safe

I heard a “Year in Review” program the other day on NPR with a BBC World Service panel discussion of what’s ahead for 2017. One prediction was that UAV delivery of packages would be commonplace this year, and as proof the commentator reported that Amazon had already had a successful test in the UK. But he expressed skepticism that it would ever be possible in the USA, where he said that “the first drone that goes over somebody’s property will be shot down and the goods will be taken.”

He seemed quite sincere about his comment, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he was only joking to make a point, not actually grotesquely ignorant about the limitations of firearms or being snarky about gun owners in the US. Either way, he brings up a good point: when autonomous parcel delivery is commonplace, who will make sure goods get to the intended recipient?

Continue reading “Autonomous Delivery: Your Impulse Buys Will Still Be Safe”

Flying A Normally-Sized Drone With A Nano-Drone’s Brain

Drones come in all shapes and size, and [Kedar Nimbalkar] was wondering if the guts of a tiny Cheerson CX-10 nano-drone could take off with a larger body, leading to an interesting brain transplant experiment.

For his test, [Kedar] acquired a CX-10 and the body of a larger Syma X5SW drone. After gutting the CX-10 for its LiPo battery and circuit board, which features an STM32 ARM-core MCU, a 6-axis IMU and the wireless transmitter, [Kedar] studied the datasheet of the onboard SQ2310ES driver MOSFETs. He figured that with a maximum continuous current rating of 6A, they would probably be able to cope with the higher load of the slightly larger motors of the X5SW body. They also didn’t seem to overheat, so he just installed the board into the new body as-is and wired up the motors.

Continue reading “Flying A Normally-Sized Drone With A Nano-Drone’s Brain”