Chris Anderson's Blog – December 2007 Archive (19)

Cool video on the Australian UAV contest (including high school contestants)

The folks behind the Australian Outback Challenge, an amateur UAV contest, have just posted a great video from their inaugural competition, held this September. It had two levels. The first, for high-school students, involved one team member controlling a R/C plane while another used onboard telemetry to guide the pilot over a target, on which they were supposed to drop a golf ball. The second, for university and above contestants, required a… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on December 30, 2007 at 9:19pm — No Comments

Basic Stamp autopilot tutorial, part 3



[UPDATE: We no longer recommend this GPS module, since it's incomptible with GPS simulators. The module we do recommend, the EM406, is described here.]





Now you've got the hang of connecting components to the development board, you'll be pleased by… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on December 30, 2007 at 6:00pm — 10 Comments

Basic Stamp autopilot tutorial, part 2

Okay, now that we have the BASIC Stamp board driving the servos, let's now have it read the R/C receiver signals. This is a simple matter of plugging in two cables from the receiver to the board. I've shown two ways in the photo here: one is with a female-to-female cable,… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on December 30, 2007 at 11:00am — 9 Comments

Basic Stamp autopilot tutorial, part 1

Over in the discussion sidebar, Wayne Garris and James Hall have been working through the details of how to build a BASIC Stamp autopilot, which we use in in GeoCrawler3 (formerly 4--sorry for the… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on December 29, 2007 at 11:30pm — 15 Comments

More learning from the Crossbow MNAV open source crew

The Crossbow MNAV autopilot system is a pricey (starting at $1,500) package of sensor and GPS hardware that has received a lot of attention in the amateur UAV world because Crossbow, to its credit, open sourced… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on December 28, 2007 at 8:14pm — No Comments

The difference between our autopilots and those of the pros

What do you get for the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars cost difference between our UAVs and those of the pros? Well, a lot (even after you take out defense contractor markups). Ours are one-offs that need a lot of hand tweaking, care and knowledge to use. They have limited range and altitude, and as we know all too well, sometimes they don't… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on December 22, 2007 at 11:00pm — 5 Comments

UAV seaplane recharges while floating for longer missions

The University of Michigan is working on a very interesting 7ft-wingspan electric UAV that is designed to decide for itself whether to float or fly. It's shown here with the electronics of an ocean buoy with which it can interact. It's modeled… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on December 19, 2007 at 1:28pm — 1 Comment

Basic Stamp Autopilot Tutorial Series

This is the front page of the multpart tutorial series that teaches you how to build and test the Basic Stamp Autopilot used in GeoCrawler 3.



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Added by Chris Anderson on December 18, 2007 at 1:00pm — 1 Comment

UAV use skyrocketing

The latest stats out of the Pentagon show that UAV (or UAS--unmanned aerial systems--as they're known in the miltary) flight time is rising faster than ever. It climbed from 160,000 hours in 2006 to an estimated 250,000 this year--up 56%.



And with that has come increased spending, from $400 million in 2002 to more than $2 billion next year to an… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on December 18, 2007 at 7:05am — No Comments

Global Hawk first impressions

Well, both Global Hawk models I wrote about the other day arrived, and I've just had time to open the boxes and quickly look them over. But four things are already clear:

  1. They're basically the same model, from Haoye Models.

  2. The…
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Added by Chris Anderson on December 13, 2007 at 3:27am — No Comments

LEGO autopilot code updated

Just a quick note to say that I've updated the code to both the GPS-based Lego autopilot and the compass-based Lego autopilot. The only major change is that the motor functions are more effecient and reliable. The old code reset the motor encoder with each turn and this was leading to some pretty serious drift after just a few turns. The new code uses a proportional turn algorithm that is not only more flexible but also eliminates drift. …

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Added by Chris Anderson on December 12, 2007 at 11:44pm — 3 Comments

My white paper on the best platform for an indoor UAV contest

[UPDATED: paper is finished and available below]

I've put together a technical assessment white paper for the FIRST robotics league, proposing an indoor aerial robotics contest for 12-17 year old kids (and coaches). Target price is under $1,000 and safety is of prime importance. This paper lists the possible platforms--microplanes, helis,…

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Added by Chris Anderson on December 10, 2007 at 4:07pm — 3 Comments

Keep those Google ads or lose them?

Speaking of redesigns, I'd like your opinion on whether to keep those Google ads at the right. I don't make any money from them (the revenues go to Ning, our social network hosting service, but I'm a premium member so I can turn them off), but I have to admit that I think it's kind of interesting to see what the Google relevancy machine turns up. I've even clicked on a few! But this is a community site, so I'll go with the majority view.

Like 'em or Lose 'em? Vote… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on December 9, 2007 at 12:45am — 3 Comments

Updated GeoCrawler 1-5 instructions

Just a quick note to say that I've updated all the instructions to GeoCrawlers 1-5 (and changed the numbering, so they now start with the Lego UAV). Some changed a little, and some changed a lot, but all reflect improvements and lessons learned since the original designs. If you're building any of these, check the instructions again. Also, we have a site redesign coming, so if you have any suggestions for additions or subtractions, now's the time (in the comments, please)

Added by Chris Anderson on December 9, 2007 at 12:11am — No Comments

Auto-stabilized camera mount 2.0: better, cheaper, faster!

I spent a few hours yesterday trying to perfect the gyro-stabilized camera (shown) in preparation for a test flight today. But even when I tweaked the settings it wouldn't take long before the gyro lost track of where "down" was and it ended up with the camera assembly at… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on December 8, 2007 at 5:10am — 18 Comments

UAV report: Tel Aviv

For UAV geeks, Israel really is the promised land. No country is more advanced in the use of UAVs, small and large, and the second Lebanon war was a state-of-the-art example of ubiquitous eye-in-the-sky presence. I'm in Tel Aviv today, and I took the opportunity to hang out with the best of the bunch. Here's a brief report.



The picture at right… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on December 6, 2007 at 4:43pm — 4 Comments

SparkFun IMU + open source Kalman filter = awesome

At risk of being even more of a Tom Pycke fanboy, here's one for the hard-core geeks among you. Our Belgian UAV whiz has released nicely commented code for that cool SparkFun 5… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on December 6, 2007 at 1:58pm — No Comments

A Global Hawk model ready to be UAV'd

There are plenty of Predator R/C models ready to be turned into proper UAVs, but where are the Global Hawks? One of the answers is that the full-size UAV is a jet, not a prop plane, so that complicates the power plant, and then there's the small matter of its huge wingspan and stumpy ("short-coupled") body, which doesn't bode well for… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on December 2, 2007 at 11:00am — No Comments

BASIC Stamp UAV code now in beta

This post describes the beta version of BASIC Stamp autopilot code. As mentioned in my last post, the two main challenges in this project were dealing with the constraints of integer-only math and a severely restricted variable space (just 26 bytes!).

The first one I got around by treating fractional degrees as full degrees (since the UAV is never going to travel more than one full degree…

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Added by Chris Anderson on December 2, 2007 at 12:30am — 32 Comments

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