$10,000 $5,000 $1,000 is too much to pay for an autopilot, especially one that doesn't do exactly what you want."
An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV, colloquially known as a "drone") is basically an aerial robot. As we define it, it is capable of both remotely controlled flight (like a regular RC aircraft) and fully-autonomous flight, controlled by sensors, GPS, and onboard computers performing the functions of an autopilot. Our UAVs include airplanes, helicopters, quadcopters and blimps. Most of them are under five pounds, and some of them (especially the blimps) can be used indoors.
We are focused on non-commercial ("recreational") projects by amateurs, although pros are always welcome too. Reasons to make your own UAV range from a fun technical challenge, student contests, aerial photography and mapping (what we call "GeoCrawling"), and scientific sensing. We are primarily interested in civilian, not military, UAV uses here.
If you're new to all this, start here.
DIY Drones is a community based on the Ning social networking platform, and anybody who registers (it's free and easy) can post their own blog entries like this one on the front page, along with starting discussions in the sidebar at left or uploading videos below that. Your registration gives you the ability to do a lot on the site--so feel free to post anything you think will be of interest to this community!
There are other amateur sites out there, from the discussion forums of RC Groups to individual blogs, but DIY Drones is explicitly built as a social network, which means that the community is as important as the content. We're also focused on the most accessible end of the amateur UAV world, with the aim of potentially including high school students.
This means we emphasize amateur UAV projects that are:
- Simple: The aim of this project is to create new amateur UAV platforms, including those that could be used for a FIRST-like contest appropriate for students. While we're at it, we'll make amateur UAV development easier for everyone.
- Cheap: The target cost of all of our platforms is less than $1,000. You can buy a very good autopilot system for $10,000, but that's not our approach. Cheaper is better, especially with students and schools.
- Safe: We follow the current interpretation of the FAA guidelines on small UAVs. Recreational use (non-commercial), under 400 ft altitude, line of sight, "pilot in the loop" and onboard safety systems that always allow for manual control in the case of malfunction. We're building experimental platforms that demonstrate autonomy and the capacity to do real useful UAV work, but we test them in controlled settings. If you want to fly miles out of sight or map cities, we're going to assume you've got the proper FAA clearance or we don't want to know about it.
- Participatory: Share and others will share with you. That means that whenever possible, we open source our code and post it online. Everything on this site is published under a Creative Commons "attribution" license, which means that anyone can use or repost it, as long as they give credit to the original author.
- Civil: This is a community site of peers helping each other. Bad behavior, from rudeness to foul language, will be deleted. Generosity and kindness is often rewarded with reciprocal behavior and help.
Here are the full set of Site Policies:
- Civility is paramount. Treat others with respect, kindness and generosity. Some of our most expert members are people who were once total n00bz but were helped and encouraged by others, and are now repaying the favor with the next generation. Remember the Golden Rule. Don't be a jerk to anyone, be they other members, moderators or the owners. This is not a public park, and you have no constitutionally-mandated right to free speech. If you're creating a hostile or unpleasant environment, you'll be warned, then if it continues you'll be suspended.
- No discussion of politics or religion. This is not the place to discuss your views on the wisdom of military use of UAVs, any nation's foreign policy, your feelings about war, or anything else that is inclined to turn into a political debate. It is our experience that the rules for good dinner party conversation--no discussion of politics and religion--apply to online communities, too. DIY Drones aims to bring people together, and we find that discussions of politics and religion tend to polarize and drive people apart. There are plenty of other places to discuss those topics online, just not here.
- Ask questions in the discussion forum; inform others in blog posts. Submitted blog posts that are just questions and should have been posted in the discussion forum will not be approved. The moderators may or may not message you with the text so you can repost in the right area. To avoid losing your post, put it in the right place from the start.
- Blog posts are for informative topics of broad interest to the community. They must start with a picture or video, so the image appears on the front page on the site and gives a sense of the topic as well as inviting people to click in for more. Videos should be embedded (paste the embed code in the HTML tab, not the Rich Text tab). The post should also include links where appropriate. Don't make people do a Google search for what you're talking about if you can provide a link.
- The Discussion Forum is for questions and tech support. We prefer to do all tech support in public, so that others can follow along. If you have a problem, please describe your particular system setup completely, ideally with a photograph, and pick the right forum tags so that others can find the thread later.
- No discussion of military or weaponized applications of UAVs. This site is just about amateur and civilian use.
- No discussion of illegal or harmful use of UAVs will be tolerated. Responsible use of UAVs is at the core of our mission. That means conforming with all laws in the United States, where this site is based, and insisting that our members elsewhere follow the laws of their own countries. In addition, we feel that part of our responsibility it to help the relevant authorities understand what's possible with amateur UAVs, so they can make better-informed policies and laws. So we have encouraged all relevant regulators, defense agencies and law enforcement agencies to become members here and even participate to help them do that, and many have. In addition, if we see any discussion of UAV use that we feel is potentially illegal or intended to do harm, we will bring it to the attention to the relevant authorities, and will comply with any legal request they make for information about users (although we don't know much that isn't public; see the next item).
- Promote safe flying. Moderators may delete postings that they decide are unsafe or promote unsafe activity. This is a judgement call, since it is also healthy to have public discussion about why certain activities are unsafe, but the decision as to whether to leave a post or edit/delete it is at the moderators' discretion.
- Your privacy is protected, up to a point: This is a social network, so everything you write and post here is public, with certain exceptions: 1) Your private messages are private. Administrators are unable to see them, nor can anyone else other than the recipient. Members must not make private messages public without the explicit permission of everyone involved. 2) Your IP address is private. We are hosted on Ning, which controls the server logs. DIY Drones administrators can only see your username and email address; they cannot see your password and do not have access to your account.
- Do not type in ALL CAPS. It's considered SHOUTING. Posts in all caps will be deleted by the moderators.
- Absolutely no personal attacks. It's fine to disagree, but never okay to criticize another member personally.
- Share. Although we are not limited to open source projects, the ones that tend to get the most participation tend to be open source. Don't wait until your code or design is "finished"--post it as it is, and you may find that others will help you finish it faster. The best way to contribute is with your creativity--we love data, code, aircraft designs, photos of UAV projects, videos of flights and build logs. Post early and often!
- Keep comments open: Authors of blog posts and discussion threads technically have the option to close their comments or approve them before they appear, but we ask members not to do that. We want to encourage a free flow of conversation and blocking or delaying comments only interferes with that. The Moderators are standing by to ensure the conversation remains on-topic and civil, so please leave your comments open and let them do their job.