Hex Air Robot's Posts (20)

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From Open-source Hardware to Open-source Manufacturing - Hex Airbot Launches a Digitally Fabricated Open-source Nanocopter


Hex is a nanocopter that uses 3D printers to change its look. With the recent outbreak of 3D printers, this is one of the first applications of 3D printers in consumer goods for personalization.The look of Hex is completely customizable by the plug-and-play 3D printed shells provided by the team. There are many different designs available that can be directly mounted on top of the circuit board. Creative people are also able to design their own shells.


Hex has four to six propellers and can be controlled using mobile devices and is very easy to fly. The control methods have made the physical control stick remote control redundant. Hex has the capability of carrying a webcam that lets its users to take photos and videos from the air, and stream video in real-time on a tablet or a smartphone. 

Being completely open source and Arduino compatible, makers and programmers will find Hex especially interesting as they can easily modify its behavior and make it do even cooler things!



Hex uses Bluetooth 4.0 for communication between the smartphone and the circuit board. Hex can also carry a Wi-Fi webcam for real time video stream flow to the smartphone. In addition, Hex with a 5.8G Radio module and a pair of First Person View glasses can let users experience what it really is to be in the air.



Hex will be officially launched on the popular crowdfunding site, Kickstarter, on August 26, 2013 and the developers are raising $10,000 for their innovative open-source nanocopter. Many rewards are on offer for pledges varying from $9 to $2999.

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Hex demostrated in San Francisco

At HAXLR8R’s demo day, ten hot hardware startups presented their products after completing a 15-week accelerator program in Shenzhen China. The program is designed to help entrepreneurs with innovative hardware concepts and prototypes and help turn them into commercial realities.

Yes! Hex is one of them! Here are some pitcures of the journey.After 3 months of madness! The next station, San Francisco!


Started learning English before boarding the plane.


The demo day was held at Autodesk.


Introducing Haxlr8r.

3689525014?profile=originalPitching Hex to the investors.

3689525036?profile=original3689524968?profile=original3689524989?profile=originalIntroducing Hex to the press.

The Haxlr8r folks.

3689524896?profile=originalTo be continued...

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Update on Eva Autopilot

Earlier post: http://diydrones.com/profiles/blogs/eva-a-new-open-source-autopilot 

Apologies for disappearing for such a long time; we have been discussing and figuring our way around how to do this. It took us a lot more time than we estimated, but we are almost ready to release our autopilot, and these are the things that we plan to provide along with the autopilot:







Hardware Specifications


Eva Autopilot


ARM920T Processor.

Detailed Specs:


Supports fixed-wing crafts, multicopters, helicopters, ground rovers and boats.





Bi-directional transmitter


433/915 MHz


Bi-directional receiver


433/915 MHz




Power module, Flight Status LED, USB/COM connector



Software Specifications


Eva code




Communication protocol




Extended Kalman filter module

Object file (*.o)


Will be gradually open sourced.

Ground Control Station (iOS)


Manual flight, waypoints, target locks, Automatic take-off, automatic landing, OSD


The above hardware will be sold at cost to the early participants of the Eva project! If you are interested, feel free to get in touch with me!


So to just keep you guys updated, we have managed to incorporate RC Touch with Eva, which is basically an open sourced ground control station for iOS. RC Touch allows manual flights and autonomous flights. It has functions such as one-touch take off and one-touch landings. It supports waypoint missions, target locks, tracking and many other functionalities already. Aircrafts can be controlled with the iPad/iPhone manually as well.


We are also currently in the process of making our website and getting more information online. We hope that by the end of this week we will have the code all set and ready to be downloaded from GitHub!


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Eva: A new open source autopilot!


                Arduino is awesome, and the autopilots based on them are great. Not only do they support an incredible number of external devices, but also don’t scare away the novice developers. Easy programming and versatility are nice but the cost at which they come at is somewhat of a letdown. 8-bit Arduino processors don’t allow a lot of room for other computation. Having already crashed a very expensive hexacopter (http://diydrones.com/profiles/blogs/the-story-about-hex-and-people-behind-it), and being told off for doing something quite risky (http://diydrones.com/profiles/blogs/hex-get-me-my-coffee), we have realized the importance of safety in autopilots.

                Algorithms related to safety often require implementation of vision algorithms and quick analysis of sensor data logs, and unfortunately Arduinos aren’t suitable for such computation. Better processors can allow such implementations and even though autopilots with better computation capability on their own are not enough to ensure safety, but they can provide a good basis to develop things, like obstacle avoidance, that can lower the risks of unwanted crashes.

                Aside from the programming capabilities, there is one other flaw that a lot of current open source autopilots have, and that is, setting the PID values. It often takes a novice user weeks to get a copter to fly stably in presence of external disturbances whereas the same user can use a commercial autopilot and achieve stable flights in a matter of hours (or even less). Configuring open source autopilots often takes a while as well.

               With the aim of creating an autopilot that achieves stability without a lot of tuning, and having a 32-bit processor and still supporting many external devices, ZeroUAV and HeX, together intend to initiate an open source autopilot that is based on the commercial YS-X4. We are not interested to reinvent the wheel, but instead are interested to solve the aforementioned flaws.



Software License: GPL v3

Hardware License: Creative Commons BY-SA



  • Eva uses a 32 bit ARM processor.
  • Onboard sensors include 3-axis gyroscope, 3-axis accelerator, barometer, and thermometer.
  • Eva uses a very precise Analog-to-Digital Converter.
  • Eva supports GPS and 3 axis digital gyroscope.
  • Eva supports standalone power sources, and doesn’t need a UBEC connection.


Detailed Hardware Specifications:


Processor:         AT91RM9200

                         ARM920T Kernel

                         Operating Frequency of 180 MHz, 200 MIPS

                         Cache: 32 KB  (16 KB Data Cache, 16 KB Instruction Cache, Write Buffer)

                         Memory (SRAM): 16 KB

                         External RAM (SDRAM): 64 Mb

                         External DataFlash 512KB



Gyroscope:       Uses two chips: LPR430AL (For X and Y axis), LY330ALH (For Z axis).


                         Measurement Range: ±300 dps.

                         Bandwidth: 140 Hz.

                         Stable output, and provides temperature stability.

                         High shock and vibration survivability.


Accelerometer: ADXL335


                         Measurement Range: ±3 g.

                         High Frequency Response; 1600 Hz.

                         Low Power Consumption (350 uA).

                         10,000 g shock survival.

                         Stable output and excellent temperature stability.


Barometer:       MPXA6115A

                         Sensitivity: 45.0 mV/kPa.

                         Pressure Range: 15kPa – 115kP.

                         Stable output, and provides temperature stability (1.5% Maximum Error over 0o to 85oC).

                         Temperature Compensated from -40oC to +125oC.

                         High Accuracy at High Temperature.

                         Automatic Temperature Compensation.       


Thermometer:   LM335

                         Stable output, measurement error ±2%.



IMU Analog to Digital Converter:


                         24 bit (Precise up to 10 cm for barometer’s sampling).

                         Data Output Rates to 30kSPS.


GPS Module

                         GPS NEO-6

                         Sensitivity: -162 dBm

                         Maximum Navigation Update Rate: 5 Hz

                         Horizontal Positional Accuracy: 2.5m

                         Velocity Accuracy: 0.1 m/s

                         Heading Accuracy: 0.5o


Digital Compass: Honeywell HMC5883L

                          3 axis. 

                          12-bit ADC enables 1o to 2o compass heading accuracy.

                          Maximum Output Rate: 160 Hz

                          Low power consumption.



Detailed Software Specifications:

  • Extremely stable flight
  • State calculation
  • Gimbal support
  • Automatic take off
  • Way point flights
  • Automatic interest point lock
  • Automatic lock
  • Ground Control
  • Overload Control
  • Automatic Navigation, GPS Navigation
  • One key return (Using GPS)
  • Care free flights
  • Supports tricopters, quadcopters, hexacopters and octacopters.
  • Supports GPS mode and R/C mode. Supports real time switches between modes, using an remote control.


All the schematics and PCB diagrams can be downloaded under a CC BY-SY license.


PCB Diagram:




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What does Desktop Fabrication mean to HeX?

We adopted the way of Desktop Fabrication to build HeX. Here is an example what that way does to it and how it effects on other hobbyists who also want to build a similar one.


the files of the designs of HeX will be uploaded onto the internet and freely accessible to anyone who is enthusiastic about it. With these files, if you also happen to get some CNC routers and laser cutters at home, you can build the same stuff as I have done. Moreover, you can go furthur to help us improve the designs and upload them as well.

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What does a modular design do?

a modular design makes HeX adaptable from a quadcopter to a hexacopter even to a triple-rotor copter as the following picture shows


And also, we hope the modular design makes it friendlier to users because the complexity of putting a drone together is being brought down so that HeX is more accessible not just for hobbyists but also to more individuals in the future. 

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The Story about HeX and people behind it

3689504354?profile=originalThe whole idea of building a drone started on August 2012. Our original thought was to make a cool, pluggable and hackable hexagonal drone targeting customers including both ordinary people as X-sports fans and  pros as DIYers. And in order to demonstrate people how the technology of Computer Vision (short as CV) could be applied to our daily life, we decided to make it able to see and recognize a moving target then follow it so that  people can use it as an aerial self-filming kit particularly for X-sports fans.
Back then, Kickstarter allowed people to use conceptual designs and rendered videos to capture eyes of backers. So our strategy was to do a quick research and evaluation on the technical feasibility of making such a drone and our competence of delivering it if we successfully raise the fund with a rendered video.
The answer to that research and evaluation was positive. So we decided to make a quick prototype, shoot the video and then post the project on Kickstarter within 2 month, which means in original intention we planned to raise fund for HeX on Kickstarter at the middle of October,2012. And in the fears of funding goal not being met, we lowered our expectation to somewhere around 15,000 USD and were hoping the difference  between that number and the actual cost of developing a real one be capitalized by angels or VC.
So we made the first prototype out of some second-handed components like the X shape body frame and adopted the way of DIYing a flight control  from MWC. We brought a Panda board, which we hope is going to be customized and minimized in size in future as an airborne computer, to  test our tracking algorithm as well.
3689504354?profile=originalthe first drone we made
However, approximately during the middle of September last year, we found we had to do more than what we had planned. Kickstarter introduced some regulatory policies in the answer of public questioning the integrity of its business model because some heavily funded projects were facing the allegation of deceiving people for money. Notable policies include project approval process and denial to rendered videos and pictures.
We didn't want to give up because of those new regulations. So we went on to have the second prototype built. We 3D printed the whole hexagonal body frame in a costy but high resolution-guaranteed way (the body frame costed us nearly 8,000 RMB). After finding there are still many flaws in the flight control we DIYed, we bought a more sophisticated one from the market to give the second prototype a stable performance. (We're pretty sure we can improve our flight control and make it as sophisticated as others people can find in the market. It's just not worth the time and money doing it now before the money we could raise).
We had been pretty sure that with the second prototype we could shoot a video and make an intro that could meet the cafeteria of Kickstarter. But things just didn't go well as we expected. The second one is a little heavy than we thought. The time it could fly is short around 5 to 10 minutes and people without any experience of flying a drone before will find it not that easy to control it. Small accidents happened almost every time we took it out to fly and shoot videos. More lethally, the 3D printed body frame is so fragile. After several times of fixing it with black duct tape, it finally broke into pieces in a terrible and deadly crash without fulfilling it destiny which was to help us have the intro video done. (I still remember the guy's face after he crashed it).
The scene of crash
OK, this wasn't the way to do it. But what's the solution to make a drone not afraid of being crashed?
One is that the body frame needs to be crash-proofed. Two is that it's not crash-proofed but it is ridiculously cheap. But either way, we needed to find out how?
After weeks researching on the ways of manufacturing in mold choosing, shape forming, material choosing, we finally figured out a way: purchasing our own CNC router, 3D printer, laser cutter and glass fabric boards to build it. Because anything other than this is not affordable or incompetent in skill for us.
So we redesigned HeX making the hexagonal look able to be assembled by components that can be made  out of CNC router, 3d printer, laser cutter. And that's how we have built the third prototype. By doing so the cost of the body frame dropped dramatically to 5% of the its previous ancestor. And we can quickly and affordablly build several copies of HeX or spare parts. If it crashes again when we take it out for video shooting, no worries, we just fly another one or quickly replace its broken parts. We found our solution in personal manufacturing.
The whole process makes us realize we still want to take on the path of making a perfect drone but with a different approach.
Before assembly
the Assembled Dynamic Unit
To Be Continued......

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HeX mini

After over one month, I work out the second generation prototype of HeX. 

1. trimmed down the size:

the diameter of the first generation is 100 centimeters. this one's is 70 centimeters


2. the modular design goes like this:


zoom-in details for electronic and mechanical connections between dynamic units and the centerpiece


3. the body frame of the second generation is made by a CNC, a laser cutting and a 3D printer for different parts rather than almost all printed by a 3D printer like what we did to the first generation. By doing so the cost of materials has been reduced to 40% of the first generation.


more pictures of the second generation prototype of HeX



We hope this kind of design could get rid of the traditional way of manufacturing in a factory. Individuals can download the CAD files of our designing and produce their own parts and assemble a HeX in a makerspace or on their desktops. Pros can modify the design and customize one as well. This is inspired by these:



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We ever posted a article in DIYdrones' forum to see the feasibility of turning iphone into a RC controller. It seems that people are not very keen on it, partly due to the lack of precise control through tilt action and partly due to the reluctance of giving up an actual control stick. So we disabled the tilt action and modified the interface into a RC simulation one. Then we give the full set of gadget-hardware that translates the signal coming out from headphone jack into radio and app in iphone or ipad to control drones-a name RC Touch:

the original interface of the app was like this:

3689497664?profile=originalthe modified interface is like this:


We adapted this from iPhly

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We designed a dock and made a prototype by carving out all the components from glass-fabric board and putting them together.

the concept is like this


the prototype is showed as below



We bought a set of carving machine and a 3D printer to make our own components for HeX


We haven't fixed it on our drone yet. Later on, I will update the result of how it actually works on a drone


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Out door trial of HeX

hi, guys, the video of HeX's outdoor trial is coming, check it out

After several times of indoor trial, we finally was able to took HeX out when the sky was clear. Enjoy it guys.The landing gear clashes with the frame a little. It's a temporary choice.

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the First Generation Prototype of HeX

After hard working for several months, we're finally able to announce the birth of a prototype of HeX

3689488569?profile=originalThe hexagonal frames are made by a 3D printer. They cost us nearly 1300 USD.

3689488658?profile=originalAll the components are successfully hidden inside of the centerpiece. 

Allow us to show off a little bit from different angles. Yeah! We're a little overexcited!



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Something we'd like to share about HeX

3689482643?profile=originalWhy we wanted HeX at the first place?

1. We wanted it to be able to tackle the contradiction between small aircraft’s size and  carriage capacity

2. we wanted it to be omnipotent to accomplish various advanced tasks as human’s replacement in circumstances where human being is incapable.


That resulted in 3 features in HeX :  modular design, flexible to peripherals and an open platform of robotic aircraft for hackers.


We thought HeX with the 3 prominent features would be able to cover a wide range of demands in market.


To well demonstrate its potential to wow people in various fields, we decided to make it an air filming kit for outdoor activity fans which can track and film the target automatically and can be used as simply as clicking some buttons


A Change of Strategy 

But almost 1 month ago, we had a meeting and made some strategic changes after that. During the meeting, we broke down the logic order of why we want HeX  and reviewed the technological and engineering complexity. After rounds of  passionate and inspiring discussion, we found what made us really go nuts about HeX was not other features but the very first one: its portability and capacity adaptability  given by a modular design, and the use as an air filming kit which might bring revolution to personal and family entertainment.


Before we made a change to our market and development strategy, we went  through some technological possibilities:


1. whether ARM can be fast enough to run an tracking algorithm as an airborne computer
2. whether existing tracking algorithm is sophisticated enough to give HeX a stable performance when it is tracking and filming the target in the air


Finally, we decided  to temporarily abandon the idea of making HeX an open platform of robotic aircraft. We temporarily  don’t want it to be able to carry various different peripherals.


We just want it to be an all-time awesome  and portable air-filming kit because personal and family entertainment is already a huge enough business and the market of it is massive.


Now the new born HeX is going to be  an portable air-filming kit. It’s going to be revolutionary to both robot-making world and personal-entertaining world.

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What's going on about HeX recently

we're working on two basic systems: flight control and autopilot

As to the system of flight control, we adopted the software from an open source project called MultiWii (http://multiwii.com). We made our IMU by  soldering  an accelerometer and a gyro, both of which can be cheaply available by tearing apart a Wii remote controller, onto an Arduino chip and used the IMU to build a quadrotor test bed for flight control software. 

The above video shows how the flight control software was working on the test bed when we were debugging it.As you can see,  we failed at the beginning where the test bed could barely take off. However, finally it was able to take off smoothly.


As to the system of autopilot, for our tracking system, we decided to adopt the algorithm from TLD which's inventive feature is the ability of real-time learning on the locked target so that it can update the latest samples  for its detecting and recognizing. The following video shows its performance in tracking


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Introduction to Project HeX


What is HeX? Why do we want to do it?

HeX which is a portable robotic multi-rotors copter with a modular design and the abilities of auto tracking and filming

There are several reasons we wanted to do this at the first place:
First, We found robotic multiple-rotor copters are quit mature with a sophisticated ROS.
Second, with proper airborne peripherals and software, an air robot can accomplish various tasks in industrial, military and civilian uses. So if we put a camera and computer embed an efficient tracking algorithm on HeX to give it an ability to perceive and track a certain target, what this can be used in our lives?
Third, we find X-sports fans love to have someone else to film them when they are doing those spectacular moves. Bingo! would it be cool if HeX can track and film those X-sports fans automatically and it doesn't take a tech pro to set it off?

Then it comes the idea building an portable air robot for X-sports fans and family entertaining events.

more about HeX, please check out the website http://hex.angeleyes.it

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