All Blog Posts (13,732)

3D Robotics
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

NASA's new autopilot system

NASA is developing a navigation system that augments GPS signals via a satellite phone network so that it works around the globe, beyond the limited implementation of WAAS. Their intended application is a UAV based mapping function utilizing synthetic aperture radar technology which requires a highly stable and accurate platform.

For testing purposes they will mount the radar and navigation system on a Gulfstream III (I especially like this part), "Since the Gulfstream III operates…


Added by T-Rex on December 14, 2007 at 1:09pm — No Comments

3D Robotics
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…

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

3D Robotics
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. …


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

Matching powertrain components to suit requirements (

Since I started flying r/c airplanes in the mid 70s when I was in high school I always wondered about the selection of propellers and glow engines for a particular airframe.

After a long break from r/c, I built a couple of electric powered models in 2000. Neither model flew more than 20 feet off a hand launch until, after trial and error, I found correct combinations of propellers, gearboxes, motors and batteries.

Not happy with the trial and error method, I wrote analysis… Continue

Added by James Canova on December 11, 2007 at 3:08pm — 2 Comments

3D Robotics
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,…


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

3D Robotics
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

3D Robotics
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

3D Robotics
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 one side… Continue

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

3D Robotics
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 is me at… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on December 6, 2007 at 4:43pm — 5 Comments

3D Robotics
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

Amateur vs. pro

Reading definitely puts the amateur UAV business into perspective. If U want to work for a Lockheed or a Boeing, a top engineering degree from MIT is pretty much the price of admission. The qualifications they hired for the Hummingbird UAV make U want to hang up your transmitter and go into used cars.

Added by Jack Crossfire on December 4, 2007 at 4:40pm — 1 Comment

3D Robotics
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 stability.

No… Continue

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

3D Robotics
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…


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

3D Robotics
OpenAerialMap: like a wikified GoogleMaps

We love GoogleMaps, but one of the problems with it is that you can't really add your own data to it. Sure, you can superimpose your imagery on a GoogleMaps layer, but it won't show unless people use a special URL. That's the reason for the creation of OpenAerialMap.…


Added by Chris Anderson on November 30, 2007 at 3:43pm — 3 Comments

Flyingwings Ltd UK

Hi my name is Rob Swynnerton, i run a small company, We manufacture a range of EPP models, wings etc. We also make parts for UAV contractors and this has sparked my imagination, what would be a great UAV test platform ? What size, payload capacity, what would be better than a commercially available model ie twin jet etc. Designs that inspire me are the Desert Hawk and the Raven, small micro UAV's with a wingspan of around…


Added by Rob Swynnerton on November 29, 2007 at 3:19pm — 11 Comments

Observer Airframe, now heres a challenge

From an email that Rob just sent... Now I'm sure we all have ideas for what we would like in an airframe.

If you put it here I'll make sure he reads this thread.

The desert hawk is epp, and so are others being developed. We are producing airframes

for a major UK military contractor, its gone UAV crazy over here with a massive dedicated centre being built here in Bristol.

It would be good fun to create a…


Added by Gary Mortimer on November 29, 2007 at 1:02am — 1 Comment

3D Robotics
Finally, FAA rules on small UAVs in the works?

If you missed it in the news feed at the lower left, the FAA is making some progress on a common-sense regulatory framework for small UAVs like ours (at the moment, we're all flying under some outmoded 1980s guidelines that are, to be generous, a legal gray area). I like the sound of a category for small UAVs that recognizes their limited risk, but my concern in the below is the phrase "vehicles would have to be kept within sight of the operators" part (it's not clear if that would apply both… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on November 29, 2007 at 12:14am — 1 Comment

Another airframe

Whilst flicking through the pages of a magazine, I came across....

The only down side for South Africa and in particular up here in the mountains is the size, probably can't lift a camera as well with a high density altitude.

I send an email off to Flying Wings asking for a bigger one and Robert Swynnerton very quickly replied that they were building one for our very purpose that would be available soon.

Called the…


Added by Gary Mortimer on November 28, 2007 at 11:43am — No Comments

Virginia Tech UAV

This is a nice writeup on a UAV built by student group at Virginia Tech. Not cheap; but a nice setup.

Added by Jason on November 27, 2007 at 10:51pm — 2 Comments

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