Chris Anderson's Blog – February 2008 Archive (18)

Getting ready to debut the Minimum Blimp UAV at TED

Tomorrow Jordi and I will give everyone at the TED conference in Monterey the first public preview of the Minimum Blimp UAV. I did the design and Jordi did all the work!

Jordi has more detail in his post… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on February 28, 2008 at 1:30pm — 3 Comments

Interview: UNAV's Dave Perry on the PicoPilot autopilot

If you want an autopilot for less than $1,000 today you only have two choices: Do it Yourself or buy a PicoPilot (Dean Goedde's AttoPilot isn't out yet). The PicoPilot, which has been out since 2003, is small, light, and simple, and comes in varieties that range from simple one-axis rudder control to barometrically controlled elevator and/or throttle (prices… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on February 26, 2008 at 11:30pm — 4 Comments

Lego GPS Autopilot code now less buggy!

For those of you interested in building a Lego Mindstorms UAV, two updates:

1) I've improved the RobotC code for the Bluetooth GPS version, in which I caught a lot of bugs. If you were having trouble with it before, download it again and see how it works.

2) At an event in April (can't say more than that), I'll be unveiling the next version of the… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on February 25, 2008 at 12:30am — 1 Comment

New autopilot/IMU board from SparkFun

Some of you may have noticed that for quite a while SparkFun has been listing a "UAV Development Platform - ET312 + IMU" that's always been out of stock. I backordered one out of curiosity last year, and pretty much forgot about it. Then, last week, SparkFun called and said that… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on February 18, 2008 at 4:00pm — 19 Comments

Minimum Blimp UAV bench testing

Jordi and I have been hard at work on the Minimum Blimp UAV and things are coming together nicely. Here are some videos:

First, a test of the Ping))) sensor that we're using for altitude hold. Don't you love the tray-table simulation platform? ;-) The Ping))) sensors are strapped to the far end of the… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on February 18, 2008 at 2:30pm — No Comments

Demo of a failsafe board for the Basic Stamp autopilot

In an earlier post, I discussed the importance of having a redundant failsafe board so you can regain control in the advent (likelyhood!) of an autopilot failure. Basically, what that board does is sits in-between your autopilot, RC receiver and servos. You switch it between… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on February 18, 2008 at 12:30pm — 11 Comments

GPS simulation with Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004

We love FlightGear and all that it stands for, but the truth is that it's a bit complicated for beginners. For the rest of us, there's the old stand-by, Microsoft Flight simulator. There's a free plug-in for MS Flight Simulator 2004 called… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on February 17, 2008 at 10:36pm — 4 Comments

How college Blimp UAV contests work

The main existing US Blimp UAV competition is the Indoor Aerial Robot Competition (IARC) held every year since 2005 at Drexel University in Phladelphia.

The contest is designed mostly as an exercise in remote control, both human and computer. The blimps appear to be all RC, with wireless cameras… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on February 16, 2008 at 11:00am — 1 Comment

Blimp UAV update: Minimum and Maximum versions

We've forked the Blimp UAV into two projects, a minimum and a maximum one. The maximum one is the one that's using the NorthStar "synthetic GPS" directional system and all sorts of other goodies to be a real indoor UAV, with full room sense and navigation ability. That's moving… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on February 16, 2008 at 12:00am — 16 Comments

Some upgrades/changes to the site

As some of you know, this site is based on the Ning platform, and they've just rolled out some changes. Relevent parts for us include:

--Mass Uploader for Photos, Videos, and Music/Podcasts

You'll now be able to upload up to 100 photos, 30 videos or 100 songs/podcasts in one fell swoop. That's not to say that adding all of this stuff won't take forever, but go grab a snack or five and you'll be all set.

--Blog "Improvements" - Round 1

Frankly, this is a… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on February 15, 2008 at 10:34am — No Comments

Dealing with different GPS versions

Another advantage of GPS simulation: you get to discover horrible glitches in the matrix, such as the inconvenient fact that GPS comes in different dialects, each of which requires different parsing. I found this out when my GPS parser was working with the simulator, but not the real EM406. The problem turned out to be that the simulator outputs GPS time as… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on February 12, 2008 at 10:00pm — 10 Comments

Why you MUST simulate before flying

I've had a couple people ask why there's such an emphasis here on GPS simulation. The simple answer is "Because we don't want to lose our UAVs!" With regular robots, when they've got bugs or software crashes, you just pick them up and fix the problem. With UAVs, they're likely to fly away forever or end up in a pile of pieces. They're more like satellites or Mars rovers than battlebots--you can't fix them from the ground, and when they go wrong in the air, it can be catastrophic.

One… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on February 9, 2008 at 8:30pm — 5 Comments

Bug fixes in the Basic Stamp Autopilot code

Now that I'm doing hardware-in-the-loop testing with the GPS simulator, the bugs in my code are showing up quickly, just as they should. Here's one small-but-deadly one I found this eve: all the code using the FT639 servo controller chip should have a special serial port configuration line that's different from the one we use for the GPS module. Turns out that… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on February 8, 2008 at 12:00am — 3 Comments

Modifying the Basic Stamp autopilot for the EM406 GPS (and simulators)

In an earlier post (and here), I showed how to switch the Basic Stamp autopilot from the Parallax GPS module to the better EM406. The reason to do this isn't just the superior reception of the EM406. It's also that the original version of the Basic… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on February 3, 2008 at 10:30am — No Comments

Interview: Dean Goedde and the AttoPilot project

If you've been following the exploits of IceBear and a few others, you know that recently they've been beta testing a hot new autopilot that promises to be better and cheaper than anything else in the under $1,000 category. It's called the AttoPilot and I'm delighted that our third…


Added by Chris Anderson on February 2, 2008 at 9:00am — 4 Comments

Dean Goedde interview, part 3: All about IR sensing vs. gyros

Q: You decided to go with an IR sensor (aka "thermopile", shown) rather than a gyro and accelerometer in an IMU for the first version. Can you explain how you came to that decision?

I have found that even without fancy code, the thermopile is a…


Added by Chris Anderson on February 2, 2008 at 8:30am — 13 Comments

Dean Goedde interview, part 2: All about the AttoPilot

Q: In a nutshell, what's the AttoPilot project about?

The AttoPilot is about bringing a full-function powerful autopilot to a larger crowd, for many of whom "DIY" is not their interest, just something they can buy and use. I myself wanted to buy a hobby autopilot in late 2005 knowing… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on February 2, 2008 at 8:30am — 8 Comments

Should you create a blog post or a discussion topic?

Every member of DIY Drones has the ability to create their own blog posts and discussion topics (Please do! This is a community site and its vitality depends on your participation).

Doing so is easy: click here to create a blog post or click here to… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on February 1, 2008 at 8:30pm — 3 Comments

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