Chris Anderson's Blog – May 2008 Archive (19)

How to add vectoring thrusters to a blimp

As those who have been following along with our "minimum blimp" project to create the cheapest possible autonomous aerial robot (by adding an open source autopilot to a toy RC blimp), maintaining altitude in the face of air currents and temperature gradients has been a continuing challenge. The main problem…


Added by Chris Anderson on May 26, 2008 at 10:00pm — 11 Comments

Has anyone here successfully built and flown a Paparazzi autopilot?

Judging from this thread, Paparazzi is a complete nightmare to implement, despite the new availability of pre-built boards. The insistence that it has to run under Linux doesn't help.

I have huge respect for the technical accomplishments of the Paparazzi team, but it sounds like some all-important hand-holding for regular folks has been lost along the… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on May 25, 2008 at 1:30pm — 8 Comments

Good news on the regulatory front--and a lot of questions

Dave Perry from UNAV writes in with some news:

"UNAV has been working with the US Commerce Dept. for the past six months to re-classify our PICOPILOT-RTL (Return To Launch) product.

We claimed that since the -RTL could not be programmed with user… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on May 25, 2008 at 9:30am — 9 Comments

Interested in a UAV fly-in in San Diego before AUVSI next month?

The AUVSI organizers have offered to get us a flying field in San Diego for an amateur UAV fly-in on Sunday, June 8th, the day before their big annual UAV conference and expo starts. Before I take them up on this, I want to gauge interest: are you in the San Diego area or going there for AUVSI and might want to fly on that Sunday?

(BTW, I'm giving a keynote at AUVSI, talking about the… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on May 21, 2008 at 6:30am — 6 Comments

A DIY Drones Milestone: 1,000 members!

Today we hit another nice milestone in the growth of DIY Drones: 1,000 people have signed up to participate. In the ten months this site has been running, it has grown to an average of 1,000 unique visitors and 5,000 page views a day. Over that period, we've had a total of about 200,000 unique visitors and nearly three quarters of million page views. We add new… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on May 20, 2008 at 12:30pm — No Comments

Another mapping mission over the Googleplex

After our presentations last week at Where 2.0, our Pict'Earth friends stuck around for the weekend to do another mapping mission over the Googleplex (this now seems to be a rite of passage in our community--my original mission is… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on May 18, 2008 at 12:30pm — No Comments

New GAO report on regulating UAVs in the National Airspace

The Government Accounting Office has released a new report on the issue of introducing UAVs into the national airspace for routine operations. Nothing very new or illuminating, but I'm glad that they noted that the lack of a clear regulatory path is hindering commercial development. Words that do not appear anywhere in the report: "amateur", "non-commercial", "recreational" and "open source".

Although the report makes many… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on May 17, 2008 at 5:02pm — 2 Comments

HOW-TO: Make your own PCB

Confused by all this talk about Eagle PCB files, schematics, "fabs" and all that? Until about three months ago, so was I. But with a lot of late nights and hand-holding from Jordi, I finally figured it out and now find the fast-growing DIY hardware world mind-blowingly cool. Now you can zip up the learning curve a lot faster than I did by checking out this excellent new… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on May 14, 2008 at 2:50pm — 1 Comment

Clever helmet for monitoring your wireless video feed

From our friends at Pict'Earth, a neat hack to keep your directional antenna pointed the right way and monitor your wireless video while your plane is in the air.

I was going to say it was "cool" but I realized that my wife would probably disagree (indeed, she'd have… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on May 14, 2008 at 2:30pm — 2 Comments

A GPS simulation for the Outback Challenge UAV contest

Dave from UNAV sent over the above GPS simulation results from a search and rescue pattern test for the upcoming Australian Outback Challenge contest. The course is 5x2 miles and Dave used the new… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on May 13, 2008 at 11:00pm — 2 Comments

Introducing ArduPilot: the world's cheapest autopilot!

The decision to port the Basic Stamp autopilot to Arduino turned out to be an unexpected opportunity to make something really cool. I've taken Jordi's open source… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on May 11, 2008 at 9:00am — 91 Comments

Using a mouse chip to measure optical flow

For very small UAVs, especially those used indoors, an interesting way to navigate is using a technique called "optical flow". Basically, it's the way flies see: they detect motion rather than resolve images. As you move, the objects closest to you appear to move the fastest, which for a camera chip means pixels shifting position faster.

The video above is from a Swiss team that have used optical flow to steer…


Added by Chris Anderson on May 8, 2008 at 10:00pm — 8 Comments

Cool new all-in-one First Person View (FPV) kit

This isn't exactly a UAV product, but Jay Graves, who runs Hobby Lobby, emailed to say that they've just released a First Person View (FPV) kit, which looks very nice. FPV is a combo of a videocamera in the plane, an onboard wireless video transmitter, a ground receiver and video… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on May 7, 2008 at 9:48pm — No Comments

New PicoPilot groundstation software

UNAV's Dave Perry emailed me with the news that they've just released a new groundstation program for their low-cost PicoPilot line of autopilots.

From the description:

"The PICO-GS program performs four basic functions:

1. Provides a graphical view of…


Added by Chris Anderson on May 7, 2008 at 7:48pm — No Comments


I thought I'd checked everything for our proposed fly-in this coming weekend: airfield availability, weather, technology ready to fly. But I missed the most obvious conflict: it's MOTHER'S DAY!

Given that I've been traveling for past week and we have five little kids, you can imagine that it would earn me no points at home to leave my wife with the children again while I go flying with the boys. So I'm… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on May 7, 2008 at 12:39am — 5 Comments

New BlimpDuino board: smaller, neater, better!

Here's our latest, greatest BlimpDuino (Arduino-clone autonomous blimp controller) board: double-sided, silkscreened neatly laid out and otherwise in much better shape. Shown above is the top side (inside the gondola) of the new board (right)… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on May 2, 2008 at 9:04pm — 7 Comments

A decision on Basic Stamps and Parallax (+ FREE Propeller chip hardware to a good home!)

After my impetuous outburst about the limitations of the Parallax Basic Stamp platform, Parallax co-founder Ken Gracey was kind enough to respond directly in the comments. Excerpt:

The BASIC Stamp product line will continue to…


Added by Chris Anderson on May 2, 2008 at 12:48pm — 18 Comments

UAV as "drug mule"?

Post by Ian Powell noted without comment (edited for clarity):

"Two people emailed be about building them a UAV to travel large distances. After making some enquiries, I determined they wanted:

10kg carrying capacity

speed 100km per hour

distance 3000 km

a drug mule uav!!!!!!!!!!!!

It seems to… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on May 1, 2008 at 11:20pm — 7 Comments

DIYDrones @ MakerFaire this weekend

DIYDrones is going to be at Maker Faire this weekend in San Mateo. We're going to be in the Wired/GeekDad booth (yes, I wear lots of hats), booth 166 in the Expo Hall (click on the map for detail), all day Sat and Sun. We'll be showing:

--The… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on May 1, 2008 at 11:00pm — 4 Comments

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