Chris Anderson's Blog – July 2007 Archive (13)

Update 7/29: Flight testing at the Alameda air field

We had good weather on Sat, so we tested four UAV platforms at the Alameda air field near Berkeley. Another successful trial: useful data and no lost planes!

Our mission for the next two weeks is to complete a trial that: A) takes off from the "highway" used in the Matrix 2 (the set was created at the Alameda and parts still remain); B) flies autonomously over water to the Hornet aircraft carrier, which is moored about a mile away (it's the carrier that… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on July 31, 2007 at 5:26am — 1 Comment

Why aren't we using UAVs instead of news helicopters?

The tragic death of four people in a collision of two news helicopers in Phoenix has prompted much discussion about whether following stolen cars and other TV-ratings fodder is worth the risk. What isn't debated is whether people want to watch that sort of thing, because the answer is so clearly yes. So why not give people what they want without risking human lives, and encourage TV news… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on July 30, 2007 at 11:58pm — 2 Comments

Things you could make an autopilot out of...

We've already done Lego, an iPaq cellphone and some random chips we had lying around. What other commonly found objects could you make an autopilot, or some component of one, out of?…


Added by Chris Anderson on July 30, 2007 at 2:08pm — No Comments

The electric revolution in R/C planes hits full-size aviation

It's been amazing to watch how computer technologies have revolutionized the R/C aircraft world. The combination of high-efficiency brushless electric motors (first developed for DVD drives), lithium-ion batteries (developed for laptops) and spread-spectrum digital radio (popularized with WiFi) have created a class of small, quiet electric planes that are every bit their old noisy gas-powered predecessors. AMA membership is…


Added by Chris Anderson on July 27, 2007 at 2:45pm — No Comments

Google investing in aerial photography

This is significant.

(BTW, I'll be speaking and demoing our UAVs at Google on Aug 4th during the SciFoo event. There's a reason we call our UAVs "GeoCrawlers")


Google has acquired ImageAmerica, a company that builds high-resolution cameras and uses them to take aerial photographs.

The search engine giant announced the move…


Added by Chris Anderson on July 27, 2007 at 10:23am — No Comments

The problem with mobilizing software volunteers

Here at DIY Drones, I've been working with other amateurs to create open technology platforms to make it easier for more people to build their own UAVs (for aerial imagery, high-res Google Maps mashups, contests and other flying robot fun).

The good news is that there are a lot of programmers out there happy to donate their time and talent to helping these project along. The bad news is that each of them has their own favorite programming language, and it's up to the organizer (ie,…


Added by Chris Anderson on July 24, 2007 at 7:47pm — 2 Comments

Testing three pan-tilt gimbals

In my quest for the perfect pan-tilt gimbal assembly for a small UAV, I've made one out of Lego and have some clumsy ones out of aluminum. Most commercial pan-tilt assemblies are made for much larger cameras than the ones we fly, or they're incredibly expensive turrets meant for military and commercial UAVs. But I've hunted around and found three that appear to be within our size, weight and price range. How do…


Added by Chris Anderson on July 23, 2007 at 2:44pm — 1 Comment

How to control Lego Mindstorms from a R/C receiver

In my instructions on how to build a Lego Autopilot, I've neglected to show how you turn the thing on and off remotely. The answer is a servo strapped to a Mindstorms touch sensor inside the front of the plane. This video is pretty self-explanatory.… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on July 21, 2007 at 10:03pm — No Comments

Pict'Earth invents the french fry UAV!

Last week I had a great chat with the guys running the US operations of Pict'Earth. The company was originally started by a team in France who created their own UAV and real-time Google Earth integration. To get a sense of how cool that is, check out this video:

That was based on a custom UAV that cost around $10,000. The US team is targeting cheaper applications. First, the… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on July 16, 2007 at 10:03am — No Comments

Building a real Predator UAV


Here's a semi-scale Predator. Pretty cool, but it's an ARF so I can't do too much bragging. I just modded an inexpensive ($80) Nitro Models kit with a AXI 2208 brushless motor and added some proper landing gear and

an airscoop to cool the motor in the back. (BTW, Nitro sells two Predators. Get

this one, not the similar…


Added by Chris Anderson on July 16, 2007 at 12:27am — 22 Comments

UAV use surging in Iraq, led by micros

From Army Times:

WASHINGTON — The use of unmanned aircraft in Iraq has surged by nearly one-third since the buildup of U.S. forces began early this year, and drones are now racking up more than 14,000 hours a month in the battlefield skies.

The increase in unmanned aircraft — from high-altitude Global Hawks to short-range…


Added by Chris Anderson on July 10, 2007 at 5:07am — No Comments

Progress on the Basic Stamp autopilot

There's nothing like a big project for a crash course in a new technology. After choosing the Basic Stamp platform for the embedded processor version of the autopilot, I've now learned the hard way about the complexities and limitations of embedded processors. They're not insurmountable, but they're important to…


Added by Chris Anderson on July 9, 2007 at 1:15am — 2 Comments

Lego GPS code working!

Great news on the Lego UAV front. Ralph Hempel, who has been helping me on adding GPS waypoints and navigation to my Mindstorms Autopilot, has cracked the tricky bluetooth integration code problem. Just the review the challenge, it appeared that the easiest way to connect the Mindstorms NXT CPU with a GPS

receiver is via its bluetooth interface. But the native NXT bluetooth stack and

API is very limited, and we couldn't find a good way…


Added by Chris Anderson on July 5, 2007 at 9:33am — No Comments

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