Chris Anderson's Blog (2,682)

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…

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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")



From News.com:



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…

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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,…

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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…

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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

IMG_4185

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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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

Attempt at a 100,000 ft UAV flight

From the MAKE blog:

Here is a link to pictures of an attempt by a group of Calpoly engineers to have a UAV glider bring back pictures from 100,000 feet. After some sleepless nights and an overwhelming amount of work on hardware and software we launched a glider in California Valley. The…
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Added by Chris Anderson on June 26, 2007 at 3:45am — 1 Comment

Update 6/17

Flew the Lego Autopilot UAV and the cellphone autopilot UAV (sans cellphone) on Sunday to test some new stabilization calibration. Again, if the definition of a successful test is useful data and no crashing, this was a success, but it was a little tense at times. Lessons from these flights:



1) The Lego autopilot suffered a mechanical malfunction. One of the gear linkages came off in midair, freezing the autopilot in the "on" position. This meant that I had to fight a hard-left rudder… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on June 18, 2007 at 10:49pm — No Comments

UAV Resources

Other UAV communities:
* List here



Commerical UAVs:



* Boomerang UAV (with AttoPilot) ($15,500 foam wing)

* Procerus Kestrel ($10k foam flying wing)

*… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on June 16, 2007 at 8:30am — 2 Comments

GeoCrawler 4 (Predator airframe and AttoPilot autopilot)

Description: This UAV is not functionally very different from GeoCrawler 4, with its off-the-shelf Picopilot GPS-guided autopilot, but it's so much cooler! If you're going to build a UAV, why not make it look like a UAV? And… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on June 16, 2007 at 7:30am — 12 Comments

Armed forces now has 3,200 UAVs, most of them under 10 lbs

From Wired's Danger Room blog:

Raven_uav "The number of flying robots in the American armed forces' arsenal has gone up by nearly 1400% in four years, military documents show. A relatively-modest unmanned fleet of 217 machines has grown into a 3211-drone…

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Added by Chris Anderson on June 13, 2007 at 8:02pm — No Comments

GeoCrawler 3 (BASIC Stamp autopilot)

Viking1

Description: This UAV is intended mostly as an education platform to teach you the basics of microprocessors, embedded system programming and autopilot design. It will fly, but it's not designed to be a real production UAV. That said, it demonstrates the…

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Added by Chris Anderson on June 12, 2007 at 11:00pm — 3 Comments

GeoCrawler 2 (Cellphone autopilot)

Description: This platform was inspired by the realization that almost all the hardware you need for a functioning UAV is contained in the high-end cellphone in your pocket:…

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Added by Chris Anderson on June 12, 2007 at 11:00pm — 34 Comments

GeoCrawler 1 (Lego Autopilot) Instructions



[NOTE: This post describes the original version of the Lego Mindstorms autopilot, which is a navigation-only (rudder and GPS) autopilot. Since then, we have created a full navigation-and-stabilization (aileron and elevator and GPS) autopilot. However, since it uses prototype hardware that is not yet commercially available, I'm not posting full building… Continue

Added by Chris Anderson on June 12, 2007 at 11:00pm — 32 Comments

Update--6/11

  1. I've updated the GeoCrawler 2 (Lego UAV) instruction page. It now has a list of steps and parts necessary to complete the compass-sensor version of the UAV. The GPS version software is still in development. That should be ready later this summer.
  2. I've switched GeoCrawler 1 (Picopilot UAV) to a more appropriate airframe.…
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Added by Chris Anderson on June 11, 2007 at 3:27pm — No Comments

Lego Autopilot first flight

My kids and I actually had the first successful test flight of the sub-$1,000 UAV two weekends ago, but I haven't had time to edit the video properly until now. The good news is that a) it didn't crash, and b) it works. We tested stabilization, autonomous navigation (only using compass headings this time, although GPS is in the works), and the real-time video downlink. Everything worked well enough that we're able to see what we have to improve, which is the definition of a successful…

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Added by Chris Anderson on May 28, 2007 at 8:25am — No Comments

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Season Two of the Trust Time Trial (T3) Contest 
A list of all T3 contests is here. The current round, the Vertical Horizontal one, is here

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