3D Robotics

Google has recently scanned and posted all of Popular Science's back issues (and they go WAY back), and there are some gems in there from the early days of autopilots. One of them is this, which describes an autopilot the legendary Maynard Hill (yes, the guy who flew a hobby UAV across the Atlantic in 2003) built that uses minute electrostatic differences with altitude to create an analog autopilot.

Here are some other pictures from the article, but you should really read the whole thing. Anyone know what went wrong with this approach and why he abandoned it?

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  • T3

    I am only avoiding the box that is full of mess and everybody knows why. Just check how the magentometer behaves in real life, compare physical quantities at play and take conclusions.

  • T3

    "If you can detect changes you can navigate!"

    I can detect changes in air temperature. Is this enough to navigate? :-) Of course there are convection issues but if you make thermometers more responsive and a little more of this and that... blah blah. Or wait, maybe not at all since the idea of electrostatic AP is known since 1973 and meanwhile US drones industry supposedly tried those most basic ideas... Just don't assume you can look at 2 pages made by oterwise very well known person, record holder in many categories and get it rolling.

  • T3

    The paper you have posted is interestign and also coimpletely uninteresting. This is just a sensor for dtection, not navigation.

    "Who say's you have to use electric motors on a drone?"

    A modem? A servo in the aileron? Static charge accumulating on the wings due to air friction, changing dramatically with humidity?

  • T3

    Total waste of time. Electric motors ruin everything.

  • Here is a forum discussion on rc-cam.com from 2005:

    Besides the need for Polonium, there is the challenge of overcoming the distortion of the field
    around trees and buildings. Interesting idea, though.
  • Hello, very intresting story.
    But what does it mean "Operating conditions were transmitted by radio telegraphy".
    How exactly Hill could send a signal from his plane for it incredible range?
  • lol Lew.
    Nah, more or less I was saying that if someone uses the stuff... they shouldn't inhale! ;)
  • I suspect this design is no better than thermopiles in any case, and far more complicated to deploy. It wasn't used (in article) because metal airplanes would have distorted the readings, and because electrical storms were a suspect problem - among other problems...
  • @Stephen - Regarding the Russian diplomat who was poisoned with polonium... are you implying they tricked him into thinking the StaticMaster was a moustache grooming tool? :)
  • Isn't Polonium the same stuff that was used to kill the Russian diplomat in England a couple of years back? Seems they got the stuff from those brushes too.... not sure, just curious.
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