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Getting high
March 11, 2013 5:21 AM   Subscribe

Flying a radio-controlled glider back from near space. How to do it yourself.
posted by pjern (25 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is really, really neat. RC+FPV stuff never ceases to amaze me.
posted by jquinby at 5:32 AM on March 11, 2013


Thanks for this. I've seen a bunch of these, but the narration and the guy's general attitude is really cool. This image, though, is simply amazing for putting it in perspective.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:43 AM on March 11, 2013


30k meters is about 18 miles, so that's not the whole Earth (which he does say on the post). Pretty neat, though.
posted by DU at 5:52 AM on March 11, 2013


A lot of what I got from this is how sloppy some of the work was - didn't keep the source code, didn't check one of the camera to make sure it's working, forgot to start another camera (so nothing from the ground), didn't document where he got most of the parts, the mods he made, the build process itself, or even who makes certain components (or lost all of this somehow).
At the same time, he did some clever things with regards to heat and battery life and re-use of known proven stuff.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 6:19 AM on March 11, 2013


To tell you the truth, I kind of hate the projects that have part numbers and precise measurements. It makes me feel like I have to do the same thing when really it'd be better to scavenge from whatever I have access to. It also tends to make the writer talk more about particular hole placements and whatnot vs What Is Really Going On Here ("I'm attaching this to the inside so that I get some protection from the wind" etc). Then, when you do decide to do something a little differently, you have no guidance for redesign.
posted by DU at 6:31 AM on March 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's easy to forget about documenting when you're so invested into doing.
posted by hat_eater at 6:33 AM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cool! I wonder if you would need special clearance from the FAA to do that here in the US.
posted by indubitable at 6:36 AM on March 11, 2013


A lot of what I got from this is how sloppy some of the work was - didn't keep the source code, didn't check one of the camera to make sure it's working, forgot to start another camera (so nothing from the ground), didn't document where he got most of the parts, the mods he made, the build process itself, or even who makes certain components (or lost all of this somehow).

I actually like that because it means that this kind of thing has gone from being very hard to being a weekend project.
posted by atrazine at 6:43 AM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


This image, though, is simply amazing for putting it in perspective.

Hm. I find it extremely misleading, myself. I find it problematic the way hobbyists use fisheye lens cameras without noting that they give the horizon at 20-some miles up a curvature it doesn't really have. I mean, here is what the horizon looks like at 200-some miles up -- nowhere near as pronounced as the amateur weather balloon vids we occasionally get posted to MeFi. (And it's not just hobbyists, I guess -- the video of Felix Baumgartner skydiving did the same thing, made it look like he was jumping from the height of the space station or something.)
posted by aught at 6:48 AM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


The deception is mine, not his. He makes it clear that he "stitched this photo from 50 still frames from the video. It’s not really the whole earth, the curved lens of the GoPro just makes it look that way."

The problem is that I'm not even a hobbyist.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:57 AM on March 11, 2013


Is there a technical or cost-related reason to use of a fish-eye lens in this instance? Watching the video, it's obvious from the get-go that it's a fish-eye lens, so I don't find it misleading, just distracting. Cool project, though, and I appreciate the explanations behind the design decisions.
posted by mollweide at 7:07 AM on March 11, 2013


Yeah, I read through it and saw that he used a barometric sensor to record the height, but I would have taken it to the next step: Run the e-match off of the Mini. When the altitude drops by (TBD - what's the jitter on that sensor like?), decide that the balloon has burst and light the efuse if it hasn't already been lit. Use an input off the radio to trigger the Mini to force a light if you're as high as you want to go anyway, but that way at least it'd enter free flight without a balloon fouling it. I suppose the converse is that if you've lost all control, the balloon remnants will function as a drogue.

Still, leaps and bounds beyond anything I've done. I love watching the RC+FPV stuff, but it's too rich for my tastes.
posted by Kyol at 7:14 AM on March 11, 2013


Cool! I wonder if you would need special clearance from the FAA to do that here in the US.

14 CFR Part 101.30 - Unmanned Free Balloons. Basically allowed to launch balloons unless they're going to go through heavily trafficked airspace. Prior notice to the FAA required.

There's nothing in the FARs about R/C airplanes, but amateur rockets have requirements that may apply - no flying into the clouds, notify the FAA of your intentions, stuff like that. Basically, they want to know your intentions so pilots can be warned and airspace closed if necessary.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:47 AM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


:D
that is all
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 9:02 AM on March 11, 2013


Is there a technical or cost-related reason to use of a fish-eye lens in this instance?

Yes - pretty much all cameras for this kind of work, helmet cams, etc, are some form of wide-angle, because using cameras with the narrower FOV's you're used to seeing in feature films results in often-unusable tunnel-vision. When a camera is strapped to something in action, most users want a little more peripheral vision than that. (And if things are shaking around a lot, tunnel vision can be very hard to make out what is happening, or even recognize what it is that you're looking at.)
posted by anonymisc at 12:15 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, imagine you got to ride on this balloon but you had to look at everything through a cardboard tube. That's what you'd get without the super-wide lens.
posted by grog at 1:22 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks, anonymisc and grog. That makes so much sense I should of thought of it myself. .
posted by mollweide at 2:20 PM on March 11, 2013


It can work to your advantage - in lieu of a helmet cam, I used a smartphone once, sledding down a hill. The lack of wide-angle made it hard to see what was happening, which made it look appropriately out of control and incomprehensibly violent, stuff flying at you out of nowhere. Properly h4rdcore :)
posted by anonymisc at 2:41 PM on March 11, 2013


Next time North Korea plans a rocket launch or other test it would be interesting to see if one of these DIY projects could be used to get some incredible valuable footage.
posted by humanfont at 3:23 PM on March 11, 2013


I remember reading about some guy in Australia who developed a series of autonomous gliders he dropped from weather balloons, I think it was sometime around 2005. But it looks like his web page is now gone, I couldn't find it. It took him several attempts to get the plane to get close to the target recovery site, since the winds sometimes blew it out to sea.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:11 PM on March 11, 2013


This is far-and-away the best set of DIY instructions I've seen on several of the included topics. Should be widely helpful for many.

DAMN! amazing how many of the included gadgets have become available in the last few years. When I was in HS we felt happy just launching an egg with an Estes!
posted by Twang at 7:03 PM on March 11, 2013


I hope you understand what is being built here: an open source Cruise Missile. Make it bigger, fill it with C4, send the balloon up, drop it within flight range, fly it to the target, boom.

These same Arudino open source remote control systems can be adapted to fly light aircraft just as easily as model aircraft, and turn them into cheap heavy drones. Buy a remote control drone avionics from a US Defense Contractor like Rockwell Collins, you're talking $250k. Now you can do that with Arudino boards for like $250.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:14 PM on March 11, 2013


These same Arudino open source remote control systems can be adapted to fly light aircraft just as easily as model aircraft, and turn them into cheap heavy drones.

Arduinos are not capable of being reasonable autopilots for light aircraft. Even ignoring the certification challenges, real airplanes and drones are a lot more complicated to control than R/C toys. There is an actual reason why stuff like this is so expensive, and it's not because they use the fancy screws when they put it together.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:17 AM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Right, a terrorist would never consider converting a light aircraft into a cruise missile that without certification by the FAA. And no terrorist would consider having a pilot for the tricky takeoff and approach, and then parachute out while the simple autopilot flies to the target. And of course the landing.. well the light aircraft is guaranteed to deliver its payload to the ground.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:29 PM on March 12, 2013


Hezbullah flew a DIY drone pretty far into Israel last year. This tech isn't that complicated. A Rasberry Pi, Adurino sensors and some other off the shelf parts could make a fairly capable autonomous drone.
posted by humanfont at 5:30 PM on March 12, 2013


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