The right to build and fly robots
February 5, 2008 8:49 PM   Subscribe

DIY Drones "a site for all things about amateur Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)"
posted by Burhanistan (12 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
When I saw DIY Drones, honestly, I had a momentary flash of delight, thinking that this might lead me to new methods for creating the basic building blocks of almost all the music I make. Sadly, however, it's a different kind of drone we're talking about here...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:04 PM on February 5, 2008

When I worked in the hobby shop, we just called these things "R/C Models". I guess it's hard to get defense department money for a "model", though.

And don't land them on my lawn!
posted by pjern at 9:46 PM on February 5, 2008

I'll start the instructions here from the beginning:

1. Learn to fly R/C planes! These UAVs don't take off or land by themselves, so you've got to be a competent pilot.

*walks away, sulking*

If I even look at an R/C plane or heli, it banks out of control and slams into the nearest object. (Though the indoor mini-helis were great Xmas gifts, and sustained multiple crashes with furniture, people, and walls.)
posted by not_on_display at 9:47 PM on February 5, 2008

pjern: Click the link first, then snark. These aren't just R/C planes.
posted by ssg at 10:15 PM on February 5, 2008

I dunno. My definition of R/C planes encompasses some pretty complex machines. That pic was taken 30 years ago, and the plane had all the flight controls, etc that the real one did. I'm not surprised that with all the advances in electronics, etc, that people can build darn near anything they want nowadays. I imagine you could build a pretty smart surface-to-air missile just from hobby shop items and a little electronic hacking. If a guy can build an image identification system to unlock his cat door, how hard would it be to build something that could identify an airplane in a clear sky and provide steering instructions?
posted by pjern at 10:48 PM on February 5, 2008

Just don't call them pilotless drones. (mp3)
posted by the other side at 10:49 PM on February 5, 2008

In case people don't get the distinction, a remote control airplane is an airplane you fly remotely, i.e. you work all the controls to steer and guide the plane.

A drone flies itself. You feed it coordinates and instructions, and it takes itself there and does what it is supposed to do. You can establish way points,first go to point A, then B, then C, and the drone will get there.

Somewhere in between is an assisted R/C - you steer, and the computer on board adjusts the flaps, etc accordingly. Analogous to an automatic vs. manual car transmission.

That said, this site looks to be a mix of R/C craft and primitive craft with autopilot. Programming drones is hard, because you have to program the thing not to get to point A by flying through buildings, other craft, etc.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:05 AM on February 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

pjern: "how hard would it be to build something that could identify an airplane in a clear sky and provide steering instructions?"

Not to be too snarky, but if you clicked on the link, you'd soon find out, because that's kind of the idea. It's the self-piloting aspect that separates a "drone" from a remote-controlled machine. They're also self-contained, so it's more than receiving commands from an automated ground station.

The key piece of technology that makes modern self-piloting systems possible are solid-state gyroscopes. The R/C heli community has had miniature mechanical gyros for a while, but they're not as accurate and require a lot more power. The solid-state ones blow them away. With a gyro, you can pretty easily devise a system that will keep a plane or heli pointed and flying in the same direction, upright, even when being buffeted by wind. That combined with GPS allows some pretty spectacular possibilities at very low cost.

The stuff you can do with components from a hobby and electronics shop today were the province of researchers only a decade or two ago and of superpower governments 50 years ago. It's pretty amazing, really.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:11 AM on February 6, 2008

pjern writes "When I worked in the hobby shop, we just called these things 'R/C Models'. I guess it's hard to get defense department money for a 'model', though. "

It's the automatic course following that elevates these from R/C planes to UAV. They can be fire and forget until retrevial once they are in the air. In fact to call them R/C planes would be wrong as they aren't radio controlled during flight, just take off and landing.
posted by Mitheral at 7:15 AM on February 6, 2008

This is just perfect for taking my stalking to the next level;

"Thank god we finally got that restraining order against quin. I was getting really creeped out seeing him in the rear-view mirror all the time"

"No doubt. Hey, do you hear that buzzing sound?"


Oh, I want one of these...
posted by quin at 7:25 AM on February 6, 2008

Tack on an automatic shotgun and it gets spooky...
posted by LordSludge at 9:06 AM on February 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

That is a bit scary, LordSludge. What's even scarier is while I was watching that I was thinking that they need some kind of fire control mechanism that will automatically throttle the helicopter forward enough to compensate for the recoil of the gun.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:10 AM on February 6, 2008

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