Recent Articles

Skyjack uses airborne Raspberry Pi to hijack other AR.Drones

Skyjack uses airborne Raspberry Pi to hijack other AR.Drones

December 4, 2013 15:48 | By | Add a Comment

Skyjack is a nifty piece of software that seeks out, hacks into and then takes control of any other AR.Drones it can reach. Basically it uses wifi packet injection to deauthenticate the actual owner’s ipad/iphone/android phone, and then connects to the drone. Using a custom node.js script it then sends flight control commands to the AR.Drone. With complete control, it is possible to do things like send all AR.Drones nearby to a custom location. Since this uses a Raspberry Pi, it can be flown around on another quadcopter, essentially “scooping up” any AR.Drones, stealing them from their rightful owner.

This both awesome and scary piece of tech was made by Samy Kamkar, and it pretty much shows that future drone warfare will be fought on many levels. Imagine those Amazon drones getting rerouted to a different location…

Check out the demo video after the break.

(via Engadget)

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UPS announces: “Me too!”

UPS announces: “Me too!”

December 4, 2013 13:53 | By | Add a Comment

In a statement to TheVerge, a UPS spokesman stated that UPS, too, is playing with the idea of using multicopters for small parcel delivery.

“The commercial use of drones is an interesting technology and we’ll continue to evaluate it. UPS invests more in technology than any other company in the delivery business, and we’re always planning for the future.”

Aside from this being an obvious “me too” statement in response to Amazon’s well-executed PR maneuver, DJI has announced that they could produce suitable models within “18 to 24 months”. The question now is: Who else will make such an announcement next? It’s not too late for sticking a company logo on a multirotor craft for some nice press shots…

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Quadcopter Destruction Competition

Quadcopter Destruction Competition

December 4, 2013 13:13 | By | Add a Comment

Do you enjoy watching robots duking it out? You might enjoy the first Quadcopter Destruction Competition, to be held in Louisville KY on December 21st.

On December 21st, at 6pm, LVL1 is hosting its first ever Quadcopter Destruction Competition!  Test your aerial skills in the ring of battle in this single-elimination tournament of destruction! For $40, you get a quadcopter, and entry into this one-of-a-kind competition.

Here’s how it works: On December 14th, you’ll receive your Quadcopter.  You have 7 days to train up and modify your drone however you see fit. On the day of the competition, all competitors will be placed in a single elimination tournament. Before each round, a 3 foot crepe-paper streamer will be attached to your drone.  The match begins by a signal from the event organizer, and ends when one competitor’s quadcopter can no longer take flight, OR one competitor’s quadcopter runs out of battery power. If one quadcopter is rendered unable to take to the skies, the remaining quadcopter is the winner.  if both survive, the winner is the quadcopter with the longest streamer remaining.

Contest Rules:

1. The event organizers may disqualify any quadcopter at any time for any reason.

2. Any modifications applied to the quadcopter must pass the following test: “You must be willing to remain in the same room as the quadcopter if the controls are given to a psychopathic 12 year old.”

And yes, you may use your own flight controller instead of the one supplied to you. Deadline for registration is December 11th.

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Editorial: hobby FPV pilots, FAA and Amazon, oh my

Editorial: hobby FPV pilots, FAA and Amazon, oh my

December 4, 2013 13:00 | By | 1 Comment

This week was abuzz with the news about Amazon supposedly giving serious thought to using multicopters as delivery tools. Aside from the obvious fact that this was an extremely well-executed advertisement, with amazon getting as much as a full page in every major newspaper for free, there are so many unanswered questions surrounding this proposed delivery method that one might question the seriousness of this whole idea.

And the FAA, finally waking up from their ten-year slumber, struggles to cope with the sudden onslaught of news stories about farmers using small UAS for monitoring crops, checking up on their cattle, etc. – something sparked off by recent movies perhaps. And interestingly enough, the FAA now timidly endorses the use of said agricultural drones.

With other countries such as Canada now also contemplating on how to regulate civilian drone use, private commercial and non-commercial FPV is far from saved. In fact, many countries have now enacted rules that either heavily regulate commercial RC and FPV flights, enact restrictive altitude and range limits for non-commercial RC vehicles, or both. One thing is clear: Nobody wants to endanger any lives. The problem is that heavyhanded regulation is not an answer to such safety concerns, as there are already plenty of laws and regulations regarding civilian air traffic control. Nor do we need new laws to solve “privacy issues”. In most countries it’s already illegal to film people in their home without their consent, or similar things that politicians are adamant about trying to protect us from.

You’ll notice that the state always tries to reserve the right to invade your privacy, to keep us all safe of course. And yet serious privacy transgressions almost always are the result of misuse of such authority. Perhaps it’s time to tell people to stop worrying about a RC model pilot “filming your bedroom”, but instead start worrying about the future police and state-owned UAVs recording details of your private life to, say, use against you if the government deems it useful to their current goal.

To that end, why is it that so many countries make a difference between private RC flight, and commercial RC flight? What difference does it make if the pilot of an RC airplane or helicopter earns money with his flight or not? Why does it stop being a “model aircraft” as soon as money is involved?

Back when the printing press made it possible to break the monopoly of a select few on producing books and spreading information, their reaction was one of agressive counter-attack. Printing presses were something that needed to be “regulated”. When the internet made it possible for people to instantly share information and directly communicate, this too became a tool of power – and like any such tool, once its potential was realized by the people in power, they sought control over it.

RC model aircraft, with or without cameras, are much the same. They were regarded as toys for over 50 years, but now that we know how to use them as the empowering information-gathering and utility tools they are, the powers-that-be seek to control and regulate. But make no mistake: This is not something that will be limited to multicopters and RC vehicles with cameras. RC flight as a whole runs the risk of being the victim of severe restrictions, none of which having anything to do with the safety of manned flight or the privacy of individuals.

RC flight should not be limited any more than necessary, which means line of sight and within visual range. Conversely, the use of police and state operated drones should be heavily regulated and under constant public scrutiny. In the whole private/commercial FPV and UAV debate, we may well run the risk of compromising too much.

Click on “Read More” below to add your comment.

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Bluetooth Telemetry Bridge on Kickstarter – UPDATE: Funding successful!

Bluetooth Telemetry Bridge on Kickstarter – UPDATE: Funding successful!

December 3, 2013 22:57 | By | Add a Comment

For a pledge of just USD $139.- you can reserve your very own Bluetooth to 433/900 MHz telemetry bridge. That allows you to just use your android tablet or iPad with any of the MultiWii or Mavlink/APM compatible mission planner apps out there, without being limited to the range of Bluetooth. Basically it’s just a bluetooth module, a 433 or 900 MHz telemetry transmitter, and a LiPo battery.

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If this sounds like something you could build yourself, it’s because that’s exactly what has already happened. Still, the price is not terribly unreasonable, and it’s a useful device for anyone flying APM, MegaPirate, MultiWii or similar.

Update: The project just reached it’s funding goals of USD $2.800,-

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Upgrade your DJI Naza to Waypoints

Upgrade your DJI Naza to Waypoints

December 3, 2013 11:31 | By | Add a Comment

If you’re looking to upgrade your Naza to add waypoint capabilities, this set from Foxtech is not a bad offer: You get the DJI Canhub, iOSD and the datalink receiver and transmitter for USD $332.-

Of course you have to update your Naza to the latest firmware. This set works with the Naza, Naza2, WKM, Ace One and A2 flight controllers. In total, a typical waypoint-capable setup runs you about 500 bucks, which is very cheap for DJI.

djiground

On the open source side the same capability, without restricting the user to 16 waypoints, can be had for $100 – but it means more effort during setup and tuning. On the other hand, DJI components come in waterproof cases with very solid connectors, while the open source offerings are often barebone PCBs. The DJI system appears to be using a frequency hopping 2.4GHz data transmission system, which is pretty good. The airborne transmitter even includes a dual antenna setup for improved link quality. Range is specified to be around 1km outdoors.

Bottom line: Still a bit pricy, but DJI is slowly getting down to the “realistic” price range.

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Quadcopter recovers from prop loss thanks to clever algorithm

Quadcopter recovers from prop loss thanks to clever algorithm

December 2, 2013 20:01 | By | Add a Comment

Mark Mueller just posted about the practical demonstration of one of his upcoming papers. Sound boring? It isn’t: What he and his colleagues are doing is to let a quadcopter detect and cope with the loss of one propeller, having the remaining motors bring the craft into a spinning hover that allows for a soft landing.

Failsafe_algorithm_sequence

According to Mark, this algorithm can be implemented on most of the available flight controllers and works using just the existing onboard accelerometers and gyros.

Impressed yet? Check out the demonstration video below for a jawdropper.

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DSLRPros offers a turnkey DJI Phantom FPV set

DSLRPros offers a turnkey DJI Phantom FPV set

December 2, 2013 9:38 | By | Add a Comment

DSLRPros is offering a range of complete sets centered around an upgraded DJI Phantom. Basically they upgrade the motors and props, and add everything you need for FPV flight including gimbal, GoPro 3 camera, 5.8GHz video system, several batteries, a balancing charger, as well as a Futaba 8FG instead of the standard DJI Transmitter.

dslrpro

The ultimate set costs over USD $3,600.- although smaller sets are available for as low as $1,355.-

On one hand their marketing is a bit too rich, with them selling a “fluid pan mode” that is really just a dual-rate setting for the yaw axis, or the fact that their 5.8GHz system is “tuned to not interfere with GPS”… on the other hand, they offer some useful extensions for the Phantom like a battery tray that takes up to 4800mAh batteries, and a complete package means someone else took the guesswork out of the equation for you.  Whether or not that is worth the asking price  is up to you of course.

Click on “Read More” to check out the marketing video.

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Amazon tinkers with multicopters for airborne delivery

Amazon tinkers with multicopters for airborne delivery

December 2, 2013 9:22 | By | Add a Comment

Dubbed “Amazon Prime Air”, the company’s latest delivery scheme uses multicopters to deliver packages in under 30 minutes. At least, that’s the lofty goal of the company. The play to have a fleet of octocopters that pick up appropriately-sized orders from the fulfillment center and fly it straight to the customer. According to the CEO Jeff Bezos the aim is for such a service to go operational within four years – a pretty optimistic goal considering the FAA will have a word or two to say in this matter, and they’re usually not quite the fast responder when it comes to policy changes.

Check out the fancy demo video after the break.

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Locust ARF Quadcopter Kit Review

Locust ARF Quadcopter Kit Review

December 1, 2013 21:58 | By | 90 Comments

The Locust Quadcopter Kit from Goodluckbuy is an amazingly cheap offer for USD $209, complete with Crius AIO, brushless GoPro gimbal and optional GPS antenna. Is it too cheap? Find out in our review below.

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Deutsche Bahn not allowed to fly anti-graffiti drone during nighttime

Deutsche Bahn not allowed to fly anti-graffiti drone during nighttime

December 1, 2013 12:00 | By | Add a Comment

Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) recently bought several commercial multicopter equipped with night vision cameras for the purpose of detecting graffiti sprayers during the night. What sounds like a fun pasttime for troubled youth actually causes damages of up to 7.6 million Euros each year for Deutsche Bahn alone. Keeping that price tag in mind, spending EUR 50,000.- per drone sounds like peanuts in comparison.

Turns out it was all for naught, as german Aviation Safety Authority put a stop to this endeavor, forcing the railway company to stop all flights during night time. Unfortunately this makes the whole thing pointless, as graffiti sprayers mostly come out at night. Mostly.

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u-Cat ARROWS will visit shipwrecks divers won’t dare to enter

u-Cat ARROWS will visit shipwrecks divers won’t dare to enter

November 30, 2013 12:00 | By | 2 Comments

The u-Cat underwater rover mimics the sea turtle in an effort to map shipwrecks that are too dangerous for human divers to enter. Because it doesn’t rely on a traditional propeller setup, it kicks up a lot less muck and dirt that obscure camera vision- a common problem in underwater rover missions.

ucat1

This is part of the european ARROWS project, which “proposes to adapt and develop low cost autonomous underwater vehicle technologies to significantly reduce the cost of archaeological operations, covering the full extent of archaeological campaign.”

Click on for the presentation video after the break.

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Skydrone 3G-based FPV system now available for preorder

Skydrone 3G-based FPV system now available for preorder

November 29, 2013 14:14 | By | Add a Comment

Originally appearing on Indiegogo, the Skydrone FPV system didn’t meet it’s funding goal. However that didn’t keep the inventors from pushing ahead and continuing development. And today they announced that they accept preorders for their new system.

The core idea is instead of transmitting analogue video on 1.2/2.4/5.8GHz, they use a built-in 3G modem to send a compressed video stream. Clever dynamic software enables Skydrone to switch to a lower-quality compressing on the fly as conditions change. This allows pilots to fly their drones wherever cell coverage is available.

The system is powered by a beaglebone embedded linux computer and comes as an integrated unit complete with HD camera and wide angle lens. Support for Mavlink protocol is built in, so you can connect your APM or MegaPirate flight controller to have the Skydrone render a nice HUD onto your video stream, which you can watch on your android tablet, iOS/Windows device or Blackberry.

Last but not least, Skydrone has announced Oculus Rift support with headtracking. At EUR 499.- this is a lot cheaper than the $800+ you’d have to spend on a Transporter3D system + 3D camera, though right now the Skydrone has only a single HD camera. One would expect they will have to offer a second camera module or have some sort of input for real 3D video support.

If you can’t wait and have to plunk down some cash right now, their website is up and accepting preorders for an eventual delivery around January 2014.

Video and specs after the break.

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US Army purchases bird-like handlaunched drones for $4.5 million dollars

US Army purchases bird-like handlaunched drones for $4.5 million dollars

November 29, 2013 13:03 | By | Add a Comment

The US army recently awarded a 6.5 million dollar contract to Florida-based company Prioria Robotics. Their product is a peculiar bird-shaped airplane called “Maveric” that features flexible wings and inoculously bird-like looking flight characteristics. And yet, it can carry a variety of payloads ranging from simple stabilized telezoom cameras to thermal imaging. Thanks to the flexible wings the drone can even be launched from a small vehicle-mounted launch tube.

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According to Prioria Robotics, “there was a Special Operations requirement for a plane that had a natural, biological look – it wasn’t supposed to look DoD-ish”

The army gets 36 drones as well as 12 ground control stations. Each Maveric drone costs to the tune of $100.000-$200.000.

A demo reel from 2011, which still looks kinda cool, can be found after the break.

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Formation Proximity 2 shows amazing bird of prey attack

Formation Proximity 2 shows amazing bird of prey attack

November 28, 2013 18:00 | By | Add a Comment

There’s some really great footage in the latest video by Team Blacksheep. While the flying itself is a lot less reckless than we’re used to from them, they do show off very cool formation flying in this second part of their Formation Proximity videos. And in the middle of the flight, a huge bird of prey attacks and successfully downs one of their Zephyr FPV planes.

attack1a

Really breathtaking footage. Take a gander after the break.

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