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Riverwatch is an autonomous Catamaran with piggyback Hexacopter

Riverwatch is an autonomous Catamaran with piggyback Hexacopter

January 30, 2014 17:01 | By | Add a Comment

Riverwatch is a “Marsupial Surface-Aerial Robotic Team for Riverine Environmental Monitoring”. What sounds like the robot version of Captain Planet is actually a very fancy set of very different vehicles: One is a completely autonomous catamaran with GPS/IMU navigation, LIDAR and SONAR, the other is an autonomous hexacopter capable of takeoff and landing right on the aforementioned catamaran.

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This combined system is tasked with collecting environmental data of rivers. The tilting LIDAR sensor is used for surface obstacle avoidance while the sonar prevents the vehicle from running aground, but they also use a camera with image recognition software to determine the transition between water and land. The hexacopter is used to augment the field of view and provide enhanced visual navigation capabilities to the catamaran. This is of course a scientific prototype of the university of Lisbon, funded by ECHORD.

Quite impressive demonstration video after the break.

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Ex-DJI CEO wins injunction against DJI, prevents (some) US companies from importing DJI products

Ex-DJI CEO wins injunction against DJI, prevents (some) US companies from importing DJI products

January 26, 2014 20:46 | By | 3 Comments

Well this is bad news for DJI: Apparently, Ex-CEO Colin Guinn filed and won an injunction against DJI, preventing it from doing business with 31 US businesses from importing DJI products. They are still able to sell stock but they cannot restock or import new products.

The official letter from DJI can be found here, and there’s a very detailed video about this situation below.

There’s not enough information to gauge the situation with certainty but it does appear to be an attempt to grab a high settlement payment at any cost. It’s doubtful that this will hurt DJI over the long term however. If anything, competitors may have a bit of an upsurge in the US as a result. But time will tell.

Clarification: This only pertains the companies named in the injunction. There are other US companies importing and reselling DJI equipment not affected by this.

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Draganfly Shadow and Guardian announced

Draganfly Shadow and Guardian announced

January 20, 2014 15:42 | By | Add a Comment

Draganfly recently announced their  Shadow and Guardian models, which are RTF Quadcopters designed to carry camera payloads for extended filming missions. Both share the same frame, with the Guardian sporting stronger motors and a bigger battery.

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Both come with a fancy-looking handheld radio with a bright color touchscreen in the center. The shadow sports a 300g payload capacity, while the Guardian can carry up to 400g at even longer flight times. Available options include a vibration dampened GoPro mount, a stabilizing GoPro gimbal, as well as a stabilized 1-axis gimbal for a 20 megapixel sony camera with optical zoom.

Of course both support GPS position hold, return home, altitude hold, etc. and the Guardian even comes in a stylish pelican case for quick mission deployment. No word on pricing yet, though with a turnkey system like that, expect a nice four-digit sum.

Promotion video after the break.

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Nikola Tesla’s remote controlled boat

Nikola Tesla’s remote controlled boat

January 20, 2014 15:28 | By | Add a Comment

Remote control models go back as far as 1898, when Nikola Tesla demonstrated the first RC boat to an astounded public in Madison Square Garden.

From the Wikipedia article:

The crowd that witnessed the demonstration made outrageous claims about the workings of the boat: everything from magic to telepathy to being piloted by a trained monkey hidden inside. Tesla tried to sell his idea to the U.S. military as a type of radio-controlled torpedo, but they showed little interest.

It’s amazing to see what was possible over 110 years ago.

GameOfDrones kickstarts crashproof quadcopter frame

GameOfDrones kickstarts crashproof quadcopter frame

January 13, 2014 12:27 | By | 1 Comment

GameOfDrones has been busy organizing multicopter “tournaments” where, as part of the game, bits and pieces are sure to be broken off now and then. They’ve been thinking about reducing the bill of crashes, and are now kickstarting the World’s Toughest Action-Sports Airframe.

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USD $125.- gets you such a quadrotor frame. They’re made of thermo-formed polymer, and are claimed to be one of the most crash-resilient quad frames ever made. Their goal is not to sell RTF quadcopters however, only a handful of backers will receive a complete copter. Instead you are kickstarting the frame only, you bring the motors, flight controller, and the guts to engage in drone fights.

Check out some sweet shotgun vs. quadcopter action after the break.

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Hubsan working on “Hi-Spec” FPV goggles for April 2014

Hubsan working on “Hi-Spec” FPV goggles for April 2014

January 12, 2014 16:40 | By | 2 Comments

Hubsan is promising a lot of things lately. Recently, their announced H109 quadcopter was supplemented by the H109S Pro X4. Then, Hubsan changed their mind and said that the regular H109 is not going to be released, as they plan to focus on the H109S.

Just recently, Hubsan stated that they are working on a “hi spec” update of their H510 FPV goggles. No details or price point was released, but the planned release date is April 2014.

With a flood of cheap, wide-angle Oculus-clones about to burst into the market, they better be cheap, quick and/or offer something your typical Fat Shark does not. Currently, the best FPV experience can be had on an Oculus Rift devkit with a small PC doing the necessary video distortion. Small single-board solutions as well as complete 3D cameras that already output an oculus-ready signal are about to enter production. Our glass ball says the days of 40-degree FOV goggles like FatShark are most likely numbered.

RC701 7 inch 5.8GHz Diversity LCD Monitor Review

RC701 7 inch 5.8GHz Diversity LCD Monitor Review

January 11, 2014 17:24 | By | Add a Comment

There’s a metric ton of various LCD monitors geared for FPV flight. The RC701 is an all-in-one package with integrated diversity receiver for safer FPV flying, and we took a look at the ups and downs of this model in our in-depth review.

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Pocket Drone Kickstarter

Pocket Drone Kickstarter

January 9, 2014 15:21 | By | Add a Comment

Do you wish you had a pocketable multirotor that can fly autonomous missions controlled by your tablet? The Pocket Drone is now looking for backers on Kickstarters, and their concept looks rather interesting.

pocket1It’s essentially an APM powered tricopter with a nifty foldable frame that also acts as a case for the flight controller and GPS. Several packages are available, including a bind and fly package for DSM transmitters, as well as a RTF package with transmitter and a video package that includes everything along with an onboard HD 1080p camera.

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Price for the bind and fly Kickstarter backing level is $445, the RTF costs $495, and with the HD camera price reaches $595. Since this is a kickstarter and you’re essentially funding the development and set-up cost of the company, this is not a bad deal. Especially considering you’re getting the world’s first civilian autonomous drone that you can just pull out of your backpack and have fly waypoint missions that you plan on your android tablet or phone.

Of course you CAN just 3D-print your own frame and get all this for a fraction of that price. But that’s the price you pay for convenience, which is exactly what companies like DJI earn their money with.

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Flying Robot Dance

Flying Robot Dance

January 8, 2014 13:10 | By | Add a Comment

KMel Robotics and Yuneec International announce their collaboration on a family of aerial photography vehicles with this video, unveiled at CES 2014. For more information on “Flying Eyes” visit flyingeyes.com

In case the similarities have you scratching your head, KMel Robotics is indeed the company behind the Blade 350QX firmware.¬† And as one of their employees posted on RCGroups: “By the way, I can no longer answer 350QX-related questions and talk about any potential issues. It was fun while it lasted”

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Turnigy T1000FC fixed wing autopilot

Turnigy T1000FC fixed wing autopilot

January 7, 2014 12:55 | By | Add a Comment

Need a simple GPS-based autopilot for your FPV model, with autolevel and return to launch function that doesn’t break the bank? Hobbyking’s T1000FC may well fill that need. It’s basically a complete package with accelerometers for autoleveling, barometer for altitude hold, as well as a GPS antenna for navigation. Best of all, it’s $70.- which makes this a no-brainer if you don’t require waypoints and just want a safety device that brings your plane home.

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It supports various airframe types (traditional, V-tail, A-Tail, flying wings) and features multiple flight modes. For example, you can have the FC limit the bank and roll angles to 45 degrees, you can turn the stabilization on or completely off, and there’s altitude hold and direction hold modes. On top of that you can of course have the autopilot steer the plane back to the starting point automatically.

If this got you interested, you can order this autopilot over at HobbyKing.

Also check out the impressive demonstration video after the break.

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Hubsan H109S Pro X4 announced

Hubsan H109S Pro X4 announced

January 2, 2014 11:00 | By | 9 Comments

Pining for that upcoming Hubsan H109? Hubsan’s upcoming Phantom-competitor certainly looks interesting, and now they’re upping the ante with the announcement of the GoPro-ready H109S Pro X4!

h109s-x4-00Features are GPS position hold and return to land, barometer sensor for precise altitude hold and the possibility of waypoint capability via future updates.

Perhaps most interestingly this comes with a massive 5300mAh battery for flight times of up to 30 minutes, according to Hubsan. Sadly though, it comes with a modified version of the old Hubsan FPV transmitter, so the question is whether the short transmitter battery life issue has been fixed. Also according to the manufacturer this will use the Hubsan radio protocol, which means it’s a non-hopping, single channel 2.4GHz system. This time however they added a proper SMA connector for the FPV antenna, and they even supply both a linear patch as well as a circular cloverleaf antenna in the set, so you can exchange antenna depending on the situation.

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No word on price yet, though preorders for the vanilla H109 are at $150 right now. With the right price point and proper performance this could very well be a solid competitor in the field of RTF multirotors. Planned release date is end of February 2014.

Full official blurb after the break.

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Wireless power transmission for quadrotors

Wireless power transmission for quadrotors

January 1, 2014 20:13 | By | Add a Comment

Want to fly your quadcopter indefinitely, recharging it in the air? Inductive power transmission is an old hat, but the drawback is short transmission range. Magnetic resonance however works at more realistic ranges of about 1 meter, depending on scale. Dr. Carrick Detweiler wrote a paper on a similar subject, though in this case the idea is to power small sensors from a nearby quadcopter.

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The problem is that small sensors need very little power, while mid-sized multicopters are difficult to supply with sufficient energy wirelessly. Nethertheless, an interesting subject considering that automated multicopters could remotely activate and power systems via proximity.

Demonstration video after the break.

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30C3 talk on history and future of private drones

30C3 talk on history and future of private drones

December 30, 2013 16:35 | By | Add a Comment

The 30C3 Congress is in full swing, and there’s an amazing talk about the history and future of hacker-driven drone innovations by Piotr Esden-Tempski on Youtube.

Though many challenges have been overcome, we are only at the very beginning of the private UAV revolution. Consider a comparison with the personal computer, which has evolved in ways that could not be foreseen in the beginning. Those working on this platform need space and time to discover the beneficial possibilities. There are many challenges that we are still facing and they are as exciting and basic as the technology itself.

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Definitely worth watching. Check out the full video after the break.

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APM Mission Planner 2.0 RC1 released

APM Mission Planner 2.0 RC1 released

December 28, 2013 14:28 | By | Add a Comment

Big changes are coming to the ground control software for the APM platform: the APM Planner team just released v2.0 RC1 of their new software. Based on QGroundControl, it blends in the classic APM Mission Planner user interface which means it’s immediately familiar to MissionPlanner 1.x users.

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Of course this release is timed along with the recent start of sales of the Pixhawk flight controller and the IRIS drone system by 3DR. While this software uses Mavlink like the old versions, do note that compatibility with MegaPirateNG is not guaranteed. In our tests, flight operation worked fine but trying to change PID parameters causes unknown parameter errors. This may well be an issue with the current SVN versions of MegaPirate. Of course original APM 2.x and Pixhawk flight controllers are fully supported.

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FPV Shopping Bag

FPV Shopping Bag

December 26, 2013 19:15 | By | Add a Comment

FPV shopping time! In this new segment we’ll take a look at various new products that came out recently, in the hope that there’s something interesting for you. As always, if you have any hints or suggestions for new gear, please let us know!

 

The Pixhawk flight controller is now shipping. Yours for $280 (sans GPS and telemetry), it can be ordered from the 3DR store. Designed for the new QGroundControl software, this open source flight controller is ready for fleet operations where one ground station controls multiple UAVs in flight, with tons of connectivity options. Warning: SBUS or CPPM receiver output signal required, or you need to order an extra PPM Encoder board!
This dual 5.8GHz transmitter allows you to send two video signals on two different channels. This can be used for diversity sending on the aircraft side, or to transmit two different viewpoints at the same time. It’s a bit pricy at $120 over at GLB. Allegedly it’s 500mW, but it does support audio transmission (for antenna trackers)
A BEC for $9? That’s not bad by itself, but this is an integrated power distribution board with dual BECs specifically for multicopters. Up to 6S LiPos are supported, though each BEC can only drive up to 2A. Oh and one BEC output can be adjusted between 5 and 20V – which is awesome if you need 12V on a 4S multicopter but don’t want extra weight.
Helical antenna are great. Most builds suffer from poor construction however. This one is just $30 and features a solid guided construction that prevents the springy bit from compressing and thus detuning. It comes with a flex cable, and is available only in right handed circular polarization. If your transmitter antenna is left-circular, this is not what you want. On the plus side, you can order SMA and RP-SMA versions depending on your connector.
Got a great camera for FPV that unfortunately only outputs HDMI? This little converter board will take your HDMI signal and output analog video for a little over $28. It supports a whole range of HDMI resolutions and runs off the 5V of your typical BEC.
Got a Canon 5D Mark III? Gimbals for this beast can cost a pretty penny. Here’s a cost effective carbon fiber gimbal, available in a two axis version for $222, as well as a three axis version for $269. No gimbal controller included, so you have to spend another $100-$150 depending on your setup. You can’t reasonably expect DJI level build quality here. However judging from our experiences with the Zenmuse H3-2D (the gimbal switches OFF if you bang against the endpoint), better build quality does not always mean less problems. Ultimately the 5D is an expensive camera, so the question is whether you want to entrust it to a budget gimbal.

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