As of late, I have been developing an unhealthy interest in DIY drones. What? You didn’t know there was such a thing? Neither did I. But I do now.
Technology has reached a point where it’s possible for hobbyists to build their own autonomous aircraft, capable of flying a pre-programmed course of, say, 20 miles under electric power, and return to its launch point. Or it could be flown via what’s called First Person View (FPV) by wearing virtual reality goggles and observing the flight live from a video camera in the plane’s cockpit. It leaves ordinary regular radio controlled aircraft in the dust as a hobby. Expensive?
Not terribly, and less so than many hobbies. Well, yes, but it depends on how often you crash.
In terms of obsessions, this could be a perfect storm for me. It combines flying, radio, data links, video, electronics, coding, mapping and building weird and strange shit. It would provide the ability to image remote and obscure places I might have an interest in (And for the record, I have no interest in snooping at THAT one!).
Behind the headline grabbing drone news there is a complex ecosystem of users, industry, legislation, and research. Filter by the stakeholders driving the drone movement and zoom in on what’s happening in your neighborhood.
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Here are some of the things I’ve been up to. This is a very new hobby, and it’s at a point where it has yet to be fully commercialized with everyone trying out new things. If you want some of these things, you have to make them yourself. Build, crash, open checkbook, rebuild. Oh yeah, and lots of soldering. I’ve tried to include enough detail so someone who has a clue as to what they’re doing might find some ideas here. I’ve certainly stole my share of ideas from others.
- APM Bixler. Perhaps, just perhaps, some things aren’t meant to fly. How did I get one?
- Tricopter Resurrection. My tricopter lives again! Maybe I should call it the “Phoenix”?
- QAV500 quadcopter. The way I fly I need a tank. A flying tank. This is it.
- Building a folding composite H-Quad. Because, well….I can never leave well enough alone.
- First fully autonomous quadcopter flight tests. Where we kick the favorite child out of the house, completely on his own, and hope he doesn’t crash and burn.
- More experiments in aerial mapping – Samuelson’s Rocks, Joshua Tree. Doing cool things with inexpensive equipment. So why am I spending all this money? Oh yeah, crashes.
- A remotely actuated intervalometer for aerial mapping using Canon cameras. Another way to use FPV aircraft to deliver expensive equipment into the ground at high speed.
- First experiments in archaeological site imaging. OK, a lot of money has been spent. I need some sort of justification. This will do.
- Multiplex Easy Star fixed wing trainer aircraft. Aircraft abuse is NOT a crime. It is, in fact, encouraged.
- Delrin Tricopter. Be very afraid. Three blades of whirling death under the control of a moron.
- How to make cheap, butt-ugly, energy absorbing landing struts for multirotors. Yeah, energy absorbing….That’s the ticket!
- A Composite H-Quad. Where I think I know enough to design one of these things. Turns out I do!
- Building a portable 5.8 GHz ground station. Because just owning FPV goggles isn’t dweebish enough.
- The Bixler 1.1. An Easy Star without training wheels.
- The Techpod. Big. White. Foam. Overcast. Capable of lofting large kittens or small badgers. But that would be wrong…or would it? (currently underway)
Links I find useful and/or entertaining:
Los Angeles/Orange County Drone User Group: Remember the 1990′s (eh, probably not). Remember IBM PC user groups? Well guess what, that’s the stage of evolution hobbyist drones are at. If you want something interesting you have to build it yourself. And that’s what this group is about. Building, flying, crashing, rebuilding…the cycle of drone life.
The San Diego Drone User Group hosts local meetups and fly-ins for drone enthusiasts, and aims to promote the use of civilian drone technology
DIY Drones: Everything about setting up your own fully autonomous aircraft
FPVLab: Building, flying and crashing aircraft using FPV