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Best Way To Build A DIY UAV?

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the please-include-armament-instructions dept.

259

Shojun writes "I am very interested in building my own UAV. Not just one that can fly around happily, but one that I can program to say, take photos every second as it does a barrel roll under a bus (ok, that part may be a pipe dream). I have enough embedded programming experience — it's the hardware which I'm uncertain about. I can go the kit way, and then build the remaining stuff, or get some Dollar Tree Foam boards and build it all. I'm in favor of ease, however. Once the plane is built, buying a dev board seems like a possibility, but I wonder whether it's overkill. Alternatively, if there was a How-to-build example on the net for such an activity that I could adapt, to the degree that I could then program in even completely hardcoded flight instructions, I can certainly take it from there. Thoughts? Has anyone here tried something like this before?"

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Cool story bro (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28087765)

A UAV that runs linux could do a barrel roll.

Re:Cool story bro (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088467)

Runs Linux? Pfft.

I like Linux as much as the next guy, but... as long as your UAV can follow Max Guevera [wikipedia.org] around taking photos, AND turn people into mimes [yourprops.com] , you're all set.

can't (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28087767)

be a first post

Make darn sure the Feds don't mind! (2, Insightful)

Kid Zero (4866) | more than 5 years ago | (#28087781)

I'd make sure the Feds have no problem with you running something like this around. Best to make sure you won't get shot down/at.

Re:Make darn sure the Feds don't mind! (5, Insightful)

LaskoVortex (1153471) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088037)

Best to make sure you won't get shot down/at.

The Feds? No. Even the Feds don't have the power to stop a populace from flying their UAVs. Shooting down a model plane is more dangerous than the plane itself, so I don't see it becoming practice. What you are going to see is laws prohibiting *ownership* of UAVs and parts to build them. Most likely, these will come under the blanket of anti-terrorism laws.

Re:Make darn sure the Feds don't mind! (2, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088059)

I'd make sure the Feds have no problem with you running something like this around. Best to make sure you won't get shot down/at.

People fly R/C all the time. There are clubs world wide and there are governing bodies which regulate a wide variety of things - where you can fly, how large your model can be without needing to be certified, what radio frequencies are permitted. What he's describing is more complex than R/C but there won't be much additional regulation to comply with and the "Feds" won't be interested unless he does something that violates the existing laws.

Re:Make darn sure the Feds don't mind! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28088515)

unless he does something that violates the existing laws.

Of which there are quite a lot, particularly pertaining to autonomous operation. "Make sure the Feds have no problem with you" could be interpreted as "know the law and don't break it."

Please welcome.... (0, Redundant)

sledge_hmmer (1179603) | more than 5 years ago | (#28087789)

our amateur UAV building spy overlords!

I hate Slashdot editors... (2, Informative)

TriezGamer (861238) | more than 5 years ago | (#28087811)

I shouldn't have to look up acronyms because an editor fails at adding one to the summary. Since I had to look it up anyway -- for those as clueless as me, UAV means Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.

Re:I hate Slashdot editors... (4, Informative)

Swizec (978239) | more than 5 years ago | (#28087921)

UAV has been a buzzword for the past 10 years. You could've learned it by now even without leaving your mother's basement.

Re:I hate Slashdot editors... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28088213)

It's not a basement, it's a command centre

Re:I hate Slashdot editors... (2, Interesting)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088261)

I bet you're one of those coders who doesn't use comments because the "the functions names are explicit enough and if someone REALLY wants to use my API they'll read the code."

Re:I hate Slashdot editors... (1)

Swizec (978239) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088355)

Documentation should be separate from code. If they're reading the comments, they're already in the code, might as well make the code readable enough to serve as its own comment.

Ideally though the documentation should be so good an API user doesn't need to even open the source files.

Re:I hate Slashdot editors... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28088685)

API?

Re:I hate Slashdot editors... (1)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 5 years ago | (#28087937)

We real geeks already knew that. UAV has been in common usage on tech news sites (including slashdot) for quite some time now.

Re:I hate Slashdot editors... (2, Interesting)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088521)

UAV has been in common usage on tech news sites (including slashdot) for quite some time now.

It is fairly easy to confuse UAV with AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle), which is basically the same bot, but different fluid.

Welcome to the 21st century (1)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 5 years ago | (#28087949)

Please enjoy your stay.

Re:I hate Slashdot editors... (1)

damoncz (648166) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088079)

Thanks! I am a real geek and I didn't know :)

Re:I hate Slashdot editors... (2, Funny)

coldincalifornia (903694) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088107)

Since I had to look it up anyway -- for those as clueless as me, UAV means Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.

Please hand over your geek card. Your privileges have just been revoked.

Re:I hate Slashdot editors... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28088149)

mod down! insightful? wtf?

Re:I hate Slashdot editors... (1)

legirons (809082) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088155)

otherwise known as D.I.Y. DRONES...

Re:I hate Slashdot editors... (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088247)

I second that. While I knew what a UAV was, there are plenty of "summaries" that do a crappy job of summarizing. Assumption of knowledge leads to some of the worst bugs or unwieldy APIs, yet we continue to see nondescript summaries that waste the time of readers. You'd expect better from a geek website.

Re:I hate Slashdot editors... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28088365)

what is this "aeroplane" you speak of, and why are you standing on my small field of grass!

Re:I hate Slashdot editors... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28088383)

UAV is now an outdated acryonym. The latest and greatest, is UAS or unmanned areal systems.

Re:I hate Slashdot editors... (1)

JJJK (1029630) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088395)

Frequent users of this site usually know more acronyms than proper words. Some posts would simply be too long if you actually wrote things like "do it yourself", "unmanned aerial vehicle", or "GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GNU's GN

Re:I hate Slashdot editors... (1)

JJJK (1029630) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088443)

wait... damn... I fail at recursion :D

Re:I hate Slashdot editors... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28088523)

What are you doing on Slashdot?

Re:I hate Slashdot editors... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28088581)

A slashdot reader should never complain about looking up an acronym so long as it loosely relates to one of these disciplines:
Computers - I.T.
Alternative Energy
Physics - Esp. Quantum (s.q.u.i.d. anyone??)
AERONAUTICAL engineering
Chemical Eng
Electronic Eng
Mechanical Eng
Mathematics
Robotics
Material Science
Large Construction - Infrastructure Projects
Military Hardware (US Military often has good knack for acronyms).
Sorry if ive left anyones prefession off the list, unless said profession involes the personal emotional psycological reasons I made this list, In which case im not sorry.

Re:I hate Slashdot editors... (1)

delvsional (745684) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088587)

I shouldn't have to look up acronyms because an editor fails at adding one to the summary. Since I had to look it up anyway -- for those as clueless as me, UAV means Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.

Please turn in your geek card at the door.

Re:I hate Slashdot editors... (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088659)

Well, if you don't know what UAV is, this discussion is no place for you; sounds fait to me.

Re:I hate Slashdot editors... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28088753)

If you looked it up on Wikipedia, you would have seen that the wikpedia page was initially created mid-2002. So honestly, if you don't know what a UAV is, know that is not the problem of those pesky Slashdot editors.

You can leave your geek card on the table on your way out.

Re:I hate Slashdot editors... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28088821)

Welcome to 1995.

Paparazzi Project (5, Informative)

sznupi (719324) | more than 5 years ago | (#28087823)

http://paparazzi.enac.fr/wiki/Main_Page [paparazzi.enac.fr]

Open source autopilot/software/hardware design for small UAVs. Check succes stories and links on their webpage for a quick overview of what (quite a lot!) can be reasonably easily achieved.

Re:Paparazzi Project (2, Funny)

Vu1turEMaN (1270774) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088027)

Very interesting, but only plumbers like Mario can have pipe dreams.

Re:Paparazzi Project (1)

jpedlow (1154099) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088035)

Seconded!! :) It's a great place for you to start.

Re:Paparazzi Project (1)

dimeglio (456244) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088723)

Cool stuff. Looks like a degree in aeronautics and electrical engineering wound not be a bad thing either. But then, you'd be doing it for others as well...

Just watch some porn (-1, Flamebait)

ringbarer (545020) | more than 5 years ago | (#28087829)

For fuck's sake, cut the science-fair bullshit. You're gonna use this to spy on your neighbors and jerk off when you see titties.

Do yourself, and local law enforcement, a favor and just spurt to some regular porn. It doesn't even need to be freaky stuff. Tits and Cunts are the same wherever you go. Just because they're attached to a neighbor doesn't make them any different.

When you're an accomplished vaginaut such as yours truly here, you learn these things.

Re:Just watch some porn (0, Troll)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088211)

When you're an accomplished vaginaut such as yours truly here, you learn these things.

You're saying you've boldly gone "where no man has gone before"? Hmmmmm....going to share some photos, young jedi?

Re:Just watch some porn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28088545)

Hey frood, you're mixing series lingo you gimboid!

diy (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28087831)

I guess the best way to build a DIY is building it yourself

UAV? Or...? (1)

Anenome (1250374) | more than 5 years ago | (#28087835)

Hell, UAV? How about building a cruise missile in your garage. Take pictures while barrel rolling under a bus, orrrr, take pictures while breaking the sound barrier. Check it out: http://www.interestingprojects.com/cruisemissile/missilemanbook.shtml [interestingprojects.com]

Re:UAV? Or...? (3, Funny)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 5 years ago | (#28087899)

Too boring, already been done: New Zealand man builds cruise missile in his garage [redorbit.com] .

Re:UAV? Or...? (1, Flamebait)

pxc (938367) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088339)

You linked to a news article about his link, goofball.

Re:UAV? Or...? (2, Interesting)

Nethead (1563) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088645)

Q) What countries have more relaxed UAV regulations?

A) Australia and New Zealand are famously progressive in their UAV policies. Other countries, such as Mexico, have been know to be relatively friendly, too.

http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?s=31fcf01ee166e7be6375a4830cd4fd5e&t=831627 [rcgroups.com]

Re:UAV? Or...? (1)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088165)

How about attaching the cruise missile to the UAV?

If I were to try this... (2, Interesting)

DJNephilim (832695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28087857)

If I were to attempt this, I'd probably just get a regular RC aircraft to start with and then rig something like this [mr-lee-catcam.de] into the airframe. I'm sure there are cheaper solutions, but it would probably be one of the easiest.

Try AUVSI ideas? (3, Informative)

TigerNut (718742) | more than 5 years ago | (#28087859)

The building of an autonomous flying craft has been the subject of student competition for quite a while, but the focus has generally been on helicopters, simply because you can get them to stand still... doing a good inertial autopilot on an airplane is significantly more challenging.

Link to old contest stuff [angel-strike.com]

Re:Try AUVSI ideas? (2, Informative)

Glacial Wanderer (962045) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088069)

Everything I've read from people knowledgeable in this matter say helicopters are more difficult because they are naturally unstable where as most airplanes are naturally stable. This means the feedback control systems for helicopters is more difficult.

The forums on the diydrones website (same website that this slashdot questions linked) has all the answers to the questions asked. It might take a few hours to search through those forums and understand enough about what you're reading to find the answers, but a few hours on a project like this is chump change.

Re:Try AUVSI ideas? (1)

TigerNut (718742) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088623)

True enough. My background is as an RC airplane hobbyist 'way back when, and more recently (10 years ago) involved with GPS and inertial navigation using a ring-laser gyro based IMU. When I posted I hadn't read the link that the poster gave... didn't realize it was an autopilot dev board, which is cool. The AUVSI contests (the company I worked for back then sponsored contestants by way of deals on GPS equipment) mostly featured helicopters, because the precision nav challenges in the contests required hover capability.

forums. (3, Interesting)

guantamanera (751262) | more than 5 years ago | (#28087873)

go to the http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/index.php [rcgroups.com] RC forums there is alot of info in what you want to do. and here is the forums you want http://www.rcgroups.com/uav-unmanned-aerial-vehicles-238/ [rcgroups.com] Note that if you live in USA it is illegal to make UAV. Even first person view flying is illegal. But first you need to learn how to make stuff fly before you even attempt to do the UAV stuff.

UAV != autonomous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28087881)

Just go buy an RC plane kit for $20. Bingo UAV. Strap on mini camera and you're done for less than $50.

Oh, you wanted an autonomous flying robot? Lollerscates. Sorry, even the military flies theirs by RC. There are ongoing X-prize style competitions to try to build autonomous robots that work at all, on flat ground or otherwise, and you're asking for a DIY flying kit. Cute... How many millions of dollars were you planning to throw at this little DIY project?

Re:UAV != autonomous (1)

Yaos (804128) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088133)

All UAVs are radio controlled except the ones that are not radio controlled. UAVs are quite capable of flying on their own, the paths are very simple and there is usually nothing in the way.

Re:UAV != autonomous (0)

jafiwam (310805) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088389)

On the flip side (if you don't mind me re-wording your reply) here's what the submitter really needs to hear.

Get. Off. The. Fucking. Meth.

It's bad, mmkay?

Both the submission, and the fact he thinks a barrel roll is a good thing to do under a bus and would produce pictures under said bus with a photo frequency of 1 per second indicates a drug problem.

Dude, seriously, get into rehab that shit will fuck you up.

Go back and read the submission and try to imagine a breath taken in there somewhere. I don't see one...

know the differenc between a barrel and snap roll? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28087891)

... I think you might want to use a high level language too. These things have a way of being more complicated than you intend, and you may wish to have maintainable or reusable code.

The place you want to visit (2, Informative)

Lockle (61177) | more than 5 years ago | (#28087901)

You want to visit DIYDrones.com

It's a very active community that has a lot of resources for people entering the UAV scene.

Re: Mod parent redundant or at least funny (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28087945)

Wow. RTFS much? I guess not, since the only link in the summary is to the site you suggested.

Informative? No. Funny? Maybe in a sarcastic way.

Re:The place you want to visit (1)

tylerni7 (944579) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088973)

I second this recommendation. Obviously the poster has been there if they linked to it, but they also clearly have not taken advantage of it at all.
Sure, Slashdot is great, but you can sign up on DIY Drones and get much better responses from people with more experience working directly with, well, do it yourself drones.

On another note, I've been sort of working on my own UAV for a little while now. You can get lots of parts from Sparkfun, ranging from the Ardupilot to GPS's to microcontrollers that you can program yourself for a UAV.
The most important thing to consider is cost, and I would say the second is what exactly you want to get out of this project. If you just want the end result, it makes more sense to go with a prebuilt autopilot such as the Attopilot or Ardupilot, if you are doing it for the experience, it might make more sense to look at the Paparrazi project or just kind of work it out yourself. If you really want you can even build your own airframe, wireless infrastructure, and solder up all the boards yourself.

So really, it's hard to give you any advice based on what you've said so far. There are hundreds of ways that you can take the project depending on just what you want, but I would say that DIYDrones is the best place to start, the people there are pretty friendly, and if you describe just what you want, they'll definitely be able to help you out.

Have tried it, and it is awesome. ND Aero Eng (5, Interesting)

AnthonyA7 (1015763) | more than 5 years ago | (#28087923)

I'm a just-graduated aerospace engineer from Notre Dame. For our senior design project, we build uav's... well, really RC planes. Everything had to be constructed from scratch, except for the electronics (motor/battery/GPS/receiver/etc). This year's goal was to have a mothership-daughtership configuration where the daughtership would detach mid-flight and maneuver on its own. Believe me, it's loads of fun to build everything from scratch, but it is a lot of work. And I definitely think it is doable by anyone, not just aerospace engineering majors.

Here was my team's plane: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eW68B3DnNWA [youtube.com]

If you're interested in actually constructing the structure by yourself, I'd definitely suggest picked up a book on model airplane construction. Hobby shop dudes are also a big help, just go in and throw some ideas out and most hobby store owners will be very enthusiastic. And, if you're _really_ interested, I'd suggest Aircraft Design: A Conceptual Approach by Daniel Raymer. Link: http://www.aiaa.org/content.cfm?pageid=360&id=1396 [aiaa.org]

Oh, also, flying a model aircraft requires a hell of a lot of skill- we get the awesome dudes down at the South Bend RC Plane Club to fly ours.

Re:Have tried it, and it is awesome. ND Aero Eng (2, Interesting)

immel (699491) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088189)

Mod parent up. The designers in my club swear by that book. Definitely seek the advice of the local hobby shops (after all, you need the right off the shelf components from them).

For more info on programming flight control systems and simulations, see Flight Stability and Automatic Control, by Robert Nelson. http://www.amazon.com/Flight-Stability-Automatic-Control-Robert/dp/0070462739 [amazon.com]

Re:Have tried it, and it is awesome. ND Aero Eng (1)

AnthonyA7 (1015763) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088251)

Definitely agreed. We used that book for our Aerospace Dynamics class, which was taught by none other than Robert Nelson himself. Great professor; I'm lucky to have been taught by him in several courses and as a research advisor.

Re:Have tried it, and it is awesome. ND Aero Eng (2, Informative)

Falconhell (1289630) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088417)

Model Aircraft Aerodynamics by Martin Simons is am excellent reference for antone wanting to design and build model aircraft/UAV.

20 Years ago Martin got an invitation to speak in Washington, where when he arrived he was surprised to find himself speaking to the top airforce brass. At the time he could not work out why-
as UAV became more common he found out!

DIY Drones (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28087951)

http://diydrones.com/ - 'nuff said.

Had a look at Mikrokopter ? (4, Informative)

Alanceil (891771) | more than 5 years ago | (#28087977)

Have a look at this project: http://www.mikrokopter.de/ucwiki/en/Mikrokopter-Get-started [mikrokopter.de]
They offer assembly instructions and software.

Some pictures: http://gallery.mikrokopter.de/main.php [mikrokopter.de]
and videos: http://www.mikrokopter.de/ucwiki/VideoListe [mikrokopter.de]

Start with simple r/c (3, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088017)

I hope you have a few spare thousand dollars.

From your post you clearly know nothing about r/c aircraft. Learn to fly an r/c aircraft well without crashing. Go find a club and an instructor who'll teach you. Also get hold of a good simulator unless you want to spend thousands. That'll take you at least 6 months, probably closer to a year. (Longer if you don't have any aptitude for it). Flying r/c planes takes more practice and skill than you might think. It'll also cost more than you think. Once you have an appreciation for the difficulties of flying R/C you might stand half a chance programming one with a robotic interface. You'll also want to be able to take over manually from time to time when you're programming the thing so if you get something slightly wrong you've got some chance of saving it.

You could also learn about the robotics more simply with an r/c car. R/c cars can move slowly without any risk of falling out of the sky. Some of what you learn will translate to air, other parts won't.

If you want something off the shelf, I did read about robotised r/c helicopters for commercial applications like security but I think they cost in the 10's of thousands. I think you STILL need to know how to take over manually.

Re:Start with simple r/c (2, Insightful)

Goaway (82658) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088135)

Or he could buy something like the Easy Star and learn to fly it in an evening or two.

Re:Start with simple r/c (2, Insightful)

Falconhell (1289630) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088431)

Huh? took me 2 days to learn to fly RC, and that included a few repairs to the ol Soar Birdy.

There are now many cheap virtually indestructable models made from EPP foam available, no need to spend thousands.

Re:Start with simple r/c (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088687)

That hard? I mean i know it being remote control will make it more difficult, but flying gliders is a piece of piss, surely there are motorized glider R/Cs and learning to use them cant be too hard?

UAV tried to kill me (4, Informative)

immel (699491) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088019)

The last time some of my friends tried doing an automatic control system, the plane turned straight toward the flight line and tried to kill us all!

Unless you have extensive experience designing them, I would recommend going with a kit plane for hardware rather than trying to build one from scratch out of foam boards. The reason for this is that you will start out with a design you know is flyable and has the stability properties you want. One of the classic errors in model-scale UAV design I've seen people make is trying to design the craft from scratch only to discover that their control surfaces are poorly sized, the thing is dynamically unstable, and it requires hand-made spare parts after every flight.

I think an ideal platform for a UAV like you describe would be a foam flying wing with maybe a 3-4 foot wingspan. The flying wing design would at least in theory allow you to decouple some equations which would be difficult to do in traditional fused aircraft and impossible to do in helicopters. Also, unibody construction makes it easier to land without landing gear. Landing without some pretty complex rangefinding hardware is tough, even for a computer system. Doing a skid landing on that huge wing surface with a rear-facing prop will add some margin of error to your landing sequence. If possible, get an ARF (Almost Ready to Fly) model. They come with airframe, power system, and sometimes all the servos. All you need to add is the radio equipment (I assume you are going to have a manual override backup. No, really. You're going to want a manual override.). Expanded polypropylene foam is actually more durable than a lot of people give it credit for, and replacement parts for these aircraft are easy to find.

Re:UAV tried to kill me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28088203)

Spad's would be another low cost option, http://www.spadtothebone.com/

They are cheap, and fairly easy to build. the main cost is like in most rc aircraft is in the radio, and electronics.

Re:UAV tried to kill me (3, Funny)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088803)

The last time some of my friends tried doing an automatic control system, the plane turned straight toward the flight line and tried to kill us all!

Next time, disconnect the Skynet interface.

Stumbling blocks (2, Insightful)

Hammer79 (1163799) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088049)

I have thought about doing a similar project for a long time, one where you can just enter GPS coordinates at get the plane to fly to those coordinates and take a picture, maybe take some weather readings as well, and send it back to a base station. A big problem that I see would be that it's hard to know how much a finished board would weigh, and how much power consumption would the instruments impose on the battery pack? Would I get an advantage from a more powerful engine from more lift, or would it just lead to power waste for the sake of a bit of extra speed? I'd also need to know that I have enough lift from the planes wings to carry the UAV circuit too or else it will be bogged down or not fly at all. The project seems to be more mech eng heavy than I'd like to take on as an elec techy.

Re:Stumbling blocks (1)

Captain Cabron (1135811) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088495)

And all of those concerns are insignificant when you consider tacking on an AI that can execute maneuvers, handle turbulence, variable winds, bad accelerometer data... generally do the things a UAV needs to do in order to get to and from its coordinates.

You can fudge things a little here and there with weight & power but get a seg fault in your autopilot and watch your plane crash into a hillside. :)

Anyone know of open-source projects for controlling these things?

Re:Stumbling blocks (1)

Hammer79 (1163799) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088633)

Indeed, the problems I listed don't even take into account the code required to make it fly. Collision avoidance sensors (maybe an ultrasonic rangefinder) are a must for such a project, because you can't anticipate every obstacle before flight. Of course that leads to a whole other set of questions, do you go with a run-of-the-mill Microchip Pic as the processing brains, or do you go with something with more processing power (Blackfin pops to mind) and subsequently more power consumption? Do you build in a redundancy system with plane crashes in mind, like an auto parachute or something, or is the weight gain too significant? So many questions, and there are so many directions to go with such a project...

Go to (2, Funny)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088067)

You might try instructables.com.. They have a section with this kind of project.

solution (1)

kramerd (1227006) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088077)

If you want it to be easy, get a ton of money, and buy it.

If you want it to be (relatively) cheap, build it yourself.

You are so wishy-washy that there isn't a solution for you.

Syousef is right. If you had any idea what you were looking for, the /. community would be able to help you. Instead, I wasted time posting this response.

Get an RC plane (2, Insightful)

coaxial (28297) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088097)

It seem like the obvious approach would be a fairly large RC plane and mount a second the camera (perhaps on a servo) and a tv transmitter on it. You downlink the video to a laptop that then uses some sort of usb connection to a gutted rc controller, either with servos moving the sticks directly, or better yet, bypassing the potentiometers and variably outputting voltage directly to the control board.

It seems like the hardest thing is avoiding (auto)pilot error. I don't have any experience with RC planes, but from what I've heard you have to go into with the attitude that you're going to spend a thousand dollars for 10 seconds of entertainment. You just have to assume that the plane is going to be destroyed on its first flight. Anything after that is bonus.

Re:Get an RC plane (1)

immel (699491) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088751)

Although your average laptop has quite enough computing horsepower to run a basic flight control system, I recall a similar project I saw demoed at college found that the downlink of telemetry and transmission through the radio introduced a little too much lag time for performance to be acceptable. Then again, that project was demoed on a helicopter. A fixed wing aircraft might be a bit more lag tolerant.

Although there is a case to be made for doing the math on the ground, for right now it's probably better to carry the flight control system on board.

Careful (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28088113)

I built one a few years ago and programmed it to fly from on waypoint to another 3 miles away using all standard parts. I was subsequently arrested and accused of terrorism/causing panic/disturbing the peace...etc...etc. so much for wanting kids to invent things and do thing with their hands...

As for the hardware... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28088141)

use the iPhone. It has a good hard drive for programming and picture storage. Also its accelerometer, built in geotagging and GPS capability, along with its built in camera. To use the iPhone as an onboard controller you can interface the audio output with a piezoelectric buzzer and have specific frequencies trigger different controls. (NerdKits piezoelectric buzzer & equalizer project that was on /. not too long ago.)

The only problem I see is if you can make an APP that does all this stuff so its just a plug and play with the controller board the US govn't will probably ban the use of iPhones.

Communications is a problem (2, Interesting)

hofmny (1517499) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088143)

I have always been interested in the same thing. The problem I have always encountered is that you would want this thing to fly on its own, to other states, territories, etc, maybe with a camera. Ideally you would be able to go to your PC, bring up an app, and see (out of the cameras on your UAV) where it is (flying over a beautiful mountain peak, etc). You would also want to be able to send to it new coordinates.

But how do you keep in communication with it? Military UAV's most definitely use satellites. Without the use of satellites, I find it hard for a UAV you build to go beyond your own visual range (= ~10 miles) from the launch site.

Does anyone have any solutions for this, or does one have to rent time/frequency sharing with a satellite provider (read:expensive)?

Re:Communications is a problem (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088295)

We already have cheap and ubiquitous way for transferring data while on-the-go: cellphone network. I'm thinking about implementing it at some point in UAV that I'm toying with.

Granted, there are countries with spotty coverage...but there are also those where, even if 3G range is limited to aglomerations, 2G/GPRS is practically everywhere (or at least - I've never seen "out of range" on my cellphone; also, beeing somewhat above ground will help reception on an UAV)

Re:Communications is a problem (1)

bcmm (768152) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088327)

Iridium modem?

Re:Communications is a problem (1)

bcmm (768152) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088343)

Never mind, those seem to be fairly high-latency.

Dial-up modem connected to a gutted iridium phone? Is that technically workable?

The hobbyist term for a UAV is... (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088205)

...an R/C plane. There are any number of magazines and books describing the construction of such, covering many different types for many different needs. Any electronic project you might wish to mount on the plane would be its own project and more an electronics problem then a problem in constructing the plane (the weight would have to be strictly controlled, of course); cameras are a popular one and you could probably find many plans, notes, and tips in the above mentioned R/C resources.

Autonomous glider (4, Interesting)

bcmm (768152) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088257)

There were some people who built an autonomous glider which could perform many of the things you mention (with the notable exception of powered flight), including flying pre-programmed routes while taking photos (as well as navigating to specified coordinates autonomously). The process of building and testing it is documented in a fair amount of detail [members.shaw.ca] , including information on choices made for the on board electronics.

I have no particular interest in building aircraft, and still thought that page was a good read.

Start With a Slow Stick (4, Interesting)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088281)

Not sure if you already have radio-controlled airplane experience. If you do not, I have a very solid recommendation for you:

A world-class starter platform for both learning to fly and lifting is the Slow Stick. It is one of the most popular planes with RC hackers, is cheap as dirt, has solid lifting potential (and upgrades can make it a real monster), and has lots of commercially available upgrade parts.

I'd go with a slow stick glider, and add a cheap brushless motor for starters (in fact, that's precisely what I have about six feet behind me for my first aerial photography platform). That will give you a good mix of cheap and solid lifting potential.

As for the forum, Slashdot is a good place to start for all things geeky, but the specialist forums you're looking for are at RCGroups:

http://www.rcgroups.com/ [rcgroups.com]

Here's the main starter thread for Slow Sticks:

http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=122951 [rcgroups.com]

Admit your noob-ness, ask for advice, be respectful, weather the occasional ornery response with good humor, and you can learn everything you want to know at RC Groups.

Re:Start With a Slow Stick (2, Informative)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088331)

Here's a thread on someone else's experience seeking the same objective:

http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1054800&highlight=uav [rcgroups.com]

Does... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28088323)

A Bra and some waterbaloons count as UAV?

Just start with this. (1)

captnbmoore (911895) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088409)

B52 RC plane [youtube.com]

I gotcher UAV right here... (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088423)

Here's yer UAV: it's a long piece of string and a big kite with digital camera and an Eye-Fi card taped to it. Have fun and make sure you're home in time for supper, young man.

You really need to get liegality (2, Interesting)

xianthax (963773) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088437)

if your in the US your getting into a legal shit storm, look here:

http://www.faa.gov/aircraft/air_cert/design_approvals/uas/reg/media/frnotice_uas.pdf [faa.gov]

and here

http://rgl.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgAdvisoryCircular.nsf/0/1ACFC3F689769A56862569E70077C9CC?OpenDocument&Highlight=91 [faa.gov]

other than that, it is an interesting controls project, most interesting part will be getting accurate sensor information without spending a ton on a decent gyro...

build a simulator or you will wreck a lot of airplanes before you get it working 100%

use the cell phone network for comms if your going outside ~5 miles, 900mhz radios should reach that far line of sight with a decent antenna.

Re:You really need to get liegality (2, Interesting)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088789)

Under 400 feet, 3+miles from any airport, not over any built-up area, and not annoying anyone (such as your local sheriff deputy who doesn't know or care about the limits of FAA regulations), those regs you cited do not apply.

On the other hand, it might be more fun to start this hobby within an organization that can get FAA 8130s, has a real budget, a CNC machine shop, chip fab plant, money, a big place to fly with Air Force approval, money, etc.

I work at a place that could get the COA/special 8130/7177 and whatever other certs would be needed to manufacture and sell an autonomous plane commercially, but everybody that would have an interest in such things is putting their time and effort into their *real* planes.

hobby rc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28088499)

hobby store, it's just an rc plane.

an experience... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28088565)

I have built many DIY UAVs (no kits) but have had problems with the police, even though I never flew them out in the open (because I knew they aren't welcomed here): a neighbour saw them in my balcony and alerted the police as they obviously thought I were a terrist, a commie, an alien, or something like that. They couldn't charge me with any crime but they kept an eye on me for a few months by having a police car parked near my house and sometimes escorting me to work. I had no problem with them and was always nice to them whenever they had a question to ask, but since then I destroyed my UAVs and didn't continue with my hobby because I was afraid that eventually they could find something to charge me with just to enhance their prosecution statistics. They continued keeping an eye on me for some time and then they left me alone. So, my advice is: make sure your local police dept is OK with your UAV hobby before you embark on building your own UAV.

Build your own damned UAV! (1)

CuteSteveJobs (1343851) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088613)

I'm not doing your homework for you!

I'm not sure if the original poster is with Al Queda ("wikislamofacism.com tl;dr lol") or a Bond Villain (too lazy to Google for "world domination").

Build a flight simulator first (1)

billybob_jcv (967047) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088747)

Build a good 6 degree-of-freedom flight simulator using reasonably accurate aerodynamic parameters, mass properties and engine model, then when you have that going straight and level, start working on a flight control system & autopilot model. It will be a whole lot easier to design the control and feedback loops with a math model than with a real bird. If you don't know a Laplace transform from an autobot transformer, you have some research to do...
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