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Ask Slashdot: Is a Home Drone Feasible?

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the eye-in-the-sky dept.

Technology 274

dargaud writes "I live in an alpine setting and I'd like to be able to remotely view various remote valleys to check for ice formations for winter climbing. I wonder if there are cheap drones that could do that. Requirements would be: GPS guided on a preset route (no remote control necessary, and anyway there's no line of sight), at least 20km autonomy, 1 or 2 cameras on the sides to record valley walls, easy launching and autonomous landing (parachute?) at predefined point, ground detection to avoid crashes (if preset route is wrong or GPS echoes on valley walls as is often the case). Is there anything commercially available cheap enough, or any DIY that doesn't require a year of assembly?"

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Define (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568469)

cheap?

Re:Define (3, Interesting)

niftydude (1745144) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568499)

agree - this request is too light on content to engineer a solution.

What are the typical and maximum wind speeds in the valleys you are looking at?
How high above sea level are you, and what is the highest point you want the drone to get to?
Are there constraints on noise (ie will a loud engine cause avalanches?

More info please.

Totally agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568515)

I would also supplement with:

Weight requirements for onboard camera equipment? Camera lenses for "valley walls" don't sound light.

Re:Define (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568663)

Also... how tasty are your *tacos*, sir?

Re:Define (5, Informative)

Xeno man (1614779) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568679)

He's not looking for a solution just yet. He wants a starting point. You making things too complex too fast. The question is, can you do those things for cheap? Is it possible? If you have a question, the answer is "Ideal conditions"

What are the typical and maximum wind speeds in the valleys you are looking at? - No wind
How high above sea level are you, and what is the highest point you want the drone to get to? Sea level to 10 feet
Are there constraints on noise (ie will a loud engine cause avalanches? - Doesn't matter

Now build a simple solution. Lets see, GPS, cameras, autonomy, collision detection, 20km range. The cheapest is about $9,000. But it might not meet your needs.

Now the poster sees that and think 1 of two things.
1. Oh damn, I was hoping for something between $1,000 - $2,000 so I'm not going to find something that will work in my price range. I'll give up searching for now. Or
2. Sweet, That is well below what I'm willing to spend. Lets do some more research and ask more questions about what I really need now I know that this is feasible.

Re:Define (5, Informative)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568845)

He's not looking for a solution just yet. He wants a starting point.

Then DIY Drones would be a better starting point than Slashdot. http://diydrones.com/ [diydrones.com]

"Convert any RC airplane into a fully-autonomous UAV! Just add the APM 2 autopilot to any RC aircraft and it becomes a fully-programmable flying robot with a powerful ground station and Mission Planner. APM 2 is an open source, Arduino-compatible, pro-quality autopilot. It is the most advanced IMU-based open source autopilot available today, and provides an entire UAV control system with scriptable missions with 3D waypoints, in-flight uploading of commands and powerful ground station software. "

Features include:
Return to Launch with a flick of your RC toggle switch or a mouse click in the graphical Ground Station
Unlimited 3D GPS waypoints
Built-in camera control
Fully-scriptable missions
One-click software load, and easy point-and-click configuration in the powerful Mission Planner. NO programming required!
Replay recorded missions and analyze all the data with a graphing interface
Supports two-way telemetry with Xbee wireless modules.
Point-and-click waypoint entry or real-time mission commands while the UAV is in the air
Fly with a joystick or gamepad via your PC--no need for RC control!
Built-in failsafe will bring your aircraft home in the case of radio loss

Re:Define (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39569119)

See? You can be annoying and helpful at the same time

Re:Define (4, Funny)

niftydude (1745144) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568947)

He's not looking for a solution just yet. He wants a starting point. You making things too complex too fast. The question is, can you do those things for cheap? Is it possible? If you have a question, the answer is "Ideal conditions"

Silly me. I thought that the poster was seeking to draw on the combined IT and engineering expertise of slashdot, not get information he could easily google for.

I guess I stand corrected.

Re:Define (2)

dargaud (518470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39569057)

You are right about the constraints, ideal conditions first and then we'll see. Anyway the altitude isn't very high. As for the noise, something quiet would be better: it's not a national park but still, animals in winter waste energy if they get scared and have to move; and people get away from the city in order not to hear moped noises coming from the sky.

As for the price, yes 1~2k$ would be ideal. Technically this [google.com] looks interesting, but they appear to sell only to spy^H^H^Hlaw enforcement agencies.

Re:Define (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#39569041)

Or maybe you could just "wing it" - for fun.

Re:Define (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39569315)

agree - this request is too light on content to engineer a solution.

How is that different from any other "ask slashdot"?

Re:Define (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568671)

My ex wife sure could drone on and on at home...

And You're The Dumbass Who Married Her! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568775)

Shitcock.

Re:Define (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568917)

I guess I've got it good. My wife doesn't even talk to me anymore.

Re:Define (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 2 years ago | (#39569097)

$200 over the cost of the model you want to fly it in, which you could probably safely get buy at $400 total for aircraft and one of the prebuilt IMUs.

You'd need other support equipment, probably $600 total for a model capable of flying itself.

These aren't new anyway.

http://code.google.com/p/arducopter/ [google.com]

DIY VS. Time (4, Informative)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568473)

Totally depends on your skill levels in meshing the brains together and fabrication. There is not enough information in your post to determine either, but based on the tone I am getting your best bet is money, and for the features you want with the durability just to survive the terrain while carrying a small load, it aint going to be cheap.

Off the top of my head maybe model aircraft with telepresence would be the best mix.

Basic Stamp with GPS. (3, Informative)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568477)

Dont see why it wouldn't be possible using Parallax Basic Stamp or another embedded controller that supports a serial GPS receiver. The platform itself may take a little fiddling as you would want something more stable then your standard RC helicopter. Something with coaxial counter rotating blade system or multiple sets of blades.

Re:Basic Stamp with GPS. (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568501)

Something like this... http://diydrones.com/profiles/blogs/705844:BlogPost:12672 [diydrones.com]

Re:Basic Stamp with GPS. (3, Interesting)

guises (2423402) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568573)

I don't think there are any quadrotors that have the kind of range he's asking for.

Re:Basic Stamp with GPS. (1, Insightful)

Daniel Phillips (238627) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568719)

Right, it would have to be a fixed wing, quite heavy to carry enough fuel, long range radio with regulatory problems, just for starters. My advice would be, stick to the playground just for now.

Re:Basic Stamp with GPS. (2)

justforgetme (1814588) | more than 2 years ago | (#39569107)

Radio should only be required if he wants live views/interaction. The whole thing could be engineered to be
autonomous. Ditching policy will be a problem if it is going to fly in a populated area.

I guess mountains will have high airflow so anything lighter than air or rotating wing is invalid.
A large size (1m wingspan) RC airplane could be a starting point. Autonomous flight will mean that initially fuel will become an
issue because engine management is quite complex to do (while keeping the thing flying under all conditions). I remember a
talk about an autonomous drone in that size range about a couple of years ago, I think there also was a company behind it.
Landing isn't that much of a problem, you can equip a parachute or make a short range radio override for manual
landing, but as said before the price will probably be over 5k for such a thing, possibly even higher since you will need liquid
fuel engines.

Just my 2c

Re:Basic Stamp with GPS. (3, Informative)

entropi (2933) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568577)

Quadcopters and the like are generally fairly limited on flight time..10-20 min generally from what I've read. For your range, you might want to go with a air wing/rc plane..but diydrones would still be a good place to get up to speed on the capabilities.

ArduPilot (5, Informative)

Mindscrew (1861410) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568507)

Have you heard of this? http://www.sparkfun.com/products/8785 [sparkfun.com]

Yes, its an emerging field (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568523)

http://code.google.com/p/arducopter/
http://store.jdrones.com/
http://diydrones.com/profiles/blogs/announcing-arducopter-the
http://store.jdrones.com/product_p/acq11arf.htm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IP5zdkckkKo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhZ5WZDtsM4

Go for it!

diydrones (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568535)

http://code.google.com/p/arducopter/wiki/ArduCopter

or for other options

http://diydrones.com

Re:diydrones (0)

Mr.Bananas (851193) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568585)

Mod parent up. Those websites have a trove of resources and links to stores where you can buy parts you can assemble yourself, or drones you can buy preassembled.

As others have said, OP hasn't really given all the fine details, but this is the best starting place for him/her to learn more.

union jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568561)

was thinking today that we should expect autonomous robots to try to replace union jobs first. Why do a truck roll when you can station a droid in every neighborhood?

Call me an ahole or a hippie (-1, Troll)

WiiVault (1039946) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568565)

But is this really a better investment that something that betters our society like charity, support for out of work family, or something else that isn't seemingly wasteful? Submitter has the right to do whatever he wants, and his hiking is a great and enviable hobby- it really is. But when things as extreme as a drone are proposed in a setting like this I can't help but wonder what the impact to the very environment he clearly loves will be from such an expensive and resource intensive solution. Do what you will sir, but consider the merits of other options as well. You might be surprised how much better you feel helping causes you never knew existed, or never considered before. But you are free to decide for yourself.

Re:Call me an ahole or a hippie (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568619)

GTFO hippie.

Re:Call me an ahole or a hippie (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568625)

Sounds to me like he wants to photograph valley walls for safety purposes, so that he'll know in advance whether some faces will be safe to climb or not before putting anyone in danger.

This sounds like a perfectly valid use of his money, and I think you should get off your high horse.

(I speak as someone who both spends considerable money on my hobbies _and_ regularly donates to charities

Re:Call me an ahole or a hippie (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568901)

My read is he wants to scout for good climbing locations before trekking there. Safety is almost certainly better-assessed on-location.

I'm not an ice climber, but I have some knowledge of the sport and have done a bit of outdoor rock climbing.

Re:Call me an ahole or a hippie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568681)

Hippies, they all want to change the world, but, all they do is smoke pot and smell bad. GFY, who are you to tell someone what to do with their time and resources? Nobody that's who. You know what would make me feel better? Less self-righteous douchebags like yourself pontificating on the Interwebs.

Re:Call me an ahole or a hippie (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568731)

So tramping all over the country side in the hope of finding something is much better than flying a small (electric?) plane to check it out before hand is better for the environment being tramped on? I suppose I have never known of a smart hippy before... I still have hope though.

Re:Call me an ahole or a hippie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568805)

But is this really a better investment that something that betters our society like charity, support for out of work family, or something else that isn't seemingly wasteful?

Pretty much like your post, you could be using this time to do charity work, but you're not, so you're just a hypocrit. Standard hippie POV, want to change the world, but want someone to do it for them, just whinge and moan about how everyone else is the problem.

Re:Call me an ahole or a hippie (4, Funny)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568871)

That reply was like a horse femur for that troll. He won't need to eat for a week!

Re:Call me an ahole or a hippie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568827)

Why is everyone throwing a hissy fit? GP suggested looking into other options, he never said what dargaud should do with his money - in fact, more than once GP said he was free to do as he will.

Nothing ready to fly will be cheap (1)

Dr Max (1696200) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568571)

Your not going to get anything pre-built ready to fly cheap (thousands of dollars), but if you build your own with arduino from a site like http://diydrones.com/ [diydrones.com] , it becomes a lot more feasible (just choose an rc vehicle and follow the guide).

I don't think thats legal... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568575)

But here is the FAA's take on it...

http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/uas/

Re:I don't think thats legal... (2)

gnapster (1401889) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568707)

A fair point: it's one thing to get the legislature of California to entertain self-driving cars. Getting the FAA to bless self-flying planes will be a harder nut to crack.

Do It Right The First Time!! (5, Insightful)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568579)

It sounds like a straight-up cash purchase of a "turn-key drone" is your ticket. Otherwise, I'd recommend some kind of "DIY framework" - a drone platform that's taken care of the aerodynamics, controls and fuel tank and radio controls for you. Then you just tweak it to match your exact need.

My advice: whether, you DIY it or buy it outright.... don't skimp. Walk into this knowing you're probably going to spend twice as much as your initial estimate, if you can budget it. A semi-autonomous LONG RANGE drone is NOT cheap. A 20km bare minimum range puts this project into a semi-professional to professional level. Most "hobbiest" drone projects or commercial products couldn't even spit at the kind of quality and scale needed to perform such a task.

If you decide to buy something... look at commercial surveying drones. They have the range, the quality and the sophisticated integration already taken care of for you.

Do your homework upfront, buy it right the first time, take care of it and maintain it properly and it will give you YEARS of little or no issue service.

Re:Do It Right The First Time!! (4, Funny)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568643)

Do your homework upfront, buy it right the first time, take care of it and maintain it properly and it will give you YEARS of little or no issue service.

Oh, these must be the words of someone who is currently maintaining someone else's piece of crap.

Re:Do It Right The First Time!! (4, Funny)

Kozz (7764) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568661)

I noticed that the person asking the question did not include any information to suggest what country (or even continent) they reside in. But let's assume he's in the continental US so we've got something to talk about (and just to piss off the whiners who complain every time this is assumed).

What kinds of US laws are applicable for a "drone"? I thought the laws were basically the same as radio-controlled plans: under 1000ft, line of sight. Anything beyond that, and wouldn't you have to get some kind of commercial license, submit flight plans, or anything else?

I don't actually know anything about this stuff, but I did listen to a podcast recently. That makes me an expert on the internet, right?

Re:Do It Right The First Time!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568689)

I don't actually know anything about this stuff, but I did listen to a podcast recently. That makes me an expert on the internet, right?

well, did you stay at a holiday inn last night?

~~DORMAMU~~

/too lazy to get /. id

Re:Do It Right The First Time!! (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568783)

Pretty much yea, 1000 ft, line of sight.... which is going to be impossible for this purpose.

There are ways around those rules... you can get exceptions from the FAA for stuff like this, but its not going to be cheap & you'd better have a reason more substantial than "i think it would be fun to do".

Re:Do It Right The First Time!! (4, Funny)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568951)

But let's assume he's in the continental US so we've got something to talk about (and just to piss off the whiners who complain every time this is assumed).

Agreed. Let's also assume he lives in Minnesota, because he mentioned the alpine countryside, which suggests he's got Norwegian ancestry from the great mountains of Central Europe.

Re:Do It Right The First Time!! (2)

dargaud (518470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39569139)

Well, I'm in France and have no idea of the legality of unmanned flying here. Anyway, a discussion centererd on the US is fine as once I know what the pitholes are, I can transpose to a different country with some research.

Re:Do It Right The First Time!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568841)

You’re not going to find anything professional or turn-key for under $5000 which defiantly isn't cheap. DIY on the other hand, although it would require some technical skills is possible for under a grand. My advice is spend your money on a nice petrol rc plane, go with a cmos camera (better with changing light), and ardupilot hardware and software. It'll do everything he wants (maybe not crash avoidance) and he will save a fortune.

More information required (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568589)

There's plenty of projects around that will do what you're after. An ArduPilot in a plane should do all that, although you'll likely have to land and take off under manual control. A hobby helicopter/quadcopter drone will have trouble with the range (20km is a fair way to travel, and i assume it's not a straight path). Sensors can deal with things like terrain avoidance and calculation of true altitude versus barometer altitude (to help prevent controlled flight into terrain).

But you need to clarify. Just how cheap is "cheap enough"? $500? $10000? Some values are required.

Yeah...right, "de Bleauchamp". (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568597)

You can play at Comte Balthazar all you want, Ernst, but we all know that the real de Bleauchamps don't have earlobes. Keep trying...

Re:Yeah...right, "de Bleauchamp". (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 2 years ago | (#39569253)

We had all the time in the world.

of course! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568609)

diydrones.com

Civil UAVs are currently prohibited by the FAA (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568633)

http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/uas/uas_faq/index.cfm?print=go#Qn2

You can only fly them as if they were R/C aircraft, which means line-of-sight only and you must have a link to the ground. There are also ceilings and rules about keeping them away from buildings, people, and especially aircraft.

The quadrotors that you see people putting cameras on are not UAVs, they are just remote controlled and someone on the ground is flying them in real-time. The FAA is moving very slowly on approving any sort of UAV flights (public or civil) although they are being forced by Congress to finally issue rules about how they might go about approving civil UAVs. Otherwise, right now UAVs can only be flown by the government, government contractors, universities, or in military airspace.

There are no commercial options that a private citizen can buy, and the DIY options will require lots of work. This is an area of active research in the robotics community, and implementing any one of the features you mentioned would probably be sufficient to get you a Ph.D. right now.

Looking expensive (4, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568641)

The 20 km range excludes cheap electric model aircraft. Also your location requires something with a lot of excess power, due to the disturbed air over mountains.

Re:Looking expensive (1)

dargaud (518470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39569157)

In winter usually the air is pretty calm. Anyway the requirement wouldn't be to fly in _any_ conditions, just when it's best to do a recon. Anyway, I see plenty of good suggestions so far. Thanks all.

Re:Looking expensive (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#39569281)

In winter usually the air is pretty calm.

Not calm enough. Air which feels still to you can be moving at ten knots. When that ten knot flow goes over the top of a mountain it generates ten knots of sink. Good light aircraft climb at ten knots and regularly crash in the mountains. Normal model aircraft might climb at two knots, and that is without cameras and communications gear. Good luck!

IAAHAVE, ALPINE = BONED (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568649)

Helicopter avionics is my trade. I also fly stunt rc heli's for fun.

Just of the top of my head, Your Alpine conditions are pretty much the most unfavorable to your expectations of cheap/simple/all in 1
- I expect the winds could knock you out. Only powerful collective pitch heli can handle winds, ie not quadrotors (fixed pitch)
- Heli's do not like high altitudes
- Li ion batteries do not like cold
- If you crash, im guessing its gone for good in the snow. im not aware of any consumer drones have tracking yet.
- Most consumer drones have 1 camera and low to mid level avionics/autopilot. I expect a fair bit of tweaking would be needed to reach your spec

Even still Good Luck !
-k

DIYDrone Blimpduino? (2)

gizmo_mathboy (43426) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568691)

An interesting part of the DIY Drones stuff.

http://diydrones.com/profiles/blog/show?id=705844%3ABlogPost%3A44817 [diydrones.com]

Winds might be sort of a problem.

I wonder how easy it would be to make a DIY drone using a powered paraglider.

Well, it does look like it has been asked:

http://diydrones.com/forum/topics/uav-paraglider?xg_source=activity [diydrones.com]

Cool.

2 cameras? GPS driven? Parachutes? Lightweight? (5, Insightful)

gavron (1300111) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568735)

This post belonged on 2012-04-01.

There's nothing on Earth that can do what you want.
Your requirements are self-defeating.

I'm a helicopter pilot.
I own 10 R/C helis.
I've flown UAVs.
I only own two R/C fixed-wing aircraft.
One has one camera on it.

Weight is everything. You want a 20Km range and
2 high-def cameras. Those things fly at 160Km/H max.
You're talking 15 minutes "there" and back. Not going to happen today.

*puff the magic dragon*

E

Re:2 cameras? GPS driven? Parachutes? Lightweight? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568855)

This post belonged on 2012-04-01.

There's nothing on Earth that can do what you want.
Your requirements are self-defeating.

I'm a helicopter pilot.
I own 10 R/C helis.
I've flown UAVs.
I only own two R/C fixed-wing aircraft.
One has one camera on it.

Weight is everything. You want a 20Km range and
2 high-def cameras. Those things fly at 160Km/H max.
You're talking 15 minutes "there" and back. Not going to happen today.

*puff the magic dragon*

E

http://vimeo.com/16080459
I'll just leave this here

Re:2 cameras? GPS driven? Parachutes? Lightweight? (2)

gavron (1300111) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568949)

Yes leave it there. No two cameras. No self-maneuvering. No GPS. No valley winds. The problem with the specs is you can meet one or more of them... but to meet ALL OF THEM at a low cost? Never.

E

Re:2 cameras? GPS driven? Parachutes? Lightweight? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39569077)

Actually, that is Trappy's world record run, so:

It had 2 cameras (A GoPro and a low res security cam).
It has a GPS, return to home (self maneuvering), and a transmitter to send a live video signal back to someone on the ground
He flys in a valley between two mountains. And can handle moderate wind.

Total cost is less than $2000 on the plane, maybe $3000 counting ground equip.
Of course, that is a world record... not an easy thing to duplicate. But the main difficulty is in the "live video signal back to the ground". If you remove that requirement, things get a lot easier. And scarier, since you won't have feedback on what your flying mass of money is currently doing.

What it does not have, and what you will not find on ANY light plane right now is ground avoidance. Most of the rest is easy, even the preset route. (My $800 glider can do that). Even 20km total ground covered isn't too absurd... although 20km out and back with meandering is getting into "you'll have to work REALLY hard" territory.

Hmm, also, auto-landing is something that is not fully matured. Some systems have it, but usually mean for it to be a failsafe.

Finally, and this is really the only nail in his coffin, is that it sounds like he wants to do this with minimal work (Easy launch, easy landing, no control, etc makes me suspect this). And right now, while this can all be done, it requires a LOT of work and manual interaction with the plane.

Re:2 cameras? GPS driven? Parachutes? Lightweight? (1)

dargaud (518470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39569183)

Thanks. Since I don't have an RC background, at least it gives me an idea of what I'm up against, and if not doable now, what needs to improve before it is.

Looks like ground avoidance would be the harder to match, so let's drop it and just have it fly higher. Then the autonomy, OK, let's do something closer. As for the remote control, I was thinking of leaving that out entirely for several reasons: lack of line of sight, no need to learn to fly, no need for $$$ ground equipment, saves weight on the plane (no antenna, less power). But it means that it must land by itself; or at least crash with minimal damage! High video quality is not a requirement, two decent webcams would do (or maybe one split with a mirror). As for the legality of it all...

As for the minimal work, well, yes... C;-) I'm a software guy who deals with hardware daily at work. But I want to _use_ it, not spend months putting it together !

Not legal to fly a drone without line-of sight (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568743)

see http://diydrones.com/profiles/blog/show?id=705844%3ABlogPost%3A28583

Q) What are those restrictions for non-commercial UAVs flying without a COA?

A: You MUST do the following: 1) Stay below 400ft. 2) Maintain a "pilot in control", which is to say that you must always be able to take manual control and fly the aircraft out of danger (in general, that means maintaining line-of-sight contact with the aircraft). 3) Stay away from built-up areas. More detail is here.

Of course it's feasible! (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568747)

Just program your household robot to control your flying car.

Short Answer: No (4, Informative)

introcept (1381101) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568763)

I'm in the middle of writing my EE thesis is on embedded control systems for UAVs and this is as good a distraction as any, so here goes:
The kind of specs you're talking about you'd be lucky to get for high-end military and commercial (mini) drones. You'll either be spending tens(hundreds?) of thousands on an off the shelf model or a lot of time developing, testing, crashing and fixing your DIY solution. There are hundreds of DIY drones on the net but I doubt any of them have the kind of reliable autonomy you're talking about.

Autonomy is especially difficult, you'll need to learn a lot of control theory, kinematics, Navigation/AI and possibly computer vision. Then rememeber that you need to fuse sensor data from gyroscopes, acceleromters, GPS, compass, altitude and airspeed sensors, and that all of these sensors are unreliable/error prone. You need to be able to deal with loss of GPS link which means you need to have an alternate means of localisation(which is very difficult). Also, every commercial system I've seen requires an always on downlink and manned base-station for control, even if this isn't technically necessary, it's pretty much mandatory for safety.

Making an autonomous UAV only makes sense as a learning exercise or for R&D but it's not a good way to get any work done. If your goal is to get aerial photos, stick a camera on an RC plane, get some video goggles, a long range radio and some flying lessons.

Re:Short Answer: No (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 2 years ago | (#39569275)

If I'm not mistaken, your basic iPhone has most of this built in. It's aware of its orientation and location, and it has a camera. Speed could be dealt with in a variety of simple ways, and avoidance problems minimized. He's talking about a pre-planned route, after all. And given a smart phone's "self-awareness" I wonder whether some kind of very primitive intertial guidance would work.

It wouldn't be foolproof, but it seems to me that cheap and "expendible with regret" trumps building a poor man's cruise missile from the circuit board up.

Re:Short Answer: No (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 2 years ago | (#39569291)

You need to be able to deal with loss of GPS link which means you need to have an alternate means of localisation(which is very difficult).

But very important unless you want to end up with it captured by Iran and have them claim you were spying on them.

Video Piloting (FPV/RPV) (2)

guantamanera (751262) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568781)

I recommend you FPV and I find it more fun than the drone. There are many ready to fly solutions for cheap. Here is the link to the proper forums RcGroups [rcgroups.com] http://youtu.be/b7e2IQ_Ft3c [youtu.be]

Nice idea, but bigger problem than you might think (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568785)

It is a cool idea but the FAA wouldn't let you have one. At least one that didn't have a kill switch and stayed within visual range. Even if you were allowed you wouldn't be allowed to fly over anyone's home. While your intended goal is a remote area, I doubt they would let you. The prospect of a drone that could go on an autonomous scouting mission like that presents some problems from a general aviation perspective. As a student pilot we are trained and educated to make the skies safer. I fear that something like this would not only make the skies unsafe but it would not be legal, at least in the US. To get a good shot of the canyon walls you will probably want to fly in the same airspace as general aviation aircraft. In the remote areas as a VFR pilot you can fly as low as 500 ft. It is already hard to spot full sized aircraft in the same airspace, let alone one the size of a model aircraft. There is a quite complex set of rules/regulations for flying safely. These are found in the FAR/AIM handbook. They tell you who has the right of way in the air. If your UAV encounters a balloon, would it know which way to go. That assumes that it could reliably detect a balloon in mid-flight. How about a glider? Who is at fault if your UAV strikes another aircraft. What happens if your UAV crashes into a house? What happens if it flies in a cloud/fog? How will it communicate with other aircraft? These are the reasons that we are now only seeing the FAA grant limited drone usage to specialised agencies.

If you want to do recon go to a general aviation airport and ask some of the pilots there to take you up in their aircraft. Pilots are always looking for reasons to go fly. The cost of a flight could be as low as $100 for a couple of hours. If the pilot is a non commercial rated they are legally required to pay at least half of the costs. It is a benefit for them as they get to log the hours. It is a win/win for you both. Lastly, I'll say that most pilots won't want to. It is a risky proposition and you would want to find a pilot with a lot of hours.

Cheap and easy - but not what you're asking for (2)

mpoulton (689851) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568787)

For around $1500, you could have a radio controlled aircraft with one or more video links that can fly reliably over that kind of range. The price goes down to under $1000 if you can deal with shorter range. Basic autopilot functions (wing leveling and heading-hold) can be integrated for not much additional cost. All of this has been done before by many RC aircraft hobbyists, and flying by video is easier than flying by line of sight. However, you still have to fly the aircraft and it is not autonomous. Aircraft autonomy of the type you are requesting is very challenging and not available off-the-shelf. The cost and complexity required to achieve it will probably not be worthwhile for your application.

Re:Cheap and easy - but not what you're asking for (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568941)

And if $1500 is too much, you can fly a kite with a camera on it for less than $100.

I was thinking this as a possible project later... (1)

Lohrno (670867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568791)

Use a weather balloon, make a rig for it with some fans controlled by servos. (Either that or get a ready made R/C zeppelin) If you're using the weather balloon setup, you obviously want to do some experiments with how much helium you put in so it is mostly neutrally buoyant. Get an Arduino and you can get the GPS and camera parts that are ready made for it. Hook up your Arduino to the servos and battery as well obviously. Bonus points if you can rig a solar panel to the top to charge it up a little in flight.

I think it could be done for under $500 and some time building/programming.

But then again I've never touched any of this stuff. :D

I sell them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568803)

I am in Northern Italy and sell just those. http://www.robots-everywhere.com Message me.

OpenPilot: "The Next Generation Open Source UAV" (1)

Btrot69 (1479283) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568843)

I'm surprised that no one mentioned this project yet: http://www.openpilot.org/ [openpilot.org] It seems to be a mature project with a strong community. I learned about it listening to my favorite podcast ~ a year ago: FLOSS Weekly, Episode 148 ;-)

"Technically" feasable, or "legally" feasible? (4, Informative)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568847)

DISCLAIMER: IANAL, so this is not legal advice.

Having said that, I am rather interested in DIY drones, and therefore, I have been following technical and legal aspects of amateur drones/UAVs/UAS' for a couple of years. I don't see any *technical* reason why what you want to do isn't possible. However, if you live in the USA, I don't believe what you want to do is legal. As I understand, the FAA requires amateur operated drones to be under line-of-site control at all times. Here are some links to help you figure out the legal restrictions for what you want to do:

DIY Drones Regulatory FAQ [diydrones.com]
FAA Advisory Circular 91-57 [uavm.com]
Electronic Code of Federal Regulations [gpoaccess.gov]

HTH!

Re:"Technically" feasable, or "legally" feasible? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568955)

"As I understand, the FAA requires amateur operated drones to be under line-of-site control at all times."

Easy fix!

Two aircraft, one following the other, both with cameras facing each other!

Re:"Technically" feasable, or "legally" feasible? (1)

Lando (9348) | more than 2 years ago | (#39569023)

I'll second this. Autonomous aircraft need a license from the FAA I believe and I don't believe they had them out to civilians. So the legal requirements are going to be harder to meet than the engineering requirements. Start by researching those requirements first I would say. The earlier post for diydrones.com is probably the place to start.

Don't confuse the price with the cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568853)

The price for the drone might be 20k but if you can resell the data or otherwise monetize the device then the cost can possibly be negative.

Not legal to fly (3, Informative)

erice (13380) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568863)

The lack of line of sight is the killer. From one of many articles on the subject: FAA regulations developed in the 1970s to cover the amateur use of radio-controlled planes, which also apply to today's DIY drones. Those rules include restricting their altitude to 400 feet (120 meter), requiring them to always be in view of their controller on the ground and prohibiting them from being flown over built-up areas. [usatoday.com]

You could ask for a specific waiver. That is how researchers have been able to fly their drones. I am skeptical though that the FAA would be willing to issue a waiver for something is just a hobby.

Drone used for conservation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568865)

This article was posted somewhere back in Feb 2012. I can't remember where, unfortunately. But some folks had posted the components used to make this.

http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0223-conservation_drone.html

Anyone know more details of this?

University? (1)

Tweezak (871255) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568877)

This sounds similar to senior design projects that were being done when I was studying EE. Contact the nearest university with mechanical and electrical engineering programs and find out what's required to sponsor a senior design team.

DIY (1)

mailuefterl (140499) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568879)

DIY: Try this website: http://diydrones.com/

here you go (1)

SeTyR (1499335) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568883)

google Arducopter (opensource), Gaui (closed source), Dji innovation (closed source), KKmulticopter (half open source lawl) and there are many more but these are the main ones. And for the best video examples of what is possible today under 1500$ and how real it is, and beautifull landscapes like snow mountains, google "team blacksheep" or "Trappy fpv" .. enjoy

Re:here you go (1)

SeTyR (1499335) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568897)

... or you can go for the greenest and safest (imho) .. a remotely guided paramotor Video : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdAfrOF4wjs [youtube.com] Website : Opale-Paramodels.com

Re:here you go (1)

dargaud (518470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39569127)

Sounds interesting. What's the range of those ? And is it possible to have them run autonomously following a GPS track ?

This was just on another site today (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39568885)

Nikon Rumors has a guest post with some pretty good setup
http://nikonrumors.com/2012/04/03/guest-post-aerial-drone-photography-when-your-camera-flies-without-you.aspx/

I want one of these! (1)

phreakincool (975248) | more than 2 years ago | (#39568929)

Re:I want one of these! (1)

SeTyR (1499335) | more than 2 years ago | (#39569091)

thats a toy, and some spam :p

Cheers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39569031)

http://vimeo.com/31632654

It needs at least a tiny missile (1)

kawabago (551139) | more than 2 years ago | (#39569033)

It has to have a small missile for avalanche control at least, if not alien invasion counter insurgency!

Frankly, (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#39569087)

This might not be a bookmark.

Start with a smartphone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39569143)

Start with a regular light plane and a smartphone. Connect the audio from the phone to servo-engines that are sound activated. Use a standard Wifi, bridge it with batteries when possible. And a whole lot of coding. Open source the project with a team. etc.

Another resource (1)

mherrb (2610199) | more than 2 years ago | (#39569145)

You may also want to check project Paparazzi home page. They make a great autopilot that has been used on a wide range of UAVs from small cheap ones to more expensive research projects. http://paparazzi.enac.fr/wiki/Main_Page [paparazzi.enac.fr]

Stationary Cameras (1)

sdk4777 (1013597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39569159)

I'm not sure, but wouldn't it be feasible to install some cameras on top of the mountains that look to the valleys you want to observe? Is there any GSM coverage there? Then you have an internet connection to them. If this could suit your needs, it seems a lot cheaper.

flight at low altitude in the mountains? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39569245)

Better off to get an ultra light and a hard core adrenaline junkie to fly it. As far as I know, autonomous drones are not sophisticated enough to deal with the crazy wind patterns you get in alpine areas.

Since you want images of possible ice climbing routes, you need to either get some serious glass on the cameras or get very close to get good images of the surface. Just what kind of resolution do climbers need? I'd imagine they'd want good enough resolution to tell if that 5 cm wide feature is actually a crack or just a raised edge casting a shadow. Not something you could easily do with the web cam level cameras many UAV/RPV have.
Serious glass brings you into the realm of the big drones, the size of ultra light aircraft, but at higher cost. And none of the dinky ones have a high enough airspeed to over come the random gusts. If your drones max speed is say 35 KPH and suddenly you get a 40 KPH tail wind (easily achieved in alpine regions) your drone becomes a rock.

Skilled pilots can cope a bit better in these conditions, slower reaction times sure, but they have the wit to look miles ahead, aside or behind and see the wind patterns betrayed in the grass, clouds and flight of birds.

As an alternate approach, have you considered looking into powering some network capable PTZ (pan tilt zoom) cameras with a solar panel and mounting them on places where you have line of sight to them and they in turn have line of sight to one or more faces you are interested in surveying? There's a lot of hacker info on extending the range of wireless network devices to insane ranges and on building good solid outdoor enclosures. Mount the camera a few thousand feet up a cliff and you can be sure that not many teen vandals would get their hands on it. Mounting just below an overhang would also protect it from rock and ice falls.
For that matter, if you belong to a local climbing club, the others could chip in on more cameras for more faces, each linking back to some members home. There is also plenty of info out there on how to cobble together the various cam feeds into a simple web page so that any member can access any camera and look for themselves.

swinglet cam (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39569323)

close to what you are after...

http://www.sensefly.com/products/swinglet-cam [sensefly.com]

priced about 7000 euros

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