Tuesday, December 3, 2013

It's Hoverdroid Day!

Jeff Bezos has been making news today with his Amazon Octocopter delivery drones. I do like his prototypes - very heavy on the redundancy.

Heavy on the Redundancy

Possibly my favorite comments were by Bill Gates who (never one to give credit for anything, if he can) went almost in one breath from ridiculing the idea as stunt-like and pointless, to musing whether similar technology might not be useful for zooming medicines and messages around the kinds of roadless refugee camps he's become used to dealing with.

Anyway, I don't have the same budget those guys do, so my autonomous flying robot project is much more modest, and still scheduled to happen mostly over Christmas/New Years after I get some other things finished. In one of those synchronicities, the BLDC motors and controllers arrived yesterday along with the Bezos news. Here's all the pieces I have so far:

Apart from a battery and frame, that's all the components for a quadcopter! On the right is an inductive wireless power transfer system I'm hoping to integrate somehow, and at the back is the classic remote-controlled HubsanX4 (clone) that I've learned so much from.

If rulers don't quite give you the scale, here's a coin. (note: somewhat foreshortened...) I'm guessing all the pieces weigh roughly half a chocolate bar. My first autonomous flying robot, filled with experimental software, needs to be incapable of harm or damage. Especially to me. (Because I'm the one who is going to get hit in the head by a confused droid. I do know this.)

That's an Arduino-clone "Pro Micro" with an Atmel '32U4, a MP6050 accelerometer/gyro (same tech as in the 'sonic screwdriver' I just built...) magnetometer "compass", Barometric pressure "Altimeter" (probably optional given my indoors aspirations) and 2.4GHz radio transceiver. These pieces have been slowly turning up for a while now, and I've tested them all individually in other small projects.

The new components I couldn't do this without are the brilliant next generation of tiny ESCs (Electronic Speed Controllers) matched for the equally small motors. These can push 3 Amps each, and interface directly to the microcontroller.

The brushless motors are Turnigy 3000KV, and weigh less than 5 grams. They are stuffed with neodymium magnets, and will last for years - probably outlast everything else, barring physical crash damage. 

Oh, in case you're wondering about the small black can-like components, they are 5V 0.33F super-capacitors. All together, THREE FARADS of power supply smoothing will be distributed around the frame, at the points it is needed. That might power the droid for almost half a second - if the battery just fell off. Enough redundancy to soft-land. Perhaps.

So, if you're interested in autonomous quads, I'll be back to this topic very soon. I have two other robots to finish first, though. (They're coming along nicely, but I can't mention one until after Christmas! Shhh!)

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