Tilt-Rotor Quad Goes Crazy Fast



Hear the phrase “tilt rotor,” and your first thought may be of the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, but in fact this peppy experimental R/C multirotor from Mountain View resident Ilya Rosenberg has more in common with the futuristic Bell Boeing Quad Tiltrotor concept now being considered for the U.S. Army’s Joint Heavy Lifting program.

“Basically,” Rosenberg writes, “it’s a quadcopter with wings and propellers that can rotate forward to transition from a helicopter-like hovering mode to an airplane-like forward flight mode.”

If you ignore payload components like a camera gimbal, most R/C quadcopters don’t have any moving parts besides the rotors themselves. Steering is achieved not by changing any of the thrust vectors, but by adjusting the speeds at which the four rotors turn relative to one another. Rosenberg’s design adds two rotational movements — one that tilts the front pair of rotors, and another that tilts the back pair.

With the rotors tilted at a relatively modest 40° forward angle, Rosenberg claims to have achieved airspeeds in excess of 50mph / 80kph flying his second prototype (shown here), which has no wings or conventional lifting bodies attached. Version 3, which he plans to unveil at Maker Faire, adds four 3D-printed wings which he expects will allow full forward rotation of the props in flight.

You can read more about Rosenberg’s iQuad project at diydrones.com.

If you’re going to be in northern California this weekend, don’t miss the chance to see Ilya’s version 3 tiltrotor quad (and lots more amazing stuff) at Maker Faire Bay Area 2014.


Automated Mindstorms Battery Exchanger for Drones

This cool project was built by a Danish company, Valhalla Drone Solutions, a group of seven engineers from the University of Southern Denmark in Odense. It’s a Lego Mindstorms robot that automatically switches a quadrotor’s battery pack.

When the drone lands, it’s positioned by a belt, an assembly pops out, and the old battery is lowered out of the quadrotor. That battery is placed into a rotating disk that spins to position a fresh battery, which is then placed into the drone.

What is really cool, however, is that this is the prototype for an actual product Valhalla hopes to sell, which they call the Odin Platform. One role they envision the product filling is resupplying agricultural drones. Way cool! [via The NXT Step]

How I Started Worrying and Learned to Fear Our Robot Overlords

The human sacrifice, posing with his robotic predator just before the hunt.

The human sacrifice, posing with his robotic predator just before the hunt.

MAKE visited the folks at Game of Drones in sunny American Canyon two Sundays ago to see the latest in DIY battle drones. We saw a man running from hellfire of paintballs rained down from above. We found a group discussing lasers and wooden battle props. We saw copters crashing in the sky. “Hey, I want to strap on a Go Pro and crash into you.” This isn’t your everyday fly-in. Here are a few of our favorite scenes.

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And here are some moving photographical images to really help you feel the energy of the day.

First, two quadcopters battling for dominance of the sky.

Also, one man with a paintball gun cowering helplessly as a hexcopter pelts paint-filled projectiles at his person.

Finally, here’s some sweet FPV footage from one of the pilots at the event.

Game of Drones – Fly In – Launch Event from Singinius on Vimeo.

Riley Morgan: Drone Pilot and Young Entrepreneur

Photo: Andrew Terranova

Riley Morgan at the Drone & Aerial Robotics Conference
Photo: Andrew Terranova

Riley Morgan, age 14, has the drive and intelligence to take him places. Most recently, it took him to the Drone & Aerial Robotics Conference, where he was the youngest attendee. He made quite a splash, getting to demonstrate his own quadcopter on the main stage. He also got to talk and exchange ideas with key attendees like Colin Guinn, Chief Innovations Officer at DJI, and Raphael “Trappy” Pirker, who is well known for his daring aerial videography. He made quite an impression for someone who just heard about the conference and decided he should go.

Riley has always been a maker. He loved Lego as a kid, and made all kinds of creations. At age 10 he got his first Lego Mindstorms NXT set, and that opened up a whole world of building and programming robotics and electronics. Later at school he competed and did fairly well in FIRST Lego League, applying all he had learned to solve challenging tasks.

Before the age of 13, he got interested in the online building game, Minecraft. Perhaps obsessed would be a better description. He built his own multi-player server, which he then migrated to a hosted server and began charging for access. The server became popular enough that he was able to make the $300 he needed to buy an Parrot AR.Drone 2.0. He dove into this new world of piloting drones with typical enthusiasm.

Riley Morgan's Quadcopters

Riley Morgan’s Multicopters

It didn’t take too many flights (OK, crashes) before he broke his AR.Drone. He started looking for something more robust. He bought a DJI Phantom quadcopter next, and kept upgrading. He eventually graduated from buying completed drones to building his own from DJI multicopter kits.

He flew his multicopters all over, every chance he got. People started noticing, and stated asking him questions. Seeing an opportunity, he started a website, made his own business cards, and planned to sell his assembled drone kits. He actually only sold one. After hearing the widely publicized news of a man who killed himself with a RC helicopter, his father became concerned and made him shutdown sales.

Riley's Aerial Photography

Riley’s Aerial Photography

Undeterred, Riley now he offers aerial photography services through his website, Storm Multirotors. If you live in NYC area and are interested, check out his site and contact him.

For his next adventure, Riley would like to create a weather-proof quadcopter to fly in the rain. He would equip it with a 3-axis gimbal mount for optical, infrared and night vision cameras. Perhaps even make it float for water landings. Riley hopes to approach local authorities to offer his services with this all-weather quadcopter.

Whatever Riley sets his mind to next, I’m sure he will continue to make an impression. With his enterprising spirit, I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear more about this young man someday.

OpenROV Reskinned in PVC


This is a cool project: The S. S. Stormwater. Australian maker Kurt added a OpenROV‘s electronics to a series of PVC pipes. The pods to either side house the motors, while the next two pods hold lights. The BeagleBone and OpenROV cape (shield) slide in to the main compartment, which also has a gimbal-mounted camera. All Kurt needs to do is add the vertical thruster, pressure-test the hull, and add the tether.

How Chris Anderson Got Into the Drone Business

Ex-WIRED editor, GeekDad founder, and DIYDrones bossman Chris Anderson talks about his interest in drones and robotics in this talk he gave at XOXO.

It really resonated with me, starting in 2:47, where he talks about the challenges of teaching elementary robotic when kids have unrealistic Hollywood versions of robots stuck in their heads. How can a simple rolling robot compete with a Transformer — “real robotics is hard, and it takes forever to do anything,” Chris says.

Chris built the world’s first Lego Mindstorms autopilot, which now resides in the Lego Museum in Billund, Denmark. Later on he founded DIY Drones, which brought drones to the mainstream of hobby electronics, not to mention the realm of drone-assisted agriculture, which is a topic Chris covers a great deal in this talk. Check it out!

The Social (Drone) Network

Drone User Groups

The Drone User Groups Workgroup at the DARC conference in NYC.

The word drone didn’t always have the negative connotation it has been saddled with through frequent news coverage of U.S. military bombing using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). There are many benign uses of drone technology, and these are pretty far removed from what you see on the news. Many hobbyists and some commercial photographers are using small camera-carrying drones for fun or to make money.

One group of enthusiasts seeks to change how people view drones. According to the Drone User Group Netowork (DUGN) website, the organization “seeks to foster interest in the use of civilian unmanned aerial technology and demonstrate its positive potential for humanity.”

The DUGN is giving this idea more than lip service. They recently announced the Drone Social Impact Award, which will give $5,000 to someone who can document the most socially beneficial use of a drone for under $3,000. The limit on the project cost is intended to make it competitive for individuals and small groups. If you are interested, check out their website for more info.

Timothy Reuter, founder of the DUGN says, “We are living in a golden age of maker aviation. This prize is designed to encourage all the people who have been creating amazing drone designs in their basements, makerspaces, and Techshops to try and apply their UAVs to solving some of the world’s toughest challenges.”

During the recent Drones & Aerial Robotics Conference (DARC), Timothy led a discussion about why there isn’t more diversity in many of the community groups focused on drone and robot technologies. Andra Keay, one of the panelists, suggested that some people are much more interested in what can be done with technology, while others are more comfortable focusing on the technology itself. These people don’t always effectively communicate with each other.

“We are hoping that this prize will provide an opportunity for communities that might not normally interact to find new ways to work together,” says Timothy.

The DUGN has over 1,500 members in ten associated regional groups, making it perhaps the world’s largest collection of civilian drone operators. One of those groups is Timothy’s own DC Area Drone User Group (DC DUG), which put together this video of some of its members discussing civilian drone technology. The conversation about personal use of drone technology is building steam. What do you think? Watch the video and let us know in the comments.

Laser-Cut Octorotor

Jared Reabow’s sweet multirotor is made entirely of laser-cut parts, other than the electronics, and it took only 8 hours to build, including a dinner break… he built it for a BBC interview.

Jared’s octorotor (“the Spider”) packs 8 Donkey ST4010 brushless motors as well as 40-amp electronic speed controllers, plus four 3000-mah Zippy Flightmax LiPo batteries and an ArduPilot Mega 2.5 flight controller. [via DIY Drones]

3D-Printed DSLR Camera Gimbal


Vince Hogg’s pan and tilt system for his oct-rotor. It weighs only 900 grams including the camera, carbon rods, iPower 4008-150 gimbal motors, AlexMos motor controller and mounting bracket.

One fascinating aspect of the build is that Vince printed the parts with different densities, depending on how much of a load it needed to bear. The octo-rotor he’s building was designed with a vibration isolation system to keep the camera mount steady. He chose 8 motors to keep the bird from crashing if one of the motors dies. [via DIY Drones]

Drone Conference Comes to NYC

A ScanEagle UAV sits on the catapult prior to launch in Iraq.

Aerial drones are having an increasing impact in our lives. News stories of military drone strikes have stirred controversy and much debate. Law enforcement agencies have been using drones within the United States, raising concerns about privacy. It’s not just the government. Businesses and private citizens use drones for monitoring agriculture and wildlife, scientific research, aerial photography, remote inspection, and communications. The FAA is preparing to open restrictions on unmanned aircraft as part of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, and anticipates that thousands, even tens of thousands of drones could be in use by 2020.

Concerns for potential abuse as well as safety of aerial drones have caused nine states so far to pass laws restricting their use by either law enforcement, private citizens, or both. The ALCU has made statements about use of aerial drones to both U.S. House and Senate judiciary committees, urging rules to protect against America from becoming a “surveillance society”.

On the other side, inexpensive remote control (RC) plane and multicopter technology puts aerial drone-like capabilities within access to nearly anyone who wants to experiment with them. A growing number of hobbyists are enjoying flying RC models. Toys and kits are available from many sources, and enthusiasts have posted designs for DIY models.

Whether you are a maker hobbyist, a professional or business person using the technology, a company making the technology, or just a concerned citizen, aerial drones are a topic to watch.

Next week, the first Drone & Aerial Robotics Conference (DARC) will be held in New York City from Oct. 11-13. The agenda is packed full of interesting speakers and panel discussions, demonstrations, and networking opportunities. Topics range from “Drones and the Freedom of Information Act” to “Drones in Art & Activism” to “Drones for Good”. Key speakers from legal experts to technologists to business persons are scheduled to participate. For the DIY enthusiast, there is a series of three “Intro to Personal Drones” workshops.

Who will be there?

  • Major robotics companies, such as Parrot and 3DRobotics
  • Researchers doing cutting edge work with agile robots, such as Vijay Kumar of the GRASP Lab
  • Aerospace veterans, such as former fighter pilot and Director of MIT’s Humans and Automation Lab, Missy Cummings
  • Representatives from agencies including NOAA, NASA, NTSB, and more
  • Anyone interested in the technology or cultural implications of drones

If you register for the event, use the promo code MAKEDARC30 to get 30 percent off the general admission price!