Ambulance Drones Could Change The Future For Cardiac Arrest Patients

Within the next five years, the chance of survival from cardiac arrest could rise from an 8 percent survival rate to 80 percent due to drones. Graduate student Alec Momont of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands designed an unmanned, autonomously navigating hexacopter that can deliver a defibrillator to a scene in less than half the time it takes an ambulance to arrive.

The drone would track the patients location from their mobile phone signal and use GPS to get to the location. Because most deaths from cardiac arrest occur within the first four to six minutes due to brain death, the time it takes to arrive on scene is crucial. These ambulance drones can get to a patient within an almost five-square-mile zone within one minute. Essentially a “medical toolbox”, the drone is equipped with medical equipment that anyone can use. Via a live stream webcam and audio connection, the drone connects to an emergency operator who can see what is going on at the scene and provide the person there with instructions on how to apply the defibrillator.

For more information on the future of this project, click here.

Star Wars Pod Racing, Using Drones

If you thought just flying a drone was challenging, try racing them through a wooded area

If you thought just flying a drone was challenging, try racing them through a wooded area

Flying drones such as hexacopters or even quadcopters can be a challenge but imagine the skill needed to fly those drones through obstacles and it becomes a completely new ballgame. Crashing those drones can be devastating considering most of them run a few hundred bucks or more and are designed as put-together kits almost like professional RC vehicles.

Knowing the risks associated with flying through obstacles, some professional drone enthusiasts from the Airgonay club in the French Alps designed a three-lap track to race drones through. It’s almost reminiscent of the pod racing scene in Star Wars Episode I or better yet the scene in Episode VI with the speeders racing on the moon of Endor.

In a recently released video, the enthusiasts must complete three laps on their challenging course while dodging trees and other drones without crashing. Most of the racers use VR/AR headsets in conjunction with a camera mounted to their drones to get a first person view while flying. The course is clearly marked in terms of direction so everyone knows which direction to fly through so the chance to flying against traffic is minimal.

Most accidents were minor during the race with damage limited to a few broken rotor blades but nothing catastrophic. The club hopes to outfit their drones with sensors in order to simulate laser blasts against other competitors sometime in the near future, giving the races a more sci-fi aspect. See more on Airgonay’s Facebook page.


7 Great Outdoor Projects from Around the Web

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Make: isn’t the only place to find great outdoor how-tos. Here are a few of our favorite projects from other blogs and websites.

Get a drone to follow (and film) you The folks at Exertion Games Lab programmed a Parrot AR Drone to track and film a jogger. While your morning run might not be the most exciting video, The Drone Dudes have shown you can set up a more extreme rig. If you manage to make a drone that tracks you while surfing or biking, be sure to shoot us a note.

Put a sail on your kayak Michael Jones-Price has an excellent tutorial on his kayak-fishing blog. With this pop-up ripstop and PVC rig, he was able to reach nearly 10 mph.

DIY rock climbing Okay, so this is just an Instructables category. But it’s full of climbing projects, from tutorials on climbing basics to crafting your own climbing holds.

Make your own surf wax This stuff comes from pine trees. Seriously! If you’re waxing your board frequently, chances are you’re using quite a bit of wax.

Underwater wing tow Water skiing is on the surface, parasailing is airborne, but this home-crafted wing lets a snorkeler dive downward when towed behind a boat.

Lawn darts Jarts were made illegal for a reason, and we can’t recommend actually building these. However, there are some non-lethal alternatives, such as cornhole.

Bicycle brake light Communicating to cars what you’re doing can make your ride a lot safer. The Backtracker does so by flashing its light faster as cars approach, but this Instructables project links a taillight to your brakes so it activates only when you hit them. Another option: this turn signal bike jacket.

It is high summer, and this week we are celebrating with five days of outdoor sports-themed articles, pictures, videos, reviews and projects. We’ll be here all week, so check back often and get out there.

Our next theme week will be wearable electronics. Send us your tips or contributions before it gets here by dropping a line to

Test Your Skills at the Game of Drones Aerial Sports Competition

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Game of Drones is excited to announce the launch of our official drone sports competition at Maker Faire Bay Area, taking place on May 17 and 18 at the San Mateo Fairgrounds. The Aerial Action Sports League (AASL) aims to be the premiere drone sports competition, showcasing pilot skills, engineering prowess, and technology innovation through aerial combat, flying obstacle courses, and other fun drone games.

The AASL brings together the best inventors, pilots, and artists for a fun and educational showcase of drones and UAVs of all shapes and sizes.  The AASL has divisions for tiny palm-sized toys all the way up to huge multi-rotor heavy-lifters, and include both combat and non-combat games.

There will be an outdoor flying zone as well as two HUGE indoor drone arenas, so bring your drone (UAV, multi-rotor, or experimental) to Maker Faire and test your skill in our obstacle course, battle head-to-head in aerial crash-up derby-style dogfights, or just show off your stunt flying skills in front of hundreds of enthusiastic drone fans.



Drone’s-Eye View: Go Inside an Incredible Erupting Volcano

Watch as hot lava sprays past this quadcopter as it navigates past giant clouds of sulfur billowing upwards towards its spot in the sky.

Yasur volcano, on the south Pacific island of Tanna, is one of the more active and easily accessible, making it a tourist destination for those curious about extreme nature. But no sane traveler would put themselves in the position that quadcopter pilot Shaun O’Callaghan positioned his DJI Phantom to capture these incredible exploding shots of Yasur.

His video is one of the best examples of how quadcopters and drones are being used to put imaging tools and sensors into positions that ground vehicles or manned aircraft can’t reach due to safety or size restrictions. From guarding rhinos in Africa to capturing just-overhead footage of surfers navigating challenging waves, we’re seeing more and more new uses for the aerial platforms, and imagine more footage

(h/t Brian Lam/Eric Cheng/Gizmodo)

Drone Lawyer Discusses His Landmark Victory with MAKE

Late last week, drone pilot Raphael Pirker and his lawyer Brendan Schulman won the first-ever case regarding commercial use of unmanned aircraft, with a federal judge dismissing the FAA’s handing of a $10,000 fine to Pirker for flying his unmanned five-foot fixed-wing aircraft over the University of Virginia to record video at the request of the university.

You can read Schulman’s letter detailing the case in Make V37 or online here.

Schulman visited with MAKE at SXSW to discuss the case and the landmark decision, its implications for other pilots, and what the future of drone flight and regulation may hold. Watch and let us know your feelings in the comments below.

Join FAA-Conquering Drone Lawyer Brendan Schulman in a Conversation with MAKE


Bring on the drones! This weekend MAKE has been taking to the air at SXSW, and along with our flight demonstrations, we’re excited to have a visit from drone lawyer Brendan Schulman, one of the foremost legal experts in the field of unmanned aircraft use who just won the first-ever federal case regarding civilian drone use.

MAKE@SXSW 2014If you’re a maker or quadcopter enthusiast who’s interested in the ins and outs of flying your machine, stop by our section of Austin’s Long Center on Sunday March 9th from 11 to 1145am to meet Brendan as he shares his insight and expertise. While Brendan (who has been building and flying recreational drones for 20 years) won’t be able to give specific legal advice, he does have a wealth of knowledge and interesting information specific to the use of consumer drones.

Brendan’s most notable case concerned Raphael “Trappy” Pirker from Team Blacksheep, who was being fined by the FAA for using a fixed-wing aircraft to record video footage at University of Virginia in 2011. His writeup about the case is featured in Make V37, and available for reading here.

We look forward to having Brendan stop by our booth.

For those who can’t make it but are interested in drones, you are invited to join MAKE the rest of the weekend as we and a few teams of experts fly quadcopters, fixed-wing planes, and all other sorts of autonomous aircraft at SXSW Create. We’ll have a variety of top teams and flyers, including 3D Robotics. It’s free — come on by the Long Center and say hi.


Federal Court Rules in Favor of Civilian Drone Use

In 2011, Team Blacksheep’s lead pilot Raphael Parker flew his drone over the campus of the University of Virginia. Today he faces the first-ever legal battle with the FAA regarding civilian drone flights because of it.

Team Blacksheep’s lead pilot Raphael Pirker flew his drone over the campus of the University of Virginia and incurred the first-ever FAA fine for civilian drone flight. Today, a federal court ruled in his favor.

In 2011, Raphael Pirker and UAV enthusiasts Team Blacksheep were flying fixed-wing aircraft at a demonstration at University of Virginia, something they’d done numerous times before across the country and beyond, and never with any scrutiny or regulatory pressure. The only difference with that day’s event was that some of the footage his team shot there caught the eye of the FAA, who disapproved and filed a $10,000 fine against Pirker for it in 2013, the first ever of its kind.

The case has helped bring drones and civilian use autonomous flight into mainstream discussion, and has been processing for months. That is, until last night, when the case against Pirker, represented by attorney Brendan Schulman, was decided in their favor by a federal court, effectively making the use of consumer drones legal. Schulman detailed the nature of the case for MAKE in V.37; you can read his article here.

We’re planning to meet with Schulman this weekend at SXSW to get more details of the case, his thoughts, and what’s next. Until then, fly free, pilots. And, of course, fly safe too.

The Pocket Drone: A Kickstarter Success Story

TJ Johnson flying an early prototype of Pocket Drone.

TJ Johnson flying an early prototype of The Pocket Drone.

With a few more days to go, The Pocket Drone has raised $766,041 from 1,644 backers on Kickstarter. It is by far the largest, most successful drone Kickstarter project ever.

The secret of this tricopter’s success, which 3D Robotics CEO Chris Anderson called “well-engineered,” appears to lie in its two main features:

  1. Small enough to fit in your pocket
  2. Powerful enough to carry a high quality action camera

The Pocket Drone.

But behind the company, AirDroids, the slick marketing and now the big money, is a “maker” named T.J. Johnson. I spoke to him at length about the design process. Over the course of a year, T.J. built 87 prototypes over 40 design iterations before setting it free.

And yet, it was a decision he struggled with.

It’s difficult to grasp as an engineer. I’m always thinking of ways to make it better. I don’t think I would know when something is ever “done” or ready, but eventually design changes became smaller so that’s when I knew it was time.

Business demands also played a role. Getting it in TechCrunch’s Hardware Battlefield at CES was certainly an effectual pre-launch marketing strategy.

Did you know? The original Pocket Drone design was a quadrotor. It didn't have enough power to carry the weight.

Did you know? The original Pocket Drone design was a quadrotor. It didn’t have enough power to carry the weight.

Version 4: Tricopter design introduced.

Version 4: Tricopter design introduced.

Becoming a Maker

Looking back T.J. says he was always informally a “maker” but got more serious about it six to seven years ago while still an engineering student.

I needed a part for my motorcycle that I couldn’t buy. So I had to figure out how to make it.

That foray into servo motors and embedded systems spun into a for-hire design and prototyping shop, which required him to build more things. Building more things helped develop his passion.

It started out as a need. I couldn’t afford the professional high-end equipment I needed for jobs so I built my own CNC machines. I found (drones) fun. I liked it. And I thought, “if I liked it, other people would too.” For me it’s being able to turn something I enjoy doing, a personal passion, into something that everyone can enjoy.

3D Printed motor test stand.

3D Printed motor test stand.

Makerspaces Play a Role

After graduating with a civil and mechanical engineering degree he moved to the East Coast to pursue law. Here in Washington D.C., he could barely afford rent let alone a shop so making was put on hold. T.J. then found D.C. hackerspace HacDC, which had a CNC mill, oscilloscopes, logic analyzers, a hot air reflow station and other tools he needed.

I signed up so that I could make things again. They had a CNC mill that wasn’t being used to its potential so I started teaching classes on that. At HacDC, there was a great community of support for everyone’s projects. It’s because of that experience that I really enjoy staying involved in the maker community.
First propeller mold coming off CNC.

First propeller mold coming off CNC.

HacDC provided not just the tools, but the community that allowed him to meet other engineers and eventual business partner, Timothy Reuter, Founder of the Drone User Group Network. T.J. credits Timothy for keeping him honest on form while he focused on function.

He kept telling me to make it prettier, which wasn’t easy. A few of the designs didn’t work.
Version 18: Failure at making it pretty and work.

Version 18: Failure at making it pretty and work.

3D Printing for Scale

One of the more important tools used to design The Pocket Drone was a first generation Prusa Mendel 3D Printer. It was the acquisition of a 3D Printer, he says, that allowed him to begin prototyping and iterating the Pocket Drone in earnest. T.J. first started modeling the parts in plastic then milling them on the CNC mill before deciding to just prototype in plastic.

I eventually figured out that the (plastic) parts were structural parts. I realized I could skip milling the parts in metal and just print in plastic. This reduced our iteration time dramatically.
Version 35: 3D Printed propellers.

Version 35: 3D Printed arm covers to make it “prettier”.

It’s been said that the biggest risk of launching projects on Kickstarter is oversubscription. 3D Printing seems to have the answer to that, too.

You can take those 3D printed (plastic) models to an injection mold process and have it scale.

Opensource Made it Possible

The Pocket Drone uses the popular open source UAV autopilot APM developed by the Arducopter community.

If we had to build our own flight controller from scratch it would have taken another five years doing this full time to get this product to market. Opensource UAV platforms have really facilitated this kind of rapid product development.

Funding Success Means a Better Product

What would you do with all the extra funds? T.J. says the unexpected additional support means backers will get a better product and funding will support further development.

The scale we priced the product at was a few hundred or so. Now that we are at the scale of a few thousand we can afford to put in better servos for example. We also want to hire four or five software engineers to build out more features like better synthetic vision; we want to add iOS support and improve flight control.

By the way, if you haven’t backed The Pocket Drone yet, you better hurry. The funding period ends at 3am Sunday, March 9.

FIRST LOOK: Quieting the Skeptics

When the Pocket Drone was first released, there was chatter about some of the claims. Kevin Good of CrisisLabs demonstrates flight and how video footage taken with the Pocket Drone looks.

Drone Flyers in Austin: Fly With Us at SXSW This Weekend


MAKE is excited to head to Texas this week for one of the best events of the year, and we’re hoping to get more of the homegrown drone community involved.

We’ll be set up at SXSW Create from Friday to Sunday (3/7 – 3/9), and are bringing drone professionals and enthusiasts from 3D Robotics to Rice University to display and demonstrate their latest flying machines. We’ll be handing out copies of our new “Homegrown Drones” issue, talking with thousands of visitors, and generally just having a blast.

We’ve saved table space for a couple additional enthusiasts to take part with us at what promises to be a very fun weekend, and would love to chat with local drone-flying groups that would like to help us take over the sky in front of the Long Center. If your team is around and want to get involved, email us:

And for those who may not be able to participate for the full three days, we’re doing an open-fly session every afternoon from 4pm to 6pm. The SXSW Create event is free, so if you’re interested, email or just come by. It’s going to be amazing.

When: 3/7 – 3/9

Time: 11am–6pm; open fly from 4pm-6pm

Where: Long Center, Austin