Crouching Phoenix, Flying Dragon

Many people “find their tribe” at Maker Faire, and there’s just no end to the variety of interests and backgrounds of the makers you will meet. Last year I met husband and wife makers Caipei and Hanfang Cao, who had come to Maker Faire for the very first time. They brought their quadcopters, some decorated in phoenix and dragon paper craft designs, to perform musical and aerobatic demonstrations. The windy weather conditions limited what they could do outside, and another maker group let them use their premium space just inside the main entrance to the NY Hall of Science on Sunday afternoon.

Caipei and Hanfang really showed their stuff. Caipei had designed spherical frameworks out of lightweight carbon fiber rod, safely sealing the spinning blades of the quadcopters away from unintended contact with the audience. They performed aerial tricks in what they describe as a sort of competitive sport intended to promote health and happiness. I think Hanfang was somewhat ahead of her husband on points. Caipei also flew his beautifully crafted paper creations, serenading the colorful phoenix as he guided it in a graceful dance.


After Maker Faire last year, the couple went on to audition for the television show, “America’s Got Talent”. They successfully passed several local rounds, but in the end were not selected for the live show. They are planning on auditioning for “China’s Got Talent” and seeing how far they can go. Caipei and Hanfang will be back at World Maker Faire in New York this September. They’ve added a flying Jesus, accompanying angel, and a flying wizard (not to be confused with Harry Potter) to their menagerie of creations this year. It sounds a bit crazy and maybe it is, but I loved it last year and I’m sure I’ll love it again this year.

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Brooklyn Aerodrome Build Session and Night Flying TONIGHT

Brooklyn Aerodrome will be meeting at McCarren Park tonight from 7-11pm!

Brooklyn Aerodrome got its start flying at night in McCarren park and we are going to do it again this Thursday eve June 27. The plan is: Wrench on planes, get night flying gear working from 7 to 9:30 or so. Head out to McCarren Park and try to fly. I will be teaching folks how to solder el-wire. I will have inverters and el-wire for conversion. Bring cash if you want to get some gear. This will also be a good time to repair your planes if need be.

First Drone Games In SF Today

Autonomous Flight, with a Few Lines of Javascript

The first-ever flying drone competition for Silicon Valley’s developer community lands today (Dec 1) at 385 Grove Street, San Francisco, CA.

Organizers of the Drone Olympics

Organizers of the Drone Games, Jyri Engestrom & Chris Sanz, pictured above, write:

“In the next few years the idea of drones will dramatically change.  Here’s why.

You no longer need a PhD and security clearance to write software for flying drones. The same functions every Web programmer uses to build apps can now make drones navigate, take pictures, find people, fly through windows, play games, and so on. When the low level control of hardware comes built-in, hobbyists can focus on writing algorithms and routines.

It wouldn’t be possible if new consumer product companies weren’t building the sub-$300 quadcopters sold at Costco. But because they are programmable, they are more than just toys. Hackers and entrepreneurs who mod them are coming up with ideas that sound like science fiction, such as disrupting the transportation system using drones. If these visions come true, Uber-riding hipsters may find themselves agonizing over the choice between a black town car and a quadcopter.

Both of us were always fascinated with robots. We have a great deal of respect for those who are involved in the academic side of robotics and thinking beyond military opportunities. However, it was’t until we got involved with a community of drone hackers called Nodecopter that we started to truly see the potential of the drone movement. It can push things further much faster than any single group or organization.

New code and methods are posted online every day. Because we now have a large repository of free tools to play with, interest is expanding all over the world.  Today we’ll showcase some of the most compelling demos at Drone Games in San Francisco.

“When Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak completed the Apple I, they didn’t alert the media. They demonstrated it to their soul mates at the Homebrew Computer Club.” So reads the entry on the HBCCat the Computer History Museum.

We can’t wait to see what will be demonstrated at Drone Games today.”

I’ll be there as a judge but I’m not sure what I’m judging.   I hope to be amazed.

New in the Maker Shed – ELEV-8 Quadcopter Kit

The Maker Shed now has the ELEV-8 Quadcopter kit by Parallax! Unlike single rotor helicopters, the four motors on a quadcopter spin fixed-pitch propellers which can be adjusted as a group, allowing you to perform any combination of roll, pitch, yaw, and throttle in flight. This quad also has three accelerometers and three gyros built in so it’s extremely stable in the air, even on a windy day.

This was my first foray into the wide, intimidating world of remote control flight and I’m proud to say that I got the quad flying within an hour of completing the build. If you’re a newbie like I was, definitely buy some extra props, since you will crash. Nevertheless, after a few hours of practice, you’ll be performing smooth turns and impressing your friends. Fly safe and have fun!

Flying (and Crashing) Copters with Parallax

Today Parallax came out to MAKE HQ and let us test drive a number of their cool toys. They set up their quadcopters, y-copters, and hexcopters, hooked their ELEV-8 to an Intova camera, and used the video to fly with a first-person perspective. We pulled the feed into a streaming video, and had a great bird’s eye view of the O’Reilly/MAKE campus. A copter only fell out of the sky once, and they had it up and running again in no time. But let’s face it, crashes are a lot of fun to watch. Parallax also showed us their Propeller BoBots and Eddie, a Kinect-equipped robot they’ve been working on. Here’s the video so you can check out all the robot action for yourself.