Pixhawk or Naza?

If you are either building your own UAV or buying one (whether it’s an airplane, helicopter, or multirotor), the most basic part of the whole thing is the Flight Controller. Just like choosing windows or mac, iphone or android, choosing which flight controller you have in your aircraft changes the whole experience of flying. Stability, features, reliability, and customization options are different in each flight controller.
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The two biggest platforms are NAZA (owned by DJI) and Pixhawk (previously maintained by 3D Robotics and now maintained by the Linux Foundation).
Which one should you use? If you’re a total beginner, use Naza. If you’re more than a total beginner, you might get more out of Pixhawk.
Below is an interesting conversation about it on Facebook. Take it for what it’s worth, but most of the experts seem to prefer Pixhawk, all things considered.

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Dronecode Project – the LAMP stack of the 20-teens?

Exciting news in the depths of the engine room of the giant ship that is the Drone Craze of the 20-teens…. sUAS News breaks the story that the Linux Foundation in concert with many of the leading drone companies of today (3D Robotics, Baidu, Box, DroneDeploy, Intel, jDrones, Laser Navigation, Qualcomm, SkyWard, Squadrone System, Walkera and Yuneec.) are founding The Dronecode Project. (Yes, that’s everyone except DJI…)

It is worth pointing out that nearly every single drone startup that you’ve seen on kickstarter, as well as the great 3D Robotics company headed by Chris Anderson, use stuff from the Dronecode Project. It has until now been maintained by 3d Robotics in fact, and it is cool to see that they’re now handing it over to a neutral organization.

What is the Dronecode Project? Basically it’s a neutral governence structure for the major bits of open-source drone stuff that’s already out there. One of the major reasons that the drone scene has gotten so dramatically bigger in the last couple years is because of this open source stack of software. You might compare it to the LAMP (Linux, apache, mysql, php) software stack that was the technical underpinning of a huge portion of the Internet in the 90’s and 2000’s.

Dronecode includes the APM UAV software platform and associated code, which until now has been hosted by 3D Robotics, a world leader in advanced UAV autopilot and autonomous vehicle control.

The Dronecode project will also incorporate the partner PX4 project, led by Lorenz Meier from ETH, the Technical University of Zurich

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TBS Gemini High-Performance Racing Hexacopter

It seems that for casual readers of technology blogs and sites that all these new quadcopters/multicopters/drones coming on the market are a brand new thing, often built by people who are new to the art of multirotors. This is often the case, perhaps because the veteran hobbyist folks who have been doing this stuff for years are in it for the love of the craft, more than the idea that there is some huge new business opportunity. So, what looks like a fantastic multirotor like this one probably won’t make it to Engadget, even though it is 1) available now (or, well, very soon) and 2) it is actually designed by people who know what they’re doing, with specifications that actually make sense.

The TBS Gemini is a fast and mean little hexacopter. It will go on sale for under $600, ready-to-fly without the transmitter. It’s perfect for beginner FPV folks.

These mini frames are very crash friendly. They are made to be flown hard and crashed. (Yes you need to be able to solder a few things back together from time to time)

You can read more about the TBS Gemini here.

Pre-order here for $599.

Again, this is not your Indiegogo vaporware… this is real, and definitely awesome.

Gopro Hero 4 Released to the wild

Well, it’s finally here.

Photo by Jimmy Chin

4K resolution, 30FPS video. Full HD, 120FPS.

It is the same size as the Hero 3, so it will work in all our attachments and gimbals.

Still, no RAW photos, sadly. However, there is a “Protune” setting for jpegs, so that you can shoot photos that aren’t “so totally automatic” and over-compressed. Tests coming soon.

I guess all the other action cameras out there have fallen one more step behind. There is just no stopping Gopro it seems.

So, a brief rundown of what it means for drone pilots:

Yes, this is a drop-in replacement

It’s the same size so just switch it out with your poor old crusty obsolete Hero 3 that you bought last month 😉

 

Will the lens mount modification still work, or will it still be necessary?

Gopro cameras have been using a very strange kind of lens which is nominally C-mount (m12 thread) but with the bottom part of the lens not threaded at all. This meant that in order to use a diferent lens, you had to remove the entire lens mount and put in a new (3rd party) one. I am guessing that this is still the case. So the question is, will the previous ones work on the Hero 4? I am guessing they won’t. Probably the PCB has undergone some tiny revision, and a new 3rd-party lens mount will have to be devised.

 

Will anyone be able to actually watch my 4K video?

Well, maybe not this year 😉 And you will need a beast of a computer to do any real post-production with such files. Get ready to buy some spare hard disks to store all this footage….

 

 

3d Pocketcopter raises more than 100K EUR on Indiegogo

The first time I saw this thing…. I was intrigued and I seriously considered plumping down 79 Euros. But wait, I thought…. how is it supposed to steer? How big is it? What kind of camera? How can it shoot 3d using a single sensor? Huh?

It is worth nothing that Indiegogo does not require “a working prototype” as Kickstarter does. So this project should be taken with a grain of salt.

Since the project has closed, it appears that the creators have at least published a single technical drawing of how this helicopter might work. In short, it is a traditional helicopter – not a multicopter – the difference being that the large rotors can lean in one direction or another using a swashplate, in order to steer.

What I’m (sadly) most impressed about with this project is the evidence of how easy it is to raise more than 100,000 EUR without a prototype or even with an actual proposed design. The device is simultaneously complex and beyond the understanding of most people, but also sort of small and cute, and seems like it could be pretty simple…

I will be a bit surprised if this device actually makes it to fruition in this incarnation, form factor and price point, one can hope. Good luck to the 3d Pocketcopter people!

 

Nixie Drone bracelet (a half-baked prototype)

Ever since the word “selfie” entered mainstream in the last year or two, there is a small portion of the population which seems interested in bringing “selfie” to a new level by letting people operate their own personal drone in order to shoot movies of yourself from the sky. Enter the Nixie, which seems to be really only half-baked, but let’s take a look:

 

I am not at all sold on the idea of a “personal drone that follows you around”. Maybe it’s because the quadcopters / drones I’ve flown are rather susceptible to crashing into things. I wouldn’t call this an easy problem to solve either. Until these aircraft have very impressive abilities to detect obstacles…. including, most notably, other people, who probably don’t take kindly to getting hit in the face by a propeller, these things are going to have a bit of an uphill battle. I don’t want to be too pessimistic, but honestly I think these things are at least a few years off.

Drone made of Lego succeeds on Kickstarter

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A gadget is not cool until someone makes it out of Lego… and then makes a Kickstarter campaign out of it 😉 So I’m happy to say that finally someone has done just that with a quadcopter. Behold, the Lego Brick Drone Frame:

This project is a true DIY / Maker kind of thing; you still need to buy your own motors, ESCs, flight controller, and battery. What you do get are all the necessary bricks, and 3d-printed motor mounts. What is pretty impressive is that this thing can carry a Gopro! I guess you probably want to glue those lego bricks together if you’re going to carry a $400 camera…

This project embodies what I love about the maker culture of today – I hope it works out for everyone involved.

 

FAA welcomes Drones for Hollywood

The NY Times reports that the FAA has finally started to approve some drone use for commercial applications, starting with six Hollywood film production companies. The companies are: Aerial Mob, Astraeus Aerial, HeliVideo Productions, Pictorvision, Snaproll Media and Vortex Aerial.

This is great news for the industry and a step in the right direction for the FAA, who until now has been dragging their feet, and letting the USA fall behind other countries in the commercialization of drone operations.