AliciaPaterson.com

Arducopter Maiden

by on Mar.09, 2012, under Everything, Projects, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Finally had a nice sunny day to take my Arducopter for it’s first flight!

It is not as stable as I thought it would be; most of the flying time I had it in ‘loiter’ mode which attempts to maintain a position based on GPS and altitude (using either barometer or sonar).  Even so as you can see from the video it moves around quite a bit still – next time I’ll take my laptop to make sure it has a solid, accurate GPS fix before launching.

Three flights in total, the last one had a hard landing which flipped the quadcopter throwing a prop; all fixed in just a minute ready for the next flight in a few days.

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Siri, Let me in!

by on Mar.07, 2012, under Access Control, Everything, Home Automation, Smart Home, Solutions, Technology

Siri answers the door…vacuums the floor.

I have been playing around with SiriProxy which provides a mechanism to override spoken commands to Siri on an iPhone 4s.

Normally when you talk to Siri your iPhone sends the voice packets off to an Apple server which interprets them into words and then tries to interpret what you mean.  It then sends a response back down to your handset, which is why Siri only works when you have a working internet connection.

In order to hijack this process it is neccessary to have your iPhone send Siri commands to a computer on your local network which has been set up to run SiriProxy.  SiriProxy can then intercept the commands, figure out what you said and then look to see if it has local instructions for responding before sending on to Apple’s servers to respond.

The upshot of all this is that as long as your iPhone is connected to your local wifi network you can customise your own Siri responses.  Siri will continue to work normally where you haven’t created a specific local command.

Since I had already set up home automation for many activities in the house including watering the garden, kicking Roomba off to vacuum and opening the front door, it was easy to hook SiriProxy into this.  When SiriProxy figures out you asked to be let in, it calls a web page that runs a PHP  script that sends an x10 command to unlock the front gate.

The full set of Siri’s capabilities at my home include turning on or off the watering system, turning Roomba on or off, opening the front gate and front door, and controlling lights around the house.

SiriProxy has allowed many similar innovations to evolve from controlling the TV to starting the car.  These examples continue to show the value of the smartphone as a remote control for your life.  SiriProxy is deeply restricted however due to it being shackled to your local network only – it is not possible (or at least fairly difficult) to use your own custom Siri commands when out and about.  Although this is unlikely to change for Apple’s devices anytime soon, as speech recognition becomes more widespread on all smartphones (read Android) expect to see the evolution of a modular, configurable speechrec service that will allow easy integration into other devices.

While using Siri to start the vacuuming is fun, it is not very practical.  However with a bit more tinkering I expect I can give Siri the ability to schedule specific home automation events which will be done even if I, my iPhone and Siri are not present.  I can see that asking Siri to turn off the light at 11pm or do the vacuuming in an hour will be much more useful…

Thanks to Natia for starring in the demo video!!

 

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Adrucopter Build

by on Mar.05, 2012, under Everything, Open Hardware, Technology, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

My recent obsession with Arduino brought me back to an old interest: autonomous flight!

I totally love the open source community and the great stuff that people throw in together on…such as DIY Drones.

DIY Drones is a community built project using Arduino microcontroller to control a multi-rotor helicopter (though it also can control a single rotor heli or fixed wing aircraft).  A dedicated Arduino board (ardupilot) connects to an IMU sensor board which contains minuscule gyros that sense the orientation of the aircraft and the built in software responds to changes in attitude by adjusting the speed of separate motors.

I have added GPS support and a magnetometer to sense magnetic heading, along with a bunch of pretty lights that help identify which way is front!

The airframe and parts are from jDrones; the software and instructions are all contained on the Arducopter Wiki (including a couple of good guides on adding in LEDs).

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Watercooling

by on Dec.06, 2011, under Everything, Projects

Three Dell U2711 27inch monitors - 8064x1440 resolution!

I have been running Eyefinity for a while over three screens at 1080 lines of resolution limited by a Samsung 1080 monitor either side of my Dell 2711 27inch monitor.  However I was able to upgrade the two side montiors to match the middle meaning the whole lot can now run at native reoslution giving a total of 8064×1440 pixels.

However pushing 11.6 million pixels around was too much for my Radeon HD 5860 video card, so I also upgraded this to two Radeon HD6970 cards in CrossFire (linked together so both cards share the workload).  While the two new cards were able to drive all 3 displays I found they got hot – very hot.  At idle running Windows 7 they sat at about 60c, however when running any kind of full screen graphics they burned at 84c!  Too hot to expect a long working life.  After reviewing aftermarket fan cooling solutions I decided this was impetus enough to bite the bullet and install watercooling, especially as the ambient temperature in the room itself can get well above 30c.

 

Outside view of Watercooled PCInstalled is a EK FC6970 V2 full cover water block on each video card, a koolance CPU-370 water block on the CPU connected to a koolance 360 radiator and koolance RP-1200 combo pump and reservoir.  Details of the equipment and installation are in another post, however the result is a whopping drop of well over 30 degrees when running hot.  Windows idel now sits about 44c and maxes out at about 50c when being pushed hard with full screen graphics.

Inside the Watercooled PC - side os off to leftFront view of the Watercooled PC - note Pump control screen with Video card temps

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Twinstar II Electronics Installation

by on Sep.17, 2011, under Everything, Projects, Technology, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Help!

I may have over-reached when I started this project.

I am installing a lot of kit into this – a flight data recorder (with GPS), an autopilot (also with GPS), heads-up display, video camera and transmitter, steerable nosewheel…and navigation lights!

Just working out where bits are going to fit and running wiring has been a nightmare – I’ve cut out more foam from the fuselage than is still remaining there.

There have been some key considerations when deciding where to place the different electronic components.  I have tried to keep the receivers (GPS x 2 and radio receiver) as far away as possible from the video transmitter. Also I have tried to place the autopilot as close as possible to the centre of gravity. Finally I have put the pitot tube (for airspeed measurement) in the nose to get the cleanest airflow.

The Layout

The bottom half of the fuselage is upside down – the cockpit area to the left and the cavity to the tight of that is where the wings attach.

Starting from the left we have the pitot tube (the horizontal tube sticking out of the nose), the paddle pop stick is inserted to trigger a hidden microswitch that turns everything off, next is the steerable nosewheel, then the 4s LiPo battery which is shoved up against the Eagle Tree Data Logger and On-Screen Display. The cavity under the wing is where all the wires come out that plug into the wing components – I have kept it clear of any electronics as all the available space is taken up by the wires when the wings are attached.  To the right of this (above the main gear) is the autopilot (essentially just a small box with a bunch of gyros in it). Next is the lights controller which makes all the LEDs flash the correct way (9 LEDs in this aircraft); underneath this is the Radio Receiver.  Finally to the right of this is the GPS for the Flight Data Recorder followed by the GPS for the autopilot.

Technical Specifications:

Receiver: Futaba R6014HS

LED Controller: Punk RC (controlling 2 red Anti-collision strobes, 3 white navigation lights/ strobes, red and green right of way lights on wingtips and 2 white landing lights).

Flight Data Recorder: Eagle Tree Data Logger V4 and Eagle Tree OSD Pro (On Screen Display)

Autopilot: Fyetech FY-21AP

 

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Twinstar II Paint Job – Final Product

by on Aug.10, 2011, under Everything, Projects, Technology, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

I’ve finished all painting on the aircraft now – looks pretty good!  Up close the surface looks very speckled an foamy but from 100ft or more it could pass for the real thing.

Insignia placement is not perfect but not bad.  There is no Australian Customs aircraft registered DSJ (this is actually currently assigned to a UK WWII Observation aircraft built in 1947). I chose it as it was also the registration for a Cessna 182L which dissapeared in 1978 in one of Australia’s most interesting aviation incidents.

I have added landing gear; they are not very scale-like but the nosewheel is steerable and they all have pretty good in-built shock-absorbers.

I have not installed engines or electronics yet, hence have not glued the fuselage together which is why there is a great big black hairband holding it together.

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Twinstar Paint Job – First Look

by on Jul.25, 2011, under Everything, Projects, Technology, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Have finished the basic white and red painting of the airframe and wing surfaces and all leading edges in black.  Next I will print and place insignia (using a custom decal kit) then finish with a UV resistant top coat.

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Twinstar Paint Job

by on Jul.15, 2011, under Everything, Technology, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

After spending some time looking at different real-world aircraft with similar high-wing two engine designs to my Twinstar I have settled on a combination of US Coast Guard and Australian Customs.  I like these designs as they use lots of white (which save me having to do a lot of detailed painting) and should provide highly visible orientation when looking at it from the ground.  It should also give a good scale effect – in other words from a distance look just like the real thing.

I am basing my design on the Aust Customs Dash 8

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Twinstar FPV – initial kit

by on Jul.05, 2011, under Everything, Projects, Technology, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Received my initial Twinstar II kit from Tower Hobbies.  It is very light!  Shipping was expensive though due to the large box size.  The model is an impressive 1.4m wingspan.

Lots of work to do to this before it flies.  Besides the camera and video transmitter I have decided to paint the aircraft (not sure what design yet) and to install navigation lights, autopilot, flight data recorder (black box), GPS (Global Positioning System) and a HUD (Heads Up Display) which will give me information like altitude and airspeed overlaid onto the video feed.

 

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Where we’re going, we don’t need roads…

by on Jun.17, 2011, under Everything, Travel

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Trip highlight: woke up in Vegas, drove to Area51, stopped for lunch at the Little A’le’inn then drove through snow covered peaks to Yosemite. Awesome!

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