A year or so ago I was given a Revell model of the USS Voyager (thanks Rick). While I don’t have the patience and attention-to-detail for model kits, I had been looking for an Arduino project and thought this might be a nice kit to consider a multi-mode lighting system controlled by Arduino.
I’ve tinkered with circuit design for model lighting before to flash LEDs to simulate a aircraft rotating beacon, and had scribbled away somewhere an early design. However messing around witch matching capacitors and resistors to get just the right attack and decay curve is *so* much work, the option of just coding the behaviour into an Arduino controlled set of lights had obvious appeal.
My goal for this project was to have a fairly complete set of lighting installed into the model with a button or other means of cycling through different lighting modes. The lighting was to include:
- running lights – these are steady-on red/ green lights located either side of the hull
- navigation lights – flashing white lights running through the hull midline
- cabin lights – white lights behind the windows in the hull
- impulse engine lights – there are two of these, the red light in the warp nacelles and a soft orange glow coming out of vents on the back of the nacelles
- warp engines – these are the long blue glowing lights along the edges of the warp nacelles
- deflector arrays – there are two of these – the main one has a blue glow around it, the secondary one a soft red glow
- hull spotlights – these pick out details on the hull, such as the ship name
- photon torpedos – these are pulsing red lights located front and rear of the main hull
In the end I came up with the following modes:
- Mode 0 – all off
- Mode 1 – running lights and navigation lights on
- Mode 2 – cabin lights come on in sections moving through both hulls
- Mode 3 – engines on. Impulse engines glow red and warp nacelles fade up blue
- Mode 4 – fire torpedos – the torpedo lights pulse in a firing sequence
- back to mode 0
A lot of other people have completed this exact model with custom lighting, however everyone seems to use LEDs for the blue warp engine lighting. I don’t really like this approach as it results in obvious point sources of light in the blue strip of the nacelle, whereas in the show the blue light is a more consistent intensity glow throughout. I was interested to see how effective electroluminescent lighting would be for this task. Electroluminescent lighting (EL for short) provides a soft, consistent light along the length of a wire or strip – picture those amazing costumes from Tron. EL wire comes in many forms including flat strips which seemed like a good fit for this project. EL wire isn’t cheap however (around $30 for a 1 metre strip), uses High Voltage (ouch when you touch it) and is an absolute pain to cut and shape as it is prone to shorting out.
After much trial and error I managed to cut blue EL strips to length and embed in the model nacelles – I think the result is pretty much bang on for the real thing.
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.
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!