Category Archives: Drones

Freebird is a safe and multi-use 3D-printed drone

Hate shoveling snow and raking leaves? Let the Freebird Flight One do it for you instead.

We’ve all seen and heard of drones crashing into water, trees, people and more recently, the Empire State Building. If you’re spending hundreds and thousands of dollars on a drone, you would expect it to be worth your while but the viral videos show us otherwise. One drone that you’re unlikely to see as the subject of these crash compilation videos is the Freebird One — a completely 3D-printed quadcopter with advanced safety unlike any other UAV on the market.


Maker Roger Freeman, who like many first time drone owners, experienced the early demise of his new toy. Instead of buying a new part for his broken drone, Freeman tapped into his tinkering talents and 3D-printed a replacement part. Similar many Maker stories, Freeman thought to make something that already exists even better with more functions, stability, strength and safety. And so the Freebird Flight was conceived.

Freebird is being touted as the first fully 3D-printed, large-format carbon fiber UAV that is commercially available and consumer-friendly. Freebird has a unique patent-pending SurroundFrame that encloses the rotors and distributes the vehicles weight evenly to increase efficiency and safety. Its motor mounts also act as sturdy landing pads, allowing it to have extended flight time and absorb hard landings without the cost of damaging gear. The shield is weatherproof, protecting the motors from rain, snow and wind.


In addition to its thoughtful airframe design, safe operating practices were prioritized in the creation of Freebird. It has a virtual fence with a programmable radius and altitude limit to prevent runaway UAVs if the fence is breached. Plus, Freebird is configured to return to home base when it reaches low battery and loses signal from the controller/PC/phone/tablet. There is also a pause button to steady the vehicle while in the air.

If that doesn’t entice you yet, maybe this will. Freebird has capabilities beyond aerial video and photography. Airflow from its four motors runs as high as nine horsepower, turning it into an airborne leaf and snow blower. Freebird can clear a sizeable yard of leaves in a 25-30 minute run on a single battery. When it’s not doing yard work, its ample flat mounting space can attach additional electronic devices. Freeman is also developing a line of attachments to make Freebird more versatile in its applications.

At three feet in diameter, Freebird has a 20-pound payload capacity and can fly up to 70 miles per hour in horizontal speed and 3,000 feet per minute in max vertical speed. It has a 15-mile range with a GPS compass to prevent unexpected crashing.

Freebird boasts that it arms you with the best, and expanding, toolset to protect your investment and people and property around you. Ready for a failsafe drone? Check out the Freebird Flight website for more information.

Rook is the world’s first in-home drone that you can fly from anywhere

Check up on things inside your house while you’re away.

We’ve all been there: You leave your house, only to question 10 minutes later as to whether or not you turned off the stove or put on the alarm. What if, instead of calling a neighbor or going all the way back home, you could just pick up your smartphone and have a drone check for you? This is the idea behind Rookan indoor quadcopter designed by a team of Northwestern engineering students who together make up the startup Eighty Nine Robotics.


Rook is a small, lightweight and remotely-controlled drone suitable for use inside your humble abode. It connects to your home’s Wi-Fi network and is flown with the help of your mobile device, with which you could keep an eye on on things, monitor pets, see where you left your wallet, and even offer an HGTV-like virtual tour of your living space. Meaning, you’ll never have to worry again if you closed the door behind you or unplugged the iron.


Rook is equipped with a mounted camera that provides live-streaming to your smartphone as it soars through the house. To control the drone, simply point and drag the direction you want to go on your screen. When done, fly your Rook back over to its charging dock, which can refuel the battery in an hour. At the moment, it can only last in the air for roughly five minutes, though that should be plenty of time to check up on things while you’re away.

Built with safety and indoor use in mind, Rook features soft blade guards, speed limits for novice pilots and flight stabilization software. Looking ahead, the Eighty Nine Robotics crew intends on enhancing its capabilities with voice-activated commands, timed flights, triggered routines via the cloud, as well as integration with your smart home equipment.


Intrigued? Fly on over to its Indiegogo campaign, where Eighty Nine Robotics is currently seeking $20,000. Delivery is expected to get underway in December 2016.


Meet the drone that flies, floats and swims underwater

The Loon Copter looks like something out of James Bond.

It’s in our nature to be curious, so it comes with no surprise that there have been a lot of excitement surrounding commercial drones. Drones open up the skies for ordinary people to explore the land from above and if the history of human innovation has taught us anything, it’s that we have the tendency take something great and make it even better. Researchers from Oakland University’s Embedded Systems Research Laboratory have done just with Loon Copter, the first aerial and underwater drone.


Fittingly named after the aquatic bird, the Loon Copter is a multi-rotor platform capable of traditional aerial flight, on-water surface operation and sub aquatic diving. The Michigan-based research team of Dr. Osamah Rawashdeh, Sean Simpson, Hamzeh Alzubi and Iyad Mansour started this project in 2014 and demonstrated successful operation in early 2015.


The Loon Copter has the body of a conventional quadcopter, but the cylinder that hangs below the air frame is what truly gives it the unique capabilities. The cylinder, when filled with air, changes the drone’s bouyancy so it can transition from flight to floating on water. The cylinder also can fill up with water and sink, allowing the drone to dive. The four propellers used for flying in the air, is also for navigating in the water. The drone can seamlessly return to flight by pumping out the water. Sounds like something out of a James Bond movie right? It’s not too far-fetched as the Loon Copter’s design can be adapted for search and rescue applications, or marine research.


The Loon Copter is one of the 10 international semifinalists in the 2016 Drones for Good competition, which received 1,017 entries from 165 countries. Dr. Rawashdeh and his team will be in Dubai from February 4-6, 2016 competing for the grand prize of $1 million. Learn more about the Loon Copter and the team’s work by visiting their website.

It’s never been so easy to build your own Arduino-based quadcopter

The YMFC-3D V2 flight controller enables everyone to create their own Arduino drone. 

Quadcopters, or “drones” as they are sometimes inaccurately known, seem to be getting a lot of attention currently. There are, of course, many off-the-shelf components to control your flying contraption, but if a stock flight controller (FC) isn’t geeky enough, you can always turn an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) into one.


That’s exactly what Joop Brokking has done. As the creator puts it, “I made the YMFC-3D [Your Multicopter Flight Controller] V2 flight controller software so everybody can build their own Arduino quadcopter and having a great learning experience.”

The video below explains things nicely, but to summarize, his Arduino software is divided into three sketches that attempt to automate much of the configuration procedure. First, a setup program is loaded into the Uno, which outputs specific steps for the user to go through to set up the transmitter and gyroscope. Next, a separate program is employed to help calibrate the electronic speed controllers, commonly known as ESCs, that directly power the motors. Finally, the actual FC program is loaded into the Arduino, so you can actually test out and fly your ‘copter.


For more information, as well as source code, you’ll want to check out Brokking’s website. He also has information there on his earlier version, which is meant for those already experienced with radio controlled flight and the Arduino.

One neat thing about a build like this is that, in theory, one could program the Uno to do all kinds of tricks, like control an LED strip while in flight or turn a servo. This concept could, it would seem, even be expanded to maneuver other kinds of RC vehicles. On the other hand, one would need to be careful not to tie up too much processing power and quite literally “crash” your system!


This giant drone lifted a record-setting weight of 134 pounds

One team of students from Norway built a massive Megacopter that set the record for the heaviest payload lifted by a remote-controlled drone.

The University of Oslo’s Department of Informatics has aspirations of one day using drones to transport people. (Not unlike the Ehang team, which debuted its person-carrying, helicopter-ish aerial vehicle at CES 2016.) Taking a step closer to a Jetsons-like future, one team of students led by Henning Pedersen has developed a giant aircraft which has set a new Guinness World Record for lifting the heaviest payload by a remote-controlled ‘copter.


The aptly named Megacopter is essentially a series of several small drones attached to a larger frame comprised of aluminum and plywood. There are a total of 48 motors and 13 propellers arranged in eight groups, as well as 24 LiPo batteries. A separate onboard controller kicks in if signal from the pilot is lost in order to help it float back down to the ground.

As you can see in the video below, large exercise balls were used as landing feet. Meanwhile, gyroscopes and accelerometers were employed as motor control and horizontal stabilizers.


A limited battery capacity gave the team five attempts to lift the weight, with the first two tries unsuccessful in achieving the 30-second minimum. Eventually, the Megacopter was able to raise its 134-pounds and 7.6-ounce load in the air for 37 seconds to claim its stake in the record books.

According to its creators, the drone only flies for three to six minutes but they hope to extend that time by adding more batteries in the near future. Currently, the Megacopter is registered to heft up to 330.5 pounds, but it is unknown for how long or how high.


CoDrone lets you program your own drone

Robolink has developed a drone that anyone can learn to program and fly. 

Not only do most drones these days seem to be centered around aerial photography, many require you to shell out a couple hundred bucks. However, Robolink is looking to do something a bit different: the San Diego-based team wants to help you learn how to code. CoDrone is an inexpensive, pint-sized flying electronics kit that can be programmed in under five minutes to do whatever you want — whether that’s tracking your movements, following you around, flying custom paths, navigating through a maze or engaging in laser battles.


CoDrone comes with a series of step-by-step video tutorials that enable you to bring all sorts of cool applications to life. Each kit includes a variety of sensors (air pressure, IR, gyroscope, accelerometer and optical flow for hovering), a controller set, a LiPo battery, a USB charger, a Bluetooth 4.0 module, a USB programming cable, and an ATmega32-based, Arduino-compatible board for its brain. With the ability for you to configure its behavior, the possibilities are truly endless.


Each CoDrone can be manually operated from a remote-control or programmed to perform various tasks. What’s more, it can even drive around using some convertible wheels.

The idea for such a product was conceived as a unique, more engaging way to introduce kids and adults to the worlds of coding, engineering and robotics. As Robolink CEO Hansol Hong puts it. “Programming can be tedious to learn. But when a few minutes of coding can put a drone in the sky, programming brings a smile to everyone’s face.”


Weighing in at just 37 grams, CoDrone boasts eight minutes of flight time on a single charge and a maximum distance of 160 feet. Not only is it easy to program, it’s even easier to afford as well. The kit will retail for $179 and only $139 during its crowdfunding campaign. Intrigued? Fly over to its Kickstarter page, where the Robolink crew is currently seeking $50,000. Delivery is slated for this spring.

This R2-D2 drone has all the bells, beeps and whistles

An aerial cinematographer has created an R2-D2 drone that not only beeps and whistles, but can capture footage through its camera eye.

Just when we thought we’ve seen it all, we happened to stumble upon this impressive Star Wars project from a Makerspace in a galaxy far, far away. Meet Arturo, the world’s first R2-D2 drone. And with The Force Awakens now in theaters, the timing couldn’t be better.


Equipped with four propellers, Arturo features a moving head, LED jetpack lights on his feet and a speaker that emits R2-D2’s appropriate beeps and whistles. Aside from that, the drone includes a DJI GPS autopilot navigation system and a CCD camera installed in its eye.

The brainchild of aerial cinematographer Don Melara, the quadcopter made its debut only days before the much-anticipated launch of the blockbuster flick at the International Drone Expo in Los Angeles.

The build itself took just over a week to complete and the result is awesome. Not to mention, it’s even more amazing to watch fly through the sky at dusk. See for yourself below!

ONAGOfly is an auto-following, palm-sized drone

This drone proves big things can come in small packages. 

In today’s market, consumers have pretty much two choices: cheaper nano drones or larger, pricier quadcopters. ONAGOfly wants to be the best of both worlds. Not only does it let users capture high-res selfies and live-stream footage to their mobile devices, the palm-sized unit only costs $200.


This consumer-friendly drone boasts a safe design, suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, and can be piloted right out of the box. It can be set to automatically follow you, or you can use its accompanying app to control the drone via Wi-Fi (up to a distance of 66 feet).

With its video game-inspired tilt control mode, ONAGOfly can be steered simply by turning its paired smartphone left and right, or up and down to fly higher and lower. Meanwhile, photos and videos can seamlessly sync to a user’s handheld gadget for instant sharing.


ONAGOfly can take off and land right from your hand, and be launched with the press of a button. The tiny UAV features built-in infrared sensors on all four sides, allowing it to avoid any potential collisions with obstacles in its way. Additionally, ONAGOfly’s GPS module enables it to automatically follow someone using the location of its connected smartphone as they run, snowboard, cycle, surf or whatever else.

According to company founder Sam Tsu, the mini ‘copter can be used by everyone of all ages and experience levels. This includes athletes, travelers, wedding planners and other drone enthusiasts.

In terms of its camera, ONAGOfly’s images and videos are being touted as comparable to that of an iPhone 6 (15MP photo and 1080P HD at 30fps video). With P2P streaming, users can watch footage in real-time from a remote device without delay. To maximize group photos, the drone can even recognize faces and detect smiles once all subjects are in the frame, and then snap the picture.


Thanks to a 1000mAh LiPo battery, users can expect around 12-15 minutes of flight time. The ONAGOfly weighs only 140 grams (0.3 pounds), and can reportedly maintain its position in wind speeds of up to 10.8 feet per second.

Interested? Head on over to ONAGOfly’s Indiegogo campaign, where the nano drone’s creators have already flown right by their goal of $150,000. Delivery is slated for February 2016.

Fleye wants to be the world’s safest drone

Fleye is a spherical robot that you can hold, touch, push and bump without any risks of injuring yourself and others.

While many quadcopters these days all share a common resemblance, one Belgian startup is looking to change things up a bit. Fleye, which is being billed as the world’s safest drone, is a spherical flying machine with enclosed propellers and a camera.


Since its blades are covered inside plastic protective grids, you can touch it, push it or bump into it without losing a finger. The soccer ball-like drone can be controlled via its accompanying mobile app with four flying modes: selfie, panorama, hover and manual.

In selfie mode, Fleye will record 1080p video (30 fps) as it comes back towards you. In panorama mode, the machine goes up to a set altitude, and rotates on itself to capture a 360° view. And as you would expect in hover mode, the gadget provides three-inch precision (when in range of sensors) so you can focus simply on altitude and viewing angle.

What’s more, manual mode allows you to program your own route using either its virtual touchpad or Bluetooth game controller. Or, you can even add your own RC receiver to Fleye.


At the heart of the device lies a Linux-powered, dual-core ARM A9 CPU with 512MB of RAM, as well as a pair of GPUs. A special and a bit more expensive developer edition will be available with a quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM, too.

It also supports the popular Computer Vision library OpenCV, which enables Fleye to execute missions autonomously, reacting to what it sees in its environment. In other words, it can recognize and avoid obstacles that it may encounter as it soars through the sky.

With its open API and SDK, you can program Fleye to do any number of additional tasks. This means developers can write their own custom apps to control it remotely or run directly on its on-board computer.


Measuring just nine inches and weighing no more than a pound, Fleye boasts 10 minutes of flight time with a max speed of 10 mph thanks to its 1500mAh battery. The spherical bot is equipped with an accelerometer, a gyrometer and a magnetometer, along with a pressure-based altimeter, a GPS module and sonar that can measure ground distances at up to 10 feet. Plus, there’s a bottom camera for optical flow tracking.

Sound like the next-gen drone you’ve been looking for? Fly over to its Kickstarter campaign, where the Belgian team is seeking $185,837. Delivery is expected to get underway in September 2016.

Maker converts his TIE Fighter toy into a flying drone

Can you ever get sick of Star Wars projects? Didn’t think so.

Just in time for December 18th’s release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, one Maker has successfully converted his Hasbro First Order TIE Fighter into a fully-functional, flying quadcopter.


Impressively, Imgur user “woodpiece” was able to accomplish this feat with only a few tweaks. The Star Wars enthusiast threw a couple of rotor arms onto the toy and cut out a slot on the radiator for the propellors. The rest of the modification process involved disassembling the device and installing a quad motor attached to 3D-printed mounts. The Maker glued the wings to the main body, while ensuring that all the wires remained inside the frame through its existing holes.


All the electronics were able to fit comfortably, with no additional cosmetic enhancements necessary. The brains of the operation is a Flip MWC Flight 1.5 Controller (ATmega328) which sits at the base of the cockpit, along with the motor controllers and battery.

As awesome as this all may sound, you have to see it in all its glory as it soars through the sky. The end result was a remote-controlled unit with rotors on both front and back of the wing panels. You can find a step-by-step breakdown of the Maker’s build here.

[h/t Daily Dot via Toyland]