Category Archives: Drones

Parrot unveils the Bebop 2 drone


Parrot’s new Bebop 2 drone boasts longer battery life and up to 25 minutes in the sky. 


Last year, Parrot launched the Bebop Drone. This low-cost device features a 180-degree 14MP camera, four three-blade propellers and the capability of streaming video footage to a smartphone or tablet. Plus, a ‘return home’ function enables the drone to easily head back to its takeoff point with the help of its built-in GPS system.

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The original Bebop is able to remain in the air for 12 minutes on a single charge, which is pretty darn good considering the fact that it weighs 400g. However, Parrot has taken their game to new heights by unveiling the next generation of the ‘copter, which promises to double the flight time and enhance performance with more thrust and speed. Most notably, the aptly named Bebop 2 can soar through the sky for 25 minutes.

The recently-revealed drone is expected to cost $550 and is more of a consumer gadget than toy, Parrot CEO Henri Seydoux says. Not unlike its predecessor, it relies on GPS, proximity sensors and cameras to hover in place when you take your hands off the controls, regardless of where you are. The Bebop 2 will also maintain its compact, robust and lightweight frame, weighing in at just 500g.

What’s more, the drone can be piloted over Wi-Fi using its accompanying mobile app, and is compatible with the XMEGA32 powered Skycontroller which is an optional standalone remote that extends flight range up to 2 kilometers (1.2 miles).

The unit’s lithium battery has been upsized from 1,200mAh to 2,700mAh, which boosted its flight time from 11 to 25 minutes. Not only can it stay in the sky longer, the latest model can fly faster achieving a top speed of 37 mph horizontally (up from the Bebop’s 24 mph) and 13 mph vertically. In order make up for the weight differential of a larger battery, Parrot has extended the diameter of its three-blade propellers from 5.5” to 6″ in diameter.

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Similar to is earlier version, the Bebop 2 still boasts a 14-megapixel camera with a wide-angle lens, as well as a 180-degree field of view and 1080p video recording support. Another basic spec worth mentioning is 8GB storage space for holding your video content.

When you’re done, simply press the “landing” button and the Bebop 2 will automatically come down, despite its altitude. And thanks to its autopilot system, the drone will be relatively easy to maneuver in less-than-ideal conditions. But that’s not all. An improved propeller system will autonomously turn off if and when it comes in contact with an obstacle.

With an incredible flight time, expect hobbyists, photographers and videographers looking to get their hands on this bad boy. Want one for yourself this holiday season? You’re in luck. Bebop 2 drone will be available for purchase on December 14th. Until then, fly over to Parrot’s page for more.

[Images: Parrot]

Turning drones into a hologram you can physically touch


Queens University researchers developing a real-life AR system that will enable users to physically interact with data through different types of drones.


Get ready to file this recent project from researchers at Queen’s University’s Human Media Lab under the “What the…” category. That’s because the team is developing a human-computer interface that employs a swarm of tiny drones as flying pixels in an immersive 3D display. The hope is that BitDrones one day can revolutionize the way people interact with virtual reality. These itsy bitsy flying apparatuses will enable users to explore virtual 3D information by engaging with physical self-levitating building blocks. In other words, they’re turning drones into holograms that people can actually touch.

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According to Queen’s professor Roel Vertegaal and his team, BitDrones will be the first step towards creating interactive self-levitating programmable matter — materials capable of changing their 3D shape in a programmable fashion — using swarms of nano quadcopters. The work highlights many possible applications for the new technology, including real-reality 3D modeling, gaming, molecular modeling, medical imaging, robotics and online information visualization.

“BitDrones brings flying programmable matter, such as featured in the futuristic Disney movie Big Hero 6, closer to reality. It is a first step towards allowing people to interact with virtual 3D objects as real physical objects,” Dr. Vertegaal explains.

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The team has already built three types of BitDrones: First, PixelDrones are equipped with one LED and a small dot matrix display. Next, ShapeDrones are augmented with a lightweight mesh and a 3D-printed geometric frame and serve as building blocks for complex 3D models. Meanwhile, DisplayDrones are fitted with a curved flexible high resolution touchscreen, a forward-facing video camera and Android smartphone board. All three models have reflective markers, which allow them to be individually tracked and positioned in real-time via motion capture technology. The system can detect a user’s hand motion and touch, which lets them manipulate the pixels in midair as if they were standing inside a 3D display.

But that’s not all — it gets even cooler. Since the program that commands the drones knows where each drone is, it can tell when someone has moved the tiny drone around in space. So what can the technology be used for, you ask? Thus far, the team has been able to demonstrate using the system to browse through files by simply swiping drones left and right to show their contents. The operator of the drone was able to open an architectural drawing, and the ShapeDrones then formed the basic positioning of the building in 3D. From there, users can drag drones to adjust the orientation of the building, and even modify parameters of the ShapeDrone using the touchscreen.

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Aside from that, the BitDrone platform can be used for telepresence by letting remote users move around locally through a DisplayDrone with Skype. In this scenario, the DisplayDrone can automatically track and replicate all of the remote user’s head movements, giving a remote person the ability to virtually inspect a location and make it easier for the local user to understand the other individual’s actions.

While the platform currently only supports a dozen of comparatively large 2.5” – 5” sized drones, the team at the Human Media Lab is working hard to scale BitDrones so that it could thousands of other ‘copters. These future flying machines would measure no more than a half inch in size, and provide users the opportunity to render more high-res, programmable holograms. More importantly, it opens the doors to countess new interactions. Until then, you can check out the project on its official page, or see it all in action below!

Will drones become the furniture of tomorrow?


L’evolved is a project that turns everyday objects into “flying smart agents.”


If it’s up to two researchers from MIT Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces Group, the furniture of tomorrow will fly, react and respond to your everyday needs. In their latest project, Harshit Agrawal and Sang-Won Leigh are exploring how to transform once ordinary objects into “flying smart agents.”

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For starters, L’evolved features a drone that acts as a floating desk capable of switching positions, changing heights and flying along as you move. It will even auto-eject if you try to use the wrong pen while completing an assignment or filling out paperwork, and leaves when you’re all done (or in need of a break after working too hard).

The MIT duo has also developed a smart lamp drone that hovers above you to let you read in the dark. By tracking and following its user, the gadget can impressively adapt to different places and postures. What’s more, it can help remotely locate a misplaced book with only a press of a button.

“We’re exploring a future where objects become more humanized, rather than becoming dumber or a dehumanized element of our existence. We want to see more of this inter-relational reaction between humans and objects so that they’re not just being subordinated by our orders,” Leigh recently told Motherboard. “If you think about it it’s really magical, it’s like the world that you imagine in the Harry Potter novels, where everything can fly and come to you.”

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L’evolved consists of two parts: a ground control tower for tracking and fixing the drone’s position and an IR motion capture system. A camera helps keep tabs on everything in the room, including the user and the drone, which receives commands from the computer via Wi-Fi. PID control enables the flying agent to move towards a goal position and provides additional stability. Meanwhile, power is fed through a wall socket, though admittedly this is one aspect of the project that the Makers are looking to improve.

Agrawal reveals to Motherboard that in the future, the team hopes to optimize steadiness by replacing a hovering desk with one that parks in front of users whenever it’s needed and then clears itself off when the user has finished the task at hand.

“On the technological side, we hear a lot about dystopian future — drones always monitoring you and taking away people’s jobs. But, in an equally possible future, we seek a more desirable synergy between man and machine,” the Makers conclude. “L’evolved objects don’t entirely change the way we go about daily tasks: desks are still desks, lamps are still lamps. They don’t substitue or subordinate human activities.”

Intrigued? Head over to the L’evolved’s official page to learn more, and see it in action below!

FLYBi is an autonomous drone that gives you a firsthand flying experience


Ever wonder what it would be like to experience flying like a bird? Well, now you can with FLYBi’s innovative head-tracker goggles.


Operating a drone can be a daunting task for many folks, especially for novices looking to get started. Luckily, one Silicon Valley startup is hoping to ease the troubles by automating several aspects of the piloting process. The so-called FLYBi can easily take off, soar through the sky and land autonomously with barely any human intervention. What’s more, it can fly back to its home base and swap out its batteries when depleted.

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FLYBi is equipped with many of the same features found in today’s more popular ‘copters, including a remote control, an accompanying app and a 12MP camera capable of recording 1080 HD video. However, that’s where all of the comparisons end, as its creators have specifically designed their system to take UAVs to new heights.

FLYBi’s camera is installed on a gimbal connected to a head-tracking unit which can be controlled using nothing more than the movement of your head. These head-tracker goggles offer an unparalleled bird’s-eye view of the UAV with a real-time video stream that’s sent to a pair of LCDs built inside the glasses. It should be noted, though, that FLYBi is limited to 55-degree rotation to keep you from getting disoriented.

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What’s even cooler is that you can command FLYBi using a lightweight, water-resistant and adjustable wearable device. This wrist-worn controller consists of a small joystick and a set of buttons dedicated for taking off, hovering, snapping pictures and returning back to its Helideck base/landing. Plus, there’s a 1.8-inch display made of anti-glare glass that lets you watch your drone while in-flight.

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As expected, flight range is limited when using its RC and video function. You can remotely control your drone from up to two or so miles, while streaming by phone and bracelet is limited to 2,000 feet and a mile, respectively. FLYBi connects its internal data storage to its cloud server via Wi-Fi when it lands. From there, you can modify and share them as you please.

Using its companion app, you can also configure your own flight path. Once set, the drone will follow your specified route, adjusting its course if and when it encounters an obstacle. From takeoff to landing, nearly everything about the drone can be performed automatically making it easy for new users to experience flying a UAV with little to no learning curve. Advanced users can disable the autonomous feature.

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What’s more, FLYBi will return back to its base without your help. When docked, the Helideck rapidly charges the drone and even changes out its own batteries. Not just a landing platform, this unit serves as storage as well. Everything folds up nicely into one case, which can be thrown around your shoulders as a backpack.

Intrigued? Fly over to its Indiegogo campaign, where the FLYBi team is currently seeking $100,000. Delivery is slated for June 2016.

OpenROV Trident is a next-gen underwater drone


The future of underwater exploration has arrived. 


Since its debut three years ago, OpenROV has made their dream of a low-cost, easily-accessible underwater drone for the masses a reality. With their AVR powered robot, the team has provided Makers, students and professional researchers alike with the ability to explore the deep seas and relay video information back for analysis. However, it’s not just about gathering data; instead, its creators are looking to revolutionize the aquatic experience with a remotely operated vehicle that could go places where no other has gone before.

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Whereas most ROVs simply go up and down, left and right, or forward and reverse (and slowly, need we mind you), the newly-revealed Trident is changing the game. Its sleek, hydrodynamic body enables the bot to swiftly swim and maneuver its way through the water in dolphin-like fashion, at varying speeds of up to two meters/second with the upmost precision.

“It can fly in long, straight survey lines called ‘transects’ and perform delicate maneuvers in tight spaces, all while maintaining a sleek and powerful form factor,” the OpenROV crew explains.

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Needless to say, capturing footage underwater has always been a challenge. That is why the team has developed a lightweight, 25-meter tether that communicates a video feed up to the surface. (It should be noted, however, that a 100-meter option is also available.) Trident wirelessly connects to a towable buoy that allows an operator to control their machine from any Wi-Fi device, whether it’s a tablet on a boat or a laptop on shore.

“Using a wireless towable buoy greatly increases the practical range of the vehicle while doing transects and search patterns since a physical connection between the vehicle and the pilot doesn’t need to be maintained,” OpenROV adds. “Every aspect of the Trident design has been painstakingly thought out in order to optimize performance and usability in any situation.”

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Not only has it been crafted for performance but portability as well. Trident’s form factor is small enough to squeeze in a backpack or fit under an airplane seat. Meanwhile, its side panels are overmolded with a strong, rubber coating to give it protection from underwater obstacles and rough handling when being transported.

Trident is equipped with what would appear to be custom electronics along with an onboard HD camera, embedded LED lights for illumination and a LiFePO4 battery providing roughly three hours of run time. What’s more, the software driving the drone continues to be a living open source project, which can be found on GitHub.

Interested in one of your own? Apparently so is everyone else. OpenROV has already soared past its initial Kickstarter goal of $50,000 in a matter of hours. Pending all goes to plan, delivery is expected to begin sometime around November 2016.

Fotokite Phi is a GoPro-carrying drone on a leash


The Fotokite Phi is essentially a flying selfie stick that eliminates the need to pilot a camera-mounted drone. 


Oxford Dictionaries declared “selfie” the word of the year in 2013. Selfie sticks became the must-have item of 2014. Now, one Swiss startup is hoping that airborne selfies will become the major trend of 2015.

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Now live on Indiegogo, the Fotokite Phi is a smart, tethered flying camera that anyone can deploy in a matter of seconds. While camera-mounted drones are nothing new, the intelligent kite eliminates the need of learning how to pilot a quadcopter. Not to mention, you’ll no longer have to worry about losing control of your expensive UAV and having it end up in the water or shattered to pieces on the ground. Just turn it on, point it where you want it to go, give it a twist and let out the retractable leash.

Its creators are touting the product as a “no-frills aerial camera,” and it is exactly that. It should be noted, though, that you will first need to have a GoPro device in order to operate the Phi. The Fotokite features two buttons on its leash handle that communicate to the drone over Bluetooth. A button on its back turns on the ‘copter and then starts up the attached camera, while another enables hand gesture commands that move the leash in the direction you want it to go.

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And unlike other drones, it doesn’t rely on GPS or radio signal to get around. Instead, it works by using the tether tension as a positioning guide, as well as the motions of your wrist to adjust the viewing angle. The housing can be aimed straight down for shots directly overhead or tilted up for getting out in front or behind a subject.

Designed with portability in mind, the Fotokite Phi can be easily folded and slipped inside its Pringles-like carrying tube. With a GoPro in place, the smart kite weighs a little over 12 ounces in total. The Phi’s tether is 26-feet long, which is plenty for taking aerial photos or some pretty incredible selfies, but probably not enough to capture the kind of bird’s-eye view videos that have become common among drone users. Since it’s tethered, there’s no need for GPS or other sensors to keep the Phi hovering in place. The leash control system is equipped with an ARM Cortex processor at its core along with an ATtiny43 and sensors to constantly measure the angle of the tether relative to you.

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“The Fotokite Phi is built for the hobby photographer, the action sports enthusiast, the guerrilla journalist and the gadget aficionado. Thanks to its small size and foldability, you can take the Fotokite Phi anywhere – whether you’re hiking in the mountains, going to a festival, visiting an archaeological site or sledding,” its makers write.

At the moment, the Phi’s flight time is only around 15 minutes. Sure, you’ll be able to capture some pretty remarkable shots, but unfortunately don’t expect it to last more than three songs at a concert or the first quarter of a sporting event. However, the device can be charged either by USB or via removable batteries.

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Intrigued? Fly over to its official Indiegogo page, where the Fotokite team is currently seeking $300,000. The first batch of units are expected to begin shipping in March 2016. In the video below, you can see how easy it is to pass around, from person to person, and how safe its soft propellers are to touch. The best part? It costs less than $350.

Amazon proposes designated airspace for drones


This is how Amazon thinks drones should fit into U.S. airspace.


Amazon envisions a future delivery system that can get packages to your doorstep in 30 minutes or less using small unmanned aerial vehicles. Before Prime Air can come to fruition, though, it must first overcome a fair share of regulatory hurdles. To get the ball rolling, the retailer recently laid out a proposal that aims to divide the U.S. airspace into various layers for different categories of drones, all while keeping them away from airplanes.

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The plan, which was described by Amazon’s top drone executive at the NASA UTM Convention, would include two different lanes at varying altitudes: one for “low speed localized traffic” below 200 feet and another for “high-speed transit” between 200 and 400 feet in the sky. Meanwhile, the 400-500 feet range would be deemed a “no fly zone,” unless for emergencies.

Right now, the FAA regulates all manned air travel using humans and air traffic towers. However, the latest pitch is part of a broader effort to develop automated systems that would maintain order amid the growing number of drones soaring around U.S. skies. The Amazon vision shares many similarities to NASA’s plan for an automated drone-traffic management system, a project that already has gained interest from more than 100 enterprises and universities.

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As The Verge points out, there would also be vehicle-to-vehicle communication, similar to that of autonomous automobiles. The positional data of each drone would be collected by a command station and shared with every other vehicle connected to the network. Access to the different layers of the airspace would be governed by how well a drone can communicate with its pilot, the central network, and other UAVs. If a flying gadget cannot connect to others, it will be required to remain below 200 feet. This new air traffic control system would link drones to traditional aircraft as well.

While it remains unclear as to which organization will steward the project, it appears NASA has taken the lead. The agency has partnered with Verizon on a new program that would enable cell towers to serve as nodes in this system, helping to track drones and exchange critical information between aircraft and fleets. According to The GuardianVerizon is scheduled to introduce a concept for using cell coverage for data, navigation, surveillance and tracking of drones by 2017.

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While the future of drone delivery remains up in the air (no pun intended), as more companies collaborate with government agencies, it’s only a matter of time before services like Prime Air become a reality.

[Images: Amazon, The Verge]

Why do drones love the Atmel SAM E70?


Eric Esteve explains why the latest Cortex-M7 MCU series will open up countless capabilities for drones other than just flying. 


By nature, avionics is a mature market requiring the use of validated system solution: safety is an absolute requirement, while innovative systems require a stringent qualification phase. That’s why the very fast adoption of drones as an alternative solution for human piloted planes is impressive. It took 10 or so years for drones to become widely developed and employed for various applications, ranging from war to entertainment, with prices spanning a hundreds of dollars to several hundreds of thousands. But, even if we consider consumer-oriented, inexpensive drones, the required processing capabilities not only call for high performance but versatile MCU as well, capable of managing its built-in gyroscope, accelerator, geomagnetic sensor, GPS, rotational station, four to six-axis control, optical flow and so on.

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When I was designing for avionics, namely the electronic CFM56 motor control (this reactor being jointly developed by GE in the U.S. and Snecma in France, equipping Boeing and Airbus planes), the CPU was a multi-hundred dollar Motorola 68020, leading to a $20 per MIPS cost! While I may not know the Atmel | SMART SAM E70 price precisely — I would guess that it cost a few dollars — what I do I know is that the MCU is offering an excess of 600 DMIPS. Aside from its high performance, this series boasts a rather large on-chip memory size of up to 384KB SRAM and 2MB Flash — just one of many pivotal reasons that this MCU has been selected to support the “drone with integrated navigation control to avoid obstacle and improve stability.”

In fact, the key design requirements for this application were: +600 DMIPS, camera sensor interface, dual ADC and PWM for motor control and dual CAN, all bundled up in a small package. Looking at the block diagram below helps link the MCU features with the various application capabilities: gyroscope (SPI), accelerator (SPI x2), geomagnetic sensor (I2C x2), GPS (UART), one or two-channel rotational station (UART x2), four or six-axis control communication (CAN x2), voltage/current (ADC), analog sensor (ADC), optical flow sensor (through image sensor Interface or ISI) and pulse width modulation (PWM x8) to support the rotational station and four or six-axis speed PWM control.

For those of you who may not know, the SAM E70 is based on the ARM-Cortex M7 — a principle and multi-verse handling MCU that combines superior performance with extensive peripheral sets supporting multi-threaded processes. It’s this multi-thread support that will surely open up countless capabilities for drones other than simply flying.

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Today’s drones already possess the ability to soar through the air or stay stationary, snapping pictures or capturing HD footage. That’s already very impressive to see sub-kilogram devices offering such capabilities! However, the drone market is already looking ahead, preparing for the future, with the desire to get more application stacks into the UAVs so they can take in automation, routing, cloud connectivity (when available), 4G/5G, and other wireless functionalities to enhance data pulling and posting.

For instance, imagine a small town tallying a few thousand habitants, except a couple of days or weeks per year because of a special event or holiday, a hundred thousand people come storming into the area. These folks want to feed their smartphone with multimedia or share live experiences by sending movies or photos, most of them at the same time. The 4G/5G and cloud infrastructure is not tailored for such an amount of people, so the communication system may break. Yet, this problem could be fixed by simply calling in drone backup to reinforce the communication infrastructure for that period of time.

While this may be just one example of what could be achieved with the advanced usage of drones, each of the innovative applications will be characterized by a common set of requirements: high processing performance, large SRAM and flash memory capability, and extensive peripheral sets supporting multi-threaded processes. In this case, the Cortex M7 ARM-based SAM E70 MCU is an ideal choice with processing power in excess of 640 DMIPS, large on-chip SRAM (up to 384 KB) and Flash (up to 2MB) capabilities managing all sorts of sensors, navigation, automation, servos, motor, routing, adjustments, video/audio and more.

Intrigued? You’ll want to check out some of the products and design kits below:


This post has been republished with permission from SemiWiki.com, where Eric Esteve is a principle blogger as well as one of the four founding members of SemiWiki.com. This blog first appeared on SemiWiki on July 18, 2015.

Eedu is an easy-to-use drone kit for young Makers


Assemble. Code. Fly. It’s as simple as that.


According to Mary Meeker’s 2015 “State of the Internet” presentation, drone shipments are estimated to hit 4.3 million units this year, with consumer drone usage expected to jump 167%. Combine those figures with the hundreds of thousands of Makers looking to begin tinkering with their next DIY project, and well, you have yourself quite the market. Much like a number of educational robotic kits that have been introduced to provide children with basic electronics and programming principles over the years, one Las Vegas startup is looking to take that education from the ground and into the skies.

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Inspired by the hands-on learning that goes on inside classrooms, Skyworks Aerial Systems has launched Eedu an easy-to-use drone set that allows young Makers, educators and hobbyists starting out to devise new applications, other than just flying cameras. In order to make this a reality, the team has developed an intuitive platform that gives Makers the canvas they need to design their own UAV. The airborne apparatuses can be quickly pieced together using nothing more than its included parts, and are completely compatible with Arduino shields and other open hardware (littleBits and Seeed Studio).

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Once assembled, the drone can be paired with its special robotic development environment (RDE) called Forge. This cloud-based, community-driven software lets users code their vision into a reality, while offering ground control, community interaction and various programming capabilities. What’s nice is that, being open source, Makers can build from existing codes. As soon as an app is completed and compiled onto their Eedu, the DIY copter is ready for the skies.

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The drone itself is based on an Intel Edison, which enables programs to be easily created on a full Linux OS and boast enough processing power to develop more advanced apps, and employs an ARM Cortex-M4 running on RTOS for sensor processing, main flight control and to interface with the Edison. Eedu also comes with a set of four brushless motors with standard trapezoidal drive, each powered by megaAVR MCUs. What’s more, the machine features a sensor mounting platform, an Arduino shield port and a quick release battery pack. Crafted with safety in mind, the propellers are extremely lightweight and comprised of soft plastic alongside intelligent speed controllers that automatically disable the rotors whenever something gets in the way.

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Beyond that, the team has unveiled a highly-advanced, adaptable flight controller driven by an Atmel | SMART Cortex-M7 MCU. Equipped with all of the electronics required for a drone to take to the sky, LUCI includes four built-in 20Amp brushless speed controllers, an Intel Edison expansion port, a DSMX compatible radio receiver, an optical flow position sensor, GPS and Arduino shield capability. Impressively, she can even be integrated on a number of consumer 250mm sized drones, giving Makers the ability to produce their own LUCI and Forge-powered UAV.

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With hopes of granting future Makers and engineers access to the necessary tools for innovation, the team has given its crowdfunding backers the option to purchase a kit for students or entire classrooms.

“More than ever, schools are having a hard time acquiring technology. We passionately believe that students’ accessibility to technology should not be hindered! As such, we are creating a donation fund that will allow us to distribute drones to schools across the nation.”

Intrigued? Fly on over to Eedu’s Kickstarter page, where Skyworks Aerial Systems is currently seeking $100,000. Delivery is expected to begin in December 2015.

These palm-sized drones can unfold and deploy in half a second


Dude, is that a drone in your pocket?


Disaster relief efforts are among the top use cases that drone advocates have been petitioning in recent years, and rightfully so. Their unmatched ability to be released over a dangerous or inaccessible area to snap photographs and make contact with survivors far exceeds other methods being implemented today. With this in mind, researchers at EPFL and NCCR Robotics have developed an origami-inspired UAV that not only folds down into a pocketable square, but actually opens itself up and takes flight in a fraction of a second.

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“You can take it out of the box, switch on the motor, and it’s ready to fly,” explained Dr. Stefano Mintchev, a professor of bio-inspired robotics at EPFL in Switzerland.

The current prototype, which was recently unveiled at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Seattle, features a set of arms comprised of fiberglass and inelastic polyester with propellers at their ends. When activated, the force of the rotors pulls each foldable arm out into its extended position where it’s held in place by magnets. In order for this to work, the rotors must turn in the same direction, causing the arms to rotate out the opposite way and open around two vertical folds. When the arms are fully extended, their upper section moves horizontally and locks the segment open. Otherwise, when not in use, the arms fold up in the shape of a trapezoid for easy stowing.

To maintain stability, two of the quadcopters rotors must turn clockwise, with the other two turning counter-clockwise. A sensor detects when the rotors are fully extended, then reverses the spinning direction within 50 milliseconds.

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Impressively, the neatly folded drone measures 6.3″ x 6.3″ by 1.4” in size and weighs just over an ounce. When opened, it spans to roughly 2.3” x 2.3” x 1.4”.

“This quick-starting drone, while simple in appearance, is made up of a number of well-thought-out parts. The stiffness of the arms, for example, is critical to the quadrotor’s manoeuvrability. If these parts were flexible, they could bend and vibrate while in flight, causing instability and reducing the quadrotor’s response time to external commands,” the researchers explain. “Stiffness in the arms is a key factor for folding, and by spreading out horizontally the arms avoid imbalances caused by the laws of gravity. There is no need for an additional reinforcing mechanism, which would add to the weight of the device.”

At the moment, the drone must still be folded manually, but it takes less than 10 seconds for someone with practice. The team reveals that this process will be automated in future iterations along with a lighter body and stronger arms to withstand crashes. The principle of origami folding could also be applied to other types of flying devices in the form of wings, a protective cage or other innovations, the researchers claim.

Interested? Read all about the project here.