Thursday, May 21, 2009

LA ruby conf unleashed!

the good folks over at confreaks have just released the footage of flying robot from ruby conf, so check it out and enjoy!

Monday, May 11, 2009

The blimpduinos are coming!

I just got my hands on the first few blimpduino boards ( thanks to Chris and Jordi over at diy drones) , and damn are they small! After spending almost 2 months slaving away, building our prototype board, its a huge relief to know that I will only have to do nominal soldering this time around, not to mention the weight savings!

The blimpduino wasn't designed to be used with a gondola, so Ive had to make a few modifications.

1: I cut holes in the bottom of the gondola for the IR sensors and sonic range finder, as well as a hole in the side so I can access the power switch.

2: I am soldering several pins to the back side of the board for easier access

3: I am re purposing several pins currently designated for rc in(since we are using the xbee modems for our control interface) for something else... but more on that later.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

You spin me right round baby, right round...

So the big day has come and gone, and the big question now is, what is next for rogue one. One of the biggest problems I saw with our demo was that since both motors spin in the same direction, the craft tends to pull HARD to the left at high speed, the only way to remedy that is to find a pair of counter rotating props, so that the rotation will b countered. This will lead to higher top speeds.

The only problem with that plan, is that no one seams to make props that small in a matched set for counter rotation, meaning I will have to go with much larger props, meaning I will have to extend the boom arms, and that the blimp will have a larger footprint.

I'm gonna place and order for a few sets of these and once they come in, time to start experimenting.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Weeeee, are the champions, of the worldofarduinouavs!

Just finished our presentation of Flying robot at LA ruby conf, AND IT WENT GREAT! I was worried when at the last minute we had to cut out our IR sensors due to weight and flaky signal. How ever we were able to pull together an autopilot system using the digital compass.

Luckily, I was able to narrowly avoid crashing into any expensive cars at the marconi museum where the event is being held.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Houston, you know the drill.

After thinking the hard work was almost over, we had our first test flight, and well, things did not go well. Our pololu motor controller burned out, and we lost all control over the blimp, luckily, the blimp was tethered and only one motor was spinning so it just flew around is circles till I was able to grab it and yank the battery. So we went back to basics, examining the schematics of the blimpduino which was our model. after rebuilding the power supply, and adding a pull down resistor to the reset line of the pololu, we think we finally have it!

so I have built a new board, which not only houses the improved power supply, but is also significantly lighter, which should help us out if we can get around to installing a sensor suite. soldering perf bard to a little getting used to, but I think its well worth the weight savings for a project like this.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Da bleemp Boss, DA BLEEEEMP!

Its Airborne!!!

To day I filled the envelope with helium, attached the gondola and wham! it floats! Barely! Turns out the envelope can only hold just enough helium to get he basic package aloft, this is without any of the sensors we planed to add. So now we have only a few options, have an envelope made to spec, for about $200, or buy some cheap ass latex balloons and tape them to the sides! that might actualy make for  a cool siloette...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Something awesome this way comes...

Muah ha ha! My creation is almost complete! 

I have almost finished putting together the main board for our blimp! I soldered on the power supply, attached the leads for the lipo battery, attached the pololu motor controller, and rerouted the pins for the motors and servo. All that s left now to get it flying is the connection for the xbee, which I will be adding today.

A few tips for those of you that may want to make your own:

When attaching connectors, like the one I used for our Lipo battery, check to see if the leads are removable, if so don't attempt to solder your wires to them while they are still in the plastic shroud, most likely you will melt the plastic and ruin the connector(I went thru a few myself).

when attaching something like the pololu motor controller, run your wires to the appropriate pins BEFORE you solder on the controller, this will make everything a lot easier to reach!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Holy gondola blimp man!

I have just assembled the mechanical frame work for our gondola, the motor boom arm is in place, and I even mounted the camera just for fun.

I've also settled on super gluing the Lego gear to one of the arms that came with the servo, the bond appears strong enough to work!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The internet is burning!

An electrical fire in my building has left my internet a blackened smoldering ruing, leaving me stranded for days with no way to post, and more cruelly, with no real way to look up soldering diagrams and schematics!

trying to suck the necessary info through my iphone gave me a headache but I was able to complete assembly on a few more aspects of the blimp.

Namely the xbee adapter from lady ada, which I discovered does not take kindly to the xbee pro module, requiring the bending and fiddling of several pieces in order to make everything fit.

on the mechanical front, I built the motor boom arm from the blimpduino specs(, however im still having trouble mating the lego gear with my servo, initially I attempted to simply force the thing on, which is more or less what the blimpduino instructions recommend, but the piece kept popping off, now I think im gonna glue the gear to one of the arms the servo came with, taking extra care to make sure it is centered. I also built myslef a power supply and began planning how im gonna run both the 7.4 volts required by the motors and the 5v needed for the arduino itself. TO that end ive started messing around with a blank pcb prototype board, and now im sort of bent on having my own pcb made for this project.

as for mounting it all together I have opted for plasticard instead of plywood, I think it will be lighter and easier to work with. Pictures will follow soon, stay tuned true belivers.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

brains...BRainS...and CIRCUITS!

Last night I began soldering together the tiny arduino clones know as dorkboards that will be the brains of our roblimp. Boy these things are small! This was my first experience with surface mount soldering and to my surprise I pulled it off.

My brother and I also had a fun weekend session where we were able to take control over our motors, servo and the first of our instruments, a compas. this project is coming along really quickly, and in no time we should have something airborne!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

solder of fortune

I have finally embarked on a project that I've been talking about for years. Namely building my own airship. Considering the expense of the full sized model, I decided to start with something a bit smaller and, perhaps autonomous. I shared the idea with my brother Ron Evans (, a very talented programmer, and we began talking about arduino, and the ruby arduino development(RAD) project and thus, project flying robot was born.

The idea is to build a semi autonomous blimp, capable of receiving instruction from an xbee equipped laptop, and use on board sensors to navigate around obstacles.

I have a back ground in building electric vehicles so the responsibility for building the body of the blimp has fallen to me, leaving my brother to work on the brain. I realize that for a first project, a flying robot is pretty ambitious, but when it comes to things like this, I like to get in over my head right away, and see what happens.