DIY Drones with Chris Anderson at ETech

Xeni speaks with author and Wired editor in chief Chris Anderson, and “airplane geek” Jordi Munoz, about the quest to create the ultimate sub-$100 aerial drone. One design involved the use of a Nintendo Wii controller. UAVs are often associated with military combat or police surveillance, but what “friendlier” uses might we put them to, in civilian hands? Shot at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference in San Diego, California. Here’s more on their Minimum Blimp.

Update/Related: Phil Torrone at MAKE points us to an open source blimp kit created by tinkerer/artist Jed Berk. The kit is available for purchase on MAKE‘s website. Chris Anderson mentions Berk’s kit in his project post at DIY Drones, and Anderson’s project began with modding Jed’s blimp (it’s open source and made to be hacked). In the end, looks like Chris didn’t end up actually using any elements from Berk’s kit for the finished product, except for some plastic strips that hold the motors. All other components were built from scratch. The point? Open source sharing means like-minded tinkerers can riff, improvise, and inspire one another toward to new forms of innovation. Whether you’re talking blimps or software, that’s generally a very good thing.

About Xeni Jardin

Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: xeni@boingboing.net.
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10 Responses to DIY Drones with Chris Anderson at ETech

  1. jody says:

    Presently, the bleeding edge of tornado chasing involves flying UAVs close to and into tornados.

  2. David Carroll says:

    Benjamin Wright (#1)

    I agree that private AND government surveillance drones require lots of rules, but I think you may have missed Chris Anderson’s point. I think Jody (#2) gets it.

    I’m thinking a local courier company might be interested in using drones to deliver small packages avoiding traffic and insane bike couriers. ;)

    How about teaching a drone to pick fruit?

    I am sure that as soon as this technology is widely available “Drone Hackers” will come up with a thousand peaceful uses for these things. Perhaps, dare I say it? Personal jetpacks…

  3. zuzu says:

    In terms of UAVs built and operated by the general populace, here’s a concept for someone else to implement:

    Include a powerful/sensitive 802.11b/g card and antenna. High in the sky picking up open wireless access points should be quite easy. (Assuming the solar power for such a project is feasible.) Then have it take photos — wherever the wind takes it — and upload those photos to some reconfigured server such as the Internet Archive or USENET or Flickr. You don’t have to tell it where to go so much as watch where it has been, but bonus points if you include a GPS receiver to embed its coordinates into the EXIF data of the JPEGs that are sent out. Theoretically you could even have it do software/command updates every time it syncs up with the Internet.

    Then if people launched thousands of these collectively (i.e. a swarm), you’d really have some interesting data sets.

  4. jso says:

    #5 @ZLITE

    I hope you’ve been keeping an eye on the changes within the FAA. Got your COA applications ready?

  5. zuzu says:

    Also, check out Marco’s S-77CCR.

  6. slamorte says:

    i’ve been dreaming of drone designs and talking to the RC crowd for a couple of years now. i have had a serious need for drone surveillance in several instances.

    i do media work for protests. time and again, there is a situation where the police cordon off an area, removed the general public and media, and then proceed to beat the crap out of the protestors.

    examples include the WTO protests where numerous assaults were captured on video, but the vast majority escaped detection.

    more recently i was in oaxaca, mexico, just after the protests there. during my visit a lawyer working for protestor’s civil rights was assassinated in his car.

    a low cost aerial spy would allow the media to keep a virtual presence on the event site and capture any abuses.

    at a sub-$100 price tag this becomes useful to work in the developing world. the last pricetag i had on a small RC blimp was over $1000.

  7. David Carroll says:

    #7 Helium latex balloons are frowned upon because among other things sea turtles eat them thinking they were jellyfish and die. The strings on balloons were bad news too.

    I don’t think these things will be disposable like a cheap balloon, but they do get lost and an animal is determined enough to eat a large mylar bag then frankly it deserves to die :)

  8. zlite says:

    Chris here….

    In case it’s not obvious, the sub-$100 blimps (and indeed the sub-$1,000 version) are only appropriate for indoors. Outdoors you need much larger, more expensive blimps with more powerful thrusters to fight wind.

    For outdoors, we used fixed-wing UAVs, which are all described at DIY Drones

  9. BenjaminWright says:

    If a private party were to put a drone into service to conduct surveillance on people, it might be wise, legally, to provide some kind of warning. Warning might include notices posted on land (“This Property is Subject to Video Surveillance”), or even notices in local newspapers or web sites. http://hack-igations.blogspot.com/2008/03/robots-as-keepers-of-legal-records.html

  10. License Farm says:

    Re: Xeni’s “I’m being mounted by a drone” stinger at the end:

    As befits a hive queen.

    I’m curious whether there’s an application for these in scrubbing industrial pollutants out of the atmosphere, or maybe cloudseeding/busting, depending on a region’s need or surplus of precipitation. But as long as we’re thinking ecologically, what might be the impact of swarms of these puppies deflating randomly? If the mass helium balloon launches of my youth were done away with due to risks to wildlife, et al, what’s different here?

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