Wednesday, May 8, 2013
The "perfect" small unmanned aircraft, commonly called a drone, might still be several generations away. But like Moore's law, those generational cycles are getting shorter and shorter.
Chris Anderson of 3DRobotics suspects we're closing in on the drone equivalent of the Mac: a relatively affordable, accessible, and most importantly, practical piece of technology that can be deployed every day.
Tremendous headway has been made with multirotor technology (the heicopters, quadrotors, hexcopters, octocopters, and what have you). The market is quickly becoming flush with a variety of these aircraft, to the point where several options are available for each price bracket.
There's everything from $300 hobbyist rigs from big-name RC and electronics manufacturers, to $1,000 semipro setups from DJI and 3DRobotics, to $10,000 rigs that can loft, pan and tilt a DSLR or DV camera. The differences between each step may be as simple as stronger frames, larger motors and higher-capacity batteries.
A drone of your very own, from novice to pro. Sometimes no assembly required.
For the time being, however, it's still useful to have the technical know-how to put one together. It's even more useful to know how to fabricate a drone, or fabricate parts to suit your specific application.
Monday, February 25, 2013
Sensor nodes need a good home if they're to last any considerable amount of time. And if they're to be deployed outdoors, they need an especially robust home.
This can be complicated. Most sensors need to be exposed to the elements to obtain good readings. But expose these electronics to the elements too much, and you'll break them.
In a pursuit of finding the right balance between price and accuracy for a sensor node for professional and community journalists, I'm fabricating a prototype using open-source hardware and software, 3D printers, and now, lasers. Fortunately the "maker" revolution makes this process more accessible than ever.
Previously I wrote about working with Arduinos and temperature sensors. Continuing on the theme of sensor nodes for journalism, here are some details on the next step in the prototyping process.