This is cool: homemade UAVs

Apparently a recent trend in remote-control aircraft flying is that people can mount fairly high-quality video cameras onto RC planes. In some cases, they have a real-time downlink so they can fly them from a first-person perspective, occasionally even using goggles with head tracking.

This guy has a bunch of good videos of his homemade planes mostly flying over some suburbs in the Washington, DC area: Paul Thompson’s Videos on Vimeo . Others put cameras on premade planes, but he built his own out of styrofoam. Logically, somebody had to take the step of weaponization: That uses an off-the shelf plane which is more maneuverable.

There are a ton of different things you could do with something like this. I would want to fly it at a lower altitude, flying through trees and such, but I’d probably end up crashing it. You could follow people and see if they can figure out there’s a camera or an intelligence inside the airplane. You could spy on neighbors, get up to all sorts of mischief, though it might depend on how loud those things are. Maybe if the plane was a bit bigger, you could put a speaker on it and talk to people, or play Ride of the Valkyries.

Here’s some highlights from a guy in Rio who does urban flying and crash-lands his plane in his apartment: There are a bunch of videos if you search for “FPV” on Youtube:

Daaaamn, that was cool. However, it begs the question of the next step: Where are the videos of these planes dogfighting?

A few months ago I bought a cheap spy camera (hidden inside a pen) for about 20 dollars, gutted and installed it on one of my planes. At 60cm of wingspan and around 75 grams of weight it’s a pretty small camera plane. The camera itself weights around 8 grams and has 2 Gb of memory for recording.

The quality is not all that great, specially since it doesn’t handle a fast rotating propeller in the field of view very well, and in the case of the video in my link, the motor mount was a bit loose so there was quite a bit of vibration being transmitted to the camera.

I shoot this in Western Thailand, near the border with Myanmar, a few months ago. Not too bad considering the cheap camera.
Now I’m looking into buying a proper FPV system and building a folding plane that I can carry on a relatively small box when I travel.

By the way, notice that at the end of the flight I caught the plane in mid air by the right wingtip, try that with a Predator drone!

That was really cool. I’m kind of surprised that none of the fireworks being launched unbalanced the plane at all.

Interesting that due to the camera’s frame rate, it shows the rotation of the propeller as a set of horizontal lines. It was a rather cool effect, I thought.

Perhaps you could try mounting the camera facing towards the tail and get a “chase me” view, or could you mount it underneath the plane with a slight downward angle to avoid having to look through the propeller?

I think the venetian blind effect comes from the way the camera scan the sensor lines, instead of simply scanning all in one go it seems to scan them by bands.
Yes, I could mount the camera pointing somewhere else, but that would involve making holes in the plane, something I’m not very fond of doing.
I have a plane in the drawing board with a pusher propeller mounted between two tail booms, so the camera will have an unobstructed forward view.

Either way, that was a pretty neat flight. The Thai scenery was beautiful, too.

Oh sure…“effect”. C’mon, isn’t it obvious that Ale is subliminally shilling for AT&T?

I wonder how long its going to be before someone buzz’s a carrier with one of these things, I wonder as well, if any of the watch hands would notice it,lol


Or a little volley of rockets popping against the windows on the bridge…I’m sure that would draw a less than cheery response.

I think we’re seeing the start of something here. I don’t think that we’ve considered all the implications that this ability spreading out to the general public can have. Remember, you’ve seen this on the Dope first. Just off the top of my head:

-News media considerations: only large TV stations can afford helicopters. But any little local station in east Podunk LA could probably afford 10K to get a really good quality version of this. What about paparazzi applications? Now, large walled estates are no longer enough protection for the rich & famous.

-Privacy considerations: what does this mean for expectations of privacy in secluded places?

-The security implications are even bigger: I would assume that most of these are too small and to non-metallic to show up well on air defence radar, which have to be calibrated not to sound the alarm every time a flock of seagulls goes by (or Duran Duran, for that matter). Anyone care to overfly Camp David? what about launching & recovering out of a DC high rise condo balcony and seeing what’s going on in the white house rose garden? Or buzzing Marine one? If you make one big enough to carry a can of Lysol, you’ve got a perfect means of crop-dusting a stadium crowd with the agent of your choice. Geez, imagine this thing at the superbowl: flying low enough, they can’t even shoot it down for fear of hitting the crowd on the other side. Even if they only use mace or pepper spray, the panic alone would probably kill a number of people. Seems like the only effective countermeasure would be to jam the control signal, but it would be fairly simple to program it to just keep circling if it looses the carrier signal. And this thing could fit inside a minivan. Oich, I hope someone in the FBI & secret service is getting heart-burn over this. Talk about under the radar.

Military implications: now every rag-tag gang of “Militants” can go to hobby world and get their own UAV. Here, I suppose the risks to the good guys are lower, because off the shelf optics would likely mean these units would fly well within range of small arms fire, and the signal could be readily jammed, but wouldn’t this still make a great tool for spotting mortars into compounds and green zones?

Military & techy dopers, feel free to reassure me…


The real question. Can you fit a six year old in one of these things?

If it were my decision, the thread would be won. :slight_smile:

I waited nearly 2 full days before posting that. Dont you second placers out there go complaining I didnt give you a fair chance at the title :slight_smile:

  1. It ain’t my call to make, and
  2. Grandstanding is tacky.