Tri Spinner (EDC/Fidget) - Free STL for 3d Printing!

I've been seeing these EDC/Fidget spinners all over the internet recently, but couldn't find a satisfactory STL to print off a few of my own. There are a variety of commercial options, but the prices range from $5-$200+. I'm certainly not willing to drop that kind of cash, so I fired up some CAD software and took a swing at my own design.

If you like my design and want to print your own, you can get the STL on Thingiverse here. I hope you get some use out of it!

Don't have a printer? No big deal, click here to buy a spinner.


Sunday Follow-up: Memorial Day Flooding

This is the follow up to my previous post, showing the flood water on Sunday just as it was supposed to crest. Residents of the lower areas of Houston, my thoughts and prayers are with you tonight.

On a lighter note, the original footage was picked up by local media - Kingwood.com (and Part 2), HumbleTX.com, and KHOU Channel 11 all featured the footage. I'll have to see what I can do about getting a copy of the aired footage from KHOU.

West Fork - River Drone Exploration

Lazy flight on a Sunday morning, exploring the river. What's hidden on the other bank? It was neat finding flooded areas the river didn't teach, and seeing how  different the water color could be.
What do you think? Do you like this style of video?


El Rancho Cima & The Devil's Backbone

Rolling hills, a river, and decades of memories. This scout camp holds a special place in the minds and hearts of many a Boy Scout. El Rancho Cima is a gem, nestled away in the Texas Hill Country.
This area is steeped in lore, both from the old west days, and modern scouts. Ghost stories, shenanigans, legends... Decades of scouting history, and centuries of US history.

In the future, I'd like to start making more videos with drone footage narrated by a local expert. If you have any stories you'd like to share to do a voiceover for videos like this one, please Contact Me!


The Earth Mover - Giant Crane Drone Fly-Over

Driving around one day, I saw an absolutely enormous crane/earth mover - Too good of an opportunity to pass without flying around. It's nearly 300 feet tall; absolutely gargantuan.
This video is the second I've tried to color correct, and I think the edits are much better than my first try. What do you think?


Holy Flier - Church Fly Over

I had some fun trying new things at this location. ~30 minutes of sunlight, only one charged battery, and then editing and color correction in DaVinci Resolve. I liked the results - Resolve has is a better editor (and FREE) than some paid software I've used.
Do you like it? What do you want to see next? Thanks for watching!


US sUAS/Drone Owner Maps

Last month, the FAA released location data for registered drone owners. Shortly thereafter, Airmap made a heatmap of drone owners, and released it via twitter. We've taken a little more time, and done some assessment of the top 5 states for drone ownership.
There's no surprise here, Silicon Valley has attracted a huge number of UAS hobbyists. 3D Robotics, the leader in US drone manufacturing, is headquartered in Berkley California.
Texas is another state with a large population, and lots of land to fly in. Texas has the distinct honor to host the Texas A&M Corpus Christi Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence, one of only 6 FAA-Designated UAS test facilities.
An early misconception was that Florida had a much higher than average number of drone pilots per the rest of the population. In the slide above, you can see that as a whole, the US has 1 registered drone pilot for every 669.1 people. Florida comes in at slightly more populous with a ratio of 1:534.6, the 12th highest.
New York owes it's placing in the top 5 largely due to dense population cluster in New York City. Flights over NYC often spark debate, as it's very difficult to avoid flying over people in such a dense city. To make matters worse, irregular winds and GPS multipathing make the risk of losing control of your aircraft even higher. High profile Youtuber Casey Neistat has been called out for his controversial flights over the city, but at this time has not been fined, or commented on his flights. New York is also home to NUAIR, another FAA-designated UAS test site, in Griffiss International Airport.
 It's hard to see a definite correlation between drone ownership and Pennsylvania, beyond shear population.
As a bonus (or lagniappe, as the Cajuns would say it), we also did an assessment of Louisiana. Although Louisiana ranks low on the list, the state been looking into passing more strict rules regarding UAS. This would set a dangerous precedent, as it would open the floodgates to the creation of a patchwork nightmare of drone laws throughout the nation. This patchwork would be difficult to understand and follow, and even harder to enforce. This issue has appeared at least once in courts before, in Gustafson vs City of Lake Angeles, but in the realm of manned aircraft. The result? "Air traffic must be regulated at the national level".

If you would like to see an analysis of your state, feel free to contact us!

Floating - Litchi App Test

Every now and then I hear buzz about the Litchi app (Autopilot for modern generation DJI drones), and finally had the time to check it out. The interface is like a mix of Tower and DJI Go, and easy enough to use. You can see the video from my test, above.


Baby Shower

Over the weekend I had an opportunity to catch some footage at a friend's baby shower. Best wishes to the family, and their newest addition!


Drone Owner Height map - Free .STL file for 3D Printing

 As we've been discussing over the last month, the FAA released partial data of their sUAS owner registry. Using said data and the marvel of thingiverse, we can 3D print a physical height map of drone ownership in the US.
You can get the file for your own use here. Thanks for looking!


Drone 3d Models - Just a Test

 This week I've been playing with generating 3d models from drone flights. It's surprisingly easy - I'll do a full writeup and video in the coming weeks. These were generated with Agisoft Photoscan, low resolution processing.
The real trick is going to be modifying these models for 3d printing. I'm looking forward to it!


Louisiana Drone Owner Map

As we discussed in one of the last posts, the FAA recently released location data of registered US sUAS (Small Unmanned Aerial Systems, like "Drones", multirotors, rc helicopters and planes) owners. Data is most interesting when displayed visually, so I through it in some GIS software and went to town.

A few notes:

  • This only represents registered owners. That means people (not number of drones) who meet the criteria, and have voluntarily complied with the FAA's registration requirement. Many RC enthusiasts have chosen not to comply, so these numbers are in no way complete. Furthermore, many people believe that the registration only applies to multirotors ("Drones") - This is not the case.
  • Registrations follow population centers. The higher the concentration of people, the higher the likelihood of drone ownership. Some people have claimed that these represent "pockets of rich people"; Aircraft can be purchased for as little as $50 that meet the registration requirement. I would argue that this is an oversimplification. Population density, disposable income, and predisposition to tech savvy all come into play, as do local weather patterns, legal landscape, and societal norms. As my sociology professor once said, "A simple answer to a complex social issue is often a wrong answer".
  • Law Enforcement entities can gain a deeper understanding of patterns by plotting location data and sUAS related incidents.
Every year, Louisiana is faces issues with hurricanes, flooding, and wetland loss. UAS can function as a force multiplier for first responders and other officials in response to each of these issues. The Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence and Innovation in Corpus Christi already assists the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in monitoring Texas wetlands. Similarly, Texas Equisearch utilizes drones to help find missing persons. Imagine if Louisiana could replace dozens of $1000/hr+ helicopter flights during hurricane response and Mardi Gras with low cost UAS technology. Take a page out of Texas's book!


Memorial Day 2016 - Flooding in the Kingwood Area

Memorial day weekend 2016 is turning out to be a wet one for Houston area residents. This footage is from Saturday, May 28 and shows the flooding in the lower parts of Forest Cove and King's Harbor. Updated footage will hopefully be out later today.

The flooding is expected to continue to rise til between 5 and 7pm on Sunday, May 29th. Please don't drive around barricades, or through water. You don't know how deep it might be.

If you're inspired to take your own drone footage, please fly safe - Under 400 feet, more than 5 miles from major airports, and have a spotter at all times. Always yield to manned aircraft, and don't fly above people!


Texas Drone Owners - Displayed Visually

Last Wednesday the FAA released some location data about their sUAS owner registry. This registry is intended for owners of model aircraft, rc helicopters, and multirotors (Collectively known as Small Unmanned Aerial Systems, or "Drones"). As other websites have noted, the registrations appear to follow population centers, which makes sense.

With nearly half a million registered drone owners, you can't help but wonder how many owners have opted not to register. 3D Robotics, America's largest drone manufacturer, estimates half a million have been sold in the US alone. Dronelife.com did some math (and guestimating), and came up with even more. At the end of the day, drones are easy enough to build that we will never truly know the total number of drones in the US.

If the FAA does a similar release in the future, I'd love to do a comparison of that data to the original, and see how registration has grown over time.


Friction Welding - Join PLA parts easily!

This afternoon I was asked "Hey, could you make a video to show me what friction welding is"? Yes, yes I can. And you can see it below!
Thanks for checking it out!


Ascent Aerosystems Sprite - 1/4th scale 3d printed mockup

Since I discovered it, I've been eagerly awaiting the ship date of the Ascent Aerosystems Sprite drone. It's a coaxial, ruggedized, waterproof drone meant for backpackers. In fact, in early development it appears it was called the "backpacker drone". 
It's a pretty unique little drone, and I'm looking forward to it shipping. In the mean time, Ascent Aerosystems has made a small mockup of the Sprite available for download on thingiverse. I had most of the right colors on hand, so I decided to take a crack at it!
 The printing went smoothly, for the most part. The files provided were a little goofed up - I take it someone saved the files partially in millimeters, and partially in inches, leaving a bunch of tiny parts on the build plate and one adequately sized part.
If you'd like to scale them yourselves, just scale up the tiny parts by 25.4 (1 inch = 25.4mm). Due to the licensing, Thingiverse won't let me upload a derivative model with the appropriately sized parts... I did email my scaled STLs to Ascent Aerosystems, in hopes they would update their model on Thingiverse. Fingers crossed.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with my printed model. It comes out to about 7.5" tall, and the rotors can actually be moved. I wish I had printed the blades on their leading edge, however. Printing them with the bottom side down led to quite a bit of nasty scarring and debris from support material removal.


First Fully Autonomous Mission - 3DR Iris+

After a few years in the making, I finally got around to flying my first autonomous mission on my 3DR Iris+. Check the video below!

I was pleased by how easy the whole thing was, Tower is a great piece of software. Subscribe and check back for more missions like this!


The "Bandito" - Lumenier QAV180 teaser

 I've just finally gotten this little sucker in the air: The "Bandito", a custom Lumenier 180.
I've got a build video in the works, which should appear sometime after I get some flight video of this little bugger.

The 3d printed mount for the Runcam Owl (visible in the front of the drone) is available for free HERE - If you have a 3d printer, the files are free for you to print for your own personal use. If you don't have access to a printer, for a couple bucks you can get one printed via Shapeways.

Thanks for looking!


RunCam Owl Camera Mount

When I began working on my QAV 180 yesterday, I was disappointed to find that the RunCam Owl (Low light, mini FPV board camera) was too large to fit the stock camera mount included in the QAV 180 frame. However, the Owl fits perfectly on the frame itself... Which got my mental gears turning.
30 minutes later, I whipped up a design for a mount. The way I designed it, I can easily pop out different degrees of tilt. This particular print and design is a 20* tilt, about normal for what I'm used to flying. I've also drawn up mounts in incriments of 5* from 10* to 25*.
Here you can see how it fits in the rear. Good fit for a first print!
The slot underneath the camera is meant as a channel to run a mini-ziptie through. You may have to use two for a more secure mount. I've got several designs for the bottom as well - Flat, for use with double sided foam as a mount, or with a nub for slotting into the QAV frame.
You can click the image above, or HERE, to download the .STL for FREE and print your own mount!

To simply download other people's work off the internet and print it is to use your printer as a toy. The real joy and use of a 3d printer comes from designing your own parts to fit a particular need. I couldn't be more satisfied with how well this turned out for a short project. Thanks for reading!


State of the Website, February 2016

After a little bit of a break, I'm back to tell you what you can expect to see in 2016.

Volantex Ranger Mini - 1.4m wingspan. Trying to break into fixed wing to reap the benefits of longer flight times and increased payload.
I picked up a resin-cast Stormtrooper helmet on ebay. Some sanding, painting, detailing and weathering is in order. Gotta love Star Wars!
Here's a hexacopter I built for work a few months ago. I don't have many pictures of it in action yet, but it's supposed to be a high quality, heavy lift aerial photography platform. It's a Tarot 680 Pro, with a Naza M lite. Currently it has a gopro gimbal on it, but it should be able to lift a Sony Nex camera without issues. 
Finally, a QAV 180 build I got off DroneMatters as a part of a Lunar New Year special. Looking forward to building it!

Thanks for checking it out!