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Making a Real Batcopter, With Parts From the Hardware Store 50

Posted by timothy
from the get-your-mesh-on-and-move-out dept.
garymortimer writes with an excerpt from a story loaded with eye-popping pictures and video on how to create — with some bamboo and mesh lashed on — a UAV to fly through and learn from swarms of bats in rural Texas. "Brazilian Free-tailed bats (also called Tadarida) come together in the millions in caves all over Texas, leaving every night in swarms so big they can be detected by doppler radar. Somehow, they manage to fly through this dense self-clutter without major collisions, and so our goal is to better understand this behavior. For the AIRFOILS project, the IML team created the previously mentioned Batcopter. The goal was to fly a UAV through the dense clutter, and record the bats' response with three ground-based high-speed FLIR cameras and an airborne 3D HD GoPro camera. The hope is to extract fundamental control laws of flying behavior in order to achieve better autonomous UAV flight."
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Making a Real Batcopter, With Parts From the Hardware Store

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  • Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na BATMAN!
  • The bats are going to be disturbed by this UAV and will not act naturally, so this is all pointless. (Insert quantum joke here)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The bats are going to be disturbed by this UAV and will not act naturally, so this is all pointless. (Insert quantum joke here)

      (Insert quantum joke here)

      Maybe we already did!
      -Schrodinger

      • by dwarfsoft (461760)

        Argh! By observing this post it has changed the outcome I read in the previous one... Damn you Schrödinger!

    • by Simon80 (874052)
      It doesn't really matter if they act naturally, as long as they are still able to avoid the UAV as well as they otherwise would have. It's still a potential problem, but it only invalidates the data if the bats are failing to avoid the UAV.
      • by timeOday (582209)
        Why not just attach a camera to a brooom handle and swing it around in the bat cloud? It would be far quieter.
    • Unless you want to gather data on how bats avoid UAVs
  • by kryliss (72493)

    Most likely this will cause a large disturbance with all the bats and cause them to run into each other and crash......... Or not... I'm just sayin.

    • "I feel a great disturbance in the air, as if millions of RPMs suddenly revved up on arrow shafts , and were suddenly silenced."
  • I was expecting something which Batman would fly in.
  • Not The Batcopter (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gubers33 (1302099)
    You can't have a UAV and call it the Batcopter. there is only one Batcopter and it is flown by Batman.
    • by gknoy (899301)

      Easily solved with a Batman figurine, and to a slight alteration of the name to a "scale model Batcopter". ;)

      • by jefe7777 (411081)
        far more interesting would have been sending a catbopter into a room full of cats and rocking chairs... now that would have been fur raising!
  • by otter42 (190544) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @05:15PM (#36393670) Homepage Journal

    I realize that most of the comments here will probably be poking fun at the batcopter, and I can't wait to read what the /. audience is going to come up with. I guess I underestimated the coolness factor of flying towel racks. However, if you want to discuss the science behind it, I'll be more than happy.

    It was a neat project, and we're only just starting, although that's probably the first and the last time that I'll go into the field. Apparently, we have some 30TB of data to wade through, so there's enough there for any dozen PhDs. The next task is to figure out what we actually recorded and to see what we can do with it.

    Dr. Kenneth Sebesta

    • by Raenex (947668)

      However, if you want to discuss the science behind it, I'll be more than happy.

      I'm wondering why you just didn't attach the sensors to a live bat. I wouldn't think it would be too heavy.

      Also, why can't you just use cameras from different angles and get a 3D view of bats without flying into them?

      • by otter42 (190544)

        The bat researchers (I'm a controls researcher, so I have to ask their advice about things like this) say that the bat should carry a load weighing no more than 5% of its weight. On a 10g bat, and these bats are among the bigger species, you can see that this leads to a very small package, indeed.

        As for your second question, there were IR cameras recording from many different angles, all of them ground-based. The purpose of the experiment was not to record bat flight with a GoPro; that was just a nice featu

  • by shadowrat (1069614) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @05:25PM (#36393760)
    This is sort of misleading. They appear to have a $100 open pilot module, 4 RC hobbyist brushless motors and props, an hd go pro camera. a 4 channel radio control transmitter and reciever, I assume a high output lithium ion battery and charger. The only part that seems to come from the hardware store is some glue and duct tape. The article mentions that originally all this stuff was mounted to some aluminum rods purchased at home depot, but the rods were replaced with carbon fiber parts. I don't think the source of those parts was mentioned.
    • by otter42 (190544) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @05:38PM (#36393906) Homepage Journal

      The carbon fiber parts where from hobby-lobby [hobby-lobby.com]. Although we'll be getting them from HobbyKing in the future because it's something like $5/rod.

      The only specialty part was the OpenPilot CopterControl module [coptercontrol.org]. That was indeed all of $100. Appropriately sized BLDCs can be bought for $7/ea., a radio is $50, the props are $1.50/ea., the battery was $20, the charger was not high output, and there are a few other components that you didn't list which I won't either in the interests of conciseness. Suffice to say that you can build a complete, functioning quadcopter with a CopterControl for all of $250, incl. the transmitter/receiver combo.

      • Thanks for the info. I realize my post might have sounded overly pedantic. I forgot to add it still looked like a kick ass project :)
    • The only part that seems to come from the hardware store is some glue and duct tape. The article mentions that originally all this stuff was mounted to some aluminum rods purchased at home depot, but the rods were replaced with carbon fiber parts. I don't think the source of those parts was mentioned.

      Didn't you know carbon fiber was on aisle# 6?

      Based on the awesome summary the high output lithium ion battery and charger clearly must come from a Dewalt 18-volt hammer-drill.

  • ...Or so I thought, until I saw the netting in the closeups.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    What a neat project, bats are amazing mammals and rarely hit objects in their way, I was exploring a cave in Santa Cruz, CA once and in a slightly larger than body sized passage when a solitary bat came flying by, it cleared the 6 inches above my buddy with ease, never slowing down, and I was on my back and got to see and feel it pass inches over me, it was a trip!

    Another time on a 9 day caving excursion in remote areas of Nevada, I watched a sunset while standing in the entrance of a cave while thousands o

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