Quad Copter Autonomous Drone Demonstration (Video)

120110 THS QuadCopter 4

I've always wanted to build a R/C helicopter but thought that the technology and learning curve would be much more than I could squeeze into my limited schedule and budget. Tuesday night, Randy MacKay and Jiro Hattori totally blew me away and evaporated all my misconceptions.

They visited Tokyo Hackerspace and were kind enough to share the work that they have done with Arduino based drone helicopters, based on open source software and hardware designs from DIY Drones.

It turns out that with a small investment in time and money - typically $500-$700 - you can be up, flying, and exploring the world of unmanned autonomous flying. There are even companies that will sell you the complete quadcopter preassembled and almost ready to fly.

Typically you might have to add your own R/C control set, or load the firmware. Or, if you are the type that really enjoys assembly and hacking, you can buy just the parts you need and download all the software, drawings, and other information from the internet.

120110 THS QuadCopter 9

The quadcopter is surprisingly light yet will carry a reasonable payload. Randy mentioned that many builders are using still and video cameras, like the GoPro, to record flights. As an example he shared the recent riot video below taken by a Polish drone builder.

120110 THS QuadCopter 11

The crowd that turned out for the meeting was awesome, and probably set a new record for Tokyo Hackerspace meeting attendance. When he demonstrated the quadcopter Randy had to ask everyone to stand back and make sure they protected themselves with chairs just in case the copter suddenly got out of control.

Here's the video that Randy shared that totally sold me on building a quadcopter:

Via: Special guests at the 1/10 THS Open Meeting....... meeting that's open to all | tokyohackerspace

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  1. When you start working on your quad, you might want to glance at these safety notes.


    It’s basically a quick explanation of how powerful the blades are and what damage they can cause. It might be especially useful for working in a small space.

    It is certainly feasible to work in small space though:


    There’s some other stuff on that blog that might be useful to you as well.

    Good Luck!

  2. We have a drone in my lab, hooked up with Intel Atom 1.6Ghz and Kinect. One thing I know is that I wouldn’t touch the thing while the blades are turning…

    Are there restrictions to use RC helicopters and drones in a city? (US or Tokyo)

  3. @Sebastien,
    Generally you’re not suppose to fly above 400ft (150meters in japan) and always within visual range. And never near people!
    You’re right that it was really too small a space for a demonstration. I’m a bit of an old pro but even though I gave a number of warnings about the danger, perhaps my demonstration might have been a bit counter-productive in that regard.

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