"Because $10,000 $5,000 $1,000 is too much to pay for an autopilot, especially one that doesn't do exactly what you want."
An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV, colloquially known as a "drone") is basically an aerial robot. As we define it, it is capable of both remotely controlled flight (like a regular RC aircraft) and fully-autonomous flight, controlled by sensors, GPS, and onboard computers performing the functions of an autopilot. Our UAVs include airplanes, helicopters, quadcopters and blimps. Most of them are under five pounds, and some of them (especially the blimps) can be used indoors.
We are focused on non-commercial ("recreational") projects by amateurs, although pros are always welcome too. Reasons to make your own UAV range from a fun technical challenge, student contests, aerial photography and mapping (what we call "GeoCrawling"), and scientific sensing. We are primarily interested in civilian, not military, UAV uses here.
If you're new to all this, start here.
DIY Drones is a community based on the Ning social networking platform, and anybody who registers (it's free and easy) can post their own blog entries like this one on the front page, along with starting discussions in the sidebar at left or uploading videos below that. Your registration gives you the ability to do a lot on the site--so feel free to post anything you think will be of interest to this community!
There are other amateur sites out there, from the discussion forums of RC Groups
to individual blogs
, but DIY Drones is explicitly built as a social network, which means that the community is as important as the content. We're also focused on the most accessible end of the amateur UAV world, with the aim of potentially including high school students.
This means we emphasize amateur UAV projects that are:
- Simple: The aim of this project is to create new amateur UAV platforms, including those that could be used for a FIRST-like contest appropriate for students. While we're at it, we'll make amateur UAV development easier for everyone.
- Cheap: The target cost of all of our platforms is less than $1,000. You can buy a very good autopilot system for $10,000, but that's not our approach. Cheaper is better, especially with students and schools.
- Safe: We follow the current interpretation of the FAA guidelines on small UAVs. Recreational use (non-commercial), under 400 ft altitude, line of sight, "pilot in the loop" and onboard safety systems that always allow for manual control in the case of malfunction. We're building experimental platforms that demonstrate autonomy and the capacity to do real useful UAV work, but we test them in controlled settings. If you want to fly miles out of sight or map cities, we're going to assume you've got the proper FAA clearance or we don't want to know about it.
- Participatory: Share and others will share with you. That means that whenever possible, we open source our code and post it online. Everything on this site is published under a Creative Commons "attribution" license, which means that anyone can use or repost it, as long as they give credit to the original author.
- Civil: This is a community site of peers helping each other. Bad behavior, from rudeness to foul language, will be deleted. Generosity and kindness is often rewarded with reciprocal behavior and help.