Friday, February 6, 2009

ShmooCon '09: Open Source UAVs

Ethan O'Toole and Matt Davis of 757Labs gave a very intriguing talk on an open source unmanned aerial vehicle platform today. Net-net, for about $1100 (not counting some of the foam parts and their time), they've designed an open source UAV. Yep, that's right--an open source UAV.

They've obviously given this a ton of thought--rotary versus fixed-wing versus payload versus computing platforms, and lots more. Here's the net-net--they've hacked together a Linksys NSLU2 core (running a 2.6 Linux kernel); GPRS/EDGE radios; GPS navigation modules; and a bunch of software, all with the goal of improving search & rescue and aerial photography (and more, but nothing Big Brother-ish). They're also adding an Analog Devices inertial measurement unit (for three-axis accelerometer and three-axis gyroscope user), although Ethan needs to get Linux running on the dev board.

And it's freakin' cool. A colleague of theirs is building a foam plane with a 12-foot wingspan, which will enable them to mount their gear, as well as provide a platform for nicely stable photography. Serious flyerage.

Needless to say, all of this will be remotely controllable. Picture an RC-plane. Make it big. Make it bad-ass. And do it for a fraction of the cost of what you think a UAV might cost.

Lots more here, at their site...


  1. You had me at Search and Rescue.

    As an outdoor enthusiast the idea of low cost, easily deployed drones really resonates.

    Much of the Oregon back country I tend to explore (in winter) is extremely difficult to search. If I was lost, injured or some combination of both I would hope rescuers could come looking in all conditions. A low cost drone makes all-weather aerial search possible viable and safe for rescuers.

    Now if they could some how partner with FLIR for night vision/thermal imaging attachments...

  2. You'd probably be interested also in the australian uav outback challenge then....