The Importance of Widely Available Wireless Links for UAV Systems

Readily available, first-rate wireless links are essential for building and running safe UAV systems. David Weight, principal electronics engineer at Waittcircuit, recently shared his thoughts on the importance developing and maintaining high-quality wireless links as the UAV industry expands.

weightOne of the major challenges that is emerging in the UAV industry is maintaining wireless links with high availability. As UAVs start to share airspace with other vehicles, we need to demonstrate that a control link can be maintained in a wide variety of environments, including interference and non-line of sight. We are starting to see software defined radio used to build radios which are frequency agile and capable of using multiple modulation techniques. For example, being able to use direct links in open spaces where these are most effective, but being able to change to 4G type signals when entering more built-up areas as these areas can pose issues for direct links, but have good coverage for existing commercial telecoms. Being able to change the frequency and modulation also means that, where interference or poor signal paths are found, frequencies can be changed to avoid interference, or in extreme cases, be reduced to lower bands which allow control links to be maintained. This may mean that not all the data can be transmitted back, but it will keep the link alive and continue to transmit sufficient information to allow the pilot to control the UAV safely. — David Weight (Principal Electronics Engineer, Wattcircuit, UK)

Navy Engineer’s Innovation Space

When electrical engineer Bill Porter isn’t working on unmanned systems projects for the Navy, he spends a great deal of engineering time at his workspace in Panama City Beach, FL. Bill submitted the interesting images that follow (along with several others) for an interview we plan to run an upcoming issue of Circuit Cellar magazine. Once we saw his workspace images, we knew we had to feature it on our site as soon as possible.

The workspace of a true innovator (Source: Bill Porter)

The workspace of a true innovator (Source: Bill Porter)

Check out Bill working on a project. He told us: “I am a hardware guy. I love to fire up my favorite PCB CAD software just to get an idea out of my head and on the screen.”

Bill is self-proclaimed "hardware guy"

Bill is self-proclaimed “hardware guy” (Source: Bill Porter)

Interesting the sorts of things Bill designs? Check out his wedding-related projects.

Pretty unique proposal, right? (Source: Bill Porter)

Pretty unique proposal, right? (Source: Bill Porter)

This is just one of the many electrical engineering-related items developed for his wedding (Source: Bill Porter)

This is just one of the many electrical engineering-related items developed for his wedding (Source: Bill Porter)

You’ll be able to learn more about his innovations in a future issue of Circuit Cellar magazine.

Share your space! Circuit Cellar is interested in finding as many workspaces as possible and sharing them with the world. Email our editors to submit photos and information about your workspace. Write “workspace” in the subject line of the email, and include info such as where you’re located (city, country), the projects you build in your space, your tech interests, your occupation, and more. If you have an interesting space, we might feature it on!

HackMiami: UAV Design, Cybersecurity, & More

Miami isn’t just a destination for the Heat vs. Thunder NBA Finals, world-renowned clubs, five-star restaurants, and professional beach lazing. It also boasts an evolving technology scene with tons of monthly events (e.g., game hackathons, app-building workshops). A notable contributor to the city’s culture of innovation is HackMiami, a hackerspace where professionals, students, and innovators can “invent/develop new technologies, develop new skills, enhance old skills, collaborate with other like minded individuals to create something that is better than what they can do on their own.”

The group’s multitalented members work on projects as diverse as secure servers and UAV designs (see video below).

Below are images Rod—one of the group’s members—submitted of the hackerpace.

HackMiami meets at the "Planet Linux Caffe" (Source: HackMiami)

HackMiami meets at the “Planet Linux Caffe” (Source: HackMiami)

HackMiami runs events such as workshops and contests such as the Homebrew Antenna Contest at DEFCON XX in Las Vegas, NV.

After reviewing the photo submissions, I asked Rod for a bit of info about the group. He quickly filled me in.
C. J.: What are we looking at in the photos? Is that HackMiami’s actual space or are you holding an event a local establishment?

Rod: We hold our meetings at Planet Linux Caffe in Coral Gables, Florida. Planet Linux Caffe is a Open Source community place.

C. J.: What is the group’s “mission” or purpose?

Rod: We are hackerspace based in Miami, FL. We focus on information security and vulnerability research.

C. J.: What is your group like? Do members come from diverse tech backgrounds? How often do you meet?

A HackMiami meeting on the topic of cyber weapons (Source: HackMiami)

A HackMiami meeting on the topic of cyber weapons (Source: HackMiami)

Rod: We have an open-door policy. Everybody welcome, we have people from ALL ages and ALL backgrounds. We meet every two weeks. Here is where we publish our meetings:

C. J.: Does HackMiami do any work with embedded tech (e.g., embedded security, MCU-based designs, etc)?

Rod: We have done some work with DD-WRT, Plug Servers, Pinapples, Arduino, etc.

C. J.: Tell us about the quadracopter project. When did you build it? How many group members were part of it? Can you tell our readers about some of the parts you used (e.g., MCU, motor controls, etc)?

Rod: This was done in December 2011. There were around five people involved in the project. The idea is in principle to create a network of communicating self resilient UAVs. Here is the list of the parts for the drone. For more information please contact Twitter handle @d1sc0rd1an.

Wrapping up, I mentioned to Rod that we’re always looking for interesting projects to share with the embedded design/programming community. He said HackMiami members likely will be working with Raspberry Pi in the near future. Sounds exciting. We can’t wait to see what the group develops.


Show us your hackerspace! Tell us about your group! Where does your group design, hack, create, program, debug, and innovate? Do you work in a 20′ × 20′ space in an old warehouse? Do you share a small space in a university lab? Do you meet a local coffee shop or bar? What sort of electronics projects do you work on? Submit your hackerspace and we might feature you on our website!