New Huntsman for King of Bots

Construction has started on Hellfire Labs new heavyweight robot to compete on the 2019 King of Bots in Shanghai China. Huntsman.

While we are still waiting for motors and drive train parts to be delivered batteries and speed controllers have arrived.

Construction has now begun with a power switch.

Fixed Prusa Mendel 3D printer auto bed leveling problems

After struggling to get auto bed levelling working on my Prusa Mendel I have fixed the problem.

This is the latest in the never ending series of repairs and upgrades to my Prusa Mendel 3D printer. The previous upgrade was to add auto bed leveling after replacing the X carriage to mount the new hot end. The auto bed leveling is Z probe “micro switch on the end of a servo” type. The problem was that it never seemed to work. 

When I say it didn’t work I mean that it would successfully probe the bed and calculated the plane of the bed and then adjust the Z height during X and Y movements but the calculated plane did not match the bed. The calculated plane was always higher on the left rear and lower front right. After the printer had probed the bed I would need to adjust the bed height for the printer to work. No matter how many times I adjusted or measured the Z probe or checked the firmware settings the calculated plane was always off. I kept using the printer and manually adjusted the bed height after probing. But now several months later I had an idea and fixed the problem.

While watching the printer go about its probing yesterday I had a look at the X rails and noticed that the two rails were not parallel but we’re twisted. The motor end was sagging under the weight of the stepper motor and causing the X rails to warp. The warping meant that the X carriage would roll as it traversed its axis. The rolling did not affect the hot end nozzle noticeably but the Z probe is a fair way off centre to the rear of the carriage and this would cause the probe height to vary by several millimetres over the length of the X axis. This variation accounted for the difference in the calculated plane at the Z probe and the plane of the bed at the nozzle.

I immediately printed up a new pair of X ends from Thingiverse and swapped them over. Once I had removed the old motor X End it became very obvious what the problem was. The clamps for the linear bearings had cracked and was allowing the weight of the stepper motor the twist the X End. After installing the new X ends the auto bed leveling worked perfectly the first time.

New Prowler for 2018 Nationals

Daniel is planing on entering a new feather-weight in the 2018 Australian Open Feather-Weight Nationals. After several days of deliberation he has decided to rebuild Prowler.

Daniel had decided to get some quotes for laser cut steel from a place in China but while the price was great the cost of shipping was prohibitive. Maybe if there were several more weeks available to allow slower and cheaper shipping Daniel would have tried it but instead went for a local company.

With the steel parts cut it is now time for welding.

Where to fly drones in South East Queensland

So I have a new DJI Spark but where do I fly it?

The traditional first flight after getting my new toy home from the Post Office after work was the 2 minute hover in the lounge room with the kids ducking for cover.
The traditional 2nd flight was the early morning back yard hovering and light maneuvering.

I call these two flights traditional because everyone who has bought a new drone has done these two flights.
But this is not enough. I need more space. I also don’t want to do anything illegal.

The Spark is not my first multi-rotor, or second. I have built and flew tri-copters and quad-copters for years but nothing in the last year or so. I have been keeping up with the new laws governing who can fly what and where. I have also read about all the controversies about criminal pilots spying on neighbors and encroaching on controlled airspace and from the other side the stories of meddling governments ruining a wholesome hobby. I didn’t want to do anything that will get me on the 6 o’clock news.

So while waiting the 3 weeks for the Spark to arrive I did my research and this is what I found about flying in Australia and in South East Queensland in particular.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has control over who can use the skies and have created rules over the use of Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS). Beyond that Local councils have their own rules about the use of drones in public spaces and national parks have more rules.
It all looks complicated but it isn’t.

CASA RPAS regulations.

Civil Aviation Safety Regulations Part 101 is a monotonous read but CASA has made a great website that simplifies everything.

It basically comes down to the weight of the drone and whether you are flying for fun or to make money. A majority of hobby drones will fit into the sub 2kg Exempt Category so as long as they are flown under a set of Standard Operating Conditions CASA has no objections where you fly.

The CASA YouTube video explains it all:

The Basics:

  • Keep bellow 120m AGL (Above Ground Level).
  • Don’t fly within 30m of people, vehicles, buildings or private property (without permission). This is 30m horizontally so flying more than 30m above doesn’t count.
  • Only fly within Visual Line of Sight. You need to be able to see the drone at all times.
  • Don’t fly at night. See above.
  • Do not fly within 5.5km of a controlled airports. These are Brisbane International, Archerfield Airport, Sunshine Coast Airport, Gold Coast Airport and Amberly RAAF Base.
  • If flying near an uncontrolled airport or helipad you must not fly if manned aircraft a seen to be using the site. Example Redciffe airport, Caboolture airport, Hospital helipads.
  • Don’t fly near Public Emergency Operations including fires, car crashes, search and rescue operations or any scene involving Police, Ambulance or Fire and Rescue. You will only get in the way.
  • Only fly one drone at a time.
  • Don’t be stupid.

So can I fly down at the park? It depends on the regional council.

Brisbane City Council

The Brisbane City Council has a website dedicated to drones. The BCC has setup  areas in 10 parks around Brisbane to be dedicated Drone Areas. It is in one of these areas that I had the first real flight of my Spark. While these parks are spread out all over the city they also have to avoid the 5.5km exclusion zones around the Brisbane airport and Archerfield airport so the north side is a bit bare.

I have also only been to 3 of these parks so far and have found that the designated areas are in remote areas of the park or behind dog off-leash areas so tend to have a lot of dogs walkers wandering through who need to be avoided. Also they are not much for photogenic scenery.

But if you read further down the BCC website there is a section on all the parks without drone areas. It states that drones weighing less than 0.5kg are allowed in any park as long as you follow the CASA SOPs and don’t cause a nuisance to anyone else using the park. Since my Spark weighs 300g I can fly at any BCC park.

Club run sporting fields will require permission of the club authorities to fly. Schools are off limits to public at all times without permission.

Sunshine Coast Council

According the the Sunshine Coast Council website Drones are not permitted on any council property without a permit. No weight limits are specified so I wont be going up the coast any time soon.

Gold Coast City Council, Logan City Council, Ipswich City Council and Moreton Bay Regional Council

Other councils do not have any restrictions on flying drones so CASA SOPs need to be followed.

National Parks

QLD National Parks website states that a permit is required to operate aircraft in a National park. Aircraft includes recreational craft, remotely piloted aircraft and drones.

New DJI Spark in the mail

I am finally going to replace my old quadcopter with a real camera drone. After many months of coveting DJI’s products I am getting a Spark. Kogan have factory refurbished DJI Spark Fly More combos on sale for $599 and for a limited they have also included a free battery.
But the painful thing is that Kogan don’t seem to have a stock of the refurbished Sparks so it has taken a week and a half to ship. I knew of the delay before ordering and thought it was worth the $260 savings compared to buying a brand new Spark and getting it immediately. The bonus battery on the the other hand arrived after only one week by itself.
So now I am refreshing the order confirmation page hourly waiting for shipping updates while staring at my new battery. I have downloaded and read the user manual twice, watched any tutorial videos and how-to guides I could find. My YouTube search history is full of DJI Spark.
On Monday the status changed from “paid” to “Processing in the warehouse”! The battery took 5 working days to reach me so I might have the Spark Friday! Right in time for the weekend. I great way to start the week, with the promise of a new toy for Friday. No mater how bad things are at work I could always think of what was coming at the end of the week.
But it is not until late Tuesday afternoon that Australia Post received the shipping information. OK, so Aus Post will pick it up Wednesday, transport Thursday and I will get it Friday? Right?
Well my heart has been ripped out as Wednesday did not provide any further updates from Australia Post so now it doesn’t look like I will get my Spark until after the weekend. But I set the delivery address to be my wife’s business but she will be closed Monday. So if I don’t get my delivery Friday then I can’t get it until Tuesday. So I logged into the Aus Post app and changed the delivery address to a parcel locker to try and guarantee that I will receive it as soon as possible.
It is now Thursday night and Australia Post is still not showing that they have possession of the package. So does that mean my Spark is still in the Kogan warehouse dispatch waiting to be picked up?
But for now I am searching YouTube again.

Update 7/7/18
Australia Post tracking shows that the Spark is being processed at Underwood on Friday Morning. So we are looking at a Monday delivery.

Update Monday 9/7/18
7:30 Australia Post report that the Spark is now at Narangba. I have requested pick-up from the Brendale sorting centre. It has now gone past Brendale and on to Narangba. Will it turn around and come back to Brendale today?

Update Tuesday 10/7/18
8:00am I just received a notification that I have a package coming today!
5:00pm Spark has arrived!

Spark has arrived.

Batteries are charging now.

Battle of Southbank this Sunday

This Sunday (20/5/18) will be the Battle of Southbank competition at the Suncorp Piazza Southbank, Brisbane. It is a Feather-Weight Sportsman Class competition hosted by the Queensland Robotic Sports Club for the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation 2018.

Daniel has built 2 robots for the event and I will be helping as pit crew and co driver. Daniel has just finished an all new Berserker and for comedy relief has built Moist Pony’s Revenge. This should be interesting.