A father attempts DIY drone buddy to watch his kid

A father attempts DIY drone buddy to watch his kid
Credit: Paul Wallich, via IEEE Spectrum
(Phys.org)—"Last winter, I fantasized about sitting at my computer while a camera-equipped drone followed him overhead." That is the revelation of a
 father who provides a detailed account of building an Arduino-based gyrocopter that could follow his son, in grade school, who he normally walks 400 meters down a hill to the bus stop each morning. He chose a quadcopter design for its maneuverability and ability to hover. He did not buy a kit but instead got his parts separate. His project involved a central frame to hold the electronics, aluminum to support motors and propellers, and legs to cushion landings, a main control board and sensors, batteries, power distribution board, power controllers for the motors, radio receiver for standard remote-control flying, and an RF modem for computerized control.

Paul Wallich, an IEEE Spectrum contributing editor shared many details behind his DIY device with the magazine. He chose an ArduPilot Mega for the main control board. ArduPilot Mega is a fully programmable autopilot that requires a GPS module and sensors to create a functioning . He said the whole board is powered by a 5-volt feed from one of the motor controllers. He installed Mission Planner on a Windows desktop to initialize the ArduPilot Mega's firmware and calibrate all its sensors and controls.

He decided against using , opting instead for a GPS beacon. "Reading an from meters rather than centimeters takes more amplification and a fancier antenna than I was willing to have my quadcopter carry."

How successful was he? Getting the thing up in the air was trivial. But he still had to rate his success based on how it worked. He said it "mostly" worked. Windy conditions were a problem, making the copter skittish. GPS guidance was good to ten meters at best.

"Because my particular front yard is only about 15 meters across, with a long, tree-edged driveway leading to the street, I either have to follow automatically above the treetops—where I can't really see what's going on—or else supplement the autopilot with old-fashioned line-of-sight remote control." 
Wallich said he plans more sonar units for "collision avoidance," and maybe an optical flow sensor for better position control.

He discovered another difficulty, rechargeable battery life. "Just hovering in the air requires two to three amperes; moving around or fighting a breeze expends twice that or more." He said the typical 2200-milliampere-hour lithium-ion battery gave him just enough time to fly to the bus stop, wait a few minutes for the bus and fly back.

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More information: spectrum.ieee.org/geek-life/ha … iy-kidtracking-drone

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User comments

Dec 01, 2012
Helicopter parenting is getting way to literal. *rimshot*

Dec 01, 2012
So instead of taking the time and effort to walk his son to the bus stop he builds a drone to do that for him. Excellent parenting...

Dec 01, 2012
Just_some_guy = not a parent
Its amazing how quickly quickly a troll can pass judgement on someone based on 2 or 3 isolated facts.

Building a quadrocopter from scratch, and then getting it to do useful work for you is awesome.

Dec 01, 2012
The only thing missing is the bully-seeking missile.

Dec 01, 2012
The only thing missing is the bully-seeking missile.

I think it will attract more bullies than it could possibly defend against.

Dec 01, 2012
"The only thing missing is the bully-seeking missile."
I think it will attract more bullies than it could possibly defend against.
Well! Now we have all the pieces together for a viable economy. The bully-missile attracts more bullies, so you need to buy more drones. Then your kid becomes the bully because he's got backing, and the other kids need drones too.

This might catch on faster than cell phones at school. :-P

Dec 01, 2012
It's the lazy way out. How much more effort would it take to get out of his pajamas, get dressed, and take the kid down to the school bus? It doesn't give the kid's age, but I assume he's age 13 or under.
If someone wanted to kidnap his son at the bus stop, that 400 meter walk downhill would take a bit of time and the child would be long gone.
Nothing about rigging up a video camera, which is something I would have done if I was the kid's father. He uses a camera only as a guide, unless I misunderstood its use.

Dec 01, 2012
400 meters? Does he not know that you have to keep your RC vehicles within eyesight?

Dec 01, 2012
My ex-wife walked our children to the bus stop every morning, and drove them to school on rainy or snow days. She did it because I had to be at work at 5AM.

Years ago, a 6 year old boy from a wealthy Jewish family named Etan Kalil Patz was kidnapped while walking 2 blocks to the bus stop by himself in NYC. I think his body was found not too long ago. One of his parents should have been with him on that walk.

Some parents think of their kids as little grownups who can take care of themselves. That's a shame. There are just too many crazy people around who like to hurt kids...so I hope that Wallich will love his child more than his computer..and get out and walk the kid to the bus stop.

A lot of terrible things happen to children because of negligent parents. Not saying that it will, but it's best to be safe than sorry. Children are only with us such a short time, and then they move out and they're on their own. So GET WITH THE PROGRAM, Wallich!!

Dec 01, 2012
Because your UAV has to clear the treetops anyway, a solar-panelled plane type with solar panels built into the wings would offer more time in the air. It would be bigger and heavier is the only drawback.



Dec 01, 2012
That's going to be one messed up kid.

Dec 02, 2012
Unlike the trolls posting, who find a way to complain about something in every article, I think this is pretty cool.

Dec 02, 2012
And unlike the trolls who habitually rate ONES, even on good advice comments, who are either "bots" or are disgruntled morons who hate reading good messages that they themselves failed to come up with. Physorg is in complete disarray due to such trolls, cranks, bots, and unimaginative losers. Their names appear regularly on activity pages.

Dec 02, 2012
You are an idiot Obama_s.
You write the entire name of a family that've lost their son in internet without having any permission to do it. Was the name necessary?
Ur comments are stupid and haven't any relation with science.
Now call me troll, idiot!

Dec 03, 2012
Wikipedia, New York Times, USAToday, CBSNews, NYDailyNews and many many other news media have plastered the names of Etan Patz and his parents on the internet, newspapers and radio through the years since he was kidnapped in 1979.


No permission is needed, Blotto, and my comments are related to the topic of this thread.
Yes, you are a troll and another sock puppet of Theghostofotto1923.

Thanks for revealing yourself and more of your illogical idiocy.

Dec 04, 2012
It is a horrible thing that Filthy Republicanism has done to America.

"Years ago, a 6 year old boy from a wealthy Jewish family ... was kidnapped while walking 2 blocks to the bus stop by himself in NYC" - Sox

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