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World's Smallest Homebrew RC Unit 151

MC68040 writes "I assume you've seen the mini-helicopters and airplanes that are becoming increasingly popular as office toys out there. Well this guy decided the market wasn't filled enough, luckily =) He's built the by far simplest and most functional mini Remote Controlled unit. It weighs under 7 grams, is made of carbon fiber and it's smaller than your thumb (or a hamster, as the author seems to prefer to compare). Go check it, it's truly a amazing feat."
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World's Smallest Homebrew RC Unit

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  • Want to buy one? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zeux ( 129034 ) * on Sunday February 29, 2004 @06:04PM (#8424671)
    From this page [scarlet.be]:
    Pixels are unique prototypes, and are not for sale. I am sorry for all those who would like to buy one.

    Too bad I can't buy one... Do you know if it's possible to buy an equivalent or to build my own? Is it a hard work?

    Looking at the pictures it doesn't seem hard to do...
    • by Stuwee ( 739059 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @06:16PM (#8424761)
      More importantly, anyone got the schematics for these thumb-sized hamsters?
    • by maxbang ( 598632 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @06:23PM (#8424801) Journal

      To make one 1) take a rectangular piece of paper sized 2 inches by 6 inches 2) from one end cut in three inches down the center, lengthwise 3) fold the resulting flaps back in opposing directions 4) affix a paper clip to the uncut end 5) climb atop the jungle gym 6) release 7) observer with awe and amazement, maybe with gusto

    • email (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nycsubway ( 79012 )
      I was getting dozens of junk emails about the "new mini RC cars! the smallest RC car available" around christmas time last year. I wonder if he had anything to do with those emails....... hmmmm.....

    • Re:Want to buy one? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 29, 2004 @07:26PM (#8425090)
      It's a prototype. Perhaps possible in the future, the guy is working with a vendor.

      Actually, you can nearly buy a 100 grams one from Petter Muren, Oslo [proxflyer.com], who can get a mini video cam, and can be driven entirely with the image (it's much more stable). In fact, proxflyer also made a sub 7 grams helico, and the two men have done that in friendly competition. Here is their press release:
      Engineers in Belgium and Norway have developed the worlds smallest and lightest autonomous and remotely operated flying robots.

      BRUSSELS, Belgium and OSLO, Norway, December 17, 2003. After many years of development in technology, concepts and materials, it has for the first time been possible to build micro flying robots weighing less than 7 grams. Unlike other micro flying robots, these recently unveiled robots operate fully autonomously without any cables to transfer power or control signals. The power comes from onboard batteries and they are operated by infra-red or radio based control devices. The micro flying robots were announced today, on the 100 year anniversary of the first powered flight by the Wright Brothers.

      In Brussels, Alexander Van de Rostyne together with leading suppliers of micro robotic components, has developed the Pixelito, a 6.9 grams helicopter-like flying robot with a full 4- axis control similar to larger helicopters. Its two-bladed rotor has a diameter of 148 mm and can be controlled by an infra-red control device that enables the pilot to have full control over it in all the dimensions of space.

      In Oslo, Petter Muren in close contact with the same team of component suppliers, has developed the Proxflyer Micron, a 6.9 grams totally silent and aerodynamically stable coaxial rotor flying robot that has a rotor diameter of 128 mm. It is controlled via a 2 channel radio transmitter and an onboard FM radio receiver.

      Both the Pixelito and the Proxflyer Micron are battery powered, utilizing onboard state of the art lithium polymer batteries, micro electronics and coreless motors. Space age material technology including carbon fiber and Kevlar is used in the rotors and in the mechanical structures. Both robots rely on new and patented, but totally different ideas to radically simplify the necessary control mechanisms. They are built, and unveiled to the public as proof of concepts and as a demonstration of what is possible to achieve in this field of technology using current commercially available materials and components.

      The robots are believed to be the lightest and the smallest flying robots or helicopters ever built anywhere in the world and they open a whole new area of possible applications, including indoor surveillance using onboard micro video cameras, military operations as well as other applications in the hobby and toy market. According to the engineers behind this latest achievement, it is possible to build even smaller and lighter flying robots with today's technology, and as the development of motors and batteries moves on, the flight time and capabilities of such robots will further increase.
      with a picture [aceuplink.com]

      They beat Epson who did a 9 grams one just one month before: Press release [epson.co.jp]

      If you want more on micro R/C, see RC groups [rcgroups.com]

      If you want to buy a 10 grams living room plane,
      Didel, Switzerland [didel.com] sells a kit. The weight record seems to be 4.4 grams, with muscle wire :) in this thread. [rcgroups.com]

    • Here you go;-

    • Re:Want to buy one? (Score:3, Informative)

      by skaag ( 206358 )
      I temporarily Mirrored the site here:


      It was simply too slow and I figured why not...

  • by GMontag ( 42283 ) <.moc.gatnomyug. .ta. .gatnomg.> on Sunday February 29, 2004 @06:05PM (#8424677) Homepage Journal
    So, how many hamster units [reference.be] equal a Library of Congress?

    Neat that he eliminated the swashplate [reference.be], but he is a bit mysterious about the details:

    Back in 2000, I started playing with the idea of eliminating swashplate, servos, pushrods and so on. I was actually successful in realizing this.

    A patent was filed early 2001. The 'problem' is that soon after that, a company took a license on this technology, and required to keep confidentiality. This implies I can not show pictures, or give details or comments about the way this works. I even had to edit some of the pictures on this site to make sure this was respected. And off course there is a money side to it. I hope you understand.

    Interesting development though. It certainly cuts down on the weight and complexity. Wondering if it is workable in full-size aircraft? Well, that is an assumption that it is not a variant on the "Rigid Rotor" system that the Cheyenne [army.mil] AH-56A [army.mil] and other aircraft used.

    More history of Army aircraft here [army.mil]
    • A patent was filed early 2001. The 'problem' is that soon after that, a company took a license on this technology, and required to keep confidentiality. This implies I can not show pictures, or give details or comments about the way this works. I even had to edit some of the pictures on this site to make sure this was respected. And off course there is a money side to it. I hope you understand.

      Ummm, the whole *point* of a patent is that it protects your implementation, but makes the underlying theory
    • by caseih ( 160668 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @06:17PM (#8424773)
      Since the technology has been patented, full details should now be available in the patent application itself. Despite the company trying to require him to keep the technology secret, since it's in the patent, it can no longer be secret. Seems that legally the most the company could do is require him to license the technology to them exclusively. But to force him to keep it secret is quite absurd.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Since the technology has been patented . . .

        Stop right there with that incorrect premise. A patent was applied for in 2001, no mention of any patent being granted.
      • Well theoretically that the way it is supposed to work, but in practice what happens is that one applies for a vague patent for "a device which does x" and all the technical details about how you actually managed to get the device to do x are treated as trade secrets.
        • That's not true... that's just what you learn on slashdot because everyone just reads the patent synopsis or summary or whatever (Which has no legal standing) and doesn't read the patent and all it's claims.

    • by wfberg ( 24378 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @06:28PM (#8424825)
      A patent was filed early 2001. The 'problem' is that soon after that, a company took a license on this technology, and required to keep confidentiality. This implies I can not show pictures, or give details or comments about the way this works.

      European patent search [epoline.org]

      DEVICE FOR STEERING A HELICOPTER, filed 24-03-2003, inventor Van de Rostyne, Alexander, number WO03080433 [espacenet.com]; on this link, simply click on the number again to get access to 31 pages (each in one PDF document)..

      The original link is slashdotted, but at least we can admire this guy's "secret" patent.
      • sooo...

        it seems he's put the servos inside the rotor head, and has replaced the swashplate with electrical connections.

        Seems kinda weird tho. can servos really react that quickly?
        • by Anonymous Coward
          he doesn't use servos but magnetic actuators, PicoBird [didel.com] from Didel: "The the 6.9 grams Pixelito. built by Alexander van de Rostyne uses DIDEL motor, gears, PicoBird and IR control (TedRa and Mim4)."

        • There was something like that in the old (1985-era) Army Aviation Museum at Ft. Rucker, AL. The aircraft was much older. Concept did not go past the flyable prototype stage IIRC. Was essentually a fully-articulated rotorhead with servos and a multi-connector disk/brush system.

          Even if this new concept is exactly the same thing that certainly would not stop some patent offices from granting a patent anyway (as we have seen reported by /. numerous times).
      • instead of a swashplate, it uses one piezo contoller that adjusts the angle of the rotor blades (tilt is longitudonally (sp?)) The peizo element is driven by the current running between two contact pairs.
        1 for forward/reverse 1 for sideways.

        (now for some -i know it better than this guy- ramblings:
        It could be done even simpler with a little more logic in the controller: eliminate the divided pickup ring and replace it with two continous contacts on the rotorshaft. determine the rotor speed from a optocoupl
    • Granted patent (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nuggz ( 69912 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @06:31PM (#8424841) Homepage
      This patent has not been granted yet.
      So they are keeping it a secret.

      If the patent is denied, they can have an advantage by rolling it out earlier.
      If it is granted, you can go look it up.
    • A patent was filed early 2001. The 'problem' is that soon after that, a company took a license on this technology, and required to keep confidentiality. This implies I can not show pictures, or give details or comments about the way this works. I even had to edit some of the pictures on this site to make sure this was respected. And off course there is a money side to it. I hope you understand.

      You licensed your patent to a company and allowed them to include draconian exclusivity clauses?

      All I can sa
  • by jmuzic1 ( 637784 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @06:07PM (#8424696)
    Now all he has to worry about is the toy going out of his sight range, not the radio range.
  • Wow (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 29, 2004 @06:08PM (#8424705)
    The server must be hosted on one of those things. I feel sorry for the Hamster RC unit! It must have already burst into flames and burnt to the ground...


    • Re:Wow (Score:1, Redundant)

      by Rufus211 ( 221883 )
      that has to be one of the fastest /.'ings ever. I tried to mirror the page when there were only 3 comments. Got through the index page at 1kb/sec then died (and the index is fairly uninteresting w/o pics).
      • I quiver in fear when I think of someone deciding my site is interesting enough for slashdotting :-) Though it wouldn't do anyone much good since I host it on my ADSL line :-) However, a coworker did have an ugly experience when his fractal images got linked via Google's math-celebration logo some weeks ago, which was followed up by a slashdotting the next day. Ow, two for one...
    • The server must be hosted on one of those things. I feel sorry for the Hamster RC unit! It must have already burst into flames and burnt to the ground...

      I love how no matter what the subject this same old joke just never gets old on /.

      C'mon folks! We're intelligent people! We should be able to come up with some new jokes here. Or at least find some way to kidnap a comedian and force him to come up with new material for us. ;)

      *now waiting for the obligatory "Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these
      • Re:Wow (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        *now waiting for the obligatory "Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these" joke...*

        (I guess I shouldn't complain too much. At least the Natalie Portman and Grits jokes have died down over time...)

        Imagine a beowolf cluster of these RC units over-flying a naked and petrified Natalie Portman covered in Hot Grits!

  • by ergonal ( 609484 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @06:10PM (#8424714)
    Damn, when I saw the title of this article, I was imagining a minature home beer brewing kit, with a remote control to deliver beer to my desk! The disappointment upon reading the rest of the story was overwhelming.
  • Popularity (Score:4, Funny)

    by Wexton ( 748563 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @06:12PM (#8424730)
    I wonder if being posted on slashdot has over loaded the server banded with, i threw "Gansta Nation" - Westside Connection music video and the webpage was still wasn't loaded after the end.
  • by Linker3000 ( 626634 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @06:14PM (#8424743) Journal
    "A device for rendering a previously-accessible Web site inaccesible by the mass mobilisation of Web users, in effect by directing said users to visit the stated Web site in response to a brief article posted on a publically-accessible forum-based, user-moderated news service."

    All your user IDs are belong to ME!!!


    PS: Are you with me (small licence fee payable) or do I have to sue you all?
    • "A device for rendering a site made inaccessible by 'SLASHDOT' accessible once again."
    • by quonsar ( 61695 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @07:55PM (#8425253) Homepage
      Federal agents have arrested Commander Taco, of Slashdot.org on cyberterrorism charges under the USA PATRIOT Act for a malware attack against over 20 internet web sites. As part of an online weblog on February 29, 2004, Mr. Taco "linked" the sites on the front page of his website. He disguised the links as ordinary "hypertext", thus inducing users to click them. This effectively sent the malicious links to his 800,000 readers. The next time they tried to log on, they would end up killing the servers linked to. Prosecutors charge that the act meets the definition of cyberterrorism since it endangered public internet safety."
  • by Lord_Dweomer ( 648696 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @06:14PM (#8424744) Homepage
    So I know when you scale helicopters down they get much harder to control, which is why RC helis tend to be so damned jumpy compared to their full size brethren.

    Could anybody who knows the physics behind this please explain how this thing will perform/behave compared to a normal RC heli, and then compared to a full size heli?

    • by Moderation abuser ( 184013 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @06:20PM (#8424783)
      The small cheapo ones don't have gyros. The more expensive, larger RC ones usually do.

    • Not knowing for sure.. But Cheap components and weight is most likely the factors that hare the most likelyness to contribute to this.
    • by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @06:35PM (#8424856) Homepage Journal
      isnt it to do with the range of motion the servos have than the full sized control units?

      TO miniturise them you can only get a preset range of positions.

      I am only speculating, but it seems plausable after the mini RC cars I have owned, my original large 1/12 scale had variable steering, but the smaller ones all seem to operate simply between straight ahead and full lock.
      • Actually, you just have to quit buying toys. For example, I recently picked up a 1/18 scale Losi Mini-T. It's just a smaller version of their 1/10 scale truck. Fully proportional stearing, electronic speed control, etc. Mine will go about 20MPH (No, it's not stock).
      • by Suidae ( 162977 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @10:12PM (#8425893)
        Radio Shacks ZipZap Special Edition 1/64th scale RC cars use a digital proportional control system for throttle and steering. When it works correctly you get about 7 discreet steering steps to the left and right, 5 foward speeds and 3 reverse.

        Unfortunately Radio Shack can't seem to get the manufacturing right and the steering usually sucks in a big way. There are three models of the PCB (so far), one can be fixed and works beautifully, the other two pretty much just suck.

        You can find lots of information about the various cars on the micro RC forums, one of which can be found here [microrccenter.com]. Just be aware that most of the contributors are in the 10-15 year old age range.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      It's all weight and momentum.

      Just like a huge ship takes a long time to turn, the larger/heavier flyers are more stable (especially outside).

      With gyros the small ones can be very stable when there is no wind.
    • Could anybody who knows the physics behind this please explain how this thing will perform/behave compared to a normal RC heli, and then compared to a full size heli?

      No idea but the Hoverfly [snelflight.co.uk] flies like its much larger brothers by using small upward facing motors on its rotors and then co-ordinating them electronically. It does have a small gyro but there are no servos since cyclic and collective are controlled electronically and the anti-torque rotor is much smaller than normal since it's not the main rot
    • Not-too-technical speculation ahead:

      A few points: First, a craft with small inertias would be susceptible to random environmental disturbances: It would get blown around in turbulence. Second, in the case of sensor/electrical noise, the lower inertia of an RC craft would allow the actuating mechanisms to impart a noticable mechanical response to higher frequency noise (F=ma, T=I(dw/dt)). And C, the huge mass of the control surface components of the full-sized helicoptor would not allow their servo control

    • Its all about Mass.

      a full scale (real) heli in a hover is easier to control due to the mass of the aircraft. wind and turbulance have much less effect on it and the craft as a whole reacts "slower".

      when you get down to the .60 size choppers slight winds and such that wouldnt be even felt with a full scale start to buffet the chopper requiring more input . it also reacts quicker then the fullscale due to less mass being thrown around.

      when you get to something like the pixel sized... a small fan can be ca
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Heh.. Aiming for the fastest Slashdotting again, aren't we?
  • by Realistic_Dragon ( 655151 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @06:16PM (#8424763) Homepage
    One of the research groups here has a RC helicopter that has mounted on the bottom a video camera, a still camera, location system and 4 FM 56kbps transmitters. It has an embedded xscale and embedded PPC processors.

    It's supposed to be a testbed for data compression and transmission type stuff, but in fact they mostly use it on hot summer days to look in local gardens for sunbathing women :)
  • by Awptimus Prime ( 695459 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @06:20PM (#8424787)

    I would like to see someone post some mini-RC howto sites. Some instructions on how to build a little chopper or plane would be some nice reading.

  • he should really (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Digitus1337 ( 671442 )
    He should really attach a little beeper thing to it. Like a car in a parking lot, this thing could be lost very easily.
    • Re:he should really (Score:5, Informative)

      by dougmc ( 70836 ) <dougmc+slashdot@frenzied.us> on Sunday February 29, 2004 @06:31PM (#8424835) Homepage
      He should really attach a little beeper thing to it. Like a car in a parking lot, this thing could be lost very easily.
      You mean something like this [hobbico.com]? At 7 g, it would double the weight of his helicopter. :) (but yes, you can buy or build similar devices that weigh less.)

      Still, for larger (larger than 7 g anyways) R/C planes, these things are *very* nice. I put one in just about all my planes, and already they've saved me lots of trekking around in the woods looking for a plane of mine that I've lost ...

  • google cached (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward pixelito.reference.be/+pixelito&hl=en&ie=UTF-8
  • more (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 29, 2004 @06:49PM (#8424919)
    there's a nice article here [proxflyer.com]
  • Mirror to picture (Score:5, Informative)

    by va3atc ( 715659 ) * on Sunday February 29, 2004 @07:01PM (#8424975) Homepage Journal
    I have managed to get a picture [freeshell.org] off the slashdotted webpage. Appears small might be an overstatement of its size.

  • I just read about this nifty contraption in Backyard Flyer magazine, a publication for miniature RC planes and such. there's a little column on it, with a URL that they haven't posted yet.
    It says that the first one he built was in 1997, and it weighed 125 grams. "20 prototypes later, the Pixelito still has 4-channel control and weighs just 6.9 grams--almost 20 times lighter!" Apparently, it is controlled by IR from a modified futaba radio, so he wouldn't have to worry about it going out of sight, lol.

  • Battery? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chr1s-Cr0ss ( 743037 ) <Chriszuma@@@comcast...net> on Sunday February 29, 2004 @07:21PM (#8425065) Homepage
    You know, i haven't seen anything on how long the battery lasts in this thing. This article says it has a 45 mAh lithium-polymer cell, which would last about 5 seconds on a regular RC copter.
    I'd give the pixelito a generous estimate of lasting 90 seconds.

  • ... The Giant Killer Hamsters are attacking!!
  • One small problem: You won't be able to control this new toy because internet-over-power-lines is interfering with your radio signal!
  • There was a story about these same things last year.. ( summer perhaps? )

    Was disappointed to see they weren't for sale back then. Seems things haven't changed yet.
  • You can buy them (Score:5, Informative)

    by ASDFnz ( 472824 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @09:13PM (#8425629)
    Even though the guy does not sell the ones he builds he got together with a German company a while ago called Ikarus. You can now buy micro-helicopters all over the Internet at places like http://www.slyshobbyden.net/fun_piccolo .
  • Smaller then a hamster? What kind?

    What we really need to know is how many library of congresses this thing could remotely control...
  • Bending carbon rods (Score:2, Interesting)

    by vikstar ( 615372 )
    I'd like to try my hand at one of these. You can easily buy straight carbon rods at a hobby shop, but does anyone know of a away to bend them into a desired shape, like the helicopter chassis in pixelito?
  • You can get smaller (Score:3, Informative)

    by abennett ( 749874 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @11:29PM (#8426193)
    Jean-Marie Piednoir of France makes an even smaller one. 3 channels, built in speed control and weights 2.2 grams, including crystal.

    You can get them in the US from Bob Selman (http://users.joplin.com/~bselman/JMPCombo.htm).

    • by Anonymous Coward
      ...and a very nice unit it is, too. However, the device mentioned in the in the header also includes the weight of the surrounding helicopter.

      With cell. :)
  • Couple ideas for some bigger-scale heli models:

    Use a small RC-controlled helicopter, outfitted with a wireless camera pointing downwards. Fly in a criss-cross pattern over the area you want a photograph of. Use software mentioned on /. couple days ago for generating a high-resolution aerial photograph of the area. Could be also useful for espionage.

    Improvements: Use a fleet of microcopters with infrared uncooled bolometer cameras for patrolling over an area when eg. searching for a missing person or

    • You could just go all the way and make a remote controlled blimp. I should think it would require less power and more of the power could go into steering and propulsion. Plus, they have some available already that you could hack.

      OT: What software are you talking about? I think I missed the story, but it piques my curiosity.
  • by vistic ( 556838 ) on Monday March 01, 2004 @12:59AM (#8426504)
    In Short Circuit 2, he had a REALLY tiny multifunctional remote control on his head... which he used to fly a toy airplane into the bad guy's butt.
  • That sure brings back memories.
  • Where is the radio?
  • Does this amazing miniature RC video-controlled kit remind anyone else of the plot of 'Danny Dunn, Invisible Boy' [amazon.com], a preiscient book I read repeatedly as a kid.
  • I thought it said world's smallest homebrew unit.

    Oh well, back to my 20-quart boiling pot and carboys . . .


Marvelous! The super-user's going to boot me! What a finely tuned response to the situation!