You may have noticed a recent surge in the number of aerial videos showing up on internet video sites. Many of them are breathtaking flyovers of natural wonders, still others take the camera inside buildings and architectural landmarks.
These amazing films are captured courtesy of the micro air vehicle (MAV), a small multi-blade helicopter that is as nimble as it is ingenious. Once the stuff of top secret military reconnaissance programs, the terms tricopter, quadcopter, hexacopter, even octocopter are becoming commonly-recognized names. Advances in technology, miniaturization, and an active DIY community are making multirotor MAVs accessible to anyone with some spare time and a DIY inclination. Smaller rugged digital video recorders have come down in price and up in quality. As a kid who produced some epic films by strapping a gigantic VHS video camera to skateboard, I am no less than enthralled with the technology behind these copters and the footage they’ve produced.
Case in point- check out this beautiful compilation of aerial video clips from a flyover of Cameroon:
The film recently placed third at the Vilsflimmern Film Festival in Germany, and has received plenty of attention across the web in the last month. William Thielicke, a biomimetics doctoral student in Bremen, Germany, piloted a hexacopter of his own design, the Shrediquette MM6, to obtain this dazzling footage.
Thielicke has been designing and building MAVs for over 3 years now, and produced a number of different models. In keeping with typical DIY communtiy standards, all of his MAV designs are open source, shared under the Attribution/Noncommercial Creative Commons Share Alike license. Multirotor vehicles are inherently unstable, so an Arduino microcontroller is required to maintain a stable flight. Three gyroscopes and an accelerometer provide a steady stream of positional data used to control the copter’s movements. A conventional multichannel radio control transmitter is used to manually pilot the craft in aerobatic mode. William’s website contains thorough documentation for the Shrediquette DLX:
The Shrediquette series is not the only open-source MAV available, as active communities can be found supporting other popular copters:
Despite the surge in popularity among hobbyists, military MAVs continue to be developed on the cutting edge of technology. Judging by the accomplishments in the open-source community, the hobbyists aren’t that far behind.