LEGO MINDSTORMS Aerial Camera Bot

Posted: October 13, 2016 in Engineering, LEGO, Robotics
Tags: , , , , , , ,

As I mentioned last week, I want to share a really fun robot. Sorry for the delay in this post, but I needed to make a quick video of the footage for Youtube. The Maker movement is all about fusing different mediums to create something unique. For this ROBOT MAK3R, that means mixing 3D Printing, LEGO MINDSTORMS, Spider Wire, and a GoPro action camera.

Capturing events is always a challenge for me. While I am displaying, I am typically very busy answering questions and meeting everyone. I really wanted a way to document these awesome events that still allowed me to be social. Sounds like a robot to me! With some on-site programming I was able to achieve this goal! While the bot needed a bit of tuning, movement along its wire was smooth and pan and tilt controls worked as designed! Not bad for a quick build! Check out the footage from World Maker Faire 2016 and learn about this awesome bot after the break!

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent World Maker Faire 2016 with ILUGNY. Our booth was constantly busy! We had lots of interactive robots and I’ll cover those awesome creations next week! However, one bot was more functional than interactive. As you can see from the photo on the right, my aerial camera bot was busy! The robot rides on a string between two points. There are two winches on the robot to pull it either left or right. The robot inches along, capturing the crowd. Under the bot, a LEGO turntable and liner actuator provided pan and tilt.

The number one question I received was how I connected the GoPro to the LEGO Technic parts. The photo right gives a good close up. As you can see, that is a custom printed part. I used it in a prior bot, but I have also shared it on Thingiverse.

Programming was done in EV3-G and was completed on site. While some parts of the code were designed ahead of time, much of software was custom to its installation. The software has two key phases: setup and capture. The setup phase enables the user to control each winch to let out or remove slack from the line. It also enables the user to start with an initial pan and tilt for the camera. The second phase on the code started the robot moving and is 100% custom to how the robot is installed and what perspective you wish to capture. In the footage below, you’ll see I tried to keep a wide crowd shot and used the pan and tilt to avoid looking at the wall.

Looking at the photo below, you can get an idea of the design of the robot. The robot has 2 main parts, the winches plus EV3 and the camera pan/tilt mount. These two parts are held together with a couple of Technic pin and make the robot super compact for shipping. The Spider Wire spools up inside the robot for neat storage. Balance of the robot is key, so I do have a LEGO tire as ballast hanging off the back of the robot. More weight could be added to improve stability in the shots. The robot uses 4 large motors for all of its movement and currently no sensors.

So what’s next? I am planning to add an IR sensor on each side to measure distance when close to a wall. The LEGO IR sensors could also enable remote control. I would also love to get this bot setup with one of the new GoPro Hero 5 cameras. Since the Hero 5 cameras have voice commands and the EV3 has speakers, this could be a fun way to make the robot control the camera. Of course, I’ll probably port this robot over to EV3Dev and add wifi so I can control it from my phone. I expect this to be an evolving project and I welcome all suggestions!

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