Flybrix: "rebuildable, crash-friendly drones" made from Lego


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/01/18/lego-airframes.html


#2

Kids these days! My Lego creations were powered by friggin’ imagination! Luck little barstewards!


#3

Don’t waste your $$. Tried this when they first came out and “unstable” doesn’t even begin to describe it! Firstly, the resulting copters are subject to massive ground-effects, so just balancing it on an overturned cup to get it to take off properly is almost impossible. Second, there are no prop’ guards - you will chew through crappy propellers at the rate of several per hour. Third, the lego construction is simply not strong enough to withstand even the mildest crash. Any crash at all (and there will be many!) results in a tabgled hot mess of wires and lego and motors that takes 10 min. to rebuild. Lastly, the stabilization is crap - getting this thing to hover or stay still is impossible, it will drift around even in a wind-less 2 car garage with 15ft ceilings. I’m sure there are better starter drones out there…


#4

Notice also how the video has about 2 seconds of the thing actually flying, during which it conveniently goes out of camera shot (and probably crashes in a hot mess). Anyone trying to sell a drone without actually showing it doing what drones are suposed to do (i.e. fly), is full of doodoo.


#5

Yeah… kids


#6

Don’t care.


#7

That was my exact reaction as well to @VirgilStar’s comment, but you had the better gif.

That said, when I was watching this I immediately had fantasies of building lego copters with my daughter, and getting her excited about electronics with a project that still let’s a kid’s creativity to shine through. But now I’m imagining a frustrated daughter after the fourth crash and the fourth attempt to re-stick everything together, and I’m not sure if it’s best to try and teach a five-year-old electronics and drive and gumption in the face of endless frustrating setbacks at the exact same time.


#8

Build wheeled things that use the propellers for propulsion? I’m considering a Helium Zeppelin.


#9

yeah, might be a bit much for such a youngling. We are at the stage where our adorable monster mostly takes lego duplex stuff apart. Though she has recently started to grasp the whole sticking together thing. I still want this set.

Maybe the robot one might be better? I want that one too. Or the WeDo 2.0. That one has motors and programming too, but is designed for education, so perhaps less frustrating. https://education.lego.com/en-us/products/wedo-2-0-core-set-software-and-get-started-project/45300

Oh dear lego website. i could look at you for hours.


#10

My daughters 3yo birthday is coming up and I’m planning to give her my collection of Lego. I know I’m way more excited about what it’s going to do for our collaborative playtime than she could ever be, but still. She’s brilliant, but has the frustration tolerance of an angry panda bear in an office environment. I hope I’m not setting us all up…That set you linked to looks amazing, I kinda want it for myself, as I can’t think of a more friendly way to break into robotics. For now, I definitely had to force my hand onto the “Preschool” link. All in due time…


#11

Oh that made me laugh! Our kid is like that sometimes. Something that seems to help her with the legos is having a few pieces that are cars or train bottoms or animals. If she gets frustrated with the putting together or taking apart, she’ll just grab one of those (or I will start playing with one, and she joins) as just a car or a train. Then she’ll go back to taking things apart and occasionally putting them together in a few minutes.


#12

They sound like twins! Doing deep, committed improv with a collection of plastic animals, a set of Frozen figurines and random kitchen implements (plus, lately, a face drawn on my hand as a puppet) is the only way she can get through dinner each night (discipline could work in the right hands, I’m sure, but I’ve got…consistency problems). I will definitely take this advice and incorporate it.


#13

Ours learned the sign for all done a few months ago, she’s 15 months old. Two weeks after she learned to signal she was done eating, she started to apply the concept to everything. Middle of diaper change? All done! Frustrated with nebulizer treatment? All done, all done, ALL DONE MOMMY. I do a light show with an ikea cat/ghost light in the dark for her evening nebulizer treatment. Lights! Songs!
You do what you have to do


#14

I second that.
I’m no noob when it comes to either flying drones or building with lego, but that thing is completely uncontrollable and more a source of frustration than one of joy.


#15

I’m one of the founders at Flybrix. I just wanted to respond to VirgilStar and Ghost - it’s definitely true that you can build un-flyable drones with our kits. We suggest that you start with a simple, lightweight design while you’re learning to control flight. The new version of our app from December includes 3D interactive build instructions, so you can check out the suggested first build there (“the Juggernaut”).

We also don’t have a GPS system on our drone, so you shouldn’t expect to be able to hover in one spot without pilot input the way you could with a larger drone. We are working on an FPGA based 300fps optical flow upgrade now that should get us much closer to autonomous flight later in the Spring.

We’re not trying to take the microdrone toy flight experience and add brick assembly. Flybrix is for people who want to experiment with robotics. Nobody else is selling a reconfigurable open source optocopter at this price point, which is important because you can’t really build interesting designs with four motors. We’ve included extra sensors and an sd card slot so you can log all of the data the drone sees. Personally, I’m excited about all the experiments you can do with Flybrix – I think of it as the best Arduino board you can buy.

Build a pendulum and learn about PID control. Put Flybrix inside a balloon and use the barometer to study the ideal gas law. Or just build awesome robots. If all you want to do is fly around an RC toy, you’ll probably be happier with somebody else’s product.


#16

First, let me remind you then that your starter pack contains only 4 motors. Secondly, may I also remind you that your product is called Flybrix.
Maybe that’s why I expected to actually be able to build a flying LEGO drone with this kit. I wasn’t. And after several frustrating weeks of trying, I’ve given up.

The combination of way too instable and too fragile is not working for me. Had it been more stable (and/or more robust), I would probably have spend enough hours trying to master the prescision needed to fly it. But having to untangle and rebuild the crash-friendly drone after every 5-10 second flying attempt gets boring and frustrating…

As it is, I’m very disapointed in your product. Maybe I’ll give the new version of the app/models a try to see if anything has improved, but at this point I’m very sceptical.


#17

Thanks for your feedback. Our software is definitely getting better with each release and perhaps the latest version of the app will work better for you. We are currently a few weeks away from the 1.6 firmware release that will adds an unscented Kalman filter (UKF) for state estimation in place of the previous Mahony&Madgwick approach (http://www.olliw.eu/2013/imu-data-fusing/) – but as I mentioned in my last comment the only long term solution is to add new sensors. Right now we have to integrate accelerometer data twice to get to position, so the noise grows too fast for meaningful feedback in x/y/z. The upcoming optical flow module will give us velocity (or even position relative to a reference mark) and will allow for fully autonomous flight. I’m super excited to add commands to our blockly programming environment like “move (x/y/z) 10 cm” so that we can support programmed flight patterns. I personally want to try light painting by controlling the flight pattern and the four RGB LEDs together with a long exposure camera.

Ultimately we want all of our customers to be happy with their purchase. If you want to return your kit, you can write to us at support@flybrix.com to make arrangements.


#18

… and Estes rocket motors.


#19

“starter kit” and “interesting design” are not two things that reasonably go together in my experience.

And, guy to guy, dude to dude, zack to zack: the customer is always right, but let me remind you that right and correct are orthogonal.


#20

“Optocopter” is not equal to “octocopter”.