back to article Boffins showcase do-it-yourself flying spy drone

French engineering students have designed a do-it-yourself unmanned aerial vehicle that can provide high-resolution, geo-referenced surveillance images in real time. At the Defcon hacking conference in Las Vegas earlier this month, Antoine Gademer and Corentin Chéron, two of the students from l'Ecole Supérieure d'Informatique …


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  1. The Mighty Spang


    just scanned through this, 8 mins and apparntly no footage of the video from the camera supposedly attached. im not believing it.

  2. Anonymous Coward


    Brilliant as it is, hasn't it been done before? While it's definately an achievement, it's nothing a lot of other mecha-tronics-y people couldn't manage- and probably for a lot less money. And the presentation of the idea... mentioning the number of wires going to the motors rather than the control system- which has to be the star of the show if it'll let it hover in a 70cm sphere... just... no.

    Was there a previous presentation about it or something that's been missed?

  3. Seán


    Why not slap a 3g video phone onto a remote control helicopter set it to autoanswer and phone the thing. Surely a few elestic bands and a €30 phone isn't too expensive.

  4. Randolf McKinley

    Complete rubbish

    The technology is all used in electric model helicopters, but has one important drawback - it can't autorotate. Lose one motor, the whole thing crashes and burns. The "Powerful 3-phase motors and 3-phase speed controllers" are in everyday use in model aircraft and helicopters. I have, umm, 9 model aircraft using them sitting right now in my garage. A motor the size of the ones in the "UAV" costs about £40, the speed controller a similar amount and the LiPo battery (they had one per motor) about £50, all bought from my local hobby shop. I even have a video camera I can attach to any of my models, and in our club there is at least one remote telemetry video camera.

    The only different thing is the control board that coordinates the motor thrust to give speed and directional control. Big deal. You can but something that'll do that as a toy (with 4 upward-facing props) for less than £100 on the high street. It ain't rocket science.

    It's not even a UAV in the commonly accepted meaning of the term, it's remotely controlled. Most UAVs have some autonomous flight capability - if you take your fingers off the transmitter this one will crash and burn. All it is is an RC aircraft that is in fact inferior to an electric helicopter (because it can't auto rotate).

    For goodness sake, it's complete rubbish - these days there are even plenty of model aircraft hobbyists who have mounted cameras on gimbals on their aircraft, wear goggles with head-tracking software that controls the gimbals, and they fly their models out of direct sight using the cockpit view (Of questionable legality in the UK, mind).

    €5000? Rubbish. £1000 absolute max.

    Bloody students just wanted their university to pay for their model plane.

    Oooh, look, I've had a rant!

  5. Pete 2

    promising, but still a work in progress

    The developers talk about automatic take off and landing, GPS waypoint navigation. However, all the video shows is an R/C toy - controlled from the ground.

    I would guess that their choice of battery powered motors (c.f. liquid fuelled) would reduce the flight-time of the vehicle, but no information was given about how long it could stay up, or about it's ability to keep station in windy conditions.

    I hope this project gets developed and I *really* hope they can get the unit to the point where it fulfills all it's objectives and becomes commercially available for a couple of hundred pounds / euros.

    No doubt then it'll get banned.

  6. Matt 13

    €5000 cheap?

    am i missing something or is this just a radio control helicopter with a gps enabled digital camera strapped to its belly??

  7. Jon Beverley

    Anyone can do this......

    I have one myself.

    Check out these German dudes who make the electronics -

  8. jake Silver badge

    Day late, $UnitOfCurrency short ...

    "No doubt, aerial spy drones are nothing new. But as the demo shows, they're quickly coming within the reach of geeks and hackers everywhere."

    We've been doing video from remote controlled flying vehicles (and some uncontrolled, as in rockets) as long as light weight video cameras have been available to the general public. I think I first put a CCD camera into an RC airplane in 1986, or thereabouts ...

  9. Elmer Phud
    Black Helicopters

    Street View mk2?

    Cool, now we can all annoy the neighbours instead of the usual 'Google shows my back garden' bollocks. Expect to see the cheap version in Maplin (O.K., not that cheap then) soon as they keep spamming RC copters and small CCTV.

  10. Dan Mansfield
    Thumb Up

    Old hat

    Just received my Oktocopter kit yesterday for some serious neighbourhood spying....

  11. Rob 59

    Pretty dull in comparison to... - There is a much more interesting community here they are making autopilot systems and IIRC someone made a drone that fed realtime mapping data into FlightGear

  12. Steven Jones

    Mounting Points

    So where do I attach the Hellfire missiles to that thing?

  13. chris morton

    draganfly have been pioneering these for over 10 years!

    have these people bee asleep in a cave for the last 10 years?

    these guys have been making quad and six rotor radio controlled helicopters with cameras on them for over 10 years now.

    they also do lots of other cool flying machines like hot air balloons and flying saucers for exhibitions to distribute flyers from the air and other fancy stuff like that.

  14. Martin Nicholls
    Thumb Down

    Got the t-shirt

    There is already automated control systems for UAV around, including some open source options of the set waypoints/photograph this/land here variety around on the internets that you can attach to model fixed-wing aircraft for way less wedge. So this isn't really anything new, and it's not very good - and it's expensive.

  15. fajensen Silver badge

    Import/Export - Oh Yes!

    Commodity autonomous drones would be Just The Thing for people who has made it their business to meet the international demand for interesting & valuable substances!

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  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Miniature Version

    We made miniature version of the aerial drone, weighing about 70g and costing around £150. It is based on our Jump Jet aircraft, and was completed using readily available parts. It can fly up to about 100 feet outdoors. Some picures and video shot from the plane, can be viewed here:

  18. Nexox Enigma

    Not a stellar presentation

    I was at the defcon presentation, which showed a couple of videos and demos. For the most part it seemed like the presenters hadn't had a lot of experience with much outside matlab, so they were proud of what they'd accomplished.

    Their presentation did give me a fun idea, if I ever get around to actually building it.

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