If you drop by any of our offices on any given day you’ll probably hear a Star Wars reference within, oh, under 12 parsecs. We’re not entirely sure why this is. Engineers don’t typically live in the past. But look around, our code names for pet projects and even truly viable 3DRx prototypes take on references: Boba and Jabba; Lando; C3PO. They bubble up unbidden and gleefully from our DNA.
We’re huge geeks. We play with flying robots for a living. But sometimes drone innovation doesn’t feel like engineering the future at all, but taking a trip back to a long time ago and bringing all those Lucasian images from our childhood bedsheets, those pictures that osmoted into our minds while we dreamed of a life after gravity, into the practical measures of today’s high-tech robotics world.
The good news is, we’re not insane. We know this because we’re not alone: This past year has seen a invasion of incredibly inventive and ingenious Star Wars drones. And many have been powered by our Pixhawk autopilot, the closest we’ve been able to get to The Force on Earth. Here are four of our favorites.
Imperial Speed Bike Quadcopter (Powered by Pixhawk)
Designed by Google employee Adam Woodworth, who got into FPV drone flying just recently. The fast, low-level flying reminded Adam of the Endor chase scene from Return of the Jedi (should you need a refresher, click here), so he set out to duplicate it as faithfully as he could. He designed and built his own quadcopter from the ground up specifically to carry a 12-inch Hasbro “Power of The Force” Imperial Speeder Bike model. He put a Pixhawk in for flight control, swapped the Trooper’s heavier plastic limbs out for pipe cleaners and even sneaked an FPV camera into the helmet.
From left to right: full-size quad prototype; 1/3-scal quadcopter (pictured in flight); full-size original dual rotor prototype
Malloy Aeronautics Hoverbike (Powered by Pixhawk)
Inspired by the very same scene, this drone is now a reality. Thanks to a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign last year, Malloy will soon begin mass producing and selling these Pixhawk-powered quadcopter hoverbikes. Like Woodworth’s project, these 1/3-scale quadcopters will also transport a toy Trooper, but the end goal is even cooler: The proceeds from quadcopter sales will go to funding the development of a full-size model that will carry a person and have autonomous capabilities. Obvious safety and engineering questions arise, but Malloy is committed to seeing the project through.
Millennium Falcon quad, complete with LEDs
“The fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy,” this custom-built drone looks nearly identical to the beloved Wookie-wielded ship in the movie. It took a lot of work, including much time spent with CADs and custom cutting and sawing, for the designer (“Olivier C”) to fit the Falcon’s body onto an RC quadcopter frame of his own design. For the curious, the impressed and the intrepid, he detailed the whole process on his blog, with video documentation.
Can’t have good without some bad. Right: Olivier C’s Rebel TIE fighter.
But it wasn’t long before Olivier C realized that you can’t be good without a little bad around to vanquish. He designed and built this Rebel TIE Fighter quad to strike back, and finally give his Falcon quad a purpose — and a new hope. Even Time magazine caught word of this one. Again, Olivier C detailed all of the build on his blog, complete with first-flight mission videos.