Saturday, January 29, 2011


Here's a video of a tricopter I was building:

There were some issues to resolve, but nothing much out of the ordinary. The biggest problem was ensuring the right firmware is loaded on the controller board and that this firmware functions properly. I bought the blue controller board from korea (, but in my case the "blue board only" firmware created problems with yaw compensation. Most notably, the correction for pitch was the wrong way around, so if I were to fly this thing for real, it would have flipped over head over heels, so to say.

Other than that, there are loads of upgrades possible for this thing. My first approach was to ensure I can get this thing to fly. Other attempts will focus on more precision of the frame itself, possibly attaching my ArduPilot Mega controller board for GPS hold / altitude hold and those kind of applications and it would be very nice if I could use that board for more precision when flying.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Brazil's progress

Taking a bit of time off in Brasil, I'm really surprised by the changes that have taken place over the last 2-3 years. The first thing that one notices after disembarking an airplane is the large number of cars that are circling the roads nowadays. The cars themselves are no longer the usual about-to-break-down 9-15 year old Fiat Uno's anymore. Brasilians nowadays drive Honda Civics with the same options and luxury as in Europe (although Flex choice here is probably unique), the chinese are exporting their cars over here, you see large Hyundai 4x4's, Range Rovers, Mercedes, BMW and a lot more normal cars that are more reliable than 3 years ago. Indications that the global crisis that has hit Europe and US hasn't in the least bit hit anything in Brasil. There are now small funds available here and there for starting companies, the business itself is becoming less this-and-that, the people at the beach that used to walk by now have handcarts or Puchs, for those people that have made a name for themselves and/or sell reliable products.

In fact, the Brasilian analysts are commenting that yet another middle-class has surfaced in Brasil, which I somehow guessed due to the disappearance of the garbage/bottle collectors that used to roam the area around our appartment. It seems that the poorest of Brasil don't need to go as far in the city anymore in order to survive. My guess is that the poorest are now roaming around the outskirts of the city, closer to the poorer suburbs.

A disadvantage of the development is that these changes are taking place so fast that it is impossible to keep up with infrastructure. Building hospitals, roads, trains, metro's and all that takes time and there are likely not enough people to provide the capacity required to build all that even if the planning would be ready. Besides that, any type of construction requires engineers and engineers is exactly the kind of people that the world is short of.

The city I am in has also been built on the perspective that there are no serious changes in the economics of Brasil, for example considerable increases in salary or requirements of role/ability. The high-rise buildings are spread around the city and you could assume that each one of those appartments owns a car. The problem starts when those people purchase a second car for the wife, or even a third or fourth car for their children. One family, four cars. It is a good possibility in this city if the wages allow it, because many people still do not feel safe enough to walk on the streets or take public transport. The car as a status symbol, even if it's just a trodden down Fiat Uno of 6-year old, still better than taking a taxi. Probably, with the amount of traffic in the city, it's even a cheaper option.

The concern here is not so much the traffic on the roads or the traffic jams, but the result of a never-ending traffic jam in the city and what this does to people. Three years ago there were times in the city that you could just pass through and not be bothered much by any other car. Now people get delayed easily by 10-30 minutes per trip and this is costly to both their time available for family / business, as well as their health (nerves).

A small trip to the beaches in the south is a clear demonstration how in three years time, people are now reckless road warriors, competing for their own piece on the road. Even though the objective is to go to a tranquil place near the beach to relax after a long weekend, it seems that the haste of Europe has now been implanted in their brains and they seek to pass cars in front of them by any means possible, resulting in dangerous situations everywhere you go.

About every 10-20 minutes, there is a reckless driver behind, on the side or before you, trying to take another opportunity to move one car ahead in the long line of cars that everyone is part of. Family of mine driving in PE counted the number of hours on the road and the number of road deaths or very dangerous situations. They counted 6 such situations and have been on the road for a total of 6 hours.

One of the problems with such growth is that only few people drive defensively. Most drivers on these roads are offensive, they try to pass on every side, only thinking about how they left their homes 30 minutes late, then lost another 20 minutes in traffic and how to make up for that lost time. My advice to Brasilian drivers would be to take traffic into account, plan their days before and take safety seriously. From here on, the traffic in the cities will only get worse as there is still no end to the increase of car sales. The government has been very slow to respond to increase the road infrastructure and reliable public transport is inexistent.

So... even though the economic situation in all of Brasil and especially Pernambuco is very favourable, there are serious challenges ahead for the president and all governors to ensure that this growth will continue. One of those challenges is good, reliable public transport that also middle-class people will want to take advantage of. And invest in more road police work and make it work smarter. A lot of drivers are so badly mannered, they pass in convoys on the right and left in order to get ahead. They do that because there is no police stopping them. A good measure for people using the hard shoulders, reserved for ambulance and police is to be waiting at the end at a large terrain, where every individual can be fined in all tranquility. Who cares if they have to wait three hours before they can continue their journey?

Possibly, a number of new campaigns are necessary for awareness in road safety, educations in driving behavior and so on for the road situation to become more bearable for those drivers that are more serious and responsible.