Category: Lasers

"Weaponized" Quadcopters

For a long time, I’ve been thinking it would be possible to strap a small explosively-formed penetrator (EFP) to a quadcopter. Then you feed the GPS coordinates of your enemy’s apartment or office into the on-board navigation system, and the quadcopter flies over to their place and fires a hypersonic slug of copper through their window.

Leaving aside the ethical concerns, there are a couple of issues with this. The main one for asymmetric warfare enthusiasts is that it destroys your quadcopter and leaves bits of it at the scene, which wastes resources and gives clues to whoever you were trying to shoot.

Then I saw this little post over at Hackaday. If you put a high wattage diode laser on a quadcopter, you can have it set fire to things. It could probably shoot through a glass window and set fire to things on the inside of the window. Once the place is nicely in flames, you just fly the ‘copter away again, leaving no trace.

Again with the lasers

There is an Instructable up on using speakers as galvanometers for a laser projector. This looks just about optimal for the Nuiteblaster, as it provides readable text without defocusing or otherwise spreading the laser beam.

I’ve started building one, with a couple of modifications. Instead of resistors, I’m using diodes to snub the back-EMF from the speakers. I’m also using MOSFETS instead of transistors to switch the power to the speakers. MOSFETS have lower on-resistance than transistors, and so transfer more power and waste less energy as heat. They also have VERY low gate current (low enough to treat as non-existent for my purposes), so there’s no need for current-limiting resistors on the gates, although a resistor might be good to limit any ringing that might happen from slamming 5V into it. Since I’m driving it directly from a 5V microcontroller, gate drive and switching time hopefully won’t be a concern.

Nuiteblaster Redux

Every year, in early October, there is an arts festival in Toronto, called Nuite Blanche. The real title is “Scotiabank Nuite Blanche”, after a surprisingly large bankcorp that apparently decided that giving an arts event a bunch of money was a good move. Whether this makes for a bunch of overly bland corporate art is a question for people who spend more time thinking about that sort of thing, but I will note that the independent/outsider art pieces that were allowed to participate were in a parking lot in the distant reaches of bumblefuck nowhwere.


Also, at least in 2010, a lot of the pieces could be summed up as “Revenge of the Son of the Guy with a 20k Lumen Projector”. There were a lot of illuminated rectangles of shifting colors or scrolling text messages projected on the flat sides of buildings. That’s not how you do engagement with the urban space. Really, they could have at least done projection mapping on interesting buildings, or responded to the historical and geographical placement of the building. That’s also not how you do engagement with the audience. Any pinhead with $200 to rub together can have “LOL DONGS :-P” in fifteen foot high letters on the side of a building. They don’t really need an an artist with a SMS-to-projector gateway to set it up.

The cumulative effect of both the administrative actions (street closings, businesses staying open later) and the placement of the art seems to say that art is still a one-way channel from the artist to the spectator, but also a transient thing that doesn’t leave a permanent change in the urban environment. Art is something other people make for you to watch at special times, not something for you to do whenever you want.


So I’m restarting my project to build the NUITEBLASTER. It’s a portable projector that people can use to project responses (critical or otherwise) directly onto the art at Nuite Blanche. The heart of the projector will probably end up based on this laser projector, using a 200mW laser shining through a tiny LCD. Laser-based projectors have a couple of unique advantages over white-light projectors, not the least of which is that they are in focus at all distances. By choosing an output lens with minimal enlargement, I can probably throw a readable image quite a long way. The whole device will be lightweight and small.

For the display and input, I may end up using a combination of an LCD from one of my old wearable computer monocular displays and a BOB-II video overlay board that I have sitting around. I may also just skip the video overlay board entirely and have a laptop with S-video or composite out generate the video signal directly. Either way, people will be able to put the generated video stream up on the sides of buildings. I’ll let members of the public put whatever they want up, right next to (or over) the approved artists.

Some Short Notes

The ToyBrain project has been on hold for a variety of reasons, mostly time and money. I finally have enough money to order the motor driver chips I wanted from Digikey. They are on back order, but should arrive near the end of the month. Once I have those, I’m going to put together a little video of the first boards doing a variety of motor driving tasks. That video will go into a Kickstarter funding round to get the second edition of the boards produced and populated.

At least one of the ToyBrain boards is going to end up hooked to a computer via the serial port at one end, and a vibrating motor at the other end. I’m reviving an old project to add a teledildonics plugin to Pidgin. It will allow a remote user to use commands like /harder and /faster (and of course /softer and /slower) to control the speed of the vibrator. That one may not make it into the Kickstarter video.

I found an interesting post about laser power ratings recently. It covers the relationship between PWM and laser output power, which is going to be useful for the power supply that I’m building for my laser. Once I build that power supply, I’ll be in the rather interesting position of having designed a cutting laser power supply that can be built from easy-to-obtain materials. Hopefully, that will knock the price down enough that more people can do DIY CNC laser builds. I may also make that PCB available as a kit, so people can build their own.

I also looked up TEA Laser plans again, and started wondering about making a dye laser. The TEA laser emits in the UV range. so it could be used to pump a UV-reactive dye. Vitamin b12 (in energy shot drinks) and tonic water both are UV reactive, so it may be possible to make a yellow or blue laser using a dye that is drinkable. Normally, laser dye is a toxic dye in a toxic solvent, so this would be pretty neat for the home experimenter.