The Tethered Quad Tutorial


A few months back, Director of Education Lindsay Levkoff came up with the idea for SparkFun to create a “hacker-in-residence” program. We’d invite one (or two) of the amazingly smart and motivated people we’ve met over the years to spend a week or two at SparkFun building something awesome.

Our first hackers in residence were Tara Tiger Brown and Sean Bonner (click their names to read more about these fine folks). Their project - the tethered quadcopter.

Tara and Sean wanted to build a quadcopter that was tethered to the ground, allowing unlimited flight time (admittedly with a very small range) and plenty of power for peripherals. The results were pretty great! Tara and Sean also wrote a tutorial about their project - click here to learn how to build your own tethered quad!

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You can also check out this blog post to learn more about Tara and Sean’s time at SparkFun. Enjoy!


Comments 19 comments

  • That’s cool!

    On a side note, I hate the new website design. There should be an option for user to switch to the old one.

    • maybe tell us why you hate it and we can make some changes?

      • Ok! Sorry, hate might be a bit much, but here’s what I’d say:

        There’s no banners. I liked the banners. I found some interesting products that way.

        Again at the top of the page, what’s with the big shopping cart image? I think it’s unnecessary, and it adds a bunch of space at the top of the page and no extra content.

        The sides look too open. With no color differentiation between empty space and content, it looks like I don’t have my browser’s zoom settings right.

        I do like the new general color scheme. White and red, and flat. None of the gradient stuff.

        Just some suggestions!

        • Much better, that’s something we can work with.

          Regarding the banner, it was SHOCKING how few people were clicking on it. There were several banners that didn’t get any clicks. This isn’t yet the final form, there will be a few more tweaks.

          • Hmm… about the banners, it’s possible that people are used to seeing shady advertising banners at the top of sites, and are reluctant to click the banners.

            • it’s certainly a possibility. we’re working on something different. as always, we like constructive feedback!

              • I also liked the banners, and often found interesting things I never knew about up there. The new look is clean, but very plain…not what I would expect from the fun loving crowd at Sparkfun. After all, “fun” is in your name :)

  • Not bad for 2 starving artists in 2 weeks, but it would be more interesting to see some unemployed engineers over 30 try to build something.

  • Yeah, I had the same idea for an electric car. Unfortunately, the main drawback was that I couldn’t get more than 50 feet from my driveway.

  • Fastest and most dangerous way to get a cool breeze.

  • Does anyone else think that this is sort of lame? I mean, the title says make your own tethered quad, so I expected stuff about motors, gyros, controllers, control laws, etc. Instead we got buy a free-flying quad and tie a string to it. It’s like make your own tethered electric car - buy a Tesla and zip tie an extension cord to it.

    If we wanted to do this with a real hackers theme, it should have been made from USB-powered fans that were pulse width modulated by Arduinos or RPis, with gyro and accelerometer breakout boards providing attitude reference.

    Hackers-in-residence is a nice idea but needs work on the execution.

  • Now you need to make an untethered one that has a little microwave tower to beam energy to it.

  • Worried about a little radiation, but filled his skin with metal salt pigments. Hmmm. There is something about this generation I definitely do not get.

    • Let’s be honest, oil painters probably absorb more heavy metal salts from pigment by ingestion then anyone with tattoos absorbs through the skin (and the amount absorbed directly into the blood during tattooing, even in the presence of alcohol which makes the skin more permeable, is negligible)

      Not that it makes much sense not to reduce your exposure to danger anyway. Just because you’re willing to introduce metallic salts to your dermis doesn’t mean you should also expose yourself needlessly to radiation.

      In the end, as much as they’d like to think so, this generation isn’t the tattoo generation. And all of mine are black so… carbon black, ftw?

      • Is the black carbon? My meager understanding (I had to investigate a bit when my chem students asked about it) is that the premix pigments are all proprietary and there is no regulation about contents. I know some artists mix their own, but the base pigments they start with are equally unregulated. Not that I like regulation. I just mean they are not required to state contents or purity. At least not when I looked into it. I come from the generation where if you wanted to be an officer you didn’t get inked. And there is no place you can get a tattoo that the flight surgeon can’t find it.

        • “there is no place you can get a tattoo that the flight surgeon can’t find it.” Hahaha.

          It’s true what you say about regulation. There is absolutely none. In fact, the search for brighter, longer lasting color has led a lot of companies to use pretty nasty pigments. I don’t think the amounts we’re talking about are substantial unless you’re either covered in tattoos or have an allergy/sensitivity (which totally happens)

          I can’t tell you for sure that my black tattoos are all carbon black, but they probably are. They’re fading like carbon black.

          Some manufacturers of tattoo ink are moving to ABS plastic pigments which are less likely to cause problems, but tattoo artists are a stubborn lot and if the colors aren’t bright enough they’ll never catch on.

          Weird industry tattooing. We’ve got one or two artists in the building, I believe, and they could probably chime in with better info than I’ve got.

    • Well, that’s what the metal salt is for, it impregnates the skin, thereby forming a radiation shield.


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