Wednesday, February 01, 2006

"Drive" proof of concept

The next project I will be working on is tenatively called "Drive". It will involve a mini-RC car driving around a three-dimensional, multi-level environment. The car will have a small video camera on it, and the viewer will only see the video from the car. I am hoping to even hook it up to the Internet so that people can drive the car over the web.

The first question is how to distribute power to the car. I went ahead and removed the battery from a Radio Shack ZipZap. I added solder wick braid power pickups, and placed the car between two pieces of sheet metal. The bottom one is textured to provide more traction for the car. I found that the pickups needed more "springyness" to make contact with the metal, so I added wireties to push the solder wick braid into the sheet metal.

I got the car to move a bit, but clearly it hits lots of "dead spots". I think that the combination of upping the distribution voltage from 2.5V to 12V as well as adding a big capacitor on the car may solve the problem. The distribution voltage has to go up because the camera needs 9V.

Power distribution is of course only one challenge. The 3" distance between the pieces of metal is much smaller than the wavelength of either the 49 MHz control signal for the car, or the 2.4 GHz frequency of the video camera transmitter. I'm hoping that close proximity will avoid the RF attenuation issues, but we'll see.

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