Some of the most impressive custom Lego creations are models that actually do something, like AI-powered brick sorters, a life-size driveable go-kart, and even a machine that can solve Rubik’s Cubes. But over on YouTube’s Brick Experiment Channel they’ve created what could be the first flying drone made almost entirely from official Lego parts.
Back in March of last year, the channel shared a compilation video of experiments where different Lego components like propellers and electric motors were mixed and matched to determine if enough lift could be generated to make a Lego creation actually fly. The ultimate conclusion was yes, the idea was possible, and ten months later the Brick Experiment Channel has followed up with a video demonstrating the outcome of all that experimentation.
Before you cry foul that this quadcopter wasn’t exclusively built from official Lego components, you need to understand how quadcopters are able to manoeuvre without the benefit of adjustable controllable surfaces typically found on aircraft blessed with wings. It’s accomplished by carefully controlling the speed and thrust of each motor, which is a technique that not only keeps the craft stable but also allows the drone’s pitch and yaw to be altered which sends the craft flying in various directions.
Controlling each motor on the fly based on the drone’s movements requires a fair bit of intelligence and processing power, and while the computerised brick that powers Lego’s robotic toys might be up to the task, it’s simply far too heavy a load for Lego’s L-Motors to carry, in addition to the rest of the craft. The lighter and small Matek F411-mini flight controller was instead used here, as well as other non-Lego components like a motor driver circuit, a radio transmitter, a set of rechargeable LiPo batteries, and a 2.4GHz radio transmitter.
All in all the Lego quadcopter weighs in at just 410 grams and musters a flight time of around two minutes. Were more efficient purpose-built electric motors used the drone’s flight time would be vastly increased, but the fact that Lego’s own motors can spin fast enough to produce enough thrust to get this thing off the ground is quite impressive. (You might remember some Lego drone kits from a few years ago, but they used non-Lego motors and props to take to the air.) Is there the chance Lego might be inspired to produce its own fully functional Lego drone set based on this? It’s doubtful, as each flight probably results in quite a bit of wear and tear on those motors, which undoubtedly shortens their lifespan. Lego also still primarily markets its building sets to kids, and flying toys with exposed spinning blades don’t exactly top the ‘safe for kids’ lists released every year.
Featured image: YouTube