A fire-spewing drone lights up SXSW

Fire? Spray paint? Silly string? This drone can shoot it all. What could go wrong?

 

Selena Larson

Tech

Published Mar 15, 2015   Updated May 29, 2021, 7:35 am CDT

The most mind-blowing technology at South by Southwest can’t be contained on a show floor. Instead, you’ll need to find Chaotic Moon‘s exhibit, because the software and design built a drone that breathes fire.  

Right in the center of all the action, Austin, Texas-based Chaotic Moon is building top-secret projects for some of the biggest companies in the world, while also hacking together its own ideas, giving its programmers and designers the ability to create technologies no one else will.

On Saturday, I invited myself into the space and asked to see what they had up their sleeve this year. Last year, Chaotic Moon made waves during SXSW when it tasered a volunteer with a drone. 

This year, drones are back. The Chaotic Moon team (which goes by BASE, or Bad Ass Experiments), 3D-printed drones that can shoot fire, silly string, and illustrate graffiti on walls. Because law enforcement in Austin cracked down on drones at SXSW, the drone called Tyrone was only flying inside, and the team couldn’t show off its graffiti-spraying features. 

Chaotic Moon

Chaotic Moon

The team connected the drone to the controller, and mapped the steering mechanism to the camera’s gimbal mount. When the knob twists, the mount taps down on the top of the aerosol can, and out comes hairspray or silly string. The tip of a piece of plastic extending in the front of the drone with the hairspray is doused in lighter fluid and ignited, so when the hairspray hits the flame, fire roars. 

“We have it mapped to our controller so we can fly and flame at the same time,” Eric Schneider, creative technologist of hardware at Chaotic Moon said in an interview with the Daily Dot. “Consumer drones [are largely in the] aerial photography phase. We wanted to take a step back and create things you can use and have fun with and add on with anything you find around your house.” 

Though the fire and silly string drones just fly and shoot, the graffiti drone is programmed to follow a pattern, so it can create art on the walls. Chaotic Moon is also working on drones that connect to brain-monitoring wearables so you can fly the devices with your mind (which is actually already happening). The team plans on open-sourcing the 3D-printed designs so anyone can build the spray-happy drones. 

On top of its drone experiments, Chaotic Moon is also working on FitCoin, an application that connects to wearables with open APIs that track heart rate and fitness, and lets people earn Bitcoin for their exercises. It’s still in early testing, but designer Grant Nicol showed how the technology works by running on a treadmill for three minutes and earning the equivalent of $.07. 

The team is also planning to unveil Orchard on Sunday night, an interactive community project that reacts to light, sound, and touch. 

Photo by Selena Larson

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*First Published: Mar 15, 2015, 1:03 pm CDT