Articles for August 2016

How to connect Precis-BX305 to CORS network with external Bluetooth module and mobile phone

The CORS is an appealing way to do RTK due to its convenience and large coverage area. While Precis-BX305 currently does not support build-in NTRIP client feature, there is an alternative way to connect CORS network by employing external Bluetooth module and a cellphone. Check it out.

Any comments? Let us know. [email protected]

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PrecisionHawk gets first FAA waiver to fly beyond visual line of sight using LATAS system

From PrecisionHawk’s post on its milestone FAA approval to fly beyond visual line of sight, in which they describe their interesting LATAS system:

To further mitigate risk, PrecisionHawk uses an airspace display technology called LATAS to help track the aircraft and avoid potential hazards such as trees, powerlines or manned aircraft. While it is not a required to receive an EVLOS waiver, LATAS plays a key role in PrecisionHawk’s own operations. The LATAS web application is a free tool available on and provides an extra layer of safety and protection for any operator flying under Part 107.

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New minidrones from Parrot: A VTOL and a new quad with powered accessories

Parrot launched some fun new mini drones this morning that are about to make your drone educational programs even more awesome, particularly access to the Parrot SDK for app development.  Here is a nice writeup in TechCrunch and more details on the Parrot webpage.

Introducing ‘Swing’,  a new vertical takeoff, transitional vehicle. This thing is really fast and comes with a nice new bluetooth controller that makes piloting mini drones even easier.  Swing is definitely unique!

‘Mambo’ is an upgraded quad with power out of the Lego-style bricks to run accessories, including a little cannon for light plastic pellets and a claw for picking up and dropping things.  For you DIY folks, the interesting thing here is that power is available to solder on other accessories (think Raspberry Pi, LEDs, etc…).  

For the educators out there, when combined with the Tickle app for programming, this should make your drone classes even more interesting (e.g. whichever team drops the pin the closest to the target on an autonomous mission through an classroom obstacle course wins).

So while you are studying for your Part 107 exam, lets remember to have a little fun! 

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The world's first commercial drone with collision avoidance LiDAR

SUAS News posted an article today about the Kespry Drone 2.0, a commercial drone that is advertised as requiring minimal human input during a mission. It has a forward looking LiDAR sensor specifically for obstacle sensing and collision avoidance. This might be that first commercially available drone to have LiDAR as standard equipment.

Looking at their website, I see that Kespry is offering cloud services to go with their new drone. This fits nicely into the business model that CA has suggested is essential for the long term sustainability of a modern drone company. Lasers and cloud services, I wish I’d thought of that! 

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Zubax Babel – an advanced USB-CAN and UART-CAN adapter

Hi everyone,

We’re announcing Zubax Babel – an advanced USB-CAN and UART-CAN adapter designed for use with UAVCAN and other CAN bus protocols. It can be used either as a complete standalone tool, as a development platform for UAVCAN-centered applications, or as an OEM component in larger systems.

The adapter has a number of important features that are rarely seen in competing designs:

  • Low latency – cumulative latency between the USB CDC ACM interface on the host system and the CAN bus is under 1 millisecond.
  • High throughput – the device handles over 5000 frames per second in either direction continuously.
  • Standard DroneCode connectors.
  • Proper prioritization of outgoing CAN frames. The adapter schedules outgoing frames properly, avoiding inner priority inversion in the transmission queue.
  • Large RX buffer allows the device to handle short-term traffic bursts without frame losses when interfaced via low-speed UART.
  • Software-controlled 120 Ohm termination resistor.
  • The CAN bus can be powered from USB via a software-controlled power switch. This enables, among other things, easy testing and configuration of UAVCAN-interfaced peripherals.
  • Quasi-standard SLCAN interface (a.k.a. LAWICEL) to the host system makes the adapter compatible with a variety of software products available on the market.
  • No drivers needed for Windows 10+, OSX, Linux.

Zubax Babel is primarily intended for UAVCAN applications, although other CAN bus protocols are supported equally well. We recommend the UAVCAN GUI Tool for use with Zubax Babel; however, there is a wide selection of software products that can talk with SLCAN adapters and therefore are compatible with Zubax Babel too.

UAVCAN GUI Tool is a cross-platform open source (sources here) application for UAVCAN bus management and diagnostics. It runs on Windows, OSX, and Linux; read the installation instructions here.

We are currently preparing a tutorial that will show how to develop a simple servo controller interfaced via UAVCAN using Zubax Babel. Stay tuned!


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Pi0Plane: A $150 smart fixed wing drone with the Pi Zero

Hi everyone!

We have published a new tutorial in hackster !

This tutorial demonstrates how to build a low cost Linux drone with the Raspberry Pi Zero and the PXFmini autopilot.

The PXFmini is totally compatible with the Raspberry Pi Zero, and it provides different kind of sensors which allow, for example, autonomous missions. The drone uses a real-time capable Linux kernel, a Debian-based file system and Dronecode’s APM flight stack compiled for the PXFmini autopilot board. All these components have been put together by Erle Robotics in their OS image for the PXFmini.

All the components of the Pi0Plane can be seen in the image below. All the assembly of each component can be found in the tutorial.


Hope you like it, and feel free to ask!

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Insitu's Inexa Control Released August 29th!

Coinciding with FAA’s Part 107 going into effect we at insitu are releasing Inexa Control, our ground control station software with the Unmanned Vehicle Plugin for ArduCopter which enables control of all Arducopter / APM:Copter based quadcopters.  This is very exciting for us at Insitu bringing professional aviation tools to all of you in the DIYDrones community.

You can buy Inexa Control here:

In the next few weeks I’ll be posting various videos and documentation on Inexa Control covering the basics of Inexa Control, using simulation mode with the Augmented Video Overly System, and using Inexa Control with quads using Arducopter / APM:Copter.

That’s all for now!

May your GPS always synchronize with your barometer

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3D-printable gimbal for RaspberryPi camera

I ordered these motors and this gimbal controller some time ago to make a gimbal for the Raspberry Pi camera. This weekend I managed to model, print and test it.

It weights ~65 grams, is very compact and fits perfectly on my new quad (more on this some other time).

Here’s a timelapse video of the modelling process:

And here’s a video with me mounting it:

It works on 6-8.4V (2S), and is very quick to print.

The total cost is ~50e for the controller and motors. In the future I’ll model some extra motor mounts for some more micro gimbal motors.


The STL + Design Spark files will be very soon on github.


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Procyon 800E Powertrain and Control Systems Revealed

(Reposted from here:

Another common misconception about helicopters, is that they are mechanically complicated, hard to set up, and unreliable.  Just as with the idea that they are hard to fly, this was true in the past, but things have changed.

I will reuse this image of the Thunder Tiger Raptor 30, showing an old fashioned mechanical swashplate mixing system, along with a flybar stabilization system.  Admittedly, there is a LOT going on here.  These machines required much skill to assemble and maintain.  And there were a lot of potential failure points.

But a lot has changed since then.  Computerized radios and electronic stabilization have removed the need for much of this.  Today’s helicopters, have direct to swash servo control, and flybarless heads.  This not only makes the machines easier to built and set up, but every part removed, is one less part which can potentially fail, or require maintenance.  Furthermore, simpler construction has made the powertrain and control systems much more compact.

The Procyon design, takes this to another level, never before seen in a large UAV helicopter.  Simplicity and low parts count was one of the primary design goals.  Along with ruggedness and reliability.  Here, we will present the CAD model of all of the moving parts of the Procyon 800E.  This is it, all the moving parts associated with the main rotor system.

Here, you can see the main motor with a pulley installed, and a single-stage belt drive to the main gear.  There is a fixed idler pulley, and belt tension is simply set by sliding the main motor on it’s mount. There is a one-way auto-rotation bearing between the main pulley and the main shaft.  On the control side, you have 3 servos, with direct control linkages to the swashplate.  There are two swash driver arms, and then the pitch control links to the main grips.

That’s it.  That’s all there is.

One thing that you may notice is missing, is the tail rotor drive.  This has been completely eliminated.  The Procyon 800E features a direct drive tail rotor system, where all the moving parts are shown here:

Here, you can see the direct drive motor, the exact same component as any multirotor would use.  In this case it has a longer shaft with the tail rotor directly mounted.  You can also see the rudder servo, linkage, and the pitch slider mechanism which articulates the blades to change their pitch.  Again, there are very few parts here, and very easy to understand.

There are components which should be inspected regularly, as you would with any helicopter, but there are just far fewer of them.  Mainly the linkages, head and tail blade grips, swashplate, and the few bolts holding it all together.  Only a few bearings, 3 on the tail shaft, and 3 on the main shaft.  Main belt tension should be checked periodically, but there is no tail belt tension to be checked and adjusted with every temperature change.

As you can see, modern helicopters are not that scary anymore.  They are still more complicated than a quadcopter, and require some training to operate and maintain. But this is easily paid back by virtue of their superior flight characteristics.

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