PX4 Sapog, Zubax Orel, Zubax GNSS 2 status update

This post announces recent noteworthy developments in some of our projects.

The observations we made since the announcement of Zubax Orel 20 (a Sapog-driven ESC) led us to believe that people tend to have serious misconceptions about power capabilities of ESC. A possible reason for that is the abundance of Chinese low-quality ESC that tend to have much lower actual power capability than advertised. Here at Zubax we termed it power capability inflation. In order to prevent our customers from having incorrect understanding of the true power capabilities of Zubax Orel 20 (pictured on the right), we strongly suggest to model and verify your application using ECalc: http://www.ecalc.ch/xcoptercalc.php.

As was promised a couple months back, the reference hardware design for PX4 Sapog has been released under CC BY SA 3.0. The design files (in Eagle format) are available in the official PX4 Hardware repository on GitHub. We’re encouraging third parties to develop their own hardware ESC designs based on this reference. Feel free to stop by our brand new Gitter channel if you have questions.

Besides the above, Sapog had another development: we’ve released a number of important improvements, mostly concerning stability of the spinup algorithms. The release binaries can be downloaded from files.zubax.com and installed via UAVCAN or DroneCode Probe.

Zubax GNSS 2 has received a firmware upgrade too. A few users reported that they’re having difficulties calibrating the compass with PX4 or APM. An investigation uncovered that the difficulties were caused by 2 factors:

1. The measurement range was not sufficiently wide to account for all valid use cases. This was fixed in the firmware.

2. APM and PX4 somewhat mishandle external compasses by making invalid assumptions about their measurement ranges. We added a configurable scaling coefficient that allows to reduce the magnitude of the output magnetic field vector, silencing the warning from the autopilot. Learn more from the docs at docs.zubax.com.

The fix is available in firmware version 3.1, you can get it from files.zubax.com. If you’re not using the compass, there’s no need to upgrade.

Useful links:

Pavel.

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Erle Robotics (makers of Elre Brain and PXFmini) aquired by Acutronic

Congrats to Victor Mayoral and the rest of the Erle team for a successful acquisition by Acutronic.  From Victor’s story on the company’s beginnings and latest deal: 

How two brothers turned a 3K€ robotics startup into a multi-million Euro company


This is a story about how two young brothers of 24 and 21 years old turned a small venture that had nothing more than 3000 € (about 3300 USD) into a multi-million Euro robotics company. The lessons learned in the Erle Robotics journey

Taking off for the first time is tough, always

Erle started in 2012 as a project (ProjectErle Robot) that aimed to create tools for developers in the robotics area motivated by our previous experiences (and struggles). Hardware and software that helped roboticists test and do their work without having to reinvent the wheel every single time they created a new robot — which is pretty much what has happened in robotics over and over. Refer to this article if you’re interested in reading more about the topic.

David and I started with barely 3000 € borrowed from our father, Patxi. At the time, we had no office so we refurbished a room in our father’s house and started it out there. Not many knew what we were up to and the ones that did, didn’t seem to put much interest on it. We were indeed doing something out of the ordinary but more than that, we started noticing that

failure in southern-european countries is unacceptable. The fear of failing kept many away from us from the very beginning.

Still, we’ve always been a pair with that grit factor on us so motivated by the growing popularity of the so called drones, we decided to start focusing in aerial robots and slowly designed, prototyped, assembled and tested ourselves the first concepts that later would become the brains for thousands of robots and drones out there. Starting something for the first time is definitely difficult. You probably won’t get it right the first time but if you have right attitude, every misstep will strengthen your vision and ultimately, yourself.

A robotics startup needs cash

After a couple of prototypes that burned our few resources we had the first results. We managed to put together a Linux-based single board base platform for building a wide variety of different robots. It felt great and we could sense that there was potential for doing business with that.

It was time to look for an investment!

Unfortunately, many private investors closed their doors to us. Apps were popular at the time. Everyone thought that Android and iOS were all you had to know in the startup environment. Bootstrapping and getting a minimum viable product over the weekend was common but we were trying to create hardware. Robots. We needed cash.

Robotics startups are totally different beasts from software startups and they need cash from the very beginning.

While many investors kept considering our venture too risky, we were lucky enough to get supported by the Basque Government through BIC Araba (previously known as CEIA) and their Ekintzaile program. A grant that helped us iterate and reach a certain maturity point that led us to finally convince the first business angels.

The team is the king

With the first funds available, it was time to grow our team. We hired our father as the finance guy in the company — a person we could trust while being focused in the technical development and commercialization of the technology. We also hired Alex, Iñigo and Irati as our first engineers. Incredibly talented people that helped realize our vision step by step and motivate newcomers. We slowly kept incorporating new members. Lander, Asier and several others followed.

Starting such an adventure required people we could trust so we hired carefully but mistakes were also part of the path. If there’s something we learnt out of these years of work is that

in a startup one needs to be prepared to hire but also to fire.

Stay away from individuals that look solely for their self-benefit and growth while getting away from the company’s core values. These last years taught us that understanding your team is as relevant as having a clear vision of what’s ahead in the business landscape. The team is the king and those that fail at accepting that, don’t fit.

The secret sauce … a.k.a. the hidden founders

Many startup stories talk solely about the founders: their inspiring vision, their leadership, their hiccups, … and while much of this remains true for a great majority of success cases, there’s something as relevant that rarely gets mentioned.

This secret sauce is present in every single startup in the world. I call this sauce the “hidden founders”.

We had two ingredients in our recipe, each one of them as relevant as the founders:

  • The first hidden founder was Patxi Mayoral Pizarroso and as you probably guessed, he’s the father of the founders. Patxi, helped from the very beginning in every angle. Providing business advice, technological advice, management advice … he took part in the conception of the company and he was there in every single initial test. As the company grew, Patxi took a financial and admin position which helped us focus enormously. Patxi was the glue of Erle Robotics. He helped figure out the best outcome for every problem. Founders have issues between them. This is a well known fact and Patxi found a way to always support us all (which was extremely difficult in his situation). He supported the vision from the background and did all that work that’s never been mentioned. We wouldn’t be where we are today without Patxi.
  • The second hidden founder is Alejandro Hernández Cordero. Alex and I knew each other from college and he could’ve joined the team as a founder but out of personal reasons, decided to join later and became the first employee of the company. Despite the fact of his non-founder condition, his commitment has been remarkable and he’s been there in every single relevant scenario providing much more than technical support. He’s an outstanding engineer with worldwide experience in the robotics area. He’s brilliant, honest and well-spoken. He helped us lead the team and create a solid group. Every startup needs an Alex and chances are that you might already know your Alex before even founding.

Celebrate milestones

As it’s already been reported in several places, Erle Robotics has officially been acquired by Acutronic Robotics, called to become a leading robotics firm focused on the next-generation robotic solutions.

The new company will have three business lines: it will be responsible for the development and commercial activities related to H-ROS; robot and drone hardware products will continue to be sold under the Erle brand and engineering services will be offered to corporate and government clients.

One thing that entrepreneurs often forget is that being focused is as relevant as knowing when to celebrate. I strongly believe we’ve failed at this. Our focus has been constant and I don’t remember the last time we celebrated something as a group. Bülent Atlan a great technologist and an even better advisor once shared a few of his lessons with me. I couldn’t agree more with:

If you work hard, party hard.

Spanish people have (at least) two last names

No kidding, in fact we’ve got more than two but we just use the first two. Let me take my brother’s name as an example. His full name is David Mayoral Vilches. Now, let me analyze his name:

  • David: First name.
  • Mayoral: First last name, generally comes from the father.
  • Vilches: Second last name, generally, it comes from the mother.

I know this is silly but I’m sick of this. Specially given the fact that Spain has one of the oldest and most influential cultures in the world. So either because you’d like to be knowledgeable from a cultural perspective or just because you want to be respectful, keep in mind that:

it’s not common nowadays for spaniards to have a middle name and likely, that thing after his first name is his last name.

Getting called “Mr. Vilches” feels weird (the right form should be “Mr. Mayoral” although “Mr. Mayoral Vilches” would be a total milestone).

The future ahead

Erle Robotics has nowadays been acquired by a multinational and our team has been placed at the center of a new robotics division that will bring many of our ideas to industry. We’re extremely excited about this chance to push our vision around hardware for robots further (summarized in H-ROS) and contribute towards a future where interacting with robots is not restricted to a few individuals with high technical (and mathematical) skills but to a great majority of the users out there.

We’ve been extremely lucky over the last years to hire more experienced and talented profiles like Carlos Uraga Pastor (who took over the CEO position in Erle). Carlos helped us reach the maturity we needed with an extremely committed attitude and a skillset similar to that of many founders. Carlos and everyone else will remain with us in future adventures and we are all extremely excited about leading the changes of what’s coming next in robotics since we truly believe that:

The best way to predict the future is to invent it — Alan Kay


I’d like to take this chance to thank those individuals and organizations who supported us during this period, particularly thanks to my family (that’s you mom!), my girlfriend Keila, BIC Araba (previously known as CEIA) for their support, IE Business School for an amazing training, TechFounders program for helping maturing our ideas and connecting us with the right networks and the overall ecosystem of the Basque Country and Spain for their constant support and aid.

Special thanks to our team at Erle Robotics. The best prize has been having the chance to work with you. We couldn’t ask for a better group.

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[DEVELOPERS] – URUS Documentation conference published

Hi folks, sorry about delay publishing URUS system source code, for people interested and to know how it’s will work with ardupilot, there is a recently documentation with descriptive images explaining the URUS structure system and URUS Protocol.

This document was used in a conference at EMI University and UAGRM Bolivia’s statal university.

Thank you very much for your patience.

Link to document:
http://www.slideshare.net/htakey/urus-training-conference

The URUS integration into ardupilot is right now merged through thi PR https://github.com/ArduPilot/ardupilot/pull/3718, and you can follow all PR pushing update to ardupilot following me at github if you want.

http://www.github.com/hiro2233

or following URUS discussion at this link:

http://discuss.ardupilot.org/t/new-ardupilot-apm-2-x-features-urus-system/11297

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Tuffwing integrates Reach RTK, gets 4cm precision without GCP

3D map georeferenced with Reach GPS data.

Tuffwing, a manufacturer of affordable aerial mapping systems recently performed integration of Reach RTK to enable making precision maps without use of ground control points. The system was benchmarked by comparing direct georeferenced model with a set of GCPs, used solely for error detection purposes. Achieved lateral RMS error is just 4cm according to the Pix4D quality report.

Possible setup for surveying drone with Reach RTK and Tuffwing hot shoe.

The key feature of the setup is use of Reach RTK and Tuffwing/Reach RTK hot shoe cable together connected to the camera’s hot shoe. This cable powers Reach rover, triggers camera from Pixhawk and directs flash sync pulses to Reach. Exact moment of each pulse is stored as time mark in the Reach RINEX files. No configuration for the Reach hot shoe cable is required, the camera will automatically trigger the hot shoe and the Reach will automatically record events down to fractions of a millisecond. This process does not require communication between autopilot and RTK receiver.

After the flight the time marks are converted into geotags with a free RTKLIB software provided by Emlid and are used for direct georeferencing of images. Commercial software such as Grafnav will be efficient as well.

To validate performance of the system Tuffwing organized flights using their Tuffwing UAV Mapper drone with Reach RTK GPS onboard. 112 photos were acquired with a Sony Nex 5T with Sony 16mm lens triggered by a Pixhawk.

     Information about acquired data:

  • Altitude: 100m.
  • Average Ground Sampling Distance (GSD) 2.82 cm / 1.11
  • Area Covered 0.1139 km2 / 11.3916 ha / 0.044 sq. mi. / 28.1638 acres.

 

Comparative quality report prepared in Pix4D by Tuffwing was based on geotag file from Reach RTK and GCP-file for validating the accuracy of 3d map. It is showing that the RMS error for Y-direction is about 4 cm while X-direction is less than 3 cm. All the data with detailed manual for processing the report is available.

Tuffwing is now working on documentation to show complete data processing workflow. 

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Flight Demo of Matrix Pilot 5.0

This is a flight demo of the recently released MatrixPilot 5.0flying the helical Turn algorithms by William Premerlani.

MatrixPilot is a relatively small open source GPL v3 licensed Autopilot, which provides a platform for DIY enthusiasts to experiment with new algorithms and ideas. It does not have a large user base, partly because any change in it’s configuration requires a recompilation of the code.  The official announcements for this 5.0 release is on the uavdevboard discussion list.

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Using AI to design a drone frame

This render from Fusion 360 features the Hooligan 1000, with an additional thruster and rotors set at 30-degree pitch for optimal thrust. The final design may change based on the results of Autodesk Dreamcatcher. / Credit: Eli D’Elia, Autodesk

From Core77:

Someday in the not-too-distant future, a drone designed by a computer will be flown by a computer. That’s Eli D’Elia’s dream. 

It’s a dream he’s working to make a reality by partnering with Autodesk to design the Hooligan 1000, among the first entrants in the newly emerging 1,000 mm drone racing class. But racing is just the beginning for D’Elia, a product designer, roboticist, and professional drone operator who has helped to pioneer drone racing as we know it. For him, it’s more important that the Hooligan be durable, practical, and easily adapted for use in industry and agriculture, possibly search and rescue, and eventually, mapping and exploration. He envisions a future where drones move not only through the air, but through water and outer space as well. “We’re really just in the Kitty Hawk stage of drone development,” says D’Elia. “Competition through sports is a great way to test out ideas and get rid of the bad ones.”

 

Letting the Computer Do the Work

“AI-grown, AI-flown,” is how D’Elia summarizes his goal. To that end, D’Elia and his partners at Autodesk, Taylor Stein and Daniele Grandi, will use the Autodesk Dreamcatcher generative design system to design the drone’s chassis. With generative design, the designer doesn’t come up with the actual design, but instead inputs a set of requirements and lets the computer go to work. While still in its infancy, it has already been used to create an experimental automobile chassis and components for commercial aircraft.

 

After the design is finalized, D’Elia will start working on the AI control system that will steer the craft using 3D photogrammetry and the NVIDIA Jetson TX1 processor. He expects the AI to be able to learn a given racecourse after several test flights, then fly it both with and without human control. But he also wants it to have situational awareness, the ability to identify objects in the air like birds and other drones, and respond appropriately. “We’re putting an additional thruster in there to provide a turbo boost at the end of the race,” D’Elia says. “I’d like the drone to be able to tell if there’s another drone close to it so it knows when to kick that thruster in for some extra speed.”

Drones Far and Near

What D’Elia wants to do and what the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will permit are two different things, of course. According to current FAA regulations, all drones in the U.S. must have a pilot at the controls and be within the pilot’s line of sight. And it may be years before autonomous drones can be flown in civilian airspace simply due to the danger of a drone hurting people, damaging property, or interfering with air flight. “They’ll need to do things like employ redundant flight control systems so that, if a propeller goes out, it won’t fall out of the sky,” says D’Elia.

But there’s no question that many people and companies see a future for drone autonomy, both near and far. Amazon is testing delivery by drone in the UK, where more lax regulations permit drones to be operated beyond the pilot’s line of sight. Meanwhile, the startup, Zipline, is already using autonomous winged drones to deliver emergency medical supplies to distant communities in rural Rwanda. And companies in the U.S. are petitioning the FAA for waivers to the line-of-sight rule. The first such waiver was granted in August to PrecisionHawk, an aerial data analysis company, after they provided a year’s worth of drone flight safety data.

For D’Elia, all of this is interesting, but the truly exciting possibilities lie further afield. He notes that there’s already an XPRIZE competition underway to design a drone that can map the ocean floor by itself. D’Elia thinks it’s only a matter of time before similar efforts begin to explore outer space. 

In the Field and in the Lab

When he’s not working on the Hooligan 1000 designs, you’ll often find D’Elia flying drones in the vineyards of Northern California. The company he started, Eagle Eye Metrics, deploys drones to help farmers, generally vintners, monitor their crops and map their fields. Using a NDVI camera, his drones capture infrared frequencies that can reveal information about soil quality, pest infestation, and overall plant health. On foot, this kind of necessary recon can take farmers a week. D’Elia and his drones can do it in less than an hour. 

When he’s not designing drones, Eli D’Elia performs drone-based aerial mapping for farmers in Northern California through his company, Eagle Eye Metrics. / Credit: Eli D’Elia

D’Elia has always had an interest in both the sport and the practical use of robotics. Long before BattleBots hit the airwaves, he was part of an amateur robotics community in the San Francisco Bay Area in the ’90s. They would build their robots during the week, then put them into the arena to do battle on Saturday night. “The whole idea was to one-up whatever the other guy’s robot did. If he clobbered you, you hit him with a projectile. If he fired at you, you hit him back with a flamethrower,” D’Elia says.

When drones hit the hobbyist market in the mid-2000s, D’Elia was immediately interested. However, he and his frequent collaborator, Marque Cornblatt, saw one big problem: drones were too fragile. “You could spend two weeks and $1000 building a drone, but you can make one mistake and crash it in ten seconds and you’re back to square one,” D’Elia says.

Under the auspices of their own organization, the Aerial Sports League, D’Elia and Cornblatt designed the Hiro, a drone with a monocoque frame made from a lightweight, super-strong polycarbonate used in aerospace and military applications. The design was fireproof, waterproof, and sturdy enough to withstand direct hits from a baseball bat and even a shotgun blast. It was among the first successful drone projects on Kickstarter. 

D’Elia and his Autodesk collaborators are currently finalizing design parameters for the Hooligan using Autodesk® Fusion 360™ software, specifying requirements for mounting connections and access ports. When completed, they’ll feed the requirements into Dreamcatcher, which will take several weeks to generate designs for the chassis. They’ll then print that design in polycarbonate, assemble the components, and take it out for a test flight. Then they’ll begin working on the pilot AI with help from NVIDIA. 

D’Elia remains upbeat about the near future not only for his project, but for drones overall. “Sometimes you hear people say that all this amazing stuff is going to happen ‘in the future,’ but you have to remember—that’s like three to five years from now,” he says. “Think how far self-driving cars have come in five years. This stuff is coming and it’s coming fast.” 

Eli D’Elia and Taylor Stein will be speaking about designing racing drones using Autodesk Fusion 360 software and Flow Design wind-tunnel simulator as part of Autodesk University 2016 in Las Vegas, November 15-17. Learn more and register today.

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Hobbyking web site update makes it harder to find what you are looking for.

HobbyKing has recently updated their web site making it more difficult to hone in what you are looking for. I was trying to see what was available for 4s lipos, but it was so convoluted that I became frustrated and gave up. Before the web site update it was a simple task to filter 4s lipos and have a long list of what was available shown on the page to see what was available. Now you have to use several sliders to filter with and there are only a few listings per page. You have to go through numerous pages to see what is available.

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New 3DR autopilot: Pixhawk Mini

DSC_0343.jpg

The wait is over! We are proud to introduce the next generation 3DR autopilot, Pixhawk Mini. Pixhawk Mini is an upgraded Pixhawk designed in collaboration with HobbyKing and optimized to run the Dronecode PX4 firmware stack and QGroundControl multi-platform ground station (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS).

For just $199, Pixhawk Mini includes autopilot, GPS, and all the cables and connectors needed to get started building DIY quads, planes, rovers, and boats.

What’s improved over Pixhawk 1?

  • One third the size–dimensions reduced from 50 mm x 81.5 mm x15.5 mm to 38 mm x 43 mm x 12 mm. Smaller airframes can now operate autonomously without making sacrifices for the Pixhawk footprint.

  • Rev 3 STM32 processor allow for full utilization of 2MB flash memory. Pixhawk Mini operates at only 50% compute capacity, 40 percentage points lower than the original Pixhawk. There is significantly more overhead available to run custom code.

  • Improved sensors, including both primary and secondary IMU (MPU9250 and ICM20608, respectively), lead to much better vibration handling and increased reliability.

  • GPS module included–Neo M8N with quad-constellation support and upgraded HMC5983 compass.

  • Micro JST connectors replace DF-13. We can all breath a sigh of relief.

  • Integrated piezo speaker and safety switch

What’s improved over Pixfalcon?

  • Again, improved sensors, including both primary and secondary IMU (MPU9250 and ICM20608 respectively) for much better vibration handling and increased reliability.

  • Dedicated CAN port for UAVCAN applications.

  • Includes 8-channel servo output board for planes and other vehicles requiring powered PWM output.

  • Includes I2C breakout board for a total of 5 I2C connections.

Pixhawk Mini features an advanced processor and sensor technology from ST Microelectronics® and a NuttX real-time operating system, delivering incredible performance, flexibility, and reliability for controlling any autonomous vehicle.

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Main Processor: STM32F427 Rev 3

  • IO Processor: STM32F103

  • Accel/Gyro/Mag: MPU9250

  • Accel/Gyro: ICM20608

  • Barometer: MS5611

  • Dimensions: 38x43x12mm

  • Weight: 15.8g

GPS Module: ublox Neo-M8N GPS/GLONASS receiver; integrated magnetometer HMC5983

  • Dimensions: 37x37x12mm

  • Weight: 22.4g

Interface

  • 1 x UART Serial Port (for GPS)

  • Spektrum DSM/DSM2/DSM-X® Satellite Compatible RC input

  • Futaba S BUS® Compatible RC input

  • PPM Sum Signal RC Input

  • I2C (for digital sensors)

  • CAN (for digital motor control with compatible controllers)

  • ADC (for analog sensors)

  • Micro USB Port

What’s Included?

  • Pixhawk Mini Flight Controller

  • GPS with uBlox M8N module with  

    • Concurrent reception of up to 3 GNSS (GPS, Galileo, GLONASS, BeiDou)

    • Industry leading –167 dBm navigation sensitivity

    • Security and integrity protection

    • Supports all satellite augmentation systems

    • Advanced jamming and spoofing detection

    • Product variants to meet performance and cost requirements

    • Backward compatible with NEO‑7 and NEO‑6 families

  • Integrated Power Module (up to 6s batteries) and power distribution board for quadcopters

  • 8-channel servo output board for planes and other vehicles requiring powered PWM output.

  • Cables

    • 4 pin I2C cable and breakout board

    • 6 pin GPS+Compass cable

    • 6 to 6/4 ‘Y’ adapter for additional I2C devices

    • 4 JST to 6 DF13 cable for legacy telemetry radios

    • External safety switch cable

    • RCIN cable for PPM/SBUS input

    • 8 channel RC output cable

    • 6 pin power cable for included Power Distribution Board

OPTIONAL ACCESSORIES

All available here

 

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