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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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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Future of On-Demand Urban Air Transportation

On-demand aviation has the potential to radically improve urban mobility, giving people back time lost in their daily commutes. Uber is close to the commute pain that citizens in cities around the world feel. We view helping to solve this problem as core to our mission and our commitment to our rider base. Just as skyscrapers allowed cities to use limited land more efficiently, urban air transportation will use three-dimensional airspace to alleviate transportation congestion on the ground. A network of small, electric aircraft that take off and land vertically (called VTOL aircraft for Vertical Take-off and Landing), will enable rapid, reliable transportation between suburbs and cities and, ultimately, within cities.

Read the full text here:   https://medium.com/@UberPubPolicy/fast-forwarding-to-a-future-of-on-demand-urban-air-transportation-f6ad36950ffa#.gkptt7fho

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Autonomous Boat to Cross the Atlantic Ocean

Over the last few months, I have been busy building a fully autonomous sailboat that attempted to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

It was initially launched from Newfoundland heading towards Ireland. Although the initial attempt was not successful, I’ve gained a lot of extremely valuable experience, and I am going to build another, more capable boat. You can find more details along with a tracking map on www.opentransat.com.

The base consists of a surfboard and aluminum profiles. It is balanced by a heavy keel with lead weights that would flip the boat back over in case it flips. All materials used should survive for years in the ocean. It is rather an experimental concept that can be easily modified to test various configurations. My next boat will be optimized for speed.

The primary power source is four LiFePo4 3.2V 36Ah cells that are being charged by a 100W solar panel. When the batteries are fully charged, the boat can work four days without any sunlight.

The boat reports its position via the Iridium satellite network using the RockBlock module and two additional SPOT trackers (Globalstar satellite network).

The main electronic components are sealed in a Pelican case. The Iridium satellite module, as well as GPS, are in a separate polycarbonate case for better signal reception.

There are plenty of sensors on board that tell us more about the condition of the boat, such as the humidity inside the waterproof housing, air temperature and water temperature. There is also a hacked action camera that is powered by the main source, and it is turned on by the Arduino controller for 30 seconds every hour. The video is recorded on a 128 GB uSD card.

Hopefully, I will recover the boat one day to see exactly what went wrong before proceeding to the next design. My next attempt will be most likely next year, but it depends mostly on the weather conditions (it’s not a good idea to navigate the boat through icebergs or hurricanes). Crossing the Atlantic Ocean autonomously is quite a significant challenge. At the time of writing this post, nobody so far has ever attained this. I will keep you updated on this front!

The MicroTransat Challenge competition with the rules that my boat strictly follows is below:

www.microtransat.org 

Project website:

www.opentransat.com

fb group:

www.facebook.com/OpenTransat

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Why I Think the Prosumer Drone Will Never Die

Innovations will flourish on drones that target the prosumer market for a long time

THE FACTS:

In the 1980 book, The Third Wave, futurologist Alvin Toffler coined the term “prosumer” when he predicted that the role of producers and consumers would begin to blur and merge. Today, the term is well accepted as a descriptor for camcorders, digital cameras, and similar goods. Prosumers are enthusiasts who buy products (almost always technical) that fall between professional and consumer-grade standards in quality, complexity, or functionality. Prosumer also commonly refers to those products.

Recently, a well-respected analyst mentioned that his firm thought that prosumer drones would disappear from the market in the near future. At the time, I thought this quite bizarre—because our research says exactly the opposite. I’m still shaking my head.

Earlier this year, we released “Drones in the Channel: 2016 Market Report,” a research study examining drone sales and distribution channels in North America. It’s the first in-depth study of drone sales that reveals the buying patterns of both consumers and professionals.  The report has a detailed analysis that calls into question the commonly held and often undefined prosumer term. I’ll summarize the salient points of that research and offer insights into why I think the prosumer drone is here to stay.

Continue reading here: http://droneanalyst.com/2016/10/26/the-prosumer-drone-will-never-die/

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Burning Man in 4K resolution (day) and 2.7K (sunset/night) from a HK Sky Eye with pixhawk and ardupilot

A lot of work went into building this plane, adding redundancies and safeties, as well as fitting 3 cameras, and the result was well worth it. Big thanks to the ardupilot team, nightghost for his OSD firmware, and all the other folks who wrote some of the software the 5 computer/microcontrollers that were in the plane (not counting those on the camera or VTX):

Day Video (4K): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-8X1Y_1fW0

Night Video (2.7K): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E94CXMC3gm8

Details on the plane and more still pictures:

http://marc.merlins.org/perso/rc/post_2016-08-29_RC-Flights-over-Burning-Man_-2016-edition.html
http://marc.merlins.org/perso/rc/post_2016-08-05_120kph-Capable-HK-Sky-Eye-FPV-build-with-Pixhawk-Ardupilot-3_5.html

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sUAS News Guide, Q3 update

Another quarter of the year has flown by (yes, I just did that) and there is no shortage of new drones milling about the skies of this blue marble.

Q3 Update – October 2016 – https://joom.ag/OEsQ

Gary, Editor of sUAS News, recently mentioned that in his neck of the woods, and besides his own fleet of UAS, there are now at least four Phantoms flying around his vicinity that he knows about. This might seem quite the dull acknowledgement at first glance (it being dull in itself says something), but when one considers that his neck of the woods is quite a rural-middle-of-nowhere-amongst-the-rolling-hills-and-some-mountains of central eastern South Africa, it may not be so dull after all. As Gary quite rightly put it, “the drone age is really here”.

In this sUAS Guide update, we continue showing some interesting commercial and non-profit uses of drones operating in everyday life as well as in exceptional circumstances. sUAS News was also fortunate enough to be invited to see first hand a new electric/liquid-fuel hybrid VTOL UAS called the ALTi Transition on one of its final test flight days before production begins. This particular UAS is a great example of high-quality not-from-the-defence-industry industrial grade UAS beginning to show up on the market and further showing how far along the civilian industry has come from “home-built” once-off-suited-for-a-single-purpose type systems.

With the continued minification of high grade sensors and other hardware, manufacturers are now able to design and build high quality and affordable (relative to defence industry systems) industrial grade UAS to are fill a rapidly growing demand in sectors such as mining, OGP (oil, gas, petroleum) and law enforcement, to name but a few. Another tick mark in the “the drone age is here” column.

Don’t forget to subscribe to sUAS Guide to get notified when new issues are published. If you have any questions, feel free to email me via tiaan@suasnews.com

You can read it below directly from this article (view full screen via button top left of the window) or you can choose one of the options below:

sUAS Guide is available across All Devices. It has been optimized for all major mobile platforms including iOS, Android, and Windows, Desktop.

App installations are not required unless you would like to view the sUAS Guide offline.

In order to be able to view the mag offline on your mobile device, you can use the apps below:
Apple App Store https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/joomag/id454833442
Google Play https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.joomag.apps.joomag

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An autonomous fixed-wing following another autonomous one

We have presented this video to the kids during our open days a couple of weeks ago at ENAC, Toulouse. It is just one application of a guidance algorithm that we have developed and later implemented in Paparazzi. I was actually surprised about the performance since the planes only exchange information once per second (even we allow some drops and the guys are still robust). I guess somewhere within next week I will write the “how to” in my blog, and together with code, people should be able to port it to other autopilots if they want to. Once it is ready, I will post it here too :P.

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Using Microsoft Azure cloud to make a face-finding, voice controlled drone

Very nice use of the Microsoft Azure cloud AI APIs to make a AR.Drone do some pretty magic stuff. Excerpt from the full O’Reilly post, which has the full details and code:

The Azure Face API is powerful and simple to use. You can upload pictures of your friends and it will identify them. It will also guess age and gender, both functions of which I found to be surprisingly accurate. The latency is around 200 milliseconds, and it costs $1.50 per 1,000 predictions, which feels completely reasonable for this application. See below for my code that sends an image and does face recognition.

I used the excellent ImageMagick library to annotate the faces in my PNGs. There are a lot of possible extensions at this point—for example, there is anemotion API that can determine the emotion of faces.

Running speech recognition to drive the drone

The trickiest part about doing speech recognition was not the speech recognition itself, but streaming audio from a webpage to my local server in the format Microsoft’s Speech API wants, so that ends up being the bulk of the code. Once you’ve got the audio saved with one channel and the right sample frequency, the API works great and is extremely easy to use. It costs $4 per 1,000 requests, so for hobby applications, it’s basically free.

RecordRTC has a great library, and it’s a good starting point for doing client-side web audio recording. On the client side, we can add code to save the audio file:

I used the FFmpeg utility to downsample the audio and combine it into one channel for uploading to Microsoft:

While we’re at it, we might as well use Microsoft’s text-to-speech API so the drone can talk back to us!

Autonomous search paths

I used the ardrone-autonomy library to map out autonomous search paths for my drone. After crashing my drone into the furniture and houseplants one too many times in my livingroom, my wife nicely suggested I move my project to my garage, where there is less to break—but there isn’t much room to maneuver (see Figure 3).

Flying the droneFigure 3. Flying the drone in my “lab.” Source: Lukas Biewald.

When I get a bigger lab space, I’ll work more on smart searching algorithms, but for now I’ll just have my drone take off and rotate, looking for my friends and enemies:

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The flying umbrella project

That’s a tough controls problem! From Popular Science:

The sight of flying umbrellas, changing altitude with a fluttering rhythm, looks more like an animated Disney scene than graduate work by a student engineer.

“I wanted to push the envelope of coordinating drones in the sky,” says the project’s creator Alan Kwan, a student in MIT’s “ACT” (Art, Culture and Technology) program. He wanted his drones to act almost alive, “not like things to be controlled by an algorithm,” he says, “but flying creatures that take on a synchronous life.”

A Hong Kong native, Kwan, 25, has explored scientific art before. He won an award for his Beating Clock project, a reanimated pig heart that keeps time. He’s also exhibited numerous virtual reality projects, like terrifying simulations of mental hospitals and alien abductions. Perhaps the most memorable isBad Trip, an explorable 3D dreamscape filled with scenes from Kwan’s daily life: ten hours of first-person “life logging” videos that he has been recording since November 2011.

Beating Clock

Courtesy of Alan Kwan

Beating Clock

Kwan’s interest in blurring the mechanical and the organic is visible in his Beating Clockproject.

Coming off his virtual pursuits, Kwan wanted to explore a physical, real-world project. He found an opportunity in February 2015, when the University of Applied Arts in Vienna commissioned him to explore synesthetic works for their Digital Synesthesia Research Project (DSRP).

Traditional synesthesia is a rare neurological condition where sensory experiences overlap—a person might associate sounds with colors or words with flavors. Digital synesthesia, according to the DSRP’s website, is “an artistic research area which focuses on the possibilities of digital art to create translational and cross-modal sensory experiences and to provide synesthetic experiences for “non-synesthetes.”

Kwan decided to create a synesthesia-like experience by flipping the audience’s perception and giving a typically inanimate object a life of its own: He would make umbrellas behave like jellyfish.

“I think flying robots really embody our fascination with unreal things flying in the sky,” Kwan says. The DSRP agreed—they accepted his proposal for umbrella jellies, and Kwan received additional funding from the MIT Council for the Arts.

The trouble started when Kwan started building: As soon as it began, the project was beset by technical setbacks. Umbrellas are not particularly aerodynamic—neither are the jellyfish Kwan wanted them to imitate.

First, Kwan tried to rig umbrellas to commercial drones, but that method failed quickly. The drones Kwan wanted to use concentrated all their mass in the center of the flying body. This meant that the shaft of the umbrella had nowhere to go, and placing it in an off-centered position threw off the drone’s balance. He would have to build a drone from scratch.

Custom Drone

Courtesy of Alan Kwan

Custom Drone

Kwan’s design employs a custom drone that is center mounted to the umbrella, with the battery serving as a stabilizing weight.

Kwan’s classmate, Bjorn Sparrman, helped him to fabricate the custom carbon fiber and metal components of the new drone. The pair also received input from interested peers and faculty.

The umbrella did not just need a holder—the custom drones needed to compensate for the weight of the umbrella, its aerodynamic drag, and its disruption of a free airstream to the drone’s propellers.

“It generates a lot of resistance,” Kwan says. “Airplanes and helicopters are much more aerodynamic. This is, however, a performance. It’s not about drones. It’s about umbrellas—the drones are a tool that we use.”

Sustained flight was becoming possible, but takeoff was not. Kwan developed a launching platform that would accommodate the awkwardly shaped aircraft and let it land more precisely.

Within three months, the drone was successfully airborne indoors. But it had not yet stood up to the rigors of open skies, and it did not yet move like a jellyfish. Kwan tried to devise a mechanical method for the umbrella to pulsate like the real thing. This idea literally would not fly: The servo motors necessary to power such a system would weigh the drones down too much.

Servo Control

Courtesy of Alan Kwan

Servo Control

Kwan’s original concept for mimicking jellyfish used servo motors to open and close the umbrellas.

But as it turned out, the servos were not necessary—nothing was. When the drone’s propellers hit just the right speed, the rotors actually changed the air pressure above and below the umbrella. This pulled the umbrella open and shut, just slightly, which created a rippling jellyfish effect. This method is actually similar to the way real jellyfish move. Engineers have comparedjellyfish propulsion to helicopter propulsion, finding that a helicopter’s thrust is much less efficient than the biological version.

By February 2016, Kwan’s flying umbrellas took off outdoors and unassisted. Synchronized to music, the bizarre concept achieves the artist’s goal: Technology has transformed a mechanical object into a living—and flying—creature from the sea.

Digital synesthesia is not the only goal of Kwan’s project. “People have this perception of drones as weapons,” he says, “and I’m trying to push this work in the direction of the poetic. I think that contrast is interesting.”

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