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Preview: Chris Anderson's Posts - DIY Drones

Chris Anderson's Posts - DIY Drones





Updated: 2018-04-20T00:20:45Z

 



Test results on indoor positioning technologies

2018-04-18T21:00:20.000Z

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Very interesting results from the Microsoft indoor localization competition. Basically my two favorite…

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Very interesting results from the Microsoft indoor localization competition. Basically my two favorite companies in this space -- Decawave with ultrawideband ["UWB"] tech and Marvelmind with ultrasonic ["sound]") going head to head. In my experience, they're both sub-cm accurate, which is great. I've found ultrasonic to have slightly better range, but they're both getting better fast.




Hands on review of new LIDARs, from $1,000 solid-state 3D to $5 1D range finder

2018-04-14T22:06:54.000Z

(image) I've been doing hands-on reviews of new LIDAR units over at our sister site, DIY Robocars. If you're interested in LIDAR, check them out there:

---New…

(image) I've been doing hands-on reviews of new LIDAR units over at our sister site, DIY Robocars. If you're interested in LIDAR, check them out there:

---New Benwake CE-30 solid state 3D Lidar (shown above)

(image) --New $5 ST laser range finder chips with 4m range

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-- 2D Lidars: RP Lidar A2 vs Scanse Sweep




Cool landscape photography with a 3DR Solo and high-powered lights

2018-03-11T00:32:07.000Z

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Really interesting technique from Reuben Wu of the band Ladytron, who uses a 3DR Solo carrying bright lights to illuminate landscapes in ways that otherwise wouldn't be possible. 

From…

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Really interesting technique from Reuben Wu of the band Ladytron, who uses a 3DR Solo carrying bright lights to illuminate landscapes in ways that otherwise wouldn't be possible. 

From the article:

Reuben Wu, Chicago-based artist and member of the electronic music band Ladytron, is currently exploring interesting ways technology can be used for innovative creative expression. Reuben has long wanted to test drone technology to create lighting effects for his imagery. Combining his Fiilex AL250 and 3DR Solo drone Phase One XF camera system, Reuben photographs nocturnal landscapes and adds light using multiple exposures. His end project “Lux Noctis” is a visual diary of halo mountaintops and other awe-inspiring landscapes. Alongside his photography work, Reuben is also the synthesizer player for Ladytron, which was formed in 1999.

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Indoor positioning with OpenMV cam

2018-03-06T02:40:57.000Z

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="789" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/S4lpKn7MHvo?wmode=opaque" width="1903"> A cool project from Kaz Kojima uses an OpenMV cam to track a drone, like a poor man's Vicon system: Screen shot of opemMV… width="1903" height="789" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/S4lpKn7MHvo?wmode=opaque" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""> A cool project from Kaz Kojima uses an OpenMV cam to track a drone, like a poor man's Vicon system: Screen shot of opemMV IDE I've tried to make a simple and budget local positioning system with openMV cam for the indoor flight of tiny copter. Looks not so good precision but not so bad as a Poor Man's system. A LOITER and LAND flight test with my hachidori copter is here: where only throttle work is done. System is simple OpenMV cam with fish-eye lens has been set at the ceiling and it tracks LED markers mounted on the copter. The tracking data is sent to the host PC via ESP32 connected to openMV cam as a SPI slave device. The host PC also connects to the telemetry port of ArduCopter and is getting ATTITUDE packets and estimates the position and heading with the visual markers and ATTITUDE information. The result of estimations are sent back to the telemetry port with VISION_POSITION_DELTA packets. Currently, openMV data rate is 40-50fps, ATTITUDE rate 20Hz and VISION_POSITION_DELTA rate is same with cam. The coordinate of marker on image sensor is converted to the 3D direction from cam and the height is estimated with the distance of markers and the attitude. I'm using geometric algebra in very primitive way to compute them. Kalman filter is applied for smoothing. Here is a test result of 3D positions got when moving the copter by hand. visual yaw estimation Unfortunately yaw angles based on the compass of the copter are too unreliable in my case. The copter uses coreless motors which can easily break compass measuring and there are many other problematic magnetic sources in my room. The visual yaw estimation is used instead. When the pitch angle isn't zero, the direction seen from cam and the real horizontal direction differs. The figure below represents this situation: where w is the real heading vector and v is the vector can be seen as the horizontal direction from cam. w = (v' rotated with pitch angle) and H is a plane including v, w and cam. A simple geometric algebra computation helps again. This figure shows that computation in geometric algebra. Essentially, vector w can be obtained as the one of the point pair which is the "meet" of the yellow circle K and the green plane H. The corresponding program is fairly straightforward. See host program for details. Of course, rotation matrices or spherical angles can be used for that computation. All programs for openMV, ESP32 and the host PC are in my github, though they are experimental. Happy Hacking, [...]



Background on the amazing Intel drone swarm demo at the Olympics

2018-02-11T23:24:43.000Z

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Here's some background on the amazing Intel drone displays at the Olympics. 

Wired article here

Intel video:…

width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/uZcISoiiJE4?wmode=opaque" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="">

Here's some background on the amazing Intel drone displays at the Olympics. 

Wired article here

Intel video:

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Training a drone using OpenAI gym and ROS

2018-02-09T15:37:44.000Z

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From this post by Ricardo…

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From this post by Ricardo Tellez:

OpenAI has released the Gym, a toolkit for developing and comparing reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms. That toolkit is a huge opportunity for speeding up the progress in the creation of better reinforcement algorithms, since it provides an easy way of comparing them, on the same conditions, independently of where the algorithm is executed.

The toolkit is mainly aimed at the creation of RL algorithms for a general abstract agent. Here, we are interested in applying it to the control of robots (of course!). Specifically, we are interested in ROS based robots. That is why, in this post we describe how to apply the OpenAI Gym to the control of a drone that runs with ROS

Let’s see an example of training.

The drone training example

In this example, we are going to train a ROS based drone to be able to go to a location of the space moving as low as possible (may be to avoid being detected),  but avoiding  obstacles in its way.

For developing the algorithm we are going to use the ROS Development Studio (RDS). That is an environment that allows to program with ROS and its simulations with a web browser, without having to install anything  on the computer. So we have  all the  required packages for ROS and OpenAI Gym and Gazebo simulations already installed.

Read on for the full instructions




DIY Drones now at 87,000+ members

2018-02-04T03:38:53.000Z

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It's customary and traditional that we celebrate the addition of every 1,000 new members here and share the traffic stats. We've now passed 87,000 members!

Thanks as always to all the community members who make this growth possible, and especially to the administrators and moderators who approve new…

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It's customary and traditional that we celebrate the addition of every 1,000 new members here and share the traffic stats. We've now passed 87,000 members!

Thanks as always to all the community members who make this growth possible, and especially to the administrators and moderators who approve new members, blog posts and otherwise respond to questions and keep the website running smoothly.




Build a Ballistic Parachute Recovery System for Your Drone

2018-01-26T22:30:00.000Z

From Makezine: Starting on December 21, 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)… From Makezine: Starting on December 21, 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began requiring hobbyists to register their Unmanned Aerial Systems – often referred to as drones. After two days of registration, the database contained 45,000 aircraft dedicated and designed for personal use. This mandate was set forth by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to increase accountability for drone operations and reduce accidents involving small drones. Failure to register a personal drone weighing between 0.55 lbs. and 55 lbs. could land you with a fine of up to $27,000. A federal judge ruled in May, 2017 against the requirement for registration, but the matter may be appealed (“Federal Appeals Court Voids FAA Registration Rule For Model Aircraft,” John Goglia, Forbes, May 19, 2017). Drones are everywhere; in fact, the FAA estimates that by the year 2020 there will be approximately 7 million drones in the sky. As more and more people use drones, it has become the mission of the FAA to ensure that drone enthusiasts are operating in a peaceful and safe manner. You can visit their website to see the restrictions with which you must comply as a drone owner, including weight restrictions, visual line-of-sight (LoS) restrictions, and airport restrictions, among others. All of these are put into place to ensure a safe environment for those who are, and those who aren’t, involved in flight. We have all seen a quadcopter in the sky – flying so majestically in one location – until it drops like a rock. Unlike fixed wing aircraft, quadcopters lose lift when the battery is depleted, or even when the craft is upset beyond its ability to recover. As there continue to be more and more drones in the sky, everyone must take the safety of their aircraft into their hands. This project will explore the design and construction of a ballistic parachute recovery system for small unmanned aircraft. The recovery system, based on an Arduino microcontroller, uses sensors to determine GPS coordinates, remaining battery voltage, and acceleration. If the system determines that the drone’s battery is depleted, or that it is operating outside of prescribed GPS boundaries, or that the unit is in free-fall, the recovery system cuts power to the motors and deploys the parachute, lowering the aircraft to the ground at a safe velocity. Let’s build a recovery system for our drone! Note: There will be several places you can find most of these materials. Please take into consideration cost and simplicity when ordering your parts. A simple overview of the electric circuits will be covered in this tutorial. Please make safety your top priority. Design The recovery system is controlled independently of the drone’s flight computer through the use of an Arduino Nano microcontroller powered by a separate 7.4V LiPo battery, to ensure proper operation of the recovery system in the event of a depleted main battery. This microcontroller provides 14 Digital Input/Output Pins, 8 Analog Pins, a regulated 5V power source with a 16MHZ Clock and 2Kb of SRAM. Through this unit, all monitoring and decision-making processes are completed. Each hardware component is connected to the microcontroller via the digital or analog I/O pins. Accelerometer – The accelerometer is connected via analog input pins on the microcontroller. Acceleration components in x, y, and z directions are read according to voltage values generated by the accelerometer. Since the accelerometer module does not require much current, analog output pins were a sufficient source of power for the accelerometer. GPS – The GPS module is powered through the dedicated recovery system battery and communicates over a serial (“Software Serial”) connection[...]



Teaching drones to fly in cities by emulating cars and bikes

2018-01-24T00:46:08.000Z

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From Davide Scaramuzza:

I am happy to share the paper, dataset, code and video "Dronet: Learning to Fly by Driving", where we use Deep Neural Networks to teach drones to navigate autonomously in the streets of a city by imitating…

width="425" height="238" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ow7aw9H4BcA?wmode=opaque" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="">

From Davide Scaramuzza:

I am happy to share the paper, dataset, code and video "Dronet: Learning to Fly by Driving", where we use Deep Neural Networks to teach drones to navigate autonomously in the streets of a city by imitating cars and bicycles, thus respecting traffic rules!




1,000+ drone swarms in China

2018-01-09T01:00:00.000Z

This June 2017 swarm of 117 drones set the world record for the most fixed-wing drones in a single swarm. From… This June 2017 swarm of 117 drones set the world record for the most fixed-wing drones in a single swarm. From Popular Science: By Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer   At the close of the Global Fortune Forum in Guangzhou on Dec. 7, the event's hosts set a world record for the largest drone swarm ever deployed. For 9 minutes, 1,180 drones danced and blinked out an aerial show. It was cool. It was also an interesting look into the potential future of aviation. width="1280" height="720" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/z7bWaTJrMJQ?wmode=opaque" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""> According to an executive at Ehang UAVs, which provided the swarm, each drone cost $1,500, which is pretty darn cheap considering their capabilities. Take, for instance, the datalink and software used. It lets more than 1,000 flying robots coordinate autonomously and synchronize movements, with a flight deviancy of a mere 2 centimeters horizontally and 1 centimeter vertically. If something goes wrong and a drone can't reach its programmed position, it automatically lands. In the show last month, these machines created striking formations of China, a kapok tree flower, and a ship. They also showed off a lot of potential for the military and security sectors. The fact that the drones can move autonomously, landing if they don't fulfill their directive, is particularly intriguing. Ehang is essentially boasting that its swarms can make decisions on how to repair itself, as well as improvise operational functionality. This is just the latest drone development to come out of China. At Zhuhai 2016, the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC) and Tsinghua University released a video of a swarm zooming in improvised, network-generated flight patterns. Though the CETC-Tsinghua drone swarm was unarmed, a CGI sequence showed the drones hunting an enemy missile launcher in urban area, and then dive-bombing into the missile launcher, destroying it. CETC followed up by launching a swarm of 117 drones in June 2017 (pictured above). Released by high-altitude balloons, these shoebox-sized, flying-wing drones glide for a 60-plus miles while collecting and eavesdropping on enemy signatures. China also is looking at taking its drone swarms into near space, alongside a planned arsenal of anti-stealth drones, hypersonic spy planes and high-altitude airships. In fall 2017, the Chinese Academy of Sciences used high-altitude balloons to release two shoebox-sized, flying-wing drones that flew downward from a height of 15 miles, and flew a distance of more than 60 miles. Those high-altitude micro UAVs have passive sensors for detecting electromagnetic activity and can map terrain. Similarly to the Perdix system drone swarm showed off by the Pentagon's Strategic Capabilities Office, the Chinese Academy of Science's flock could be released by fighters, bombers, and other drones. [...]



Low-cost sense and avoid for microdrones

2018-01-08T07:10:19.000Z

To be shown at CES this week. From the press release: ​Fitted on a Mass-Market Microcontroller, 360Fusion Software Technology Detects any Dynamic Obstacle and Helps Guide Drones Away from Collisions GRENOBLE, France – Dec. 14, 2017 – Leti, a research institute of CEA Tech, will demonstrate the world's first low-power, low-cost 3D anti-crash, fusion-sensor solution for drones at CES 2018 in Las Vegas.   Leti's 360Fusion software, in combination with miniaturized sensors, collects, analyzes and transforms millions of incoming 3D distance data items into relevant, actionable information.   This technology provides consumers and innovative companies with a reliable and affordable integrated anti-crash system. It also ensures safe navigation and enables prompt action in civil-security applications and ensures both fast response and maximum performance for drones in defense uses.   "360Fusion is a flexible solution that is compatible with all types of sensors and that can leverage data from the best of them," said Marie-Sophie Masselot, Leti industrial partnership manager. "Fitted on a low-cost microcontroller, this technology can be embedded in drones to detect any dynamic obstacle and guide the drone away from a collision."   Features of 360Fusion include: The first obstacle-avoidance algorithm in a dynamic environment based on cutting-edge, laser sensor technology Ultra-compact and miniaturized design that fits into a tiny, mass-market microcontroller 10x cheaper than comparable systems A highly integrated perception system that weighs less than 40 grams Seamless integration in existing drone technologies In its continuing work on the prototype, Leti will equip a fleet of drones with this technology to show they detect and avoid nearby drones, fit miniaturized radar sensors on the fleet, enable detours to safe routs when obstacles are detected and enable autonomous flight. -------- More from Mashable here. [...]



2017 DIY Drones year in review

2018-01-03T02:30:00.000Z

2017 was our tenth year, and since one drone year is like ten regular years, we're practically a century old! A few thoughts on the past twelve months: First, we've continued to grow here, although not as fast as the boom years from 2012 to 2015 (see above) More importantly, the two open… 2017 was our tenth year, and since one drone year is like ten regular years, we're practically a century old! A few thoughts on the past twelve months: First, we've continued to grow here, although not as fast as the boom years from 2012 to 2015 (see above) More importantly, the two open source software projects that spun out of this community, ArduPilot/APM and Dronecode/PX4, are both going from strength to strength and are now essentially unrivaled in the full-stack open drone software market. APM is thriving with DIY'er (thanks to its developer-friendly "copyleft" GPL V3 licence) while PX4 is thriving with companies (thanks to its corporate-friendly "permissive" BSD licence).  Both are very active and have large developer bases. Below are the stats for the past month, where PX4 was slightly ahead, but in another month it could go the other way. Although I co-founded APM, I now only contribute to the Dronecode/PX4 project (professionally I can't use GPL code). But I'm super proud of them both, and when it comes to autonomous cars, where I'm still just a hobbyist, I use and love the ArduRover code when we're doing outdoors races that require GPS. Elsewhere in the industry, the consolidation in the consumer space continued, with eHang the latest to leave and most others cutting prices dramatically as DJI's Mavic proves a hit.  (3DR was one of the first to leave the consumer market, last making Solo in 2015, which is a decision I'm happier about every day, as painful as it was at the time). I predict that prices and margins will continue to fall in that market, and DJI will continue to pull ahead with its more than 11,000 employees.  The commercial side of the market continued to mature, with most companies now having defined their industry verticals and partnerships and focusing on data quality and the analytical tools expected in pro-level enterprise software.  Most founding CEOs of the bigger commercial drone companies have been replaced by enterprise sales vets, including Airware, Precision Hawk, Kespry, CyPhy, and Measure. (Exceptions are Skycatch, Drone Deploy and my own 3DR -- we must be doing something right!) It's fair to say that the DIY-centric era of the industry is now over, thanks to today's polished consumer and commercial offerings (we can take a lot of credit for birthing those!). A lot of the DIY energy has shifted to "drone" racing (not actually drones, since they're manually piloted), which does not require the sophisticated autonomy and full-stack software we focus on here. That said, there are still lots of students DIYing to learn how drones work and it continues to be a fun hobby so we'll be here for many years to come.  Personally, my professional life is totally focused on using drones in the AEC (construction) and GIS (geospatial) markets with 3DR, which had a record year as a software company in 2017. And now that getting drones to fly well is a pretty much solved problem, my hobby/DIY interests have moved to autonomous cars, where the technical challenges are much harder, from computer vision to machine learning. So I spend more time in our sister community, DIY Robocars, than here.  Ten years is a long time to sprint, and the early years here did indeed feel all-consuming. Now we're settled back to a more sustainable pace here, and I do my crazy hacking on things that have wheels, not wings and props.  Plus ça change.   [...]






Guy Pearce plays a modified DJI Phantom in "Donny the Drone"

2017-12-26T23:30:00.000Z

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"Donny the Drone" is voiced by Guy Pearce in this new sci-fi short featuring a modified DJI Phantom.

From…

width="1920" height="1080" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/iFRT5noguxw?wmode=opaque" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="">

"Donny the Drone" is voiced by Guy Pearce in this new sci-fi short featuring a modified DJI Phantom.

From IO9:

The film opens in 2022, as Donny—a mapping drone who “woke up” after a midair collision with a bird, and now speaks with the lulling cadence of a new age guru—is being presented with a “Person of the Year” award. Since his transformation, he explains, he’s devoted himself to being an ambassador for machines’ ability to help people. But despite Donny’s big award, not everybody embraces his philosophy—or his vision for humanity’s future.

We’ve seen “the trouble with sentient machines” done many times before, but Donny the Drone offers a thoughtful new take on that well-trod scifi territory. Pearce, recently seen playing android and AI innovator Peter Weyland in Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, is a particularly apt choice to voice the drone who gains a soul—and a slippery agenda along with it.




Pixhawk Mini now just $92 on Amazon

2017-12-22T20:44:02.000Z

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Crazy good deal on the best autopilot for small drones and rovers. This deal won't last long.  Free shipping for Prime members.

Includes GPS, power module,…

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Crazy good deal on the best autopilot for small drones and rovers. This deal won't last long.  Free shipping for Prime members.

Includes GPS, power module, 8-channel servo rail expander for planes and designed for latest Dronecode/PX4 and APM software. 

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FCC fines FPV dronemaker for illegal radios

2017-12-21T07:50:44.000Z

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From Hackaday:

The commission just …

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From Hackaday:

The commission just levied a $180,000 fine on a company in Florida for selling audio/visual transmitters that use the ham bands as well as other frequencies.

The FCC charged that Lumenier Holdco LLC (formerly known as FPV Manuals LLC) was marketing uncertified transmitters some of which exceeded the 1-W power limit for ham transmitters used on model craft.

Equipment that is purely for ham use is normally exempt from certification, but since the equipment was able to operate on other frequencies, this was a violation. In addition, even for licensed ham use, some of the transmitters were using too much power.

The company stopped selling the units in question after an FCC inquiry back in April. We can’t help but think that in years past building a consumer product with a significant radio transmitter was a big task, and someone would bring up the FCC rules and certifications before much progress had been made. These days though you can easily acquire building block ICs and modules to field a product in a few weeks that would have taken a sophisticated team years of effort not long ago.




Dronecode/PX4 1.7 out now, biggest release to date

2017-12-17T23:00:00.000Z

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We are happy to announce the release of PX4 v1.7.0, this version comes packed with performance and quality of life improvements. With 1840 commits with the help of 76 authors and hundreds of flight hours across all of our certified hardware, this is the biggest release of PX4 to date.

This…

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We are happy to announce the release of PX4 v1.7.0, this version comes packed with performance and quality of life improvements. With 1840 commits with the help of 76 authors and hundreds of flight hours across all of our certified hardware, this is the biggest release of PX4 to date.

This release couldn’t have happened without the help of our supporting members, developers, and partners that help us every day, from planning to execution, we are grateful for this community and hope you enjoy flying PX4 v1.7.0.

MAJOR FEATURES

  • First-generation experimental support for ROS2-like setups with FastRTPS
  • Support for many new sensors (LIDAR, airspeed, IMU, etc)
  • Significant robustness improvements and new features to default estimation system (EKF2)
  • Significant improvements to VTOL flight control
  • Increased smoothness of multi-copter flight control
  • Better performance of fixed-wing flight control
  • Many build system improvements (including 50% faster Nuttx builds)
  • New continuous integration system (http://ci.px4.io) with significantly more build and testing capacity
  • Reduced CPU load and RAM usage
  • Plus more tons of minor bug fixes and under the hood enhancements
  • Full list of changes

DOWNLOAD

You can flash the v1.7.0 release from QGroundControl or grab the binaries for your platform directly from the v1.7.0 release tag

FEEDBACK

If you have any feedback you would like to share here are some options:




Interesting insight into what bugs in jetliner autopilots look like

2017-12-12T07:11:06.000Z

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From a FAA alert about a bug in the Rockwell Collins autopilot that is used in many jetliners. Interesting, it's easier for them to fix the airport database that these autopilots use than the…

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From a FAA alert about a bug in the Rockwell Collins autopilot that is used in many jetliners. Interesting, it's easier for them to fix the airport database that these autopilots use than the autopilot code itself, although that will be coming later. 

"If the crew manually edits or temperature compensates a “Climb to” altitude, the FMS will remove the database turn direction (if any) on the immediately following leg. The FMS will turn in the wrong direction after sequencing the “Climb to” leg if the shortest turn direction is different than the required turn direction onto the next leg."

...

"Rockwell Collins has removed from both the Jeppesen and Lufthansa (LSY) Navigation Databases the approaches for which the FMS may not turn correctly after an altitude is edited beginning cycle 1712. This resulted in the removal of approximately 10,000 approaches. Rockwell Collins is working on corrective actions for this issue to restore the removed procedures and has been providing regular updates through email communication."




Vision of a full-automated farm drone system

2017-12-08T15:35:43.000Z

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This is still in the prototype stage, but it's an inspiring vision of what farm drones could someday be

src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/242310566" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen="" mozallowfullscreen="" allowfullscreen="">

This is still in the prototype stage, but it's an inspiring vision of what farm drones could someday be




University of Warwick Pixhawk-powered rescue drone team profiled by Autodesk

2017-12-03T00:36:36.000Z

Impressive work by the University of Warwick, who are designing a Pixhawk-powered drone from search and rescue. Above, a test device for Pixhawk. Below, a mold for the carbon-fiber mold. … Impressive work by the University of Warwick, who are designing a Pixhawk-powered drone from search and rescue. Above, a test device for Pixhawk. Below, a mold for the carbon-fiber mold.  From the article: The design now has a 2.2-meter (7.2-foot) wingspan, multiple imaging cameras, and an antenna tracking system at the base station to maintain contact. It also features two control systems designed in Autodesk EAGLE: a traditional manual transmitter for takeoff and landing and an autopilot system controlled by modified open-source software. Warwick Associate Professor of Engineering Simon Leigh, who specializes in additive manufacturing, guided Barlow’s team during the project. He knew they would 3D-print reusable molds of the UAV body parts and then use them to resin-infuse strong-yet-light carbon fiber to create the finished product. Leigh says it took about one month of continuous 3D printing to finish the molds. After that, infusing the carbon fiber proved a challenge, as well. “We used liquid-resin infusion, which is under the vacuum,” Barlow says. “You apply a vacuum to your carbon fiber on the mold, and then you inject resin into it under the vacuum. That’s generally done on a much bigger scale, with much easier geometric parts than we were using, so we had to invent a lot of really cool tools to do it.” Barlow couldn’t elaborate on those inventions due to the terms with industry partner GKN Aerospace, which may commercialize some of them down the line. To exercise that kind of innovative thinking while working with an expert company was a great experience and opportunity for the students, Leigh says. And they continue to employ creative thinking toward making parts of the UAV multifunctional to maximize its weight For example, the UAV’s main function will be to search for casualties on a mountain, land next to them by parachute, and deliver supplies. But the parachutes could be made of emergency space blankets for the people to use, and other equipment could also be built into the aircraft. Customized software could even tailor the payload for the needs of each emergency. “It would suggest the load out you would need and how to balance it to get the right center of gravity,” Leigh says. “So we cataloged the supplies we want to put in it and worked out where they might sit in the airframe.” The group has also explored using Autodesk Netfabb additive-manufacturing software to optimize aspects of the UAV design to be 3D-print friendly and reduce weight. Barlow’s goal for the UAV was a carrying capacity of about 5 kilograms (11 pounds) and an 80-kilometer (49.7-mile) range, but that’s much farther than current UK regulations allow for this type of drone. The many layers of regulation applied to UAVs from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the wireless communications regulations from Ofcom are “bit of a minefield to navigate,” Leigh says. [...]



Blimpduino 2.0 getting closer!

2017-12-02T20:58:08.000Z

(image) Good news from the JJRobot/MRo collaboration: 

We got the Blimpduino control board ready! After 3 months of testing a bunch of sensors and polishing the design (thx for the help…

(image) Good news from the JJRobot/MRo collaboration: 

We got the Blimpduino control board ready! After 3 months of testing a bunch of sensors and polishing the design (thx for the help )we just got the miniaturized version of PCB.Stay tuned for videos of the blimpduino and more!




Human vs AI drone racing

2017-11-23T07:41:33.000Z

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="480" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/SrqrGweKQAU?list=PLTiv_XWHnOZoPT2VCxZJOF7Vg1VTNuGj4&wmode=opaque" width="854"> From NASA JPL:  The race, held on Oct. 12, capped off two years of research into drone autonomy funded by Google. The company was interested in JPL's work with vision-based… width="854" height="480" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/SrqrGweKQAU?list=PLTiv_XWHnOZoPT2VCxZJOF7Vg1VTNuGj4&wmode=opaque" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""> From NASA JPL:  The race, held on Oct. 12, capped off two years of research into drone autonomy funded by Google. The company was interested in JPL's work with vision-based navigation for spacecraft -- technologies that can also be applied to drones. To demonstrate the team's progress, JPL set up a timed trial between their A.I. and world-class drone pilot Ken Loo. The team built three custom drones (dubbed Batman, Joker and Nightwing) and developed the complex algorithms the drones needed to fly at high speeds while avoiding obstacles. These algorithms were integrated with Google's Tango technology, which JPL also worked on. The drones were built to racing specifications and could easily go as fast as 80 mph (129 kph) in a straight line. But on the obstacle course set up in a JPL warehouse, they could only fly at 30 or 40 mph (48 to 64 kph) before they needed to apply the brakes. "We pitted our algorithms against a human, who flies a lot more by feel," said Rob Reid of JPL, the project's task manager. "You can actually see that the A.I. flies the drone smoothly around the course, whereas human pilots tend to accelerate aggressively, so their path is jerkier." Compared to Loo, the drones flew more cautiously but consistently. Their algorithms are still a work in progress. For example, the drones sometimes moved so fast that motion blur caused them to lose track of their surroundings. Loo attained higher speeds and was able to perform impressive aerial corkscrews. But he was limited by exhaustion, something the A.I.-piloted drones didn't have to deal with. "This is definitely the densest track I've ever flown," Loo said. "One of my faults as a pilot is I get tired easily. When I get mentally fatigued, I start to get lost, even if I've flown the course 10 times." While the A.I. and human pilot started out with similar lap times, after dozens of laps, Loo learned the course and became more creative and nimble. For the official laps, Loo averaged 11.1 seconds, compared to the autonomous drones, which averaged 13.9 seconds. But the latter was more consistent overall. Where Loo's times varied more, the A.I was able to fly the same racing line every lap. "Our autonomous drones can fly much faster," Reid said. "One day you might see them racing professionally!" Without a human pilot, autonomous drones typically rely on GPS to find their way around. That's not an option for indoor spaces like warehouses or dense urban areas. A similar challenge is faced by autonomous cars. Camera-based localization and mapping technologies have various potential applications, Reid added. These technologies might allow drones to check on inventory in warehouses or assist search and rescue operations at disaster sites. They might even be used eventually to help future robots navigate the corridors of a space station. [...]



First pass at a Drone family tree diagram

2017-11-23T00:46:57.000Z

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For a presentation I'm doing I tried to explain how the modern drone industry grew out of the intersection of two communities, RC and robotics, and although they didn't merge, they did both evolve. 

Here's where this community comes in, bridging those two…

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For a presentation I'm doing I tried to explain how the modern drone industry grew out of the intersection of two communities, RC and robotics, and although they didn't merge, they did both evolve. 

Here's where this community comes in, bridging those two

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And here's an animation showing how 3DR and Dronecode evolved alongside the markets

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Pixhawk Mini now just $139

2017-11-22T00:30:00.000Z

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Last year, we introduced the Pixhawk Mini, a small, efficient autopilot designed in collaboration with HobbyKing specifically for the Dronecode PX4 1.6 stack. It’s been put to work on a variety of projects, and many of you use it to build DIY quads, planes,…

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Last year, we introduced the Pixhawk Mini, a small, efficient autopilot designed in collaboration with HobbyKing specifically for the Dronecode PX4 1.6 stack. It’s been put to work on a variety of projects, and many of you use it to build DIY quads, planes, rovers, and more. It also now supported by the ArduPilot/APM code, too.


Today, we’re excited to share that the Pixhawk Mini is now available for just $139, which is 30% less than its original $199 price point.

The Pixhawk Mini is 60% smaller than the original Pixhawk, and has improved sensors and an included GPS module. It's the smallest autopilot you can buy, while still rivaling its big brothers in power. Since its original release earlier this year, the digital airspeed sensor has also been upgraded to give more reliable readings.

Designed specifically for the pro-grade Dronecode PX4 software, Pixhawk Mini has an integrated four-motor power distribution board and power supply module, which enables efficient installations with small quadcopters. But you can also use it with fixed-wing vehicles and rovers with the included 8-channel RC-out board. 

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To see more features, technical specs, and to buy online, check out the Pixhawk Mini on Amazon.




Preview of upcoming Dronecode/PX4 multi-camera VIO feature

2017-11-21T00:47:53.000Z

width="854" height="480" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/uboDLwVgD84?wmode=opaque" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""> Visual Inertial Odometry (VIO) is a way to do position estimation and navigation without GPS, which is both useful for drones inside and for self-driving cars. Coming to the next release of the Dronecode/PX4 stack. 

width="854" height="480" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/uboDLwVgD84?wmode=opaque" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""> Visual Inertial Odometry (VIO) is a way to do position estimation and navigation without GPS, which is both useful for drones inside and for self-driving cars. Coming to the next release of the Dronecode/PX4 stack. 




Great YouTube channel on using Dronekit, APM

2017-11-19T23:02:04.000Z

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Tiziano Fiorenzani, an Italian engineer now working in the US, has one of the best YouTube channels on using open source drone software, especially, APM, Dronekit and Python. Above is just one example, on Drone Delivery with Python:

We are going to write a script that connects with the vehicle and waits for the operator…

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Tiziano Fiorenzani, an Italian engineer now working in the US, has one of the best YouTube channels on using open source drone software, especially, APM, Dronekit and Python. Above is just one example, on Drone Delivery with Python:

We are going to write a script that connects with the vehicle and waits for the operator to upload a valid mission. Then the script adds our current location as final waypoint and the vahicle is commanded to arm and takeoff. The vehicle is then set to Auto and once the final waypoint is reached, the script deletes the mission and sets the vehicle in Return to launch mode. At the end the script resets its status and is ready for new adventures!

See the rest of his videos on his YouTube channel here




DIY Drones now at 86,000 users

2017-10-20T20:20:54.000Z

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It's customary and traditional that we celebrate the addition of every 1,000 new members here and share the traffic stats. We've now passed 86,000 members! We're also more than ten years old!

Rather than simply give the usual monthly traffic snapshot, I thought I'd give the data…

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It's customary and traditional that we celebrate the addition of every 1,000 new members here and share the traffic stats. We've now passed 86,000 members! We're also more than ten years old!

Rather than simply give the usual monthly traffic snapshot, I thought I'd give the data for the whole decade, which tells quite a story. 

  • First, some amazing totals:
    • More than 20 million users and 118 million pageviews over the decade. 
    • 13,400 blog posts
    • More than 60,000 discussion threads
    • Nearly a million comments
  • Second, the ups and downs of this industry. Over the ten years, we've gone from one of the few drone communities around to today, when there are hundreds of sites, most of them commercial, and drone users and developers are scattered amongst them. In the early 2010s, DIY Drones was in the top three results on Google for "drones". Now there are pages and pages of commercial sites before it. That's a natural thing and demonstrates classic maturing of an industry. The amateurs have given way to the pros.
  • Third, the related rise and fall of "DIY" in the drone industry. With the triumph of DJI and its Phantom (and now Mavic and Spark) lines, it's no longer necessary to build your own drone. This is a good thing (the same happened with PCs and all sorts of electronics before it), and many people still choose to do so anyway for fun (as they still do with PCs), but it's clearly gone back to a niche activity or one for developers, much as it was in the early days. 

Today, we're still a big community with healthy traffic (about 10,000 visitors and 15,000 page views a day). And we'll continue just as we are for many years to come. We won't be the biggest site in this space, but we'll continue to be one of the most interesting and a friendly, high-quality place to talk about ideas and projects that extend of potential of drones to change the world. And have fun doing it!




Blimpduino flies again!

2017-10-03T22:37:45.000Z

Ten years after this site started with its first project, a robotic blimp called Blimpduino, two long time friends here, Jordi Munoz and Jose Julio, are relaunching it in a new improved form. It's called, unsurprisingly, Blimpduino 2.0, and you can see the progress here.  The is new… Ten years after this site started with its first project, a robotic blimp called Blimpduino, two long time friends here, Jordi Munoz and Jose Julio, are relaunching it in a new improved form. It's called, unsurprisingly, Blimpduino 2.0, and you can see the progress here.  The is new one is based on fly-by-wire Wifi system (smartphone based) and supports computer vision with the OpenMV camera.  It's what we had in mind a decade ago, but just took years for the technology to catch up.  It looks like it will be available in a couple months. Can't wait! [...]



"MVP" computer vision rover with OpenMV for less than $90

2017-10-02T04:30:00.000Z

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This is the cheapest good computer vision autonomous car you can make — less than $85! It uses the fantastic OpenMV camera, with its easy-to-use software and IDE, as well as a low-cost chassis that is fast…

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This is the cheapest good computer vision autonomous car you can make — less than $85! It uses the fantastic OpenMV camera, with its easy-to-use software and IDE, as well as a low-cost chassis that is fast enough for student use. It can follow lanes of any color, objects, faces and even other cars. It's as close to a self-driving Tesla as you’re going to get for less than $100 ;-)

It’s perfect for student competitions, where a number of cars can be built and raced against each in an afternoon.

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Instructions and code are here




Eagles vs Drones (spoiler: Eagles win)

2017-10-01T00:08:48.000Z

From the Wall Street Journal: SYDNEY— Daniel Parfitt thought he’d found the perfect drone for a two-day mapping job in a remote patch of the… From the Wall Street Journal: SYDNEY— Daniel Parfitt thought he’d found the perfect drone for a two-day mapping job in a remote patch of the Australian Outback. The roughly $80,000 machine had a wingspan of 7 feet and resembled a stealth bomber. There was just one problem. His machine raised the hackles of one prominent local resident: a wedge-tailed eagle. Wedge-tailed eagle Swooping down from above, the eagle used its talons to punch a hole in the carbon fiber and Kevlar fuselage of Mr. Parfitt’s drone, which lost control and plummeted to the ground. “I had 15 minutes to go on my last flight on my last day, and one of these wedge-tailed eagles just dive-bombed the drone and punched it out of the sky,” said Mr. Parfitt, who believed the drone was too big for a bird to damage. “It ended up being a pile of splinters.” Weighing up to nine pounds with a wingspan that can approach eight feet, the wedge-tailed eagle is Australia’s largest bird of prey. Once vilified for killing sheep and targeted by bounty hunters, it is now legally protected. Though a subspecies is still endangered in Tasmania, it is again dominating the skies across much of the continent. These highly territorial raptors, which eat kangaroos, have no interest in yielding their apex-predator status to the increasing number of drones flying around the bush. They’ve even been known to harass the occasional human in a hang glider. A picture of a wedge-tailed eagle taken by an Australian UAV drone. PHOTO: AUSTRALIAN UAV Birds all over the world have attacked drones, but the wedge-tailed eagle is particularly eager to engage in dogfights, operators say. Some try to evade these avian enemies by sending their drones into loops or steep climbs, or just mashing the throttle to outrun them. A long-term solution remains up in the air. Camouflage techniques, like putting fake eyes on the drones, don’t appear to be fully effective, and some pilots have even considered arming drones with pepper spray or noise devices to ward off eagles. They are the “ultimate angry birds,” said James Rennie, who started a drone-mapping and inspection business in Melbourne called Australian UAV. He figures that 20% of drone flights in rural areas get attacked by the eagles. On one occasion, he was forced to evade nine birds all gunning for his machine. The birds are considered bigger bullies than their more-docile relatives, such as the bald and golden eagles in the U.S. Wedge-tailed eagles are the undisputed alpha birds in parts of Australia’s interior but it’s not entirely clear why they’re so unusually aggressive towards drones. Scientists say they go after drones probably because they view them as potential prey or a new competitor. “They’re really the kings of the air in Australia,” said Todd Katzner, a biologist and eagle expert at the U.S. Geological Survey in Boise, Idaho. “There’s nothing out there that can compete with them.” Nick Baranov holds a drone camouflaged with ‘eagle-eyes.’ PHOTO: AUSTRALIAN UAV The problem is growing more acute as Australia mak[...]