Author: arnaud

The Crazyflie client, the software running on a computer that is used to control and get telemetry from the Crazyflie, is written in Python and used PyQt4 as graphical user interface framework. This has worked quite well and has the advantage of running on windows/mac/linux without much effort. However Qt5 and PyQt5 have been released for a long while now and what should happen is starting to happen: PyQt4 is starting to get depreciated.

The first sign came from macOS, a ticket was reported on the Crazyflie client github indicating that it was not possible anymore to install PyQt4 using the Homebrew package manager. The problem was solvable since PyQt4 was still there but moved in the Homebrew ‘backyard’, so for the time being it still works but is a bit worrying. More recently Python 3.6 was release and there will apparently not be a release of PyQt4 for Python 3.6, this means that if we do not do anything the client risk to not be supported on linux anymore (the next Ubuntu LTS is planned to use Python 3.6).

This was enough to push us to port the client to the new Qt/PyQt5. The port was started by sighmon when the first macOS related ticket was reported but we had a bad bug with the Gamepad reading on macOS, this bug was the main blocker but has been fixed last week so we are now very close to having the port functional!

If you are curious about it, we have the port in a branch on github. We are planing on merging it in the following days and releasing a new version of the client in the process.

We are also planing on releasing a Windows build and installer this time. The Windows installer has been built automatically in AppVeyor for a couple of month now and it seems stable enough to become an official version. We still want to make a macOS app out of the client but are still blocked in doing so. If you have experience making macOS app out of PyQt5-based software, we would greatly appreciate some help in getting a mac build, we have a github ticket for it.

Crazyflie has been used by hackers and researchers as an autonomous flying platform for a while, though it has required expensive or very special software and equipment. Universities and the industry have, in most cases used motion capture systems that are very precise but also comes with a hefty price tag. We have developed the Loco Positioning System as a more accessible way to achieve autonomous flight with the Crazyflie. Bitcraze has worked intensively with autonomous flight and together with the community, we have added a number of advanced algorithms to the Crazyflie firmware that not only serve the Loco Positioning System, but are useful for anyone interested in autonomous flight regardless of positioning system. The functionality is useful for anyone from researchers with motion capture systems to hackers with a couple of webcams!

Lately there has been a lot of activities around control and stabilization algorithms. The main piece of software that has been merged into the Crazyflie firmware is the Extended Kalman Filter. With it, the Crazyflie uses its inertial sensor together with positioning information in order to calculate an estimated position. One great advantage of the Kalman filter is that it can handle much lower quality or intermittent position measurements and still fly autonomously. Of course the better the position information, the better the flight performance, but things like camera tracking with occlusion becomes possible.

There has also been a lot of work on a new controller. The controller is the piece of software that looks at the position estimate and calculate control commands to reach a given set point (for example go to {x;y;z}). We are currently working on adapting the firmware architecture to merge a more advanced control algorithm that supports complex trajectory following capabilities

Finally there is a new commander architecture that adds the possibility to send complex set points to the Crazyflie via the radio. For manual flight all you need is 3 angles, roll/pitch/yaw, and the thrust. For a more advance controller you might need position, velocity and acceleration in X/Y/Z. For even more complex trajectories, we are working at merging a sequence generator to which we can send high level setpoints like spline coordinates. The sequence generator will calculate the required setpoints onboard in real time to follow the trajectory.

All these algorithms are currently work in progress, they are in various stages of completeness, but for example we have had the Crazyflie following circles in our lab last week using the on board sequence generator, so things work. However getting the code to work is only the beginning, until it is in the master branch it does not exists. Once the code land in master, like the Kalman filter did a while ago, it will be useful out of the box for anyone that wants to work with autonomous flight using any kind of localization system: Loco Positioning, Motion Capture, GPS, webcam, etc …

For the third year some of us from Bitcraze visited Fosdem, the biggest open-source European conference. Like the other years we enjoyed being there a lot and we had a great time hanging-out with community members like Fred.

Fred presented a great lightning talk about the news in the Crazyflie galaxy, the video and slide are already available. 

Arnaud talked about the Loco positioning system. The talk and the demo, went well. Unfortunately the video from the talk is not available yet, we will tweet it and add it to this post as soon as it is online.

The Loco Positioning talk was a great opportunity for us to test the most recent bleeding edge additions to the Crazyflie autonomous algorithms. We flew the new non-linear controller from Mike Hammer using trajectory generation from Marcus Greiff. The non linear controller uses setpoints not only of position but also of velocity and acceleration to control the Crazyflie. This is where trajectory generation is useful: if you can generate a trajectory and calculate position, velocity and acceleration over time, you can feed all this information to the controller and the controller will be able to do a much better job following your trajectory. This enabled us to fly the Crazyflie fairly aggressively the week before the FOSDEM talk:

In this video the Crazyflie is accelerating to about 2g continuously to keep the trajectory. We were a bit concerned to fly such aggressive maneuvers in public without more testing so we designed a slightly safer demo the night before the talk in our hotel room:

This trajectory was successfully flown in the demo and shows the performance of this new controller. There has been a lot happening with the Crazyflie control algorithms lately: Marcus, Mike and Wolfgang have all made new controllers and Marcus has developed an on-board trajectory generator. There is still some work required in the firmware architecture to merge these into Master, but we hope this can be done in the coming weeks. Follow the Crazyflie firmware commits and github tickets if you are interested in the progress.

In this beginning of 2017 we are proud to announce that there are two new decks for the Crazyflie 2.0.

The first one has been in the works for quite some time, it is the Micro SD card deck. It enables read and write access to a SD-Card from the Crazyflie firmware (where we have also implemented FAT filesystem support). Our first use case for this deck has been to implement high speed logging of the IMU sensors: the SD-Card has much higher bandwidth than the radio so it allowed us to log all the sensor values for later analysis. Another use-case could be to read an autonomous sequence from a file on the SD-Card and implement fully autonomous sequencing in the Crazyflie when used in the Loco Positioning System for example. The SD-Card deck is already available on Bitcraze web-shop.

The Second deck is the Z-Ranger deck, it is a laser time-of-flight ranging deck that measures the distance to the ground. We talked about this deck in a previous post. The manufacturing of the deck should be finished soon and so it will be available in our shop shortly. When using this new deck, the altitude hold stability between 0 and 1.5 to 2m height is greatly improved.

On a final note, FOSDEM 2017 is this coming up this weekend and we are looking forward to meet you there. There will be two presentations related to the Crazyflie, if you want to meet us come at these presentations or get in touch in the comment or by mail. The two presentations are:

We hope to see you there!

Quite a lot has happened in the community in the latest month so we though we would dedicate this Monday post to you :-).

On the firmware side, the loco positioning system has sparked a lot of contribution. Most prominently is the Extended Kalman Filter by Mike Hammer and later improvement by multiple contributors. The Crazyflie is getting more stable and capable week after week which is awesome. Wolfgang from USC has also pushed enhancement coming from its CrazySwarm which will one day gives to everyone the capability to fly big Crazyflie swarm more easily.

On the clients side, we just pushed a new version of the iOS app to the app-store. The main improvement is the new tilt control mode implemented by EMart002 and beta-tested by a community member.

There has also been a new release of the Android client by Fred. This new version adds support for log and param using the Crazyradio. This way it is possible to get telemetry from the Crazyflie like the battery voltage and there is an experimental implementation of altitude-hold when using gamepad.

Running a beta (test-flight) version for the iOS client has been a good experience as it allowed to get direct feedback on functionalities. If there is interest we could release and announce beta versions for both Android and iOS in the future.

Finally last but not the least, there will be a new Crazyflie client in town: The Crazyserver created by Mike Hamer and written in go. It is a cross-platform, install-less, dependency-less server for a fleet of Crazyflies. It exposes a language-independent API, an HTTP rest API, to be able to connect and control any number of Crazyflie from any programming language. It will also include sockets (UDP, TCP and Websockets) to carry real-time data like setpoint and telemetry. It is still very much work in progress and not ready for real-world usage but if you are curious and/or would like to help check the code is on github.

 

For the third year we will be at FOSDEM on Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 February 2017 in Brussels. The last two years we have been present and Fred, the Android client maintainer, has had a lightning talk about the Crazyflie.

This year Fred will present a lightning talk about “News from the Crazyflie universe” and Arnaud will have a talk about the Loco Positioning System in the embedded dev-room. The LPS talk will contain a demo of one or more autonomous Crazyflies.

If you are planing at being at FOSDEM and want to meet with us just tell us in the comment, we would be really happy to meet Crazyflie users. There will be almost all of the Bitcraze team and we will have Crazyflie and a Loco Positioning System so it might even be possible to do some flight or demo on the side.

At FOSDEM 2016 we met someone from Bosch Sensortec, he was very interested by the Crazyflie and got one. Apparently his college liked the Crazyflie too because soon later we where contacted by Bosch that wanted to make a deck for the Crazyflie containing a brunch of there sensor. We have been tweeting about this board before and now we just pushed the drivers for some of the sensors into the Crazyflie main branch.

The deck has an impressive list of sensor onboard:

  • BMI055: 6 Axis gyro and accelerometer, with closed loop technology gyroscope
  • BMI160: 6 Axis gyro and accelerometer
  • BMM150: 3 Axis magnetometer
  • BMP285: Pressure sensor
  • BME680: Environmental sensor (air, pressure, humidity, temperature).

Thats a lot of data, and there is also an non-populated footprint for a BMF055 which is a BMI055 and an Atmel ARM Cortex-M0 in the same package, this is something that could be very interesting to play with in the future. The drivers and the integration are still in early stage but what has been pushed so far is support for the BMI055 and BMI160. We look forward to tuning those sensors and testing the others as well!

Bosch has made most of the work with this deck them selves and we have provided mainly guidance and support, a big benefit of open source! That has been working great and it has been very fun working with them. We are not sure if this is going to be part of a product yet, as in releasing a deck full of sensors. Please tell us what you think and if anyone would have use for such deck.

Last week we reached a milestone for our Loco Positioning System: we got 5 Crazyflie 2.0 to fly in a swarm with Time Difference of Arrival measurements. This is a great step closer to making the LPS leave the early-access state.

Until now, positioning has been done using a method called Two Way Ranging (TWR). The advantage of TWR ranging is that it allows us to easily get ranges to the anchors by actively pinging them in sequence. Based on these ranges we can then calculate the current Crazyflie position and control the Crazyflie to move to a wanted position. The big drawback though is that since each Crazyflie has to actively transmit packets to ping anchors, flying many Crazyflie means sharing the air and so the more we want to fly the less ranging each Crazyflie can do. In other words: it does not scale.

TDoA measurement consist of measuring the difference of flight time between packets coming from different anchors and this is harder to achieve since the anchor clocks must be synchronized to each other. The killer feature of TDoA is that it can be implemented using unidirectional packet sent from the anchor system and received by the tag/Crazyflie. It means that as soon as you get one Crazyflie flying with TDoA, you can get as many as you want since the Crazyflies do not have to transmit anything.

This is what happened last week: on Thursday evening we got 1 Crazyflie to fly with TDoA measurements. On Friday we tried 3 and then 5 without much effort. It was just matter of modifying the ROS launchfile to connect more crazyflies, a copy-paste operation.

Then

There still seems to be a margin for progression to get even more stable flight with TDoA and we are also working on making the LPS and Swarm work with our Python client which will make it easier to use outside a robotic lab.

If you want to try the (very experimental!) TDoA mode with your loco positioning system we have documented how to get it to work on the wiki.

Thanks a lot to the growing community that is supporting us and allow us to move faster towards a Crazyflie swarm.

Loco positioning system is still in Early access which means that things are moving fast. Since the release of the loco positioning system a Kalman filter has been contributed by Mike Hammer at ETH Zurich. The Kalman filter allows to calculate the position estimate in the Crazyflie and merges the Loco positioning system information with internal sensor to generate a much better estimate. We also worked on improving the anchor firmware, it is now ranging faster and we fixed a bug that was making the anchor hang sometime. Finally stephanbro on github pushed an improved position controller that improved the stability of flight a lot.

Because of all these changes we have decided to make a new video and to rewrite the documentation on the wiki a bit. Enjoy!


On the development side, we have extended the Loco Positioning system to position 2 concurrent Tags by using TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) where each Tag is allocated a time slot to use to range to the anchors.

2crazyflies

This works fine for a few Tags, but does not scale very well for a larger numbers of tags. If you want to experiment by yourself there is some instruction in the git commit. Be aware that this is still experimental enough for us to break it without warning so keep track of the git commits when you pull the latest version of the firmware. Currently we are working on a TDoA (Time Difference Of Arrival) mode that will scale to concurrently position virtually an infinite number of tags, hopefully you will soon be able to see commits on that on our Github projects.

We have always been interested in controlling Crazyflie with various devices. For example we had the Leap Motion that enabled us to control the Crazyflie with our bare hand. Then we hacked a glove for Arduino day. At Maker faire Berlin 2016 we met the team from Specktr. Specktr is a midi glove and since our demo was controlled with midi we had to try connecting the Specktr with Crazyfile 2.0 flying using Loco Positioning System!

We met in the evening, after the faire was closed, and started hacking to map the midi messages transmitted by the glove to our midi to position ROS node. After a couple of mandatory crashes and crazy behavior (like setting the flight area way too big and sending the Crazyflie high speed away at the snap of a finger, too bad we have no video of that …) we had things working well and the glove could control the Crazyflie X position:

The second and last day of the faire we did a more proper connection where both X and Y could be controlled. The result is quite nice. It looks near magic, and quite fun, to control Crazyflie just by just moving the hand:

Speccktr is currently running a crowd funding campaign and we cannot wait to get ours to be able to hack more with it together with Crazyflie and Loco Positioning System.