As you maybe remember, we decided to celebrate our 10 years anniversary with our very own conference. It’s going to be 3 days of online meeting, sharing and generally awesome meetups to connect, learn, and hopefully develop new knowledges and acquaintances.
We are working hard on creating the best experience possible for you ! The program is still only a skeleton with some very interesting bones, and we add more and more flesh to it as the dates grow nearer.
As you can see from the program below, each day is organized around a global theme. Let’s break them down:
The first day, Tuesday, is going to be dedicated to navigation systems. Guest speakers Klaus Kefferputz from Hochscule Auburg and Joseph La Delfa (the man behind Drone Chi). will each talk about how they use positioning systems, in two very different ways. We’ll also have a workshop about the different positioning systems we support, to get into the more nitty gritty side of things.
The next day, we’ll talk about the AI deck ! Our collaborators at PULP-platform and Greenwaves Technologies are the perfect guests to talk about our newest deck. The talks will be followed by a workshop about app layers and a general panel discussion about Bitcraze – and more particularly its future. We want to hear from you, so don’t hesitate to join us as we try to determine a way forward (for the next 10 years, we have some ideas but we’re curious what you think)!
And finally, the last day will revolve around swarms. It’s Wolfgang‘s specialization, so he is of course the first guest we turned to. Bart Duisterhof and Guido de Croon from Delft University of Technology will also talk about their autonomous swarm, (they are the team behind the sniffy bug!). A swarm workshop will follow, and we will close the conference with some fun surprises!
We’re really excited and lucky to welcome all those speakers to talk about drone development. The program is not entirely fixed yet, some surprise guests should turn up. You can also still add your input by filling out this short survey.
And last, but not least : you can register to the event here on EventBrite. You will be able to add it to your calendar and finally mark the dates ! Also checkout the BAM days event page occasionally for updates.
On September, 1st of 2011, Arnaud, Marcus and Tobias signed a paper in Lund registering their brand-new company: Bitcraze. We’re here, now, 10 years later, hardly believing this gamble paid off so greatly.
Bitcraze’s story actually begins in 2009, when the 3 met in their day job and started dreaming about what will become the Crazyflie. For a long time, they combined a 9-to-5 job with the development of the nanodrone. Monday meetings run from the end of the workday until 2am, and they were exhausted, but the hard work paid off when we know now how many Crazyflies took off after that!
Some things have been added since 2011, of course! For starters, 4 more people joined the team, each changing the face of the company, making it evolve. Lean and self-organized was the way to go, the more people there was. The product itself changed and grew: from the first batch of Crazyflies, that had to be soldered out of the box, we’re now at the 2.1 version. And as years flew by, Bitcraze added to its backpack with new decks and extensions, always wanting to test new things and generally make awesome stuff. From its first flight, we’re now at impressive autonomous swarm flights!
In 10 years, we’ve also done things we would never have thought of. Did you know Marcus gave a 15 minutes speech at a conference … entirely in French ? Or that 3 different employees got a cut on their finger for the exact same reason (we’ll let you guess why!) ? We’re still amazed at how much we discovered, learned and shared in those 10 years.
For us, it’s a special moment, looking back at 10 years of awesome things, of hard work, and of passion. We plan on celebrating, of course! First with a few days’ getaway, the first occasion we’ve had in a while to be actually together and enjoy. But this milestone would not be happening without all the support of those around us: our family and friends of course, but also our contributors and our customers. That’s why we’ve decided to organize our own conference, to gather everyone for awesome days of meetup and celebrate with you!
Keep an eye out on our social media too, as this September we’ll look back a little down the road. We’ll post some fond memories (and maybe, just maybe, some embarrassing photos too!) and see how much we’ve accomplished in 10 years.
We’ve been working for some time now on improving the Lighthouse decks and its positioning system. Earlier in the year, we have brought the Lighthouse deck out of early access. While working with it, we have seen the great possibilities and the accuracy of this new positioning system. Thanks to Steam’s VR base station that we use as an optical beacon, the Crazyflie calculates its position with an accuracy better than a decimeter and millimeter precision. It gives a tracking volume of up to 5x5x2 meters with sub-millimetre jitter and below 10 cm accuracy while flying. It’s perfect for a swarm, as it’s accurate, precise and autonomous. We’ve flown our Crazyflies with it a number of time and seen some awesome stuff with it!
As an example, here is a demo we’ve shown on a conference back in October. We’ve used 8 Crazyflies equipped with Lighthouse decks and Qi chargers, to make a spiraling swarm. A computer orchestrates the Crazyflies and make sure one is flying at all times, while the others re-charge their batteries on their pads. After a pre-programmed trajectory is finished or when the battery of the flying Crazyflie is depleted, it goes back to its pad while another one takes over. The demo had an all-in mode that runs the trajectory on all Crazyflie with sufficient charge at once, the result is quite impressive and demonstrate the great relative precision of the Lighthouse system:
After the launch signal is sent to the Crazyflies, the computer is not required anymore: the Crazyflie will autonomously estimate its position from the lighthouse’s signals. The Crazyflie can estimate its own X, Y and Z in a global coordinate system.
What’s great with the Lighthouse Swarm is that it allows you to do drone research even if you’re on a tighter budget.
And when we got the opportunity to acquire our own base stations (that are also available in the shop by the way), it seemed only logical to offer a Swarm bundle similar to our Loco swarm bundle. So what’s in it ?
While the positioning will work with one base station, two base stations will allow better coverage of the flight space and better stability; as Kimberly can attest, it’s even possible to set it in your kitchen. The Crazyradios allow communication between the Crazyflies and your computer.
We dedicated a lot of time to the Lighthouse this winter, writing a paper with the help of Wolgangs’ calibration expertise. In this paper, we compared both Lighthouse V1 and V2 with the MoCap system. In all cases, the mean and median Euclidean error of the Lighthouse positioning system are about 2-4 centimeters compared to our MoCap system as ground truth. You can check the paper here, but here is a brief summary we used for our ICRA workshop:
We are now quite excited to get to see what you will do with this exciting new swarm bundle !
And if you don’t know how to set up the Swarm, you can get started at least with your Lighthouse system in this tutorial or watch Kristoffer explain it in this video:
2020 was not an ordinary year, and through its different roller coaster motions, we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished. As 2021 grows nearer, it’s time to look back at this year and appreciate our accomplishments.
The Crazyflie is still gaining a lot of interests in universities, and we’re always happy to discover what awesome things our users are doing with our products. One of our proudest moment was that a paper published in Science magazine used a Crazyflie in their research framework!
We actually made a montage of the different research videos where the Crazyflie, and we feel blessed to be part of those amazing feats. We were also quite surprised to see how the Crazyflie is implemented in different fields. Here is the video if you want to know more:
We’ve had stellar blogposts from guests this year, that you can read if you missed:
Of course, “community” this year means something different. We were sorry to not participate in the conventions and fairs where we usually meet a lot of interesting people, and had to find ways to do things differently. We now have a Discord server where people can join and discuss all things Bitcraze related!
In the beginning of the year, we started right by releasing the Active Marker deck. Thanks to our collaboration with Qualisys, this new motion capture sensor can estimate the full body pose of the Crazyflie without unique marker positions or known starting positions.
A great deal of work was dedicated to the release of the AI deck in early access. Thanks to our newest deck, super-edge-computing is now possible on your Crazyflie !
We improved our app API. We have seen it used more and more. Being able to add code to the Crazyflie without having to fork the code has proven to be quite useful and popular.
The client got a new facelift, as well as the python lib, and we released no less than 4 different new releases.
We tried as much as we can to improve our documentation, and working from home proved how much it is needed. Kimberly wrote some step-by-step guides that help you discover more hands-on how to use our python library and the motion commander.
We also tried a new way to connect with you, while improving our existing tutorials, by having an online tutorial. It proved quite successful and it was a great way to talk about all the possibilities (and difficulties!) of a swarm.
The way we work
The biggest change was, as many of you, to learn to work from home. We managed quite well, learning to adapt our process. We now are experts in flying at home, and even though our flying arena is deserted, our kitchens are now more alive than ever.
It’s that time of the year again ! As the days get darker and darker here in Sweden, we’re happy to getting some time off to share some warmth with our families.
And to kick off the holiday season, we prepared a little treat for you ! We enjoyed making a Christmas video that tested how we could use the Crazyflie at home. Since we’re not at the office anymore, we decided to fly in our homes and this video shows the different ways to do so. First, take a look at what we’ve done:
Now let’s dig into the different techniques we used.
Tobias decided to fly the Bolt manually. His first choice was to land in the Christmas sock, but that was too hard, thereof the hard landing in top of the tree. We were not sure who would survive: the tree or the Bolt!
Kimberly installed two base stations V2’s and after setting up, determined some way points by holding the Crazyflie in her hand. Then she generated a trajectory with the uav_trajectories project (like in the hyper demo). Then she used the cflib to upload this trajectory and make the crazyflie fly all the way to the basket. Her two cats could have looked more impressed, though!
Using trials and errors, Barbara used the Flowdeck, the motion commander, and a broken measuring tape to calibrate the Crazyflie’s path next to the tree.
Arnaud realized that, with all the autonomous work, we hardly fly the Crazyflie manually anymore. So he flew the Crazyflie manually. It required a bit more training that expected, but Crazyflie is really a fun (and safe!) quad to fly.
Marcus used two Lighthouse V2 base stations together with the Lighthouse deck and LED-ring deck. For the flying, he used the high level commander. The original plan was to fly around his gingerbread house, but unfortunately it was demolished before he got the chance (by some hungry elves surely!)
Kristoffer made his own tree ornament with the drone, which turned out to be a nice addition to a Christmas tree !
It was a fun way to use our own product, and to show off our decorated houses.
I hope you enjoy watching this video as much as we enjoyed making it.
We are staying open during the Holiday season but on a limited capacity: we still ship your orders, and will keep an eye on our emails and the forum, but things will get a bit slower here.
We wish you happy holidays and safe moments together with your loved ones.
The Holiday season is already in full gear here, with Christmas lights everywhere, and even though it’s not going to be an usual celebration for many of us, we’re trying to find ways to make it memorable.
Our first thought for preparing the year to come (other than hoping for less dire circumstances worldwide) is to find out how we can better your experience.
Since this summer, we’ve been wondering how to improve ourselves. We have made some great headways in stabilizing what we offer. Whether with our documentation (new step-by-step guides and online tutorials), our hardware (our new propellers work perfectly) or our software (a new client and app API), we tried to improve what we already have.
We pride ourselves in knowing our defaults, but we strive to correct them as much as we can. However, we’re aware that we’re not perfect, and have some blind spots. Be that as it may, improving ourselves means also knowing where there’s room for improvement! And that’s where you are needed.
We’d like to know your thoughts and feedback, and the best way to learn from you is to ask you questions. So we created a quick survey: it takes only 3 minutes to answer and would help us a lot. In fact, it will help us shape 2021, or at least the beginning of it, as we want to stabilize our portfolio and our documentation. The goal of the survey is to pinpoint the areas that need improvements and to gain general knowledge on our customers.
Click here if you want to help and answer the survey!
A Christmas party !
And, before we start 2021 with your feedback, we’d like to hear from you in real time! We’re indeed planning a Bitcraze Christmas gathering, on:
Day: Tuesday December 15th
Time: 17:00 Central European Time (Malmö, Sweden).
It would be nice to join us with some (virtual) mulled wine, to talk about the Crazyflie, or share some Christmas spirit together . We promise we won’t sing any Christmas carols, but maybe we can show some nice videos!
So join us on the Discord server where we will provide further information and open up a video&voice channel/Mozilla hubs room on the day itself.
It’s been more than 6 months now that I’ve joined Bitcraze and we are currently looking for more passionate people to join our team. So what is it like to work at Bitcraze? Here is my story.
My first day of work was actually during one of our quarterly meetings, which means it was during a conference, in a good hotel with a nice spa and dinner, well needed after many hours of retrospective, brainstorming and planning. It was the perfect way to enter the Bitcraze world, and get to know my colleagues: it included serious talks, but also massages and board games. Did I get used to the good life? Well, I discovered that it was not all champagnes and jaccuzi: my first actual day at the office, I cut my finger pretty badly, spreading blood all over the kitchen. That’s fine, now everyone knows I’m not to be trusted with a knife! And I have a nice “Bitcraze” scar to show.
The on boarding itself included some education from our process guru, Kristoffer. I was excited and very curious to discover how a self-organizing company functioned, and I learned a lot during those sessions. I discovered a new way of working. It got some getting used to, but I got to really analyze and question my working habits and reflexes, which is always healthy. I am now an adept of lean and agile processes, and love being involved in the innerworking of the company and its processes.
As the days went along, I took my marks. I am everyday happy to get up and go to work. I especially love Mondays, that usually involve a nice morning chat, sitting on the sofa, discussing how the weekend was or the latest Netflix documentary, before beginning our weekly meeting. I discovered that Bitcraze is all about habits and routines, that I sometimes had to adapt to my non-geeky role. Tuesday for examples is usually dedicated to coding and programming: for me, it meant that’s the day I dig into the accounting!
We also have a tradition of “fun friday” that I really enjoy. The concept is simple: Fridays are dedicated to something that we love and have fun with. It allowed me to play around with my Crazyflie and its various decks, but also to work on my photographic skills or think about a more dedicated marketing strategy. It helps that usually, Fridays end with a nice chat around a beer and some VR games.
I love that I’ve got an independence to decide how my day is going to look like. My daily tasks include a lot of different things and areas. It’s a real luxury to me to be able to choose what I feel like tackling at any point. If I don’t feel like crunching numbers, I can deal with the shipments. Maybe today I’ll order those office supplies we need, or look into our social media statistics. When I first got recruited, the word “passion” came back a lot, and it didn’t disappoint: everything we do is driven by passion. I get to do and learn a lot of different things, and rarely get bored.
Unfortunately, just as I begun to be comfortable on my new everyday routine, the world was hit by a global pandemic. Our habits were completely changed as we closed the door on the office and worked from home for 3 months.
I am actually really proud of how we handled it. Sure, the process and work flow changed drastically, but we kept on going, having faith in each other and in our capability in handling it. We kept the communication channels open, and produced the AI deck while working remotely.
For me, those times were though. I still needed the everyday guidance of my colleagues, which is trickier when they’re not sitting next to you. But it also gave me the opportunity to do more by myself, which ultimately led to learn things a lot quicker, I think. The hardest, though, was when everybody got to get back to the office, and I couldn’t: I belong in a risk group for Covid. I miss the fika with my colleagues, and working remotely seem pretty lonely.
Working as a non-tech
The trickiest part for everyone when I joined Bitcraze was to fit in the more technical aspects of the company. I only have a little programming and tech background, so including me in the geek discussions without using too much jargon was not easy for the guys. I learned a lot, in a short time. I still bug them with my questions and have a long list of terms and concepts I need to read about. But that’s ok, because my “cluelessness” actually provided good insights on the work we still have to do on documentation. And the work to understanding each other better actually flowed both ways: I had also sometimes to include my colleagues in more administrative aspects that they don’t know, or don’t care about. It’s interesting to try to adapt the Bitcraze process just because I’m here: it’s not only about developing tech anymore, we have to think about a way to involve administrative tasks to our methods.
All in all, working at Bitcraze is everything I thought it will be, and more: I love spending time with my colleagues. Each morning, I feel lucky to have joined a passionate and exciting company. I didn’t think I’ll be someone that happily turns her computer on a Sunday night to check what Monday will have to offer, but that’s what I end up doing most of the weeks.
That’s why my feelings today are mixed: I’m actually leaving the office to enjoy my generous Swedish maternity leave. Being pregnant and welcoming a new life is exciting, and I’m really happy to extend my family, but not working at Bitcraze will feel weird and I know I will miss it. Nevertheless, I know the guys will do fine without me, and I’ll be back in 2021 for more exciting news!
And if you’re interested in working at Bitcraze too, you’ll find more infos here !
It’s been more than 2 months since we decided, to preserve our health and the Swedish health care system, to work from home. Since then, the majority of the world has had to do the same, and as all of you, we had struggled to adjust to this new situation. What’s it like behind the curtain ?
The home setting
First things first: I’m not from the tech side of the company. Setting up my working environment was not difficult. I have my laptop, I plug it, and boom, I’m ready to work. I know that some of my colleagues had to get creative, setting up base stations in their summer house or in their kitchens.
My main problem setting up was dealing with comfort and distractions. Comfort means finding a good chair, and resist the temptation to just slouch on the couch – let’s be honest, maximum productivity is not achieved when the remote control is one arm’s length away.
Dealing with distractions is a whole another problem. My husband works remotely too. We’ve learned quite quickly that we can’t both work in the living room: collisions of video calls, or simply resisting the urge to chitchat together made it impossible. But the one major distraction that was impossible to ignore is 20 month-old and full of youthful energy. In Sweden, preschools are not closed, but every cold symptoms mean staying at home. It is perfectly reasonable, but we soon realized that having a toddler nearby is incompatible with working peacefully. As many parents have learned during the last couple of months, kids are a great way to lose your train of thoughts, to disrupt a video-call with inappropriate sentences or to simply disrupt any plan. As fun as it was to see how our daughter deal with the “no banging on the room’s door when mommy is working” rule, I feel incredibly lucky that we have a big enough apartment to be able to work in a separate room, and of course that she was able to have fun at the daycare while we could work from home.
A new routine
I have to say that I’m quite proud with the way we settled into this new routine. We meet each morning, setting up the goals of the day. We did that at the office too (see here), but where it lasted 10 minutes when we were all together all day, it can easily climb up to 45 minutes now. We tried to use new tools, and whether those worked or not (if you can tip on a good virtual whiteboard we’ll appreciate it!), in those two months we had time to experiment new ways of working. We tried to set up a quarterly meeting, (meaning a whole day of meeting) without a good quality webcam.. And managed it!
As the days turned into weeks, we realized that one big problem with our new setup meant that each day looked the same. This Groundhog day feeling made us lost count on our 3-week cycle and left the weekends with a strange, unsatisfying aftertaste. After all, now that I’m all the time at home, what’s the difference between a workday and a Saturday ? Well, I haven’t figure out a good solution yet.
It’s not all bad, though. I like that my new routine includes a big, often home-cooked lunch with my husband (I’m French, so of course my first thought is towards cooking !). And after the first weeks of minor stumble, the Bitcraze team is as productive as ever, with some exciting things coming soon. I have to admit too that I got used to listening to my own music while working, or that reducing the commute has allowed for some much appreciated 30 extra minutes of sleep.
And, last but not least, with the warm days returning, I started taking my laptop near the sunlit window, allowing for a great bask in the sun – what I often need to gather up energy.
Away but together
Each one of us had his struggle with remote work. For me, who has just started in the company, it was an unexpected challenge. I still have a lot of things to learn, and it’s easier when I can just tap on someone’s shoulder or quietly observe what they’re doing. Instead, I had to figure out quickly how to do things on my own. It meant making some mistakes, but eventually I’m convinced I’m now more efficient than if I had more relied on my colleagues – learning things the hard way is sometimes the best way.
If you are working from home too, you’ll understand when I say that the hardest part has been to keep up the motivation. At Bitcraze, we’re a tight-knit group, and I never realized before how much I rely on social interactions to keep me going. I’m a social animal, and my coworkers are always one of the most important part of my work. Helping them, seeing how they’re doing, sharing a ‘fika’ (Swedish coffeebreak) … I had no idea it was such a big chunk of my workplace well-being.
Thankfully, we’re now a digital tight-knit group. We have daily digital fikas to keep up with each other’s progress, and even though we could be more thorough with them, it helped with the loneliness.
As I noticed my motivation went usually down after my home-cooked lunch, a new resolution came forth: after lunch, exercise ! A great way to keep in shape and to resist the temptation of a quick nap. I’ll indeed gingerly admit that, with a comfy bed so close, it’s hard to not think about closing my eyes, just for one second… Getting the body moving and the heart rate up is the best solution I’ve found to avoid this trap, with the added benefit of not gaining too much weight during this strange period.
We also started having picnics when the weather allowed it. Respecting social distancing (each on its own blanket), it is a great way to reconnect, share a meal in the sun, and appreciate the great parks of Malmö.
All in all, I’ve learned a lot during these months working from home. We’ve managed to tackle the hurdles in our way and found our stride with this new routine. Improvisation, creativity and adaptation were necessary, but I’m happy to report we didn’t lose our motivation and will to create great product !
Speaking of great products, we have renewed our stocks that were beginning to thin a little. The buzzer decks, for example, are back in stock !
Considering the recent pandemic and the global situation, we at Bitcraze had to think about what will be our next step. Even though everyday life in Sweden is still going on, and all of us are in good health, we know there are a lot of you that are impacted by the CoronaVirus. We wanted to take responsibility for each other, the Swedish health care system, and the rest of our community by actively minimizing our social interactions. The best we can do right now is contributing to stop the disease and preserve our health.
So for the time being, we all will be working from home. Shipping of orders will be a bit slower (twice every week instead of the current four times), but other than that we hope to still be available as usual. Forums posts, sales and other daily tasks will go on as usual. Hopefully you won’t see the difference! We will still work on providing you the best flying experience we can.
With the new situation comes new challenges for the team, that we’re trying to make the best of. First of all, we will test a whole new way of working – together but apart! And we hope this will also give us the opportunity to work on some things that otherwise are a little bit left out… But you’ll have to be a little patient to discover these!
If you’re stuck at home and are getting bored, why not fly your Crazyflie and send us a video? We’ll post regularly those on our social media to fight against the current feeling of gloom and potential loneliness associated with confinement!
Our thoughts and well-wishes are with everyone affected by the situation.
My name is Barbara, and I’m really proud to say I’m the new member of Bitcraze. As of now, I will be dealing with everything non-technical, so that the great minds here can focus on creating more of their amazing products!
If you want to know a little more about me, I should start by the beginning. I come from France originally, but have moved a lot over the years. From my early childhood in Tunisia to my semester abroad in Canada, I never really settled down… Until I came to Sweden, a little over 5 years ago. After having lived in Paris for some time, Malmö was a much needed breath of fresh air. In France I worked on a lot of different fields: receptionist, assistant, salesperson, teacher’s assistant, even as an actress. Those different experiences broadened my horizon and taught me a lot. Most of all, I learned to follow my passions: helping people, singing, and generally loving what I’m doing. My last assignment included community management and content creation in a video game company, but I’m happy to use every bit of my 5 years experience as an administrative assistant to be the office wizard here at Bitcraze.
When I’m not taking care of my family or working, I keep on following my passions. I could talk hours about movies or books (especially about Terry Pratchett books, or musicals, my favorite type of movies!). I took up knitting a year ago and can’t put my needles down now. And I consider myself a real geek. Video-games, movies, comics, I even learned some programming over the years (even tough I can’t compare with the other team members!). My greatest challenge last year was to build my own PC, and I have to say that I managed it with flying colours. Another way I past the time (while making everyone happy) is by baking, and every time a new batch of cookies gets out of the oven, I feel the weight of the family tradition: my grandfather was a french pastry cook, and I proudly follow his footsteps (and recipes!).
I’m really happy to join the Bitcraze team and excited about the future. I hope I’ll learn a lot from working with Arnaud, Kristoffer, Kimberly, Marcus and Tobias. My girly-geek side can’t stop jumping with excitement at working in such an impressive and stimulating environment.
Arnaud is going to Fosdem this weekend, check out his forum post and say hi if you are there.