Author: Jonas Danielsson

This week we merged a pretty big change in the Crazyflie firmware code repository. The change altered the way we configure and build what goes in to the drone. We now make use of the Kbuild build system.

The Kbuild build system is the build system used, foremost, by the Linux kernel, but is also used in other projects like Busybox, U-Boot and sort of Zephyr. It is mostly known from its terminal based configuration tool, menuconfig.

A view of the Expansion deck configuration in the menuconfig

Kbuild leverages Kconfig files to build up an hierarchy of configuration options to use when building the software. It allows you to setup dependencies between your configuration, allowing us to do things like only enable the Kalman filter when there is a deck driver that needs it enabled.

This new way of building the firmware replaces the old way of using config.mk to set the build defines you need. Our hope is that Kbuild will make it easier to customize the Crazyflie firmware to fit the need of your department or project.

What does this mean for you?

If you are not changing the firmware as part of your Crazyflie development this will not change anything for you. The Python library will continue to work just like before and Bitcraze will release official firmwares, just like before.

If you are in the habit of fetching and building the latest and greatest version of the Bitcraze firmware there will be some minor changes. This can be seen in our updated build documentation on the web. The biggest deal is that the firmware code needs a configuration file before building is possible. To get the default one you can go:

$ make defconfig
make[1]: Entering directory '/home/jonasdn/sandbox/kbuild-firmware/build'
  GEN     ./Makefile
scripts/kconfig/conf  --defconfig Kconfig
#
# configuration written to .config
#
make[1]: Leaving directory '/home/jonasdn/sandbox/kbuild-firmware/build'

The way to compile app-layer applications has changed a bit and you will need to adapt (sorry!) the new way of building your app-layer application can be seen in the updated documentation.

If you make heavy use of config.mk and frequently change code in the firmware there are many new possibilities for you. Check the documentation and keep reading this blog.

Making the firmware more modular

With the new build systems help we hope to make it easier to enable and disable features and sub systems in the quad copter. In the default firmware all drivers for all expansion decks are included, as well as all estimators. If you are pushing a feature or experiment that need more RAM or flash, that might be inconvenient for you.

As an experiment we can try building the current maximum-, minimum- and default configuration of the Crazyflie. We say current because the work to make the firmware more modular is ongoing.

The default configuration, the official firmware, we can obtain by invoking the special make command defconfig.

$ make defconfig

And building the maximum is done using allyesconfig this gives us configuration file with all options enabled.

$ make allyesconfig

And conversely the minimum configuration can be set using allnoconfig, which will disable all features that can be disabled.

$ make allnoconfig

The resulting firmware sizes can seen in the table below:

BuildFlashRAMCCM
defconfig232 Kb (23%)76 Kb (59%)57 Kb (89%)
allyesconfig428 Kb (42%)80 Kb (62%)57 Kb (90%)
allnoconfig139 Kb (14%)62 Kb (48%)45 Kb (71%)

This shows some of the potential of the modularization of the firmware. We hope it will make it easier for you to get your stuff to fit, without having to hack around in the code too much.

Making it easier for us to merge your contributions

The new system makes it easier include code in the firmware repository without necessary needing to include it in the official firmware. This will make it easier for us to merge controllers, estimators, algorithms, deck drivers and other stuff from you.

We can include them in our Kconfig files, allowing people to select them and build firmware using them and we can make sure they get (at least compile) tested as part of our continuous integration. So you can sleep soundly knowing your code will not suddenly break with new versions of the firmware.

Creating and distributing your own config

If you want to create your own configuration, and spread it around you can do so.

You can use:

$ make menuconfig

To create a base .config file with your special configuration. If you copy the file, or have us merge it, to the configs/ directory.

$ cp build/.config configs/waggle-drone_defconfig

Then it will be possible for other people to build your configuration by going:

$ make waggle-drone_defconfig
make[1]: Entering directory '/home/jonasdn/sandbox/kbuild-firmware/build'
  GEN     ./Makefile
#
# configuration written to .config
#
make[1]: Leaving directory '/home/jonasdn/sandbox/kbuild-firmware/build'

But it would also be possible to just add the configuration that differ with the default configuration to your config file:

$ echo CONFIG_PLATFORM_BOLT=y > configs/waggle-drone_defconfig

$ make waggle-drone_defconfig

$ grep PLATFORM build/.config
# CONFIG_PLATFORM_CF2 is not set
CONFIG_PLATFORM_BOLT=y
# CONFIG_PLATFORM_TAG is not set

Help out and test it please!

This is quite a big change and we are still shaking out bugs. Please give it a test run and report any issues you find!

If you want to help out, there is a GitHub project that contain the issues we know about, feel free to grab one and contribute your solution!

Happy hacking!

You might, or might not have heard about a tool called Wireshark, it is quite popular in the software development world.

The wireshark official logo


Wireshark is a free and open-source packet analyzer. It is used for network troubleshooting, analysis, communications protocol development and education. It makes analyzing what is going on with packet based protocols easier.

Most often Wireshark is used for network based protocols like TCP and UDP, to try to figure out what is happening with your networking code. But! Wireshark also allows you to write your own packet dissector plugin, this means that you can register some code to make Wireshark handle your custom packet based protocol.

For the latest release of the Crazyflie Python Library we added support for generating a log of the Crazy Real Time Protocol (CRTP) packets the library sends and receives. This is the (packet based) protocol that we use to communicate with the Crazyflie via radio and USB.

We generate this log in the special PCAP format that Wireshark expects. And we also created an initial version of a dissector plugin, written in the programming language LUA.

When we put this two things together it turns into a pretty cool way of debugging what goes on between your computer and the Crazyflie!

What does it look like?

Wireshark gives you a graphical interface where you can view all the packets in a PCAP file. You will see the timestamps of when they arrived. Selecting a packet will give you the information that the dissector has managed to deduce as well as how the packet looked on the wire.

On top of that you get powerful filtering tools. In the below image we have set a filter to view only packets that are received or sent on the CRTP port 8, which is the port for the High level commander. This means that from a log file that contain 44393 packets we now only display 9. Which makes following what goes on with high level commands a bit easier.

Wireshark view of filtering out packets on CRTP port 8

The dissector knows about the different types of CRTP ports and channels and knows how to dissect an high level set-point, as seen by the image above.

What can this be used for?

This functionality is, we think, most useful for when developing new functionality in the Crazyflie firmware, or in the library. You can easily inspect what the library receives or sends and make sure it matches what your code indented.

But it can also be useful when doing client type work! We recently located the source of a bug in the Crazyflie client with the use of this Wireshark plugin.

It was when updating the Parameter tab of the client to handle persistent parameters, and to use a sidebar for extra documentation and value control. As I was testing the code I noticed that every time I changed the value of ring.effect to a valid integer and then disconnected and reconnected, the value was set to 0. Regardless of the value I had set.

I recorded a session using the PCAP log functionality:

$ CRTP_PCAP_LOG=ring.pcap cfclient

And the I fired up wireshark:

$ wireshark ring.pcap

It was now possible for me to track what the library and firmware thought was going on with the ring.effect parameter, by tracking the crtp.parameter_varid field using Wireshark. Filtering down from from 3282 packets to 12 packets.

I had earlier figured out that the varid of the ring.effect variable was 183. This is a quasi-internal representation of a parameter that we do not expose in a good way. In the future we will try to make this Wireshark tracking work with the parameter name as well.

Looking at the write parameter packet from USB #3 to the Crazyflie I could see where I set the value of the parameter to 5, so far so good.

Wireshark view of checking my setting of the ring.effect parameter to 5

The surprising part however was seeing a write further down setting the parameter to 0! This mean that something in the client was actually setting this to zero!

Wireshark view of something setting the ring.effect parameter to 0

After seeing this, locating the actual issue was trivial. I noticed that the Flight Control tab was setting the ring.effect parameter to the current index of the combo box in the UI. And when no LED-ring deck was attached, this amounted to always setting the value to zero.

But having confirmation that this was something happening on the client side, and not some kind of bug with the new persistent parameters was very helpful!

How do you use this?

We have added documentation to the repository documentation for the library on how to generate the PCAP log and how install the Wireshark plugin.

But the quick-start guide is this:

  • Copy the tools/crtp-dissector.lua script to the default Wireshark plugin folder
    • Windows: %APPDATA%\Wireshark\plugin or WIRESHARK\plugins
    • Linux: ~/.local/lib/wireshark/plugins
  • Restart Wireshark or hit CTRL+SHIFT+L
  • Set the environmental variable CRTP_PCAP_LOG to the filename of the PCAP log you want to generate
  • Run Wireshark with the filename as an argument

And please report any issues you find!

Happy hacking!

We are thrilled to announce the new 2022.1 release of the Crazyflie firmwares, library and client! There have been a lot of bug fixes, polishing and new features and we are glad we finally get to share it with all of you.

Noteworthy features and fixes

The features and fixes listed here is only a subset of all the bug fixes and other additions we have done in the last six months. For a more complete view, please check the release notes on GitHub.


Crazyflie STM firmware — Main firmware

Release notes on GitHub


Crazyflie NRF firmware — Radio and power management

Release notes on GitHub

  • We now report the version of the NRF firmware on the Crazyflie console

Crazyflie Python library — The official Python API

Release notes on GitHub


Crazyflie Client — The Crazyflie PC client

Release notes on GitHub

  • Rework of the Parameters tab
    • To better show parameter documentation and to include persistent functionality
Image of the Crayzflie PC client with new parameter tab
New Parameters tab with filtering search and sidebar with more information about values

Documentation

Along with all the new features, bug fixes and general polish of our software we have also spent time making sure our documentation is up-to-date and relevant! You can check it out on our website. Do not forget to check out the individual repositories documentation. And the tutorial page has gotten some love this cycle, check it out!

Please go forth and install this new release and please file issues with any problem you find!

Where to get it?

The firmware images for the Crazyflie STM firmware and the Crazyflie NRF firmware should already be available through the cfclient. And if you want to download them yourself you can find them at https://github.com/bitcraze/crazyflie-firmware/releases.

The Crazyflie Client and the Crazyflie Python library are available through Pypi (The Python Package Index), to install them you can use the following commands:

$ python3 -m pip install --upgrade cfclient # to install or upgrade the Crazyflie client

$ python3 -m pip install --upgrade cflib # to install or upgrade the Crazyflie Python library

Happy hacking!

The Crazyflie parameter framework provides a way to get, set and monitor parameters in the quadcopter. Examples of a parameter include which effect the LED ring will display as well as which controller to use for flight.

The parameters have default values and up until now have been reset to those default values on each restart of the Crazyflie. This has not been seen as much of a problem (Or has it? Let us know!) since most use of the Crazyflie platform has been session based and the need for persistent parameters has been low. Our work with getting the Crazyflie Bolt out of early access has however changed this need.

The Crazyflie Bolt kit

The Bolt will need different values for the tuning parameters for controllers and being forced to set these on each boot would be pretty annoying. And since we want the Crazyflie Bolt and the Crazyflie 2.1 to share the same firmware, persistent parameters would come in handy.

Fortunately the Crazyflie includes an EEPROM (Electronically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory) which we can use to store parameter values and have them survive restarts of the quad.

So this means, with the latest branches of the firmware and the python library, you can set values of a persistent parameter, store it to EEPROM, and the parameter will keep its values across reset and even across firmware upgrades.

Persistent Parameter API

Not all parameters will be able to be persistent and stored in the EEPROM. We have added a way to declare a parameter as persistent in the firmware:

PARAM_ADD_CORE(PARAM_UINT8 | PARAM_PERSISTENT, effect, &effect)

This will allow the new API added to our python library to be used with this parameter. The API consists of three actions:

  • Getting the state of a persistent parameter
  • Storing the current value of a persistent parameter
  • Clearing the stored value of a persistent parameter

The state of a persistent parameter consist of three pieces of information:

  • Is the value stored or not
  • The default value of the parameter
  • The stored value of the parameter

Setting a value, using the regular parameter API, is not enough to store the value to the EEPROM for a persistent parameter, you need to be explicit. A special API call is needed to store the current value to memory. And to stop storing the value you need to use the clear API action.

Python API

The above choices corresponds to three methods in our Python API:


def persistent_get_state(self, complete_name, callback)

Get the state of the specified persistent parameter. The state will be returned in the supplied callback. The state is represented as a named tuple with members: is_storeddefault_value and stored_value. The state is None if the parameter is not persistent or if something goes wrong.


def persistent_store(self, complete_name, callback=None)

Store the current value of the specified persistent parameter to EEPROM. The supplied callback will be called with True as an argument on success, and with False as an argument on failure.


def persistent_clear(self, complete_name, callback=None)

Clear the current value of the specified persistent parameter from EEPROM. The supplied callback will be called with True as an argument on success and with False as an argument on failure.


Example code

We have also added an example script that will showcase the functionality, it will list the state of all persisted parameters in the firmware, and will store and clear some of them. The output when run against current master is:

$ CFLIB_URI=radio://0/80/2M/E7E7E7E7E8 python3 examples/parameters/persistent_params.py 
-- All persistent parameters --
sound.effect: PersistentParamState(is_stored=False, default_value=0, stored_value=None)
ring.effect: PersistentParamState(is_stored=True, default_value=6, stored_value=2)

Set parameter ring.effect to 10

Store the new value in persistent memory
Persisted ring.effect!
The new state is:
ring.effect: PersistentParamState(is_stored=True, default_value=6, stored_value=10)

Clear the persisted parameter
Cleared ring.effect!
The new state is:
ring.effect: PersistentParamState(is_stored=False, default_value=6, stored_value=None)

You can count on more parameters to be marked as persistent in the near future. Hopefully this will be useful for you! Please report any issues you find!

Happy Hacking!

We have recently worked on functionality in our web site to generate documentation from source in a few ways that we hope will improve the quality as well as simplify maintenance. We have already written a bit about the log and param documentation in the crazyflie-firmware repository, but we now also added and API reference in the python library as well as generating a list of publications related to the Crazyflie.

The Log and Param documentation

Earlier this year we worked on generating documentation for Log and Params from doxygen comments. We will not dig deeper into this here, but you can read more about it in this blog post. The latest version is available on our web in the repository documentation for the crazyflie-firmware: logs and params

An API reference for our Python library

The Crazyflie Python library is what you might use to create programs that interact with the Crazyflie, for instance to manage small swarms. For a while we have had introductory documentation, and step-by-step guides to show you how to perform, what we think are, common tasks.

However along the way we have also added comments and examples to our code. And this, combined with the way we have structured the library actually enables us to automagically generate reference API documentation. That is, something that shows you everything that is possible to do with the library, all modules and classes, all methods and constants that the library offers.

After some recent work this is now happening and the documentation will now get generated each time we deploy our website!

The API reference documentation can be found in the repository documentation for the library. Please check it out! And be picky, complain where the documentation is lacking! Or if the formatting seems weird! We are trying to get the hang of this and we need you to push us!

Managing publications

Some years ago we started to add publication that are related to the Crazyflie to our Research page, we hope that it might be inspiring to read about all the awesome things that the Crazyflie is used for.

Until now it has been a simple list in markdown but with an increasing number of publications it has become harder and harder to maintain it, finally we have put the work into generating the list from a BibTeX (.bib) file instead. One advantage of the new solution is that BibTeX is a well known format to the research community with lots of tools around to manage BibTeX files while another improvement is that the list will be formatted in a consistent manner (which was not always the case earlier).

If you want to add a publication to the page, simply update the .bib file with your data and create a pull request with the changes. We will merge when appropriate and the publication will become visible on the web after the next deploy, usually within a few days.

Behind the scenes

The code for generating documentation from source tends to spread out over multiple repositories and creates some complexity with a multitude of tools for different languages. It should not be necessary to understand the details and we hope the system will be easy to use for contributors to the code base.

Any questions or comments are welcome.

Happy coding!

The Crazyflie firmware is the result of a lot of engineering (Making It Work) effort over a long period of time, the first commit in the GitHub repository is from 2013.

There are issues, inconsistencies and pain points in our firmware that have been found along the way, things that are difficult to fix because they have, in some sense, become load-bearing.

An examples of an issue like this is our inconsistency in what units are used in the Crazyflie firmware, we would like to use SI units everywhere but today that is not the case. And converting everything is proving to be tough.

More examples can be found in Appendix A of the paper Development of a multi-agent quadrotor research platform with distributed computational capabilities (Ian Scott Mcinerney, 2017).

We would like to fix all of these, but, the problem is that we have APIs to consider. There are programs written that assume that the data received from the Crazyflie is in a certain way. If we were to switch to the, more correct, aerospace axes these programs might break. And worse, they might break silently, meaning there will be no error message.

Our APIs constitute some kind of promise between the Crazyflie ecosystem (firmware, python library, documentation) and our users.

Examples include the parameter- and logging API which today has ideas about which way the coordinate system points and what units are used for values. As well as the Commander Framework / API, since this API has opinions regarding what way X, Y or Z grows in relation to reality.

Our APIs exists both between the Crazyflie firmware and our Python library code and between our Python library code and our users programs, as visualized in the diagram below.

CF - API

If we were to implement solutions to the known issues we need to take these API into consideration. There are applications, demos, scripts and research code out there that rely on these APIs to behave a certain way.

So what can we do? What are our options? We have tried to enumerate them below.

1. Go Ahead And Change Units and Coordinates – But Do Not Update APIs

We fix as much as we can of the unit, correctness and conventions bugs in the firmware, but we leave the APIs as they are. This means that we keep the name of the parameter- and logging variables and we keep the name of all Python classes and functions. This is the less amount of work, it only needs updates to the crazyflie-firmware repository.

All examples and programs will continue to run. But they might now operate under false pretenses, perhaps with no error messages. The programs might stop working because of the implicit change of API.

We will have to communicate loud and clear that this will happen beforehand.

2. Go Ahead And Change Units and Coordinates – And Update the APIs

We fix as much as we can of the unit, correctness and conventions bugs in the firmware, and we also rework our APIs! We will gather learnings from our years with the current CRTP and Python API and we update them to be more developer ergonomic as well as update the parameter- and logging variables to be more consistent in naming and SI units.

This will require quite a bit of work, both in the crazyflie-firmware repository and possibly in the the crazyflie-lib-python repository.

A big benefit of this would be that we are then open to change where the boundaries for our API lies, what we provide as libraries and what is applications responsibility. And we can address pain points that are deep and structural to todays APIs.

This will break all existing programs out there, they will no longer run. They will get error messages and will need to be updated to the new APIs. We might also get weird issues and scenarios where old library code try to interface with newer firmware. We could create policys on for how long we maintain the old API and try to have them side-by-side for a bit.

3. Go Ahead And Change Units and Coordinates – Keep Old API Forever and Add a New One

We fix as much as we can of the unit, correctness and conventions bugs in the firmware, and we also rework our APIs! We will gather learnings from our years with the current CRTP and Python API and we update them to be more developer ergonomic as well as update the parameter- and logging variables to be more consistent in naming and SI units. And! We will also keep the old API as a legacy API.

It is unclear if this is possible, if we have enough memory in the firmware as well as enough bandwidth to maintain two APIs.

We could in theory keep all of the user-facing Python API and attempt to translate between the old and new one in Python code. This might take a lot of work and effort to do, but it might be possible.

But. Fixing all the correctness, convention and units in the firmware might make it very difficult to support both APIs. It might also limit how creative and how different a new API could be, while still being translatable to the old API.

We could also investigate if it would be possible to keep the API between the firmware and the libraries (CRTP and paramter- and logging variables) but translate to be more correct in regards to Units and Conventions in our library.

Even if this was deemed possible it would not help anyone developing directly against the firmware, without using a Bitcraze library.

4. Do Not Change Units and Coordinates – Keep Old API

Accept that the crazyflie-firmware will not reach correctness in respect to units and conventions and close the issues above. We can make sure all new features going in respect SI units and convention, but consider what we have as a legacy. This is by far the one that requires the less work. zero. But it will keep the pain points and inconsistencies of the Crazyflie platform.

Conclusions

There are trade offs between all solutions. We need to decide what our current APIs are worth to us. And how painful it would be for our users to handle an API break.

Maintaining multiple APIs might be to big of an burden for both us and our code base though. This is very very tricky.

It would help us a lot to hear from our users!

If you are someone who develops or have developed against the Crazyflie ecosystem please get in touch, we have created an GitHub issue here. Tell us if you have hit any of the pain-points described in this post or how an API break would affect you.

At Bitcraze, the team is starting to return from vacations even if it will take some weeks still until we are full force again. Work will pick up pace more and more from now, so if we have been slow to answering any issue, pull-request or forum post we ask you to have patience, we will get to you!

Poplinks

Last week we managed to land more improvements to our documentation, by adding poplinks to all references to expansion decks on our website. Poplinks is our name for links that when clicked will popup a box with links to information about the thing you clicked.

Example poplink from the Positioning Systems Overview page

Our aim is to add more poplinks, in areas where they make sense.

Lighthouse decks soon back in stock

We are working hard on completing the next batch of Lighthouse decks and expect them to be back in stock shortly, keep an eye on our store!

BAM days

The planning for the Bitcraze Awesome Meetup days (19th to the 21th of October 2021) is ongoing and we have decided on a online platform to use: Welkom ! This platform comes from the Netherlands and offers some cool functionalities, especially for social gatherings, that we can’t wait for you to see.

We have begun to shape up a nice program to fill these 3 days with talks, demos, workshops and fun things, so don’t forget to fill in the interest form if you want to be a part of it:

We like to describe the Crazyflie as a versatile open source flying development platform. It is something that enables you to do cool stuff. It is not a finished, polished end product in its own.

The platform offers hardware extensions in form of decks, that you make your self or buy from Bitcraze. And the platform offers software extension, either by altering the firmware on the device or by writing programs that communicate with the platform.

This approach makes determining the expectations and requirements for the platform and the surrounding ecosystem a bit tricky. It is dependent on what you as a user plan to create using our products. And since the ecosystem is growing we need a, scalable, way to handle these fuzzy expectations during development and maintenance.

We think testing is big part of solving this, testing in a systematic, scalable and reproducible way. This is the reason for setting up our first physical test lab, aimed at providing stability while moving forward with new products and features.

Testing today

Continuous integration

On each change proposal to our software we run tests. For the firmware in the device we build multiple different configuration and run unit-tests. For the Crazyflie client and the Python library we make sure we can build for Linux and Windows and that the code passes our style guidelines. If any test fail we go back and update the proposed changed and re-run the tests. This is our first level of defense against defects.

Release testing

For each release we follow a checklist of procedures and tests to make sure that quality does not degrade. We make sure all the examples in the Python library are working and that the Crazyflie can fly around as expected in our flight arena, using various positioning systems.

Limitations

The way we test today makes it very difficult to determine if we regress in, for example, flight capability or in radio communication quality. We either test different software packages in isolation, without hardware in the loop, or we test by having a human trying to estimate if any degradation has happened since the last release.

We run into scalability issues as our ecosystem grows, it is near impossible to test all the different combinations of products. And it is very hard for us to detect stability or quality regressions without having a more systematic approach to testing the software on relevant hardware.

Introducing the test lab

What we have done so far are two things:

  1. Created an infrastructure for setting up a site for testing our software on real devices
  2. Prepared a test lab in our printer room at our office in Malmö

Infrastructure: crazyflie-testing

This new Git repository contains the building blocks we need to setup our new test lab. You can check out the repository README.md file for information on how to run it.

It contains a beginning of an automated QA test suite and along with that a start of a set of requirements for those tests. The requirements are specified in TOML files which are parsed and accessed from the tests. They are also rendered to markdown, to be easier for human consumption.

The repository contains a way to specify a test site, which is a collection of devices to run the test suite against. You specify your site in a TOML file which contain information about each device, such as which decks are connected and the radio:// URI. This site specification is then used by the test framework when running the tests, making sure each test is run against all devices compatible with that test.

The infrastructure also has management scripts to perform tasks like flashing all devices in a site, or recovering them if they go into boot loader mode by accident. All aimed at being able to handle testing with the least amount of human intervention possible.

The most recent addition to the infrastructure is the ability to test swarms using the Crazyswarm project!

Crazylab Malmö

We define the site crazylab-malmö.toml which is the test lab we have setup in our printer room in Malmö, Sweden, it is currently defined as:

version = 1

[device.cf2_flow2_lighthouse]
radio = "radio://0/50/2M/E7E7E71706"
decks = ["bcFlow2", "bcLighthouse4"]
bootloader_radio = "radio://0/0/2M/B19CF77F05?safelink=0"

[device.cf2_flow2]
radio = "radio://0/50/2M/E7E7E71705"
decks = ["bcFlow2"]
bootloader_radio = "radio://0/0/2M/B16298A8A3?safelink=0"

[device.cf2_flow2_multiranger]
radio = "radio://0/50/2M/E7E7E71704"
decks = ["bcFlow2", "bcMultiranger"]
bootloader_radio = "radio://0/0/2M/B1CEE678C5?safelink=0"

[device.cf2_usddeck]
radio = "radio://0/50/2M/E7E7E71703"
decks = ["bcUSD"]
bootloader_radio = "radio://0/0/2M/B164C8AC96?safelink=0"

[device.cf2_lighthouse]
radio = "radio://0/50/2M/E7E7E71702"
bootloader_radio = "radio://0/0/2M/B1F519F77B?safelink=0"
decks = ["bcLighthouse4"]

[device.cf2_stock]
radio = "radio://0/50/2M/E7E7E71701"
bootloader_radio = "radio://0/0/2M/B177790F3A?safelink=0"

There are, for now, six devices with different combination of decks attached. Each night, after midnight, different GitHub actions starts working for us. One job builds the latest versions of the firmwares for the devices another job will upgrade all the devices in the lab and run the test suite, and a selection of the Python library examples. We will be notified if any of these jobs fail.

This acts as a safety net for us. We will quickly know if the communication performance degrades, or if we have messed up with our parameter or logging frameworks. And we can catch silly firmware bugs as early as possible.

Future

We want to keep adding test cases and other infrastructure to our testing framework. Going forward it would be really nice to be able to test positioning systems in some way. And of course, some type of test of flight, be it free flying tests or using some kind of harness.

It might be interesting to look into adding simulations (hardware in loop or not) to our testing setup. It is all a question of bandwidth, there are a lot of cool things to work on, and a limit on time and bodies.

You can help! You might even be able to help yourself while helping us! If you contribute tests that correspond to your use-case, then you can relax knowing that those tests will run each night, and that Bitcraze engineers will be notified the minute they fail.

Or you can define your own site and run the test-suite against all your devices to make sure nothing strange is going on.

Hopefully this infrastructure and lab will help all of us to do more cool stuff using the Bitcraze ecosystem!

We are happy to announce the availability of the 2021.06 release of the Crazyflie firmware and client! This release includes bugfixes related to flashing the Crazyflie and the Lighthouse deck and also the new concept of core parameters and logging variables, that we talked about in the blog post: Crazyflie logging and parameters interface.

There are new binaries for the Crazyflie (2021.06), the Crazyflie client (2021.6) as well as a new release of the Crazyflie python library (0.1.16). The firmware package can be downloaded from the Crazyflie release repository (2021.06) or can be flashed directly using the Crazyflie client.


Noteworthy features and fixes

Crazyflie STM firmware

* Added an app layer application of the wall following demo
* Fixed a bug where the initial position of the Kalman estimator was set to (1.5, 0, 0)
* Enable an estimator to be added by out of tree build
* Add and document core parameters and log variables
* Fix deck info mem implementation can return uninitialized buffer
  - Caused: Flashing errors with Flowdeck
* Rechecked INDI controller for mistakes/consistency

Crazyflie NRF firmware

* pm: Increase delay before powering system
  - Caused: Issues flashing Lighthouse deck

Crazyflie Python library (0.1.16)

* Add support for crazyflie-link-cpp
* Add get_value to parameter class
* Make tutorial more user friendly
* Improve reset_to[firmware|bootloader]

Crazyflie Client

* Do not allow upgrading firmware when connected to USB
* Console tab: new messages should always appear at the bottom
* Update install doc

Documentation

* Core logging groups and variables
* Core parameter groups and variables
* Improved motion commander tutorial

Help us out!

We always strive to release quality software and firmware, but we are not perfect! Please help us out by installing the new library, client and firmware and make sure that your applications, tools and algorithms still work as you expect! And if not please file an issue with us or contact us via the forum.

Happy hacking!

Background

In the past couple of weeks we have been busy trying to improve the development interface of the Crazyflie. We want to make developing with and for the platform a more pleasant experience.

We have started looking at the logging- and parameter framework and how to improve it for our users. The aim of this framework is to easily be able to log data from the Crazyflie and to set variables during runtime. Your application can use them to control the behavior of the platform or to receive data about what it is currently up to. As of today, in the firmware there are 227 parameters and 467 logging variables defined.

View from the cfclient of the different logging variables one could subscribe to

These logging variables and parameters have been added to the Crazyflie firmware over the course of years. Some are critical infrastructure, needed to be able to write proper applications that interface with the platform. Some are duplicates or were added as debug years ago. Others have in some way outlived their usefulness as the firmware and functionality has moved on. The problem is that we have no way of conveying this information to our users and this is what we are trying to rectify.

An attempt of stability

We are currently reviewing all of our logging variables and parameters in an attempt to make the situation clearer for our users … and ourselves. We are adding documentation to make the purpose of each individual parameters and logging variables more clear. And we are also dividing them up into two categories: core and non-core.

If a parameter or logging variable is marked as core in the firmware that constitutes a promise that we will try very hard to not remove, rename or in any other way change the behavior of it. The idea is that this variable or parameter can be used in applications without any fear or doubt about it going away.

If a variable or parameter is non-core it does not mean that it is marked for removal. But, it could mean that we need more time to make sure that it is the proper interface for the platform. It means that it could change in some way or in some cases be removed in later firmware releases.

The reason for doing this is twofold: we want to make the Crazyflie interface clearer for our users and we want something that we feel we can maintain and keep an up-to-date documentation of.

What is the result?

We have introduced a pair of new macros to the firmware, LOG_ADD_CORE and PARAM_ADD_CORE which can be used to mark a parameter or variable as core. When using these we also mandate that there should be a Doxygen comment attached to the macro.

Below is an example from the barometer log group, showing the style of documentation expected and how to mark a logging variable as core. Parameters gets treated in the same way.

/**
 * Log group for the barometer
 */
LOG_GROUP_START(baro)

/**
 * @brief Altitude above Sea Level [m]
 */
LOG_ADD_CORE(LOG_FLOAT, asl, &sensorData.baro.asl)

/**
 * @brief Temperature [degrees Celsius]
 */
LOG_ADD(LOG_FLOAT, temp, &sensorData.baro.temperature)

/**
 * @brief Air pressure [mbar]
 */
LOG_ADD_CORE(LOG_FLOAT, pressure, &sensorData.baro.pressure)

LOG_GROUP_STOP(baro)

We have also added a script In the firmware repository: elf_sanity.py. The script will return data about parameters and logging variables that it is included in a firmware elf. This can be used to count the number of core parameters. If we point it to a newly built Crazyflie elf, after we’ve done our initial review pass of the parameters and variables, we get the result below.

$ python3 tools/build/elf_sanity.py --core cf2.elf 
101 parameters and 78 log vars in elf

To produce a list of the parameters and variables you can add the --list-params and --list-logs options to the script.

What is the next step?

Once we have finished our review of the parameters and logging variables we will explore different ways of making the documentation of them available in a clear and accessible way. And we will come up with a scheme for making changes to the set of parameters and variables. Once this is all finished you can expect an update from us.

The end goal of our efforts is making developing for the Crazyflie a smoother process, and we would love to hear from you. What is confusing? What are your pain points? Let us know! So we can do better.