This week some of us are back at the office, so we started shipping products again as well :)
Two weeks ago we posted about the demo we did for our new office move-in party. There has been multiple requests to share the script but unfortunately this is a hacked old script that is not going to be useful at all as an example. So, last week, we made an example that could run a synchronized swarm sequence.
The example has been pushed in the example folder of the Crazyflie-lib-python project. It is called synchronizedSequence.py. Running this example unmodified with 3 Crazyflies in a positioning system will give you this result. (Like the previous demo, this was done in a lighthouse system.)
One of the key design of the example is that it is based on a single control loop that can be synchronized with an outside system: in this example, there is a simple sleep of one seconds between each step of the sequence but it could for example be changed into a midi clock receiver to synchronize the sequence with music.
The example was developed with the help of Victor, a student we have hired to help-out during the summer. He has then played around a little bit to make a 9 Crazyflies sequence that is more impressive:
I uploaded Victor’s sequence in a github gist as it can be good for inspiration. One bit of warning though: as is, the sequence contains some vertical movements that are quite aggressive and the part where Crazyflies fly directly on top of each-other is more to be considered as a stress test.
Summer is here and temperatures are rising. Since many of us will be on holidays, we will focus this quarter on a special summer clean up! See here what we are working on:
- Fixing issues: This time we are aiming to close many of the issue tickets in our Github repositories, so that after the summer everything will run much more smoothly (we hope!). Definitely our test rig will come in very hand to sniff out more issues in terms of radio communication as well. You can help as well! Everybody who is using and developing on with the STM-firmware, NRF-firmware or python library, or anything else and is noticing issues, please make a ticket in that same Github repository (if you are familiar with the code) or post about it on our forum (if you do not know exactly what is going on). Together we can make the code better.
- Lighthouse calibration: In March we released our lighthouse deck for positioning with the HTC Vive base stations. We did feel that the setup process could be improved further, since currently, the Crazyflies’ firmware must contain hardcoded information of the Steam VR’s base station position. We will try to apply the factory calibration direct from the Base stations itself. This will enable us to do 2 additional things: (1) The Crazyflie with the LH deck itself could be used to setup the Lighthouse system, so that SteamVR would not be necessary anymore. (2) Only 1 base station is needed for positioning instead of 2, which will improve the robustness in case of loss of visual-line-of-sight of one base station.
- Documentation: We try to provide all the possible information for everybody to be able do anything they want with their Crazyflie. But with high flexibility comes great responsibility…. for proper documentation! We are planning to restructure all of our media outlets and try to improve the flow and level of detail for our users. We hope to make it easier for beginning developers to get started and more advanced developers to gain better understanding of the system in order to implement their own awesome ideas. So our very first step is to restructure and clean up the Bitcraze wiki and see where we can add more content.
- Products: We have a lot of products coming out in the 2nd half of the year
- AI Deck: We are working hard to get the AI deck all ready for production and we are estimating that they will be available for early access in late autumn. Keep a look out on our forum for regular updates on the progress!
- Lighthouse breakout board: We made our first working prototype of the lighthouse breakout board, which should make it easier for the lighthouse positioning system to also work on other platforms than the Crazyflie.
- Active Marker Deck: We are very much on on track with the Qualisys active marker deck! It should be available in the Autumn.
- Crazyflie Bolt: This has been send off to production for the early access version, which should be available in the Autumn!
We have recently moved to a new bigger office. With the summer arriving in Sweden, it was time to organize a small move-in after-work party with friends and family. For the occasion we wanted to play around with a small swarm of Crazyflies and the new Lighthouse positioning. Time being a sparse resource, we setup the ICRA2019 demo in the flight lab so that we would be able to fly during the party. We also started looking at our old swarm show that we ran with the LPS a year ago to see if we could run it with Lighthouse:
The show was a essentially a sequence of setpoints sent from a python script and controlling 9 Crazyflies 2.1 equipped with Lighthouse deck on the top and led-ring deck on the bottom synchronized on music. We setup the Crazyflie in the Lighthouse positioning system and converted the script to use the high-level-commander GOTO setpoints. We look forward at trying more advance control problems like trajectories to make more impressive synchronized flight choreography in the future but for now it already look quite good even with only GOTOs:
We have now come to a the point were we will start manufacturing of the Crazyflie Bolt, Formally known as the RZR. You might wonder why we changed the name… Well the RZR more implies it is a Racer quad and it really isn’t. This is mainly because of the design in power distribution which is limited to around 8A per motor. However by using your own PDB it will work well for that too. But that is not the intention, it is more intended to have the strengths of the Crazyflie 2.1 but in a slightly bit bigger package. Therefore we wanted a better name for it and after a brainstorming session we came up with the name, Bolt. Both as it is a Crazyflie building block, a bolt used to fasten things, but also because it has the potential to be fast, as in a lightning bolt. Great name right :-)
The CF-Bolt development has been pushed back many times because of other more promising products, but finally it is getting here. If things goes according to plan, the Crazyflie Bolt should be in our shop in Aug-Sept. If you want to read up on the history and what it is all about read about the first flight to the almost-final prototype here.
A quick recap of the features:
- Fully compatible with the CF2 firmware, expansion decks as well as radio.
- Connectors to attach motor controllers (also possible to solder though) so it is easy to build and repair.
- Power distributions built into controller board. (Max ~8A per motor controller) with XT30 connector.
- Motor controllers can be switched off by the system (MOSFET) so the system can go into deep sleep and only consume around 50uA.
- Voltage input 1S-4S (3V to 17V).
- Standard mounting (M3 mounting holes spaced 30.5mm in a square).
- External antenna for increased range.
- SPI connected IMU (BMI088) for minimum latency.
Many of our users are flying larger and larger swarms and we’ve been getting some feedback that there’s communication issues when connecting to many Crazyflies. So during the last weeks we’ve been looking at this. Among the things we’re doing is building a test rig where we can automate the communication testing (last weeks blog post). We’ve also fixed a few communication issues listed below.
One of the issues causing problems is dropping packages coming in to the Crazyflie. If the flow of packages was too high to one CRTP port these would start dropping. This has now been fixed by increasing the length of the queues for each port. (GitHub issue)
Another issues has been logging data piling up after disconnect. The detection for the radio disconnection was boken so logging data would continue to be generated and pushed into the communication stack. This has now been fixed so logging will be reset which should clear up he congestion on the next connect. (GitHub issue)
Lastly we also fixed the USB communication issue with dropped packages and crashing when the USB was disconnected. (GitHub issue)
We’ve already noticed a few other issues when using the rig so there should be more fixes coming soon. In the meantime test out the new firmware and let us know if there’s still issues.
While running our ICRA demo, we came across a bug in the Crazyflie python-lib radio handling, limiting the number of Crazyflie that could be controlled using one Crazyradio PA. Communication with many Crazyflies is crucial as flying swarms is becoming more of an interesting topic for research and education. So we decided to take the problem at hand and create a radio test-bench:
To make the test-bench we have attached 10 roadrunner boards to a plank of wood together with USB switches that can provide enough power to the roadrunners. We used the roadrunner because it is mechanically easier to use in this context and it has an identical architecture to the Crazyflie 2.1 when it comes to the radio implementation.
Initially we will use the test-bench to run test scripts that pushes the communication to its limits and that consistently test the communication stack functionalities. This should allow us to find bug and verify that we solve them as well as discovering and documenting limitations.
Eventually we want to connect a raspberry-pi to the test-bench and run tests for each commit and pull-request to the crazyflie-firmware, crazyflie2-nrf-firmware and crazyflie-lib-python projects. This will guarantee that we do not introduce new limitations in the communication stack. The test-bench will also be very useful in implementing new functionalities like direct crazyflie-to-crazyflie P2P communication.
As a final note, the Crazyswarm project is not affected by the Crazyflie-lib bug since it is using the C++ implemented crazyflie-ros driver. Hence Crazyswarm can control more Crazyflies per Crazyradio PA, so it is still the preferred way to fly a swarm mostly when using a motion capture system. Though, with the progress made on LPS and Lighthouse positioning, running swarms, using the python API directly is a probably a more lightweight alternative.
3 of us where at ICRA 2019 in Montreal last week, where we met a lot of interesting people and a lot of Crazyflie users. Thanks a lot to everyone that drop by our booth, and for the ones that missed it we are planning on being at iROS2019 later this year so we might see you there :-).
We have already described our demo in a previous post, now that we run it we can update on how it went. We are also updating the ICRA2019 page with the latest source code and information so that anyone interested can reproduce the demo.
In its final state at the conference, the demo contained 8 Crazyflies 2.1 equiped with Lighthouse deck and Qi charger deck. There were 8 3D-printed charging pads on the floor with Ikea Qi wireless chargers and two HTC Vive base stations (V1) on tripods. The full system was contained in a cage, built from 50 cm-long tubes or aluminium and nets.
The full setup of the booth took us about 4 hours, this included about 3 hours for the cage, 15 min for the demo including calibration of the lighthouse base-station geometry and the rest to fine-tune things. This is by far our best setup time, we still need to prettify the cage a bit and to make is easier to install, but we will most likely re-use this system for upcoming conferences.
In this demo we aimed at keeping a Crazyflie in the air at every moment, to do so we had a computer connected to all 8 Crazyflies sending to one of them the signal to start flying if no other where actually in the air flying a trajectory. The flight was completly autonomous as we explained in our previous blog post. We setup the Crazyflie to fly 2 cycles and then land, which increase the rate of swap and so increased the ‘action’, though it also meant that during the swap two Crazyflies where flying. This drained the batteries a bit more than expected and meant that after about an hour all the Crazyflies where bellow the take-off threshold and we had to wait ~30 seconds between flights. Here is a video of it in action:
The demo was very care-free, we had very few Crashes and we mostly restarted the Crazyflies to swap batteries manually to add a bit of power in the swarm. The last day we decided to spice it up a little bit by adding a chair in the cage and by calibrating the chair position and flight trajectory, we managed to have the Crazyflie partly fly under it. This worked quite well most of the time and showed that the lighthouse positioning is repeatable and works fairly well with short occlusion in the path. Though we also found out that even though a single Crazyflie would always fly the same trajectory, two different Crazyflies will not. We think differences in propeller stiffness and the fact that the our Mellinger position controller has not been calibrated for changing YAW are the main reasons.
If you want to know more about the demo or if you want to reproduce it do not hesitate to visit the ICRA 2019 page that explains it in more details and links to the source code of everything including 3D printed parts for the cage and the landing pads.
Hi, very nice to meet you all! My name is Kimberly McGuire and I would like to introduce myself as the newest member of the Bitcraze team. Although I probably have never written anything bigger than a paragraph about myself before, but I will try my best to get you to know me a little better!
The first thing you should know about me is that I’m Dutch. I grew up in the Netherlands, which is a small little country that has fought for eternity against the sea and still managed to exist. If you do visit and would appreciate some impressive pieces of Civil Engineering, don’t linger around in Amsterdam but visit the “Delta werken” in the province of Zeeland or the ‘Afsluitdijk” in the north. But if you don’t like to take your chances near our oceans, ‘Utrecht’, ‘Groningen’ and ‘Maastricht are really nice to visit too! Probably my last name already gave it away, but I’m also half-American and I visit California almost once a year.
So, let’s talk about hobbies! I have played tennis for almost all my life (started when I was just 6 years old), and I’ve played competitively in tournaments and team-based competitions. You can also find me skiing on some mountains at least once per year. In general, I really love visiting other countries and to experience the culture and, most importantly, the food. During my studies I’ve managed to go on extended stays abroad: I’ve spent a half a year in Santa Barbara, 3 months in Liverpool, a half a year in Tokyo. Talking about the latter: I’m a huge fan of pretty much everything related to Japan. All their food, Ghibli studios and other Japanese productions, the culture and people, and I do admit that I’m quite the karaoke addict. Moreover, I love going to the movies, playing videogames, and enjoying Dutch coziness, a.k.a. “gezelligheid”, with friends.
To show in a slice of my educational background: for my Bachelor studies at the Delft University of Technology, I started out at Industrial Design Engineering. Here I learned everything there is to know about product development, from analyzing market-trends, creating concepts to finally to the full production process. For my Masters I was leaning more towards the technical side. After a bridging course to Mechanical engineering I went to do an M.Sc. in BioMecanical design with a specialization in Bio-Robotics (currently known cognitive robotics). I ended developing a cerebellum-based stabilization system for a binocular robotic head (google “jaguar chicken commercial”:) ). After this, I came across a project at the MAVlab where I was allowed to work with tiny MAVs called pocket-drones, and the first thing I thought was ‘awesome!!’, however, that was before I realized that working with tiny MAVs was not a piece of cake. I’m glad that the inner-geek in me kept me excited for 4 years straight, which is a crucial element or any PhD I believe, or any job!
So now a new chapter will start for me in Sweden. I hope that I will append to Bitcraze’s vision and I’m quite sure that they will teach me how to become a better hardware and software developer. I’m excited to start working with Arnaud, Marcus, Kristoffer and Tobias and develop more things that will make any’s inner-geek jump a little from excitement. At the moment of writing, we will be on ICRA in Montreal, Canada, so jump by booth 101 to say hi!
Only a week left until we stand in our ICRA booth in Montreal and give you a gimps of what we do here at Bitcraze. As we have been writing about earlier we are aiming to run a fully automated demo. We have been fine tuning it over the last couple of days and if something unpredictable doesn’t break it, we think it is going to be very enjoyable. For those that are interested in the juicy details check out this informative ICRA 2019 page, but if you are going to visit, maybe wait a bit so you don’t get spoiled.
Apart from the demo we are also going to show our products as well as some new things we are working on. The brand new things include:
- AI-deck: This is a collaborative product between GreenWaves Technologies, ETH Zurich and Bitcraze. It is based on the PULP-shield that the Integrated and System Laboratory has designed. You can read more about it in this blog post. The difference with the PULP-shield is that we have added a ESP32, the NINA-W102 module, so that video can be streamed over WiFi. This we hope will ease development and add more use cases.
- Active marker deck: Another collaboration, but this time with Qualisys. This will make tracking with their motion capture cameras easier and better. Some more details in this blog post. Qualisys will have the booth just next to us were it will be possible to see it in a live demo!
- Lighthouse-4 deck: Using the Vive lighthouse positioning system this deck adds sub-millimeter precision to the Crazyflie. This is the deck used in the demo and could become the star of the show.
Adding to the above we will of course also display our recently released products:
- Crazyflie 2.1: The Crazyflie 2.1 is an improvement of the Crazyflie 2.0 but keeping backward capability.
- Better radio performance and external antenna support: With a new radio power amplifier we’ve improved the link quality and added support for dual antennas (on-board chip antenna and external antenna via u.FL connector)
- Better power button: We’ve gotten feedback that the power button breaks too easily, so now we’ve replaced with a more solid alternative.
- Improved battery cable fastening: To avoid weakening of the cables over time they are now run through a cable relief.
- Improved sensors: To make the flight performance better we’ve switched out the IMU and pressure sensor. The new Crazyflie uses the drone specialized sensor combo BMI088 and BMP388 by Bosch Sensortech.
- Flow deck v2: The Flow deck v2 has been upgraded with the new ST VL53L1x which increases the range up to 4 meters
- Z-ranger deck v2: The Z-ranger v2 deck has been upgraded with the new ST VL53L1x which increases the range up to 4 meters
- Multi-ranger deck: The Multi-ranger deck adds VL53L1x sensors in all directions for mapping and obstacle avoidance.
- MoCap marker deck: The motion capture deck with support for easily attachment of passive markers for motion capture camera tracking.
- Roadrunner: The Roadrunner is released as early access and the hardware is basically a Crazyflie 2.1 without motors and up to 12V input power. This enables other robots or system to use the loco positioning system.
You can find us in booth 101 at ICRA 2019 (in Montral, Canada), May 20 – 22. Drop by and say hi, check out the products & demo and tell us what you are working on. We love to hear about all the interesting projects that are going on. See you there!