Category: Electronic

After investigating the problem with the MPU6050 from last week we found out that all our prototypes have defect MPU6050 sensors :-(. The bias offset values are way out of spec and several of the accelerometer axis is locked to their min or max value. The manufacturer must have dropped the hole batch in the floor or something because we would have expected at least one out of the six prototypes to have a working sensor. Without working sensors it is hard to make a maiden flight, which we are very eager to do. We will have to order new sensors and hopefully we can replace the new sensors without damaging them.

We also finished to patch all our test copters so that they will now be able to fly when we change the  sensor:

 

After the problem discovered last week we have patched a couple of copter and we are now getting values from the sensors. Our biggest problem for the moment is a huge offset that we get from the MPU-6050 (both from the accelerometer and the gyro). It’s not the self-test mode since we have tried enabling/disabling but we are still investigating…

Except for that the software is going forward both on the copter and for the PC GUI. We are implementing parameters and log systems that will greatly ease future development and debugging on the system: it will basically be possible to log and observe dynamically any internal variable and to set settings, like the regulation settings, in real time from the PC GUI.

We have found a few workarounds for the JTAG reset problem but finally none of them are needed since we unfortunately have to make a new revision anyway and thus we can properly fix the probem. After spending hours debugging the PWM for the motors we finally opened up the errata and found a serious problem with our new version. Like we mentioned before we moved the PWM for two of the motors so we could have one dedicated SPI for the expansion header and not shared with the radio. This was done by moving one of the motors to PB5 (alternative function TIM3_CH2) while also switching to new sensors that use I2C. According to the errata it’s not possible to clock I2C1 (where the MPU6050 is connected) and TIM3 while using TIM3_CH2 remapped and as output (to drive the PWM for the motor).

On a happier note we did some range-testing of the radio since we have now changed to 0402 components in the radio filter on the USB radio dongle and the quadcopter. The measurements shows that we get up to ~65 meters before we start loosing packets and up to ~80 meters before we loose communication completely. The test was done outside and using the 250Kbps mode.

We have noticed some confusion about how we control the Crazyflie after our RC controller post. So just to clarify we are using a Playstation 3 gamepad to control the Crazyflie from the PC, this is the best we have but any gamepad or joystick would do. However there are other options.

The Crazyflie will be controllable from the CrazyRadio USB dongle. The dongle has a number of interfaces that can be used: USB, SPI/UART and PPM. A custom made controller could be connected to the SPI/UART or a RC remote to the PPM interface. If the dongle is connected to the computer using USB it can be interfaced using our Python library. Currently we are using a QT application together with a gamepad controller to interface the Python library but it’s also possible to do other stuff like one of our dreams: using openCV to track the Crazyflie and control it autonomously from a PC and a couple of webcams :)

Also we are still porting the code and testing the new prototypes. So far we haven’t fond any more problems than the JTAG reset.

A large part of this Monday was spent assembling and testing the new prototypes with the digital sensors which arrived today. Eager to try them out we pretty quickly got stuck when we tried to program them with the JTAG. The copter wouldn’t respond to any JTAG commands… After a long time of testing we found our rookie mistake: We have been moving around some of the signals now when we have digital sensors to make the expansion port use a dedicated SPI port and not share it with the radio, which is a great improvement. With this moving around we managed to put one of the motor outputs on the optional JTAG reset pin, NJTRST. The motors are pulled low so they don’t start unintentionally which then makes the JTAG go in constant reset :o This can be walked around by temporarily holding that pin low during the first programming of the boot loader which will then immediately remap the NJTRST pin to be unused by the JTAG. If the bootloader is never removed the problem is gone but if the boot loader is unintentionally overwritten then one have to do the “pull low” trick again. So now we have to decide whether to live with this flaw or do yet another board re-spin… :-( There are still plenty of sensor testing left to do that maybe need another re-spin.

Before we have any maiden flight video the show below is a photo of the new Rev.D PCB. There are more in this album.

Crazyflie Rev.D PCB

 

We are still working hard on the Crazyflie code while we are waiting for the new prototypes. We are also working on finalizing the Crazyradio, the radio dongle we are making to communicate with Crazyflie.

In order for us to test the radio hardware performance we brought a RFExplorer:

The radio chip (nRF24U1) is put in continuous carrier mode, which makes it emit constantly at a single frequency. Below is a screenshot of the measured frequency and power from the radio dongle:

This measurement is not that useful as an absolute value (for one we do not have a RF test chamber) but it will give us the opportunity to compare the next prototype with this one. Our next radio prototype uses smaller SMD component for the RF parts which is supposed to give better performance. We already compared it with another dev board and our radio seems to have similar performance :).

Due to the IDG/ISZ-500 gyros EOL problem we are removing the  IDG/ISZ-500/BMA145 and going for the MPU-6050 instead. We where pretty certain the gyro part of the MPU-6050 would work but not so sure about the accelerometer.

To minimize the risk we wanted to try it out with our design before pushing the order button. We looked around for small IMUs with this chip and found that the FreeIMU uses the sensors that we are interested in testing. So we bought one and attached to the Crazyflie using the expansion connector. Here’s a image of what it looks like:

Since we now free up some space by replacing three sensor ICs with one we added a HMC5883L magnetometer and MS5611 pressure sensor which are the most common IMU sensors right now. If they will be mounted or not in the final version depends on cost and possible performance increase. If we don’t mount them there is always the possibility to do this yourself. Actually, as of this writing, we just made a virgin flight using the MPU-6050 data from the FreeIMU with good results.

So as we were putting the finishing touches on what we hoped would be our last prototype before the final production version we noticed something rather serious on the InvenSense webpage. The IDG500/650 (and the ISZ-500/650) that we are using are EOL (and the LTB has passed). So this puts us in a rather tight spot where we have a couple of alternatives:

Stay with the IDG/ISZ 500/650 – We could stay with the sensors we have and try to source as many as possible but this would leave us in an awkward position if we get more demand than we can source gyros.

Analogue replacement – We could find an analogue replacement that would replace the X/Y and Z gyros we have today (that are analogue). The best candidate for this is currently the new ST gyro L3G462A but it is still under Evaluation and we don’t know if and when it will be available. It’s easy to put in our current design but we are unsure about the performance and immunity to vibrations.

Going digital – The most attractive option but the option that requires most work is switching from analogue to digital sensors. This is a step that we wanted to take eventually but taking it now delays everything but we do get a chance to get a bit more up to date by putting in a MPU-6050 and maybe a pressure sensor. But we are not sure how the sensors will respond to the vibrations and ripples on the supply voltage.

Our current plan is to drop the old analogue sensors from InvenSense and start on the digital design using the MPU-6050. We will keep the analogue ST gyro as a backup plan just in case we hit into any problems with the digital version.

Do you have any other ideas for sensors or comments about the performance of the MPU-6050 or L3G462A (if you managed to get a sample)?

When we built the latest prototypes we built two different versions. One with the ST accelerometer LIS344ALH and with the ISZ-IDG650 gyros. The other one with BOSH accelerometer BMA145 and with the ISZ-IDG500 gyros. It turned out that the LIS344ALH accelerometer is very vibration sensitive and doesn’t work that well for an application as this. If we would just have spent some time on the Internet we could have found this information in before hand… luckily we made the hardware design work with both and the BMA145 is working pretty well, however now we no longer have an alternative :-(.

The ISZ650 and IDG650 works pretty well even though they are less sensitive with their ±2000deg/s output. We can’t see any direct stability issues compared to the IXX500 versions with ±500deg/s output. Maybe we will stick with the IXX650, that way  we don’t limit the flip and loop speed to much. Not that the Crazyflie can do flips/rolls right now but we are very confident it will be able to in the future, judging from its agility.

We have also been working on getting the Crazyflie easier to control for beginners. With some slew rate limiting and thrust control we seem to be getting there. Now even Marcus can fly it without any problem. He used to hit the wall or ceiling all the time before :-).

We had to cancel our weekly Monday meeting due to illnesses but we have at least made some small progress we can write about.

The radio dongle code has been updated to flash either of the two LED’s when sending data or in case of bad transmission.

On our latest prototypes we discovered that the radio transmission went pretty bad on some copters as soon as the motors where turned on. This was not a nice discovery at this time of our project and we had not really seen it before. This kind of problem could require a big re-design of the PCB! After some debugging it turned out to be the PWM switching of the motors causing ripple on the digital supply voltage. It wasn’t that much, about 60mV peak-to-peak but enough to throw the radio off balance. After some tries with different decoupling techniques to get rid of the ripple, which showed only minor improvement, we increased the motor PWM frequency from 17kHz to 280kHz. That made the ripple go away, now about 10mV peak-to-peak, and so did the radio transmission problems, yeay!