Category: How we work

Hello to the awesome Bitcraze community!

My name is Joseph La Delfa, I started in December last year as an industrial postdoc at Bitcraze. This means I work across Bitcraze HQ in Malmö and the division of Robotics Perception and Learning at KTH in Stockholm. I have been designing and researching interactions that involve bodily control of drones for a few years now.

In order of appearance: Demonstrating at a conference, mucking around with the Qualisys tab, coaching at Drone Arena I, playing judge at Drone Arena II, and finally Drone Chi.

Here at Bitcraze I will be using lighthouse decks on the body to control Crazyflie/s, with the aim to produce a wearable sensor that integrates into the Bitcraze ecosystem. The lighthouse positioning system is showing great potential for this application as it gives relatively clean and high-fidelity positional data. Plus now that more than two base stations can be used, we can potentially track the deck from top down and bottom up.

Three motor-less crazyflies are strapped to my arms and tracked using two lighthouse basestations.

This research is a continuation of my PhD thesis, where I designed drone interactions that respond differently to different people, and advocated for a human-drone relationship that evolves over time. Ultimately I hope to demonstrate new use cases for the Crazyflie and expand the already impressive community of researchers who use Bitcraze products!

How to Train Your Drone was a one-month field study in a shared home, where three housemates taught their drones how to fly.

This industrial postdoc is funded by the Wallenberg AI, Autonomous Systems and Software Program (WASP), and you can find out more about my work at www.cafeciaojoe.com :D

ICRA Yokohama

From the beginning of the company, we’ve always loved to join in at conferences. Only at a conference do you get the opportunity to show our products, meet our users or other tech-oriented people, learn about what others are doing, and let’s not forget the chance to discover a new place!

This year, we’ll be present at ICRA Yokohama – it’s in just 3 weeks. We’ll have a booth there (IC085 if you’re looking for us). We’ll be showing our autonomous demo with a twist just like we have shown last time, so please check the event page. This demo is extremely impressive and we’ve been improving on it each time we’ve shown it – beginning in our latest Japan trip and lastly at the last ICRA too. What’s new?

We’re really excited to be showing that and receive feedback, but also in hearing about what our users have been doing. ICRA is always a perfect place to catch up on all the amazing papers and publications featuring our hardware, and we couldn’t be prouder of all the cool stuff we’ve seen so far. We’re so proud, in fact, that we want to be able to show off! So, if you have a paper or a publication featured at ICRA, let us know – you can write us an email at contact@bitcraze.io, leave a comment below this post, or pass by our booth.

In fact, we’re prepared to make a deal. If you have a nice poster featuring our products and don’t know what to do with it once you’ve presented it, pass by our booth! We’re ready to swap them for something extra special. We plan to have a “hall of fame” at the office featuring your awesome work – in fact, it’s an idea we had last ICRA when someone just offered us their posters. Now, we’d like to cover our walls with them!

The corridor leading to the kitchen – we have space to show off the awesomeness!

So, whether you’re a seasoned conference-goer or a first-time attendee, don’t hesitate to wsing by our booth, say hello, and discover our newest demo! We hope to see you there.

Dev meeting

Next developer meeting is going to be on the 8th of May – we traditionally have a dev meeting every first Wednesday of the month, but this time it happens to be on the 1st of May which is a holiday here in Sweden. So already prepare your calendar for the 8th of May at 15.00 CET, and stay tuned for more info on which topic we’ll talk about!

Crazyflies back in stock !

You may have noticed that the Crazyflies have been out of stock for some time now. After some adventures, we are now fully back in stock with most of our bundles and products available in the shop!

Hey folks!
I’m Tove, and I’m thrilled to be part of the fantastic team at Bitcraze.

Bitcraze had me at “open source, self-organizing, and drones!”. The way of working, using modern software practices and the fact that the company isn’t a corporate behemoth but still packs a punch in innovation really spoke to me.

I come from the world of radio modules and Internet of Things (IOT), building software and customer applications at u-blox. u-blox is also where I wrote my thesis that wandered into indoor positioning territory, which is another reason why I was immediately drawn to Bitcraze once they entered my radar. I studied computer science with an emphasis on embedded systems at Malmö University.

When I’m not working with tech, you can find me playing board games, reading fantasy novels or working on silversmithing projects.
I’m also a big fan of being out in nature, especially sailing, and even used to study environmental science before I switched over to ones and zeros.

I’m excited to learn about the great world of drones and robotics. I mean, who has not dreamt about that at some point in their life?! I’m a very poor drone flyer, but I guess some training in that department will help.
I love working with tests and software quality to make sure everyone can feel comfortable and focus on developing new exciting features, while being sure nothing breaks in the process!

Looking forward to getting into the team and making things happen together!

This week it will be a bit of a different blogpost than you are used to read from us. Usually we talk about cool prototypes, explain bits and pieces from the Bitcraze ecosystem or let external parties/researchers show case their awesome work that they’ve done on the Crazyflie. Today’s blogpost will be more about a societal topic that plays a big part within the robotics world: diversity! Bitcraze is helping out with the Diversity Scholarship of this year’s ROSCon, which we’d like to advertise about, but is also complimented by some words about diversity in robotics and how this topic is reflected upon within Bitcraze itself.

Diversity & Robotics

It’s widely acknowledged that the field of robotics lacks diversity. While there have been improvements, significant underrepresented groups remain, including women, individuals in LGBTQIA+ communities, people with disabilities, and those from racial and/or ethnic minorities. There are some interesting communities to look into if you are part of these groups yourself. However, if you know of any other ones that are interesting, of course, let us know.

Other than these earlier mentioned groups, we do not regard ourselves as the absolute expert on diversity in robotics, but we have perhaps a simple but interesting statistic to share from our experience. We usually receive requests for guest blog posts on our website from external researchers and engineers looking to showcase their work with the Crazyflie. We thought it would be interesting to graph the gender distribution of these guest bloggers:

Gender of our guest blogposters on bitcraze.io

As you may have noticed, before 2020, all of our guest bloggers were male, and only in recent years has that changed. It’s also worth mentioning that to our knowledge, none of the bloggers has openly identified as anything other than cis-gender male or female. While this shift represents progress, it’s important to acknowledge that there is still room for improvement. Additionally, it is essential to recognize that this tiny statistic does not fully reflect the diversity of the robotics community but rather (perhaps) pertains to a specific subset, such as aerial robotics.

Diversity & Bitcraze

So let me just cut to the chase, Bitcraze is a very small company with currently only 6 full-time employees. Currently, we don’t have any formal policies on hiring and promoting diversity. However, we do have a very open culture within the company where we can discuss these topics at our coffee breaks without restrictions or judgment. There is a genuine interest in sharing and discussing negative experiences related to the lack of diversity at previous workplaces, so we do talk about it a lot.

In terms of our impact internally and externally, for now, we don’t come across enough hiring opportunities to implement diversity policies. We can perhaps also invite more diverse guest bloggers to contribute to our website, or make our developer meetings more welcoming. However, there is only a limited influence that we can exert here with our small company. Therefore, the choice to support other communities we love to improve diversity is perhaps the most we can do to contribute to this cause.

We are already involved in the ROS community by helping out with the ROS aerial community working group (blogpost1, blogpost2) and we loved the atmosphere during ROSCon when we were in Kyoto. When the opportunity arrived to be a co-chair of the diversity committee of ROSCon 2024, together with Belén Torres from Wymaq, we gladly took it and are hoping that is were we can make more of a difference.

Diversity Scholarship at ROSCon 2024

This year’s ROSCon will be held in Odense, Denmark, between October 21st and 23rd. Since 2016, the ROSCon organization has launched a diversity scholarship opportunity, and this year’s event is expected to be the biggest one yet. Individuals belonging to the underrepresented groups in robotics, as mentioned earlier, are invited to apply for the scholarship. The deadline is April 5th, so please don’t wait too long to apply. Check here for the ROS discourse post and here for the diversity scholarship application on the ROSCon website.

Hi everyone,

I’m Rik, and today marks my return to Bitcraze. Some of you might remember me from a couple of years back when I spent a few months here as an intern. Perhaps you’ve even stumbled upon my guest blog post discussing the paper that concluded my master’s degree. I’m thrilled to be back in the fold!

Picture of Rik smiling against the Bitcraze logo

It’s exciting to be back in Sweden. I love to cook, and although traditional Swedish and Dutch cuisine share quite some similarities (a lot of potatoes and gravy), it’s nice to try out new ingredients and foods. Additionally, being close to the great outdoors is a major draw for me. I already went on my first hike and I heard there are some nice bouldering areas not so far from Malmö.

One of the things that initially attracted me to Bitcraze are its close ties with the research community. In fact, it was through my own research as a master’s student that I first encountered the company. I’m eager to deepen these connections further and collaborate with researchers across various disciplines. Combining this with a team of talented colleagues and a vibrant enthusiast community makes it a great opportunity to learn!

I’m particularly drawn to Bitcraze’s unique organizational ethos. The emphasis on self-organization and collective success resonates with me. The idea of continuously shaping our workplace to reflect our values truly excites me.

See you around!

Since September, it seems that things at Bitcraze are progressing at an incredible speed. A lot of stuff is happening, and this blog post will try to talk about why we feel excited about the changes coming up… With some teasers!

Changes in the office

One of the reason we picked the office we’re at now is the big flight space, commonly known as the arena. It’s a pretty huge area (around 100m2), separated from the office space, with a high ceiling. It’s perfect for flying. But when we moved here in 2019 we always dreamed about the space that our next-door had, which could be a perfect extension of the flight lab. And, after years of daydreaming, our wish actually came true! So our flight lab is now in the process of getting significantly bigger. I’ll tease you with some before/during photos, to show what the status is right now, but we expect to have a majestic area to fly in quite soon.

If you have ideas on how to name it, a name that feels a little more majestic than “arena”, you’re welcome to share it in the comments!

Changes in the products

We have a list of products that we’re working on that we’re really excited about. You know already some of those if you have read our blog posts, and they are a big part of what we’re spending time with, but they’re not the only ones ! Here is a list of the projects we can reveal:

  • The brushless is in the pipes! We’re getting help to make it as sturdy as possible.
  • We’re working on an “upgraded” Crazyflie offer, with the longer battery pins and the 47-17 propellers.
  • There’s a new software release that should come out soon.
  • Most of our development work the past couple of months have been dedicated to a new deck for flying with more than 4 lighthouse base stations…
  • And of course, there are always prototypes laying around that look promising!

Of course, that’s just a hint of what lies ahead, and for right now, we can’t really say more until we’re sure everything is on the right tracks.

Other exciting stuff

I know I said this time and time again, but we’re actively looking for new Bitcrazers to add to the team. We hope that some changes will come soon and of course, we will share if we have some big news!

We’ve also partnered with Droneblocks to provide a drone education program for students in the US. The Crazyflie has been integrated into their STEM classroom bundle, complete with a coding curriculum and a dedicated software to introduce young minds to the world of drones. It’s a privilege for us to contribute the Crazyflie to this significant educational endeavor!

We plan to have everything coming together for an epic Christmas video with some new hardware, in our new flight lab… Of course, nothing is certain, but one thing is sure: it’s an adventure being at Bitcraze right now!

Did you know that all the items you receive when you place an order are actually from the Bitcraze office? In the beginning, we had the shipping handled by a third party, but it caused some problems and we decided to have this side of the business closer to us- namely, right here at the office in Malmö.

Our packing area

We have a “warehouse” with our products in our flight lab, and thrice a week someone takes the order, fulfills them, packs them and hands them over to FedEx. So how does this work exactly?

Well, a lot of this is possible thanks to our internal system, a Raspberry Pi, and three printers. When we fulfill your order, we have a lot of things to take into account. The weight of the shipment, the number of batteries it contains, what kind of shipment you ordered, the destination country, the kind of labels that are needed…. Thankfully, everything is handled by our internal system, and with one click we have everything we need. If you booked a FedEx shipment, our API books the FedEx shipment immediately and prints it.

We actually have three different printers. One prints the packaging list that we put in your package, along with one that helps us know what to pack. It’s a regular, office printer. The second one prints the shipping label. A third one is used for packages that contain batteries: those are, of course, heavily regulated, and we need to label them correctly to ensure the safest way to transport them. Hence the need for a third printer, which prints somewhat smaller labels. Some of us actually followed a course to be able to handle a shipment containing more than 2 spare batteries per drone… It is then considered a “Dangerous Goods” shipment by FedEx and has to be treated, labeled, and sent following a precise protocol.

Here they are in action:

Once everything is printed, the “only” thing left is to actually pack the box! It’s what takes up the most time. We select your items (without forgetting the stickers!), place them in the box that should be the right size, and try to pack everything so that it is safe to transport to the other side of the world. We then hand everything to FedEx which takes it from there. We try, as much as possible, to ship within 3 business days. That usually means packing and sending on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays – though conferences or holidays can shake this up a bit.

The obvious advantage of having everything set up here is that we have a lot more control over this important side of the business. We have an eye on stock, on how the package looks like, and have an idea of where we actually send our products! The downside is that it takes a lot of time away from development. But these past couple of months, we’ve done a lot to improve our experience while packing. Those include an already filled-out Customs Notice for postal packages and a quicker way to handle packages that have more than 2 spare batteries. But the biggest change is that we have hired someone to help us part-time. Sofia started a week ago and she already has helped take care of the shipping part of Bitcraze. So welcome, Sofia, to the Bitcraze team!

I talked about it here already in October, but there is a lot we want to do here at Bitcraze- and not enough people to do it. So, we’re still looking for a new team member! You can read more about our requirements here; if you’re a polyvalent developer interested in hardware, with an open mind and the willingness to move to Malmö, don’t hesitate to apply by sending us an email: job@bitcraze.se.

We’ve actually also started the search for another job. But first a little background: each morning, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, we pack and ship our orders. Someone takes 1, 2, or even 3 hours to make sure every order passes the door. In 2022, the median time between when you would buy our products and the moment it’s shipped was 1 day. It’s something that is usually common in a big company with a whole warehouse and a team dedicated to that… But at Bitcraze, the warehouse is actually a space in our flight arena and we’re only 6 people. To have more time for development, we’re now looking for someone, ideally a student, to help us out a few hours a week packing and shipping. So if you happen to know anyone near Malmö that fits the description, send him this blog post!

And, since I don’t want to tell you the same thing that I talked about in my last blog post, and it’s International Worker’s Day, I’ve decided to make an extremely subjective list of all the awesome advantages there are working at Bitcraze. So here are perks that you get at Bitcraze that you’ll get nowhere else:

  • The flexibility to do what you’re most passionate about, and the encouragement to do so. You love printers? RUST? You get excited talking about a new LED or cool stickers? You’ll get the opportunity to fulfill your geekiest dream here (those are all examples I’ve witnessed)
  • The occasion to actually shape the company we’re working in. Your interests, your passions, and your knowledge will find their place and you’ll have the possibility to make decisions on the future of Bitcraze even after the first day- my first day working here was at a quarterly meeting where we decided on a lot of things I didn’t even understood yet.
  • Fun Fridays, where you get to work on whatever you fancy; one day a week where productivity is not a demand and you can just get going on creating the newest prototype – and if it doesn’t work, at least you learned something!
  • A demo every 2 weeks, where you can actually be impressed by a blinking LED (again, true story; and it was really impressive)
  • Awesome colleagues that will almost never steal the stuff on your desk (unless Kristoffer labels it, which is now known as the “please borrow me” label)
  • Falafel Tuesdays – when you can debate which is the best falafel in town while eating the best falafel in town.
  • Sometimes, there is karaoke or VR games or bowling – we usually invent a pretext to enjoy some after-work together.
  • Daily inspiration both from the way we work but also the awesome stuff people do with our products.
  • The occasion to learn at least a new thing a day – wether it’s how your body reacts to sugar, how FedEx handles the taxes in Japan or what is the best way to make your Crazyflie make a loop.
  • While this is not Bitcraze-specific, the Swedish coast – kind of like Palm Beach without the heat (and the palms) and the general nature surrounding Malmö. Or if you don’t like nature, the possibility to enjoy a big city (Copenhagen, across the bridge) while living in a quiet area.

I hope I picked your interest, or at least gave you some insights on what it’s really like to work at Bitcraze!

We are excited to announce that we will be having developer meetings on first Wednesdays of every month! Additionally, we are thrilled to be present in person at ICRA 2023 in London. During the same conference, there will be half day workshop called ‘The Role of Robotics Simulators for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’ so make sure to sign-up! Please check out our newly updated event-page !

Monthly Developer meetings

We have had some online developer meetings in the past covering various topics. While these meetings may not have been the most popular, we believe it is crucial to maintain communication with the community and have interesting discussions, and exchange of ideas. However, we used to plan them ad-hoc and we had no regularity in them, which sometimes caused some of us **cough** especially me **cough**, to create confusion about the timing and location. To remove these factors of templexia (dyslexia for time), we will just have it simply on the first Wednesday of every month.

So our first one with be on Wednesday 5th of April at 15:00 CEST and the information about the particular developer meeting will be as usual on discussions. From 15:00 – 15:30 it will be a general discussion, probably with a short presentation, about a topic to be determined. From 15:30-16:00 will address regular support question from anybody that need help with their work on the Crazyflie.

ICRA 2023 London

ICRA will be held in London this year, from May 29 – June 2nd, atthe ExCel venue. We will be located in the H11 booth in the exhibitor hall, but as the date approaches, we will share more about what awesome prototypes we will showcase and what we will demonstrate on-site. Rest assured, plenty of Crazyflies will be flown in the cage! To get an idea of what we demo-ed last year it IROS Kyoto, please check out the IROS 2022 event page. Matej from Flapper Drones will join us at our booth to showcase the Flapper drone.

We are thinking of organizing a meetup for participants on the Wednesday after the Conference Dinner, so we will share the details of that in the near future as well. Also keep an eye on our ICRA 2023 event page for updated information.

ICRA Aerial Robotic Simulation Workshop

I (Kimberly) will also be present at the ‘The Role of Robotics Simulators for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles‘ workshop on Friday June 2nd. Together with Giuseppe Silano, Chiara Gabellieri and Wolfgang Hönig, we will be organizing a half day workshop focused on UAV-specific simulation in robotics. We have invited some great speakers namely: Tomáš Báča, Davide Scaramuzza, Angela Schoellig and Jaeyoung Lim. The topics will cover multi-YAV simulation to realistic vision-based rending and software-in-the-loop handling for PX4.

Additionally, participants can submit an extended abstract to be invited for an poster presentation during the same workshop. The submission deadline has been extended to April 3rd, so for more information about submission, schedule and speaker info, go to the workshop’s website.

As we have talked about in previous blog post, a big work, and a big change, coming to the Crazyflie is the development of a new communication stack. We are organizing an online dev-meeting about this the Wednesday 22th of February 2023 at 15:00 CEST, if you have any feedback, opinion, ideas or just want to talk to us, you are welcome to join. More information on github discussion.

The current communication protocols used by the Crazyflie are 10 years old by now and starts to be the limiting factor for new experiments and for improving the platform. We are starting to work on it to make the Crazyflie protocol for the next 10+ years. Among the things we have been looking at, and want to work on, are:

  • Making a new USB radio dongle with extended capabilities: Crazyradio 2.0
  • Making new low level radio protocol implementing channel hopping and P2P communication making use of the new Crazyradio 2.0 capabilities.
  • Making a new RPC-Based communication protocol to make it easier to develop new functionality and interfacing with framework like ROS2
  • Defining interface with other part of the system like decks using the same RPC protocol, this would make it easier to develop new deck by limiting the number of project to modify each time a deck is developed.
  • It has also been pitched internally to write the Crazyflie lib in Rust with binding to Python/C++/Javascript/… unifying the host part of the ecosystem and so simplifying the development of application connecting the Crazyflie.

As you can see, this discussion spans to everything that touches communication from the Crazyflie to outside systems as well as with decks. We think there is a way to make things much better and easier to work with. If we have some time left in the hours we can also handle some general support questions.

If you are interested in the topic please join us on Wednesday and let’s talk about it! You can check the joining information on github discussion. These dev-meeting are not recorded, they are intended as a forum where we can talk together about the Crazyflie and its ecosystem. Welcome!