Category: How we work

The last week was epic. We had 3 days of our online conference, the BAM days – I’m sure you’ve heard of them by now.

We are really happy with how everything went down. During those 3 days, 142 people attended, which is a highest number than we could have expected. The Welkom platform we used was stellar, allowing us to use Mibo rooms for very fruitful discussions after each talk.

Quiz and community Q&A

We took the opportunity to talk to our community, which is something we didn’t have the opportunity to do in a long time. Your insights and feedback were greatly appreciated and we have a lot to think about in the next coming weeks on how to best use all the remarks we got.

We also had a short quiz about Bitcraze, and we were quite impressed with how you performed ! And interesting to note that the hardest question for you was how many decks we sell (it’s 16, if you want to cheat on our hypothetical next quiz)

As I’ve mentioned, after each event we gathered in Mibo rooms. Even though attendance there was not as high as we would have liked, we still got quality time with community members, speakers, collaborators, even first-timers that were interested in the Crazyflie. We really love this platform, making us feel almost like meeting in real life. We even had some karaoke in Mibo during the closing party (which MAY be a good excuse to end the day for those who listened)

Content

Our external speakers presented a lot of interesting work. It was a great pleasure and honor to welcome every one of them as they explained their latest work. I have to admit that it’s rewarding to see such smart people doing awesome and cool research with our products.

We did our share too, with workshops and demos. Kristoffer’s autonomous demo using distributed consensus required a lot of work but worked perfectly in the end. Here is a small excerpt:

What now?

Now, we’re feeling as everyone is feeling the day after a party: exhausted, happy, and wondering what to do next. Hopefully we have some plans for that !

If you missed the conference, we created a Youtube playlist where you can watch everything that you missed. During the next few days, we’ll update the event page with BAM’s presentations too so you will have the opportunity to catch up. Some of our workshops will also turn into tutorials or documentations of some kind, but we’re still just cleaning up.

We are so happy with how everything went that we are already thinking about a future BAM. This one was exceptional, of course, since it was at first to celebrate our 10 year anniversary (and I have to admit that we’re all a little bit tired after 3 intense days), so we’re not going to be able to top that. But we are considering making BAM a fixed point in our agenda (and yours, let’s hope). We don’t how, we don’t know when, but one thing is sure: BAM is just beginning.

Kimberly on a different continent

On a totally different note, Kimberly is flying to the US this week: if any of you America-based wants to grab the occasion to have a more time-zone appropriate conversation with one of us, you will have a few weeks to make it possible!

I’m sure you know about it by now, but as a reminder, the BAM days are this week !
We’re all are really excited about it – and, let’s be honest, a little nervous too as the day grows nearer.

We are really happy to see that so many of you plan on joining us. We have more than 100 people registered to the event, which is actually the highest estimate we were hoping for. By the way, if you are registered to the event, dismiss the Event Brite email you got on Sunday and prefer the direct Welkom link you’ve been sent: the process is much easier if you use the latest. If you did sign up, but haven’t received an email with any link (even after checking your spamfolder) , please send us an email at contact@bitcraze.io!

Our workshops are all ready and we’re proud to present you our selected subjects. Each one of us will get the opportunity to talk about an area he cares about, so if you attend the whole event you will get also the chance to meet all of us. Of course, the social fika will also be the perfect place to meet us, so don’t hesitate to jump in the Mibo room we’ve set up!

There are also keynote speakers that we’re honored to host, close collaborators whose work we admire. It will be really interesting to hear from them, whether about Motion Capture or swarms.

There are been a few changes on the agenda:

  • On Wednesday morning, we’ll have a second session of the quiz. Those that missed it on Tuesday evening can then also get a chance of winning the one and only Goldenflie. It will be followed by a community Q&A: if you have any questions unanswered, it will be the time to ask them! In the afternoon, Arnaud will talk about Rust and the App layer after Greenwaves’s talk (and not on the morning as announced before).
  • If you’re interested in swarms, Friday morning will be perfect for you as we have a double feature: Wolfgang will present his CrazySwarm and Jonas will follow with a presentation about using the CFlib to fly a swarm. Afterwards, they will have a panel discussion on swarm management.

There is also a demo programmed on Friday. We haven’t told much about it yet because we wanted to be sure it was possible to do before we promised anything, but I can tell now that on Friday, you will be able to see an autonomous swarm making distributed decisions. It’s the first time we’re trying something like that and you don’t want to miss it !

All the info is here.

Just be aware that during the BAM days, we won’t be as reactive on answering our emails or the forum, as most of us will be on the platform, but we’ll still be shipping orders.

See you tomorrow !

The BAM days are coming up !


Only 8 days left before the first Bitcraze-organized conference ever. We are really excited about it, and this coming week is pretty much dedicated to organize the conference. We’re working hard on getting the best experience possible for there 3 days, both for us and for you. That means collaborating with great speakers, creating awesome workshops, but also think about the best way to come together – one of the main purpose behind the BAM days.

It’s been a couple of months since we decided that we wanted to organize our own conference. The main idea behind it was that we missed going to conferences, meeting people and talking with a lot of interesting persons.

Expression of the BAMdays

Bitcraze turning 10 felt like a big occasion that we wanted to celebrate. And indeed we did, internally, but we wanted to share this accomplishment with you too. An online conference seemed like the best idea. So when time came to choose a platform for it, we looked for something which put emphasis on social experience. We finally went with the Welkom platform, from the Netherlands. It’s easy and natural to use, with a simple interface, and lots of options for us to organize different activities.

The event platform

The Welkom platform we’ll use hosts two different Mibo rooms. It’s a spatial chat, where your avatar can run around a 3D world, discovering different environments. Your camera is your head, so you’ll need a webcam to join. There are some fun activities around, plenty interactive stuff, from chairs to basketballs. We have used it to for our coffee breaks when we were working from home, and had fun using this world: we’ll be happy to meet you there and hope you’ll find it fun too.

Bitcraze goofing around in Mibo

The plan is to have between each talk or workshop at least 30 minutes in Mibo to talk to the speakers, take a coffee break, discuss the exciting things that’s been happening, and generally catch up in ways we haven’t be able to the past year.

At the end of each day, we’ve programmed social events to gather together. On Tuesday, we’ll host a special quizz. Telling you its content may be a bit cheating, but if we’ve read our blogposts regularly, the questions should not seem hard to you. For the winner, a once-in-a-lifetime reward: a GoldenFlie ! You will be able to put it in your chimney mantle with your others awards, or actually use it – because, yes, it flies!

The GoldenFlie!

The second day, Wednesday, we’ll have a roundtable with Q&A. A perfect occasion for us to get feedback from you, and for you to ask us all the questions you have been burning to ask us.

The last day (Thursday), we’ll talk a little about Bitcraze and its future: where it is headed. We’ll then have a last party – in Mibo of course.

All the program and other useful information is in our event page. We really hope you’ll take some time to come by and say hello !

Hello everyone, my name is Rik and I’m Bitcraze’s new intern. I took up this internship as part of my MSc studies at the faculty of Aerospace Engineering at the Delft University of Technology. Over the past year I have worked with the AI-deck as part of my thesis work at the MAVLab, and I’m looking to contribute to Bitcraze with my practical knowledge of the platform.

For my MSc thesis I have primarily worked on the design of very small optical flow CNNs, capable of running on the GAP8 SoC, using a neural architecture search (NAS). I have implemented a pipeline on the AI-deck, feeding a stream of camera images into the CNN to determine optical flow on-board. One of the last remaining goals of my thesis work is to design an application which utilizes the resulting dense optical flow. In the meantime, the NAS is ever running to find the best possible architecture.

With my practical knowledge I hope to contribute to making the AI-deck an easier platform to work with. Of course, working at Bitcraze is a great learning opportunity, too. I’m already learning a lot about embedded systems and programming. After several years of studying, it’s great to get my first relevant working experience. And maybe most important of all, so far it has been a lot of fun working at Bitcraze and I expect to have a lot more of it. And yes, the falafel is really good.

As you maybe remember, we decided to celebrate our 10 years anniversary with our very own conference. It’s going to be 3 days of online meeting, sharing and generally awesome meetups to connect, learn, and hopefully develop new knowledges and acquaintances.

We are working hard on creating the best experience possible for you ! The program is still only a skeleton with some very interesting bones, and we add more and more flesh to it as the dates grow nearer.

As you can see from the program below, each day is organized around a global theme. Let’s break them down:

The first day, Tuesday, is going to be dedicated to navigation systems. Guest speakers Klaus Kefferputz from Hochscule Auburg and Joseph La Delfa (the man behind Drone Chi). will each talk about how they use positioning systems, in two very different ways. We’ll also have a workshop about the different positioning systems we support, to get into the more nitty gritty side of things.

The next day, we’ll talk about the AI deck ! Our collaborators at PULP-platform and Greenwaves Technologies are the perfect guests to talk about our newest deck. The talks will be followed by a workshop about app layers and a general panel discussion about Bitcraze – and more particularly its future. We want to hear from you, so don’t hesitate to join us as we try to determine a way forward (for the next 10 years, we have some ideas but we’re curious what you think)!

And finally, the last day will revolve around swarms. It’s Wolfgang‘s specialization, so he is of course the first guest we turned to. Bart Duisterhof and Guido de Croon from Delft University of Technology will also talk about their autonomous swarm, (they are the team behind the sniffy bug!). A swarm workshop will follow, and we will close the conference with some fun surprises!

We’re really excited and lucky to welcome all those speakers to talk about drone development. The program is not entirely fixed yet, some surprise guests should turn up. You can also still add your input by filling out this short survey.

And last, but not least : you can register to the event here on EventBrite. You will be able to add it to your calendar and finally mark the dates ! Also checkout the BAM days event page occasionally for updates.

On September, 1st of 2011, Arnaud, Marcus and Tobias signed a paper in Lund registering their brand-new company: Bitcraze. We’re here, now, 10 years later, hardly believing this gamble paid off so greatly.

Bitcraze’s story actually begins in 2009, when the 3 met in their day job and started dreaming about what will become the Crazyflie. For a long time, they combined a 9-to-5 job with the development of the nanodrone. Monday meetings run from the end of the workday until 2am, and they were exhausted, but the hard work paid off when we know now how many Crazyflies took off after that!

Some things have been added since 2011, of course! For starters, 4 more people joined the team, each changing the face of the company, making it evolve. Lean and self-organized was the way to go, the more people there was. The product itself changed and grew: from the first batch of Crazyflies, that had to be soldered out of the box, we’re now at the 2.1 version. And as years flew by, Bitcraze added to its backpack with new decks and extensions, always wanting to test new things and generally make awesome stuff. From its first flight, we’re now at impressive autonomous swarm flights!

The Crazyflie celebrating its first year in 2012! (and yes, it flew with the candle on it)

In 10 years, we’ve also done things we would never have thought of. Did you know Marcus gave a 15 minutes speech at a conference … entirely in French ? Or that 3 different employees got a cut on their finger for the exact same reason (we’ll let you guess why!) ? We’re still amazed at how much we discovered, learned and shared in those 10 years.

For us, it’s a special moment, looking back at 10 years of awesome things, of hard work, and of passion. We plan on celebrating, of course! First with a few days’ getaway, the first occasion we’ve had in a while to be actually together and enjoy. But this milestone would not be happening without all the support of those around us: our family and friends of course, but also our contributors and our customers. That’s why we’ve decided to organize our own conference, to gather everyone for awesome days of meetup and celebrate with you!

Keep an eye out on our social media too, as this September we’ll look back a little down the road. We’ll post some fond memories (and maybe, just maybe, some embarrassing photos too!) and see how much we’ve accomplished in 10 years.

We 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!

Ever since we released the Lighthouse deck back in 2019, we’ve wanted to offer a bundle with the deck and the base stations. There’s multiple reasons for this, but the main reason was that we wanted users to be able to buy a full swarm (like the Loco Positioning Swarm) directly from us, without having to find the base stations separately. Initially this seemed easy to do, but it turned out to be a bit tricky. This post is about how we finally managed to get the Lighthouse Swarm Bundle finished and into the E-store.

The Lighthouse swarm bundle

When the Lighthouse deck was initially released it only had support for Lighthouse V1 base stations, but Ligthouse V2 was already out. Since the V1 base stations were already in short supply, we wanted to support V2 since this was what would be available in the future. We had started looking at V2 support, but there was still ongoing efforts from us (and others) to reverse engineer the protocol. After some prototyping we had some initial support, but there was still a lot of infrastructure work to be done before it could be released.

In parallell with this work we started trying to buy the Lighthouse V2 base stations. Normally there’s two options here, either buy from local distributors or buy directly from the manufacturer. Buying from local distributors wasn’t a good option for us since these will only have local power plugs and buying directly from the manufacturer often requires very large orders. So this process quickly stalled. But after a couple of months we got an offer to buy a bulk shipment of Ligthouse V2 base stations (without box or power adapters) which we finally decided to accept. And yeah, that’s me looking really happy next to a bunch of base stations…

Marcus looking happy about the base stations

With a bunch of base stations at the office, work with sourcing a power adapter and creating a box started. Unfortunately the number of COVID-19 cases started rising again shortly after receiving the base stations, so we started working more from home again. And with only 2 persons at the office at a time, it’s hard to work with hardware. Different team-members needs access to different resources, like the electronics labs, flight arena or packing orders. So getting box/adapter samples from manufacturers, doing testing and getting input on physical objects from other team-members quickly went from days to weeks.

Finally, after a couple of months of testing, evaluating and learning lots about adapters and cardboard, we had good candidates. But then, literally as we’re ordering the power adapters, it turns out the certification was not good for all the regions we wanted. Thankfully this time around we already had other options so we quickly decided on the second best option (now the best option) and ordered.

In the meantime work was underway finalizing the implementation of Lighthouse V2, including client support, firmware updates of the Lighthouse deck and documentation/videos. Finally in the beginning of 2021 we got documentation and the full implementation (although only for 2 base stations) in place (blog post).

After a bit more than a month of waiting, the power adapters and boxes finally showed up at our office. With all the supplies in place, we started preparing for the packing. Since you can buy base stations for multiple sources, we wanted to keep track of the base stations that we were sending out to be able to debug issues users might have with these units. Also, even though the base stations had already been factory tested, we wanted to quickly test them before shipping them out. So our flight arena was turned into a makeshift assembly line and we had some outside help come in to do the packing.

Finally, the end result! We’re really excited to be able to offer yet another swarm bundle, the Lighthouse swarm bundle. And we’re pretty happy about how the packaging turned out :-)

It feels like the day of yesterday, when Arnaud, Tobias and Marcus came together in a backyard shed and decided to go fully in developing the Crazyflie 1.0 and start a business. The result that came from that was Bitcraze, and after 10 years we are still here! Also in the course of the next months, we will be releasing more information about the history of Bitcraze on the blog or social media.

But more important we would like you to leave the 19th-21th of October open in your agenda for the grand party, because we will be organizing our own multi day convention: BAM days a.k.a. Bitcraze Awesome Meetup days.

Of-course we did everything we could to come to abbreviation BAM as you can see :)

This event will be fully online and will be filled with (guest) talks, workshops but most importantly: Fika time, which is coffee breaks in Swedish. We really want to put the emphasize on networking and the coffee breaks as we considered the most important part of any conference, seminar or convention. So in between the talks, which will be in a video chat format like Zoom or Google Meet, there will be equally long coffee breaks in spatial chat format as like Gathertown, Mozilla Hubs or MiBo. We are currently browsing to several online event portal alternatives to accommodate all of this to make sure that everything goes smoothly!

We are currently still building up the program and inviting speakers to give talks and workshops. Moreover, we probably will prepare workshops and demos ourselves as well! So please fill in this interest form if you want to receive more information the event, and give us some pointers of the content. Also check out the event page for any current information.

And in the mean time, make sure to keep the 19th to the 21th of October free in your agenda so that you can come and celebrate our 10 year anniversary with us!

Hi all! I am Jonas Danielsson and I started at Bitcraze on the first of March. I am a software developer with experience of Linux-, open source- and embedded development. Sometimes all at once.

Jonas and Bosse out hiking

I have worked with embedded systems of different sizes since 2007 and look forward to getting to know the Crazyflie and all of its ecosystem.

I am interested in and care a lot about software- and product maintenance. At Bitcraze I hope to be involved both in developing new features, fixing bugs and finding ways of keeping the product and code in nice shape. To find ways of working that allow us to add a bunch of cool stuff as fast as we want to, without endangering the cool stuff we already have.

Also, I am interested in getting to know the Crazyflie community and to work together with you to create the best development experience we can achieve. Do not be afraid to reach out with ideas or suggestions on how we can improve!