Category: How we work

We have so many interesting things we want to do, but too little time to do it. Now we are looking for more talented people to join our team to help us create awesomeness!

We don’t have a clear description of exactly what we are looking for but there are some properties that we think are important:

  • You are interested in technology
  • You are passionate
  • You want to learn new things and evolve your skills

Head over to our jobs page for more information.

Hello everyone, I’m Victor and you probably haven’t heard of me yet but I’ve got the awesome opportunity to spend some weeks during this summer working at Bitcraze. Working… Well, I’ve spent the majority of my time here getting invaluable experience, programming, flying with drones, eating incredible falafel and having fun so it’s really been a pleasure.

I’m quite new to both programming and electronics, so while I haven’t created any huge masterpieces of code yet, I did make a small program with a GUI that let you test the health of motors and propellers of the Crazyflie. You can run multiple ones simultaneously (I’ve tried up to 8, which works fine, even with a single radio, and you should be able to run many more) and it relies on using either Lighthouse or a Flow deck for positioning.
The propeller-test is essentially the same test as the one integrated with the cfclient, however the motor-test checks the thrust-levels of the motors (by hovering in the air for x seconds) to see if any of them are off and ranks them as good/bad. The default threshold is 15% but can be changed according to needs. The program is written in Python and uses tkinter to run the GUI application and the cflib to communicate with the Crazyflie. The script can be found here.

In the end of August I’m going to study Computer Science and Engineering which I’m extremely thrilled about and this has really been a perfect preparation for that! In the future I hope to contribute to the Crazyflie projects and learn more from the great team here at Bitcraze.

So until next time, fly safe!
Victor

A lot of you are using our forum on a regular basis. From our point of view, we prefer giving support and guidance on our forum instead of by email, since solutions we provide to our users can be found by others as well. However, we are experiencing some spam-related issues with the forum!

Somewhere last week, our forum started getting some weird posts, including some links to websites that are…. not exactly Bitcraze or Crazyflie related… We didn’t think about it too much, so we cleaned the forum, deleted the users responsible and moved on. But the very next day more spam post appeared, and it was getting so bad that we changed our sign-up from the regular security question to Captcha. Unfortunately, spambots are way too smart these days, so that didn’t work either… By the end of the weekend we had to remove over an hundred spam accounts and 500 spam posts!

The forum is experiencing a major spam attack at the moment and the usual security measures are not helping. Since yesterday, we enabled manual activation of new users (meaning that we physically need to approve each account), since currently this is the only way to catch the dodgy new accounts (we already caught over 100 in one day alone !!). This week we will look into other measures and plugins to better secure our forum, so we don’t have to manually go through all the newly registered users to see if they are not spam bots. We heard about Cleantalk by one of our users, so we probably will give that a go!

However, please be contact us if the following occurred or is occurring to you in our spam removing frenzy:

  • If we accidentally removed a post of you
  • If we removed or banned your account
  • If we are not activating your new account

Also make our lives a bit easier this week, and send us an email straight away if you have just have made a new account on the forum. Send an email to: contact@bitcraze.io with your username and a sentence about why you are using the Crazyflie (so we know that you are real).

This is only a temporary solution, so hopefully at the end of this week or the next we will not need to worry about this anymore :).

Improving the flow of information

Our usual blog posts usually consists of the awesome new products and demos that we make here at Bitcraze, but now we will talk about… documentation! Alright alright, it is maybe not the most thrilling topic, however you should be excited about it! Good documentation about the Crazyflie and its tools will not only enable you to recreate the demos and the work of others, but also to implement your own ideas and to contribute to our open-source firmware.

In the years that Bitcraze has been around, there has been quite the build-up of information, which can be either found on the main website, the wiki, the github repositories, and in bits & pieces on the forum. Although we try to provide all the information necessary for getting started with development, it is currently quite a clutter. If we at Bitcraze already have difficulty of finding and maintaining all the documentation, we can only imagine how difficult it would be for a starting developer. We therefore would like to improve the flow of information dramatically!

Here are some ideas of what we would like to do with the documentation:

Moving product information to the shop.

LED ring expansion deck in the main website, shop, and wiki.

Currently there are three different locations where you can find information about physical Crazyflie, localization systems or expansion decks, which is the main website, the online store and the wiki. We see that a lot of electronic and hardware shops usually put all the details of the product directly on the product page of their shops. We aim to do that as well, since there will only be one page for users to go to for schematics, specifications, instructions and more, and for us it will be also easier to maintain and update any product information

Moving Software Info to GitHub

There is a lot of bits and pieces of information to handle the firmware on the Crazyflie and all the tools in the tutorials on our main website, wiki and Github repository. This again makes a lot of duplicate information, which is difficult for us to maintain and therefore gets easily outdated. We could put all the information on the wiki, but what if somebody changes something in the code which requires a change in the procedure as well?

It would be the best to keep all the information about the firmware as close to the source as possible, therefore we think is best to move everything to the github repositories. For instance, the wiki cfclient instructions can be moved to the documentation of the cfclient repostitory, or Onchip debugging instructions can go to crazyflie firmware repostitory To keep it all manageable we will:

  • Create a /doc folder on the repositories to better structure all the information
  • Add more Doxygen comments to all the function in the the codes and automatically generate documentation for this.

Restructuring the Wiki Content

After moving all the hardware- related content to the shop, and moving all the firmwar- related info to the Github repositories, we will need to think about what we want to do with the Wiki! You would think that there is nothing left to put on the wiki anymore after the replacement of the earlier documentation, but we beg to differ! For instance, there is so many Github repositories that there is a really a need for an overview. The wiki can educate developers on which tools we have an how to properly use them. Of course, we already have the getting started tutorials, but we want to also provide a more in-depth explanation of the overall structure and how the different repositories would need tho work together, like this .

This does mean that we would need to restructure the wiki entirely and only focusing on topics like:

  • System Architecture Crazyflie
  • Communication protocol between STM and the NRF
  • Communication protocol between the Python library and the Client
  • Overview Github-repositories
  • Projects and hacks
  • etc etc

What do you think?!

Of course we can change all we want in the documentation, but you guys are the ones who actually use it! We are very curious of what what you think of the plans and give us more tips or suggestions on how to improve the overall documentation experience. Please leave a message below or express your opinion on this forum thread.

At ICRA 2019

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!

Last week was busy at Bitcraze as we moved to our new office. We packed all our tools, equipment, toys, components, stock and other bits and pieces into boxes and on Tuesday the moving truck came to pick it all up. Everything was very smooth and by lunch all the stuff had been unloaded in the new office.

Office work

Until now we have had our offices at various co-working spaces, but this time we rent a “real” office. We get a lot of more space that fits our needs better (a flight lab!) but the drawback is that we have to buy a lot of stuff that was part of the package earlier, such as furniture, printer, network, fire extinguishers, coffee brewer and lots of other things.

Painting Bitcraze green wall

We spent most of last week unpacking, buying stuff, painting and installing and we are in pretty good shape now. There are still a lot to do but the most important functionality is up and running. We even managed to ship orders in the store every day except Tuesday when we moved.

If you are in the area, drop by and say hi!

The post this week is going to be a bit more about ‘how we work’. In our daily work we often have to solve problems that are not directly technical, though we tend to solve them in a technical way. Our new automated printing system is an example of that.

Last year we have started our own e-shop to be able to sell our products by ourselves. At first we used an external warehouse which ended up causing a lot of problem so we decided to have all stock for our e-shop in our office and started shipping from Sweden. Part of the plan was to make the shipping process as efficient as possible to understand what it takes to handle stock and shipping worldwide. The latest addition is an automated printing system.

When you order in the Bitcraze store, the order is sent to a system we made to handle stock and production. In the morning, one of us will log-in in this system and start handling the orders of the night. The system is generating all documents and ordering shipping for the order, this means that all we have to do is to print the picking list and all required documentation, put the products in a box and stick all the document on the box. This level of automation was already saving us a lot of time but we still had to print manually the right amount of every required document.

We now have a Raspberry-pi connected to all the printers. A program (written in Rust, because I want to experiment with the language :) connects the management system using WebSocket and waits for a print order. When we connect to the management system we just have to click ‘print’ on the next order to get all the required instructions and documents printed, ready to use.

We are still not sure we will keep shipping from the office in the long run, but making it as efficient as possible allows us to ensure good quality and high flexibility. This kind of project is also a good excuse to play with various technologies.

2018 has ended, we at Bitcraze are now back from a short holiday break and we are looking forward to 2019. There is already a lot of things rolling that will give results in 2019 and we wanted to do a short post about what we are currently planning.

Product wise, we still have a couple of product in final state of production that we will be releasing during Q1 or early Q2 2019, Crazyflie 2.1 production is on-going and we have started a first batch of the Lighthouse deck.

We have talked about both projects in previous post but if you want to see what the lighthouse positioning is capable of you can look at the Holiday video we pushed two weeks ago:

This video was made using two HTC Vive base station V1 and prototypes of the lighthouse deck we are currently producing. We intend this deck to be the first version of a series of Lighthouse receiver deck: we had to simplify the design by using only horizontal IR receivers in order to be able to produce a first batch now, this meant making some compromises on the usable flight space. We will talk more on that in a future block post but as you can see in the video the system is promising.

We will also try to travel a bit more this year to meet you. IROS 2018 was an awesome experience and allowed us to meet a lot of our users and to get a better understanding on how Crazyflie is and can be used. This year we are aiming at visiting Fosdem 2019 in Brussels as well as exhibiting at ICRA 2019 in Montreal and IROS 2019 in Macau. None of them are completely finalized yet so stay tuned on the blog for future announcement. If you have other suggestion of conferences or event you would like to see us attending, please tell us in the comments or drop us an mail.

Finally on a company side, we are looking at growing the team and changing office. We are currently 5 at Bitcraze which means that we have a lot to do and growing would allow us to expand the Crazyflie ecosystem with more functionality and cool stuff. We are also going to move to a new office where we will have a dedicated flight lab. Until now we have had our office in a co-working space and we used about 4x4m of our office space as a flight lab. In the new office we will have a dedicated 100m² flight space which will allow us to work more on swarm support and to improve the LPS system in a bigger space.

A lot of awesome things have been going on at Bitcraze during the last couple of months (like TDoA3, Swarm shows and a new front page), but on the logistics side we’ve been struggling. Like we wrote a couple of weeks ago we’ve been having huge issues with out 3rd party warehouse supplier. Unfortunately the issues have continued and we’ve been working hard on patching things together to get orders to our customers as soon as possible, but it’s not a sustainable situation and some of our customers have unfortunately had to wait too long for their orders to arrive.

So a couple of weeks ago we took the decision to move handling of the E-store from the 3rd party in Hong Kong to our office in Sweden. This will initially mean more work for us, but we feel that it’s something we need to do in order to keep the level of service we want to give our customers. So for the time being orders will be shipped from our office in Sweden.

So what does this mean in practice? Except for things hopefully working much more smoothly there won’t be any noticeable change for non-EU customers. However for EU customers there’s a big improvement: previously our EU customers had to import the products into the EU where the orders where subject to VAT and import duties. With the E-store moved to Sweden these orders are now subject to Swedish VAT (25%) directly on the order and customers will not have to import the goods so no additional VAT or duties are added upon receiving the order. Since this makes things easier and faster for our EU customers we’re really happy about this. Note that for customers with valid EU VAT numbers the VAT can be deducted directly in the E-store, you can either enter your VAT number directly in the cart or in your account if you have created one.

We’re doing our best to sort out the new situation and if there’s any issues along the way please let us know so we can work on fixing them.

 

Things are moving fast here at Bitcraze and we have lots of exciting things going on. So it’s time to grow the team and try to add one or two new team-members to increase the tempo and bring more awesome products to our customers. The normal case might be that you would post a job ad describing what kind of skill-set potential new members should have, but we would like to try something different. So today we added a jobs page describing a bit about how we work and what we do. Our goal is to give a picture of what it’s like to work at Bitcraze and try to find individuals who like what we do and how we work. If you would be interested in joining the team let us know on jobs@bitcraze.io who you are, what you like and how you think you could contribute.