There is a new release of the firmware, version 2024.2. The main change, and almost only change, in this release, is the Bluetooth stack that was updated from the Nordic’s semiconductor S110 to S130, which affects the firmware on the NRF51 on the Crazyflie. This was mainly done to be able to pass the listing requirement on Bluetooth SIG, but it will also have beneficial technical effects on the Crazyflie radio communication state of affairs.
The new stack and bootloader are distributed in the normal release .zip, which means that it can be updated from the client as normal. Please note that the latest lib and clients are required as we have had to implement new procedures to flash the bootloader and stack.
First of all, let’s define what is a soft device. Nordic semiconductor radio chips are awesome in the way that the radio hardware is fully documented, this means that we can implement our own radio protocols but we would also be able to implement our own Bluetooth stack (I have attempted that a long time ago with some success, the nRF5 radio hardware is really powerful and can be set up to do much of the work!). However, backing your own Bluetooth stack would require passing a full suite of validation at the Bluetooth SIG to prove the stack conform to specification. In order to avoid that, the usual strategy is to buy a Bluetooth device and to talk to it over UART. What Nordic did is to implement a “Softdevice”, a binary blob that runs in the same CPU as the user application and that talks to the application using software interrupt. This keeps the application completely separated from the Bluetooth stack and so means that we get the benefits of a pre-qualified Bluetooth stack that has already been tested and approved.
Currently, we have ported the bootloader and the nrf firmware to the new S130 stack. This opens a lot of potential benefits for the future:
- The new stack should be at least 6 times faster than the old one. This makes implementing BLE communication for the Crazyflie to a PC/Chromebook much more appealing and should allow to make the existing mobile client more full features.
- We are now able to update the bootloader, so we can make a new improved version of it in the future (ie. with safe link, swarm optimization, much faster Bluetooth boot loading….)
- The new stack supports device and host mode. So things like pairing a gamepad with the Crazyflie becomes a technical possibility! (actual implementation is left as an exercise for the contributor ;-).
One very important thing to note is that working on the bootloader requires a debugger: if you flash a bugged radio bootloader you need a SWD debug probe to be able to fix your Crazyflie. The bootloader+softdevice flashing procedure is very safe, as long as you flash a working firmware.
This change should open quite new exciting possibilities. It will be interesting to see what we can achieve with BLE and updated bootloaders in the future. Please note that we had to make a change to both the Crazyflie python library and the CFclient in order to flash this new firmware so make sure that you update those as well to try out this new release.
The next developer meeting will be on the 6th of March 2024, we will talk about the Crazyflie Supervisor subsystem… We have made some changes to the supervisor recently, and we will continue working more on it in the next couple of weeks mostly preparing for the arrival of the Brushless Crazyflie. We will talk about the current state and what we are working on. Follow the thread on Bitcraze Discussions to be up to date on how to join!