Tuesday, May 27

Unboxing The RVJET UAV Flying Wing / FPV Platform

"The beginning is the most important part of the work."
I finally succumbed, I ordered a flying wing. So, at first I searched a bit and hesitated with a few different products:

  • Zeta Science FPV Phantom FX-61 1550 mmm = 160 $,
  • HobbyKing Go Discover FPV Plane 1600 mm = 130 $,
  • Darkwing FPV Drone 1727mm = 200 $

The day I finally tried to order the Phantom FX-61, it was no longer on stock, so I decided to continue my searches until I saw this picture on Google:

At that point, I knew what I wanted, I wanted that bird. 

"The main concern with a very large baby is difficulty in delivery."
Before ordering, I had still a few questions (mostly technical), so I wrote an email to RangeVideo. They answered me almost immediately. Confident I would have some support, I placed my order. A week later, the package was delivered. I added to my order the RVJet "Power Pack", an additional 99 $.

Only regret, the black version was not available, I had to order a white one or to wait, so I ordered the white version.

"A box without hinges, key, or lid, yet golden treasure inside is hid."
The package is a big white box with only one sticker, written "Made in China". By lifting the lid, I discovered the different parts, with on top the CF tubes and the wings. 

Once I removed the wings, the fuselage and accessories appeared. I anticipated something big, but not THAT BIG !

Note the anti-vibration platform (on the right side).

"I'm just looking for an angel with broken wings."
A peculiarity of the RVJET is that it comes with wing's extentions, meaning that you can assemble it in two configurations, either 1550 mm or 1950 mm. Nevertheless, to be clear about this, during the assembly, you will have to glue (or not) the extentions to the wings. This is to say that once you have chosen one configuration, you wont be able to change it.

Although, you can buy two additional wings (10 $ each) and servos to create the missing configuration. Note that every single part of the RVJET exists as a spare part on the RangeVideo web site, which is really cool.   

"A large nose is the mark of a witty, courteous, affable, generous and liberal drone."
At first, I wasn't sure that the modular front viewing camera solution was included in the set. Indeed, when looking on RangeVideo web site, I did not find a clear detailed list of what was included. But yes, the gimbal was in, with, not one, but two spare crystal domes. More, the gimbal comes complete for both the GoPro and a micro-camera, which request different housing. A simple, basic EPO nose is also included in the package.

Note on the picture the landing skid used to protect the airframe during rough landings and integrates a rugged hook that enables bungee launches. 

"There is always room at the top."
I intend to use the RVJET as a UAV / FPV platform. From the very beginning, I wanted some room to be able to mount all the electronic stuff I will need, plus the batteries. Having plenty of room under the canopy was one of my first criteria. I placed a can in the compartment to give you a better idea.

"You cannot open a book without learning something."
During my research, I read countless topics and forums where users complained about the fact that their UAV cames without assembly manual and how it could be hard to find them on Internet. The assembly manuals of the RVJET are just gorgeous ! Two manuals, printed in full color, one for the gimbal and one for  the flying wing.

"Price is what you pay. Value is what you get."
Of course, the RVJET is one of the most expensive UAV you can buy in its category, but at 250 $ it is still an excellent deal.

First, the quality is visible, from the material used to the manuals, everything has been done to offer the best to the client. Second, the gimbal is included in the package, a system which will allow you to use the most distributed camera on the market. And last but not least, every single part of the RVJet is available as a spare part. This is certainly the best warranty you can get for the lasting quality of your flying wing.  Indeed, there is every chances that I am going to crash my wing, so I  want be able to repair it. With the RVJet, no problem to replace a wing, a fin stabilizer or even the fuselage.

"The purpose of our lives is to be happy."
This purchase achieves this objective and this is the coolest conclusion I ever wrote :-)

More information about RangeVideo here
More information on the RVJet here

Friday, May 16

The Bebop Drone From Parrot: GPS, Long Range & FPV Compatibility

Parrot announced a new drone coming Q4 2014, the Bebop.

The drone
The Bebop Drone, compared to the AR-Drone, delivers better performances, the Bebop Drone navigation computer features a Parrot P7 dual-core CPU, quad-core GPU and 8 GB of Flash Memory. All are fixed on a magnesium shelf that acts as electromagnetics shielding and as a radiator. Runs on Linux with SDK available for Developers. The Bebop weight less than 400 gr and will be compatible with iOS and Android at first.

The Sensors
The Bebop features numerous sensors: 3-axes accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer. 1 ultrasound with a reach up to 8 meters, 1 pressure sensor and a vertical camera to track the speed. The Bebop features numerous sensors: 3-axes accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer. 1 ultrasound with a reach up to 8 meters, 1 pressure sensor and a vertical camera to track the speed. But The Bebop Drone also offers a GNSS chipset that associates the GPS, GLONASS and GALILEO data. This will allows you to plan your flights on your smartphone/tablet by touching waypoints on your screen and let the drone do the hard part. In addition to increasing the stability in high altitude, it allows autonomous flights and automatics return to the take-off position.

The Camera
The bebop Drone benefits from an exclusive 3-axes image stabilization system that maintains fixed the angle of the view, whatever the inclination of the drone and its movements caused by wind turbulence.
The video definition is 1920x1080p (30fps) and the photo is definition: 3800x3188 pixels.

The SkyControler
It looks like a dual joystick on which you can mount most of the smartphones and tablets.
With this option, Parrot clearly target the FPV (First Person view) for everyone. Indeed, it is possible to connect FPV glasses to the Parrot Skycontroller with the HDMI. The compatible FPV glasses are: Oculus Rift, Zeiss Cinemizer, Epson Moverio, Sony Personal Viewer…

It is interesting to note that the Bebop's camera will be controllable with the headtracking technology embedded in the Oculus Rift. The SkyController will also offers a more powerful wifi connection, with a range up to 2 km (1.3 mile).

The price.
No price is currently announced, but I would say that we can bet between 400 and 500 € to which you can add the Skycontroller's price, plus an occulus, another 300 €. Off course, with Parrot, the advantage is that it's a  well distributed, represented product with a warranty and serious after-sales service.

On the other hand, the Bebop is still really close from a toy, with a low autonomy, a non interchangeable camera (closed solution), and a small format with very low weight (not ideal for stable platform in turbulent conditions). So the question is to know if lot of people will go for this solution or will opt for a more open solution with interchangeable components.

Still, the product is very interesting, and after the very first large scale commercial success of a drone (AR-Drone), I can only wish the best to Parrot for this second generation

More information on the Bebop here
More information on Oculus Rift here
More information on Zeiss Cinemizer here
More information on Epson Moverio here
More information on Sony Personnal Viewer here

Thursday, April 24

Autonomous Navigation for Flying Robots Course by edX

You want to be introduced to the basic concepts for autonomous navigation with quadrotors, probabilistic state estimation, linear control, and path planning and other concepts. edX is organizing a course related to the Autonomous Navigation for Flying Robots.

You will learn how to infer the position of the quadrotor from its sensor readings, how to navigate along a series of waypoints, and how to plan collision free trajectories. The programming exercises will require you to write small code snippets in Python to make a quadrotor fly in simulation.

edX will provide a web-based quadrotor simulator that will allow you to test your solutions in simulation. However, they took special care that the code you will be writing will be compatible with a real Parrot Ardrone quadrotor. So if you happen to have a Parrot AR-Drone quadrotor, we encourage you to try out your solutions for real.

This course will start may 4, 2014

About edX

EdX is a not-for-profit initiative composed of over 30 leading global institutions, the xConsortium. They offer quality education, both online and in the classroom.

Founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University, edX offers online learning to on-campus students and to millions of people around the world. EdX is building an open-source online learning platform and hosts a web portal at www.edx.org for online education.

EdX is a not-for-profit enterprise that promotes the educational missions of like-minded universities.

More information about this course HERE
More information on edX HERE
More information on AR-Drone HERE
More information on Python HERE

Tuesday, March 25

MicroView, a new breed of arduino

The MicroView is a tiny arduino-compatible board that features a built-in OLED display. It doesn’t share that classic form factor but it  is sized to seamlessly fit into a breadboard. Despite having a  ATmega328P micro-controller as the Aruino Uno, the MicroView is of its own kind, a very different kind.

While there are other Arduino compatible boards around the same size, or even smalle, than the MicroView, Tinyduino and  Microduino for instance, there aren’t any self-sufficient and with an OLED screen on top.

Unlike many of the Arduino compatible projects that land on KickStarter every month, MicroView includes a set of courses which takes the user through building 11 different circuits, including:
  • Blinking LEDs and creating different colors on an RGB LED.
  • Getting readings from a potentiometer (a fancy name for a knob).
  • Taking the input from a push button.
  • Sensing Temperature and Light
  • Controlling actuators relays, motors & servos
  • Making sound

General Specs

  • Support for the Arduino™ IDE 1.0+ (OSX/Win/Linux)
  • 100% Arduino™ Compatible
  • Built-in 64x48 OLED display
  • Direct 3.3VDC - 16VDC power input, no power regulator needed
  • Standard DIP Package
  • Breadboard friendly or direct solder

Hardware Specs

  • Display: 64x48 OLED Display
  • Microcontroller: ATmega328P
  • Operating Voltage: 5V
  • Input Voltage: 3.3VDC - 16VDC
  • Digital I/O Pins: 12 (of which 3 provide PWM output)
  • Analog Input Pins: 6
  • Flash Memory: 32 KB
  • SRAM: 2 KB
  • EEPROM: 1 Kilobyte
  • Clock Speed: 16 Mhz

Thursday, March 6

Bridges Between Arduino And Raspberry Pi

The Arduino and "Raspberry Pi" are 2 very different things, but are both common among hackers and makers. The Raspberry Pi does have GPIO pins for controlling and reading the physical world, however the Arduino is the board more suited for that job. The idea is then simple, "How the get the best of both world ?"

There are now different solutions to use Arduino shields and sketch with your Raspberry Pi.

Udoo, the integrated (and expensive).
UDOO is a mini computer that combines "Raspberry Pi" and "Arduino Due" into a single integrated platform that can run both Linux and Android. Udoo, by its nature, lends itself to many different uses. It was born on kickstarter.

UDOO is a prototyping board for software development and design, it’s easy to use and with a few steps you can start using it and creating your projects with minimum knowledge. It merges different computing worlds in one.

UDOO is an open hardware, low-cost computer equipped with an ARM i.MX6 Freescale processor for Android and Linux, alongside Arduino DUE’s ARM SAM3X, both CPU integrated on the same board! It is compatible with all the sketches, tutorials and resources available on the Arduino community as well as all the shields, sensors and actuators for Arduino DUE available on the market.

UDOO is a stand alone computer itself and since is based on the Freescale i.MX 6 CPU, it runs an optimized version of Linux Ubuntu for ARM architecture, called Linaro (11.10 at the moment). Linaro environment has everything you need for programming, for example you can use the Arduino IDE to build & upload your sketches to the Arduino-compatible embedded board, without additional/external cable connections.

Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean also runs smootly on UDOO giving you all the features of an Android device. Apps interface with Arduino-compatible embedded board through Accessory Development Kit (ADK) connection for building accessories and smart devices based on Android.

This bord comes in three flavor. A dual core without networking nor Sata capabilities, a dual core with networking (wifi included) and Sata capabilities (for a hard disk), and the most powerful which, additionally to the networking and Sata, will offer you the luxury of a quad core.

The Udoo community is extremely active. The forum is very lively, with daily interventions. This board will cost you between 73.00 and 99.00 € depending on the version.

Arduberry, the inexpensive
From dexter industries,the Arduberry bridges the gap between the Arduino and Raspberry Pi, allowing you to add Arduino shields directly to the Pi. The device is a shield that connects to the Raspberry Pi with the standard 26 pin header, featuring an Atmega 328 microcontroller, and pin layout that matches and Arduino UNO. The Arduberry is, in essence, a Arduino in the guise of a shield for a Raspberry Pi.

The device is powered through the Raspberry Pi.  For projects needing a little more power, you can connect an auxiliary power supply, or power the Arduberry through a USB micro adapter. The Arduberry's microcontroller is most similar to the Arduino UNO with an Atmega 328 and Arduino UNO bootloader installed.  The device has a shield footprint almost identical to the Arduino UNO.  We used a DIP (pin rather than SMT) device for flexibility and to make the microcontroller easy to replace.

While most shields can work directly with the Raspberry Pi, some sketches, like those that use analog signals, will need slight modification to the sketch to be able to relay information on to the Raspberry Pi.  We will create a tutorial that walks you through how to adapt those sketches.

It is delivered with a 4GB SD Card with the latest build of the Raspbian Operating System, the Arduino programming language, and Arduino examples installed.

I would like to stress the fact that dexter industries is active  in the "robotic for hobbyist" business for years. They design and commercialize board, sensors and stuff for the Lego mindstorm, Raspberry Pi and Arduino. Their experienced staff will definetly offer you a good support if needed.

The Arduberry is prices at 23.00 $ and will be available mid April 2014.

Alamode, the supercharged
The Alamode is an Arduino compatible board that gives your Raspberry Pi the expansion and ease of use of an Arduino. With the AlaMode connected to the GPIO pins on your Pi you can write a program in any language you like to control or monitor your Arduino application, putting internet integration and control at your fingertips. In addition, you can program the AlaMode directly from the Pi, and even use the Pi to display information from the Arduino or use the Pi as an Ethernet shield.

The Alamode board comes with a Micro-SD card slot which can be useful for datalogging, and big-memory  for your Arduino applications. It also features a a socketed microcontroller than can be easily replaced and a Real Time Clock and battery so that the time and date can be kept accurate without accessing a network.
Full schematics and manual can be downloaded from the WyoLum team.

This board has been created by WyoLum Team and is available for 34.99 $ via MakerShed or SeeedStudio.

Cooking Hacks, the XBee ready
The Cooking hacks Raspeberry Pi To Arduino shield is another connection bridge using the GPIOs of the Raspberry. It includes the possibility of connecting digital and analog sensors, using the same pinout of Arduino but with the power and capabilities of Raspberry.

In order to make complete the compatibility, it is delivered with the arduPi library allow you to program Sketches in Raspberry Pi with the same language than in your Arduino.

Because of the fact that the Raspberry Pi hasn't got any analog-digital converter, one has been implemented in the shield a converter with a resolution of 12bit, bigger than the 10 bit of the Arduino Uno. With this, the shield has absolute compatibility with the different ways of communication that Arduino has: digital and analog I/O, I2C, SPI y UART, but in Raspberry Pi...

Note that this bridge is both compatible with the version 1.0 and 2.0 of the Raspberry, but you will have to download the correct version of the Ardupi.

Shields from Arduino and Cooking Hacks are prepared to work at 3.3v without risk of damaging your Arduino DUE or Raspberry Pi. But there are shields of others that they are not prepared, that's why you have always to be sure if it is compatible with Arduino Due. 
Cooking Hacks bridge will cost you 40.00 €.

Arduipi, the opened 
The Arduipi is another bridge between Raspberry Pi and Arduino. The board is compatible with Raspberry Pi Revision 2 boards only. it use a traditional 28 pins ATmel Arduino chip so you will be able to change it if needed.

But what make the Arduipi stand on its own is the fact that its source code and hardware is open and available on github which means that you will be able to change anything to your needs.

you will be able to power the Arduino side with Raspberry power or an external power with 5V or 3.3V.
The board also offer these soldering pads and connectors:

  • FTDI cable connector to be able to program AVR chip independently
  • ICSP connector.
  • 1-Wire (DS2482) IC setup on the board providing fully OWFS support provided by I2C bus 
  • Soldering pad I2C between Arduino and Raspberry (Arduino = I2C slave from Raspberry)
  • Soldering pad SPI between Arduino and Raspberry (Arduino = SPI slave from Raspberry)
  • Option to connect the Arduino to Raspberry Pi Serial to do async communication if needed
  • Grove connector on board for I2C and Serial connection for Raspberry and Arduino
  • Connector to add Adafruit I2C or SPI Oled breakout board 
  • Connectors to add NRF24L01 Wireless breakout board
  • Connectors for the 1-Wire Bus
  • Connectors for using PWM devices
ArduiPi is priced at 29.00 $, available at  SeeedStudio.

Gertduino, the standalone
The Gertduino has been created by Gert van Loo, one of the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s earliest volunteers. We wouldn’t have a Raspberry Pi without Gert; he did the hardware engineering for the alpha boards which eventually turned into the Raspberry Pi. Gert created the Gertboard, a GPIO expansion board, shortly after the Raspberr's launch.

The Gertduino is a Raspberry-Pi add-on which offers the same functionality as an Arduino-Uno, it features an Atmega328 microcontroller, runs of 5V, has the 16MHz oscillator, a reset switch, 2 user push buttons, and 6 LEDs and has, of course, connectors which are 100% Arduino-Uno compatible.

The Gerduino board also offers a RS232 level converter to convert signals form a UART to the RS232 standard voltages (And invert), an Atmega48 MCU, which is intended to be used as Real Time Clock (RTC) and/or as IRDA front end.

You can program Atmega328 or Atmega48 from the Raspberry Pi. All connections between the board and the Raspberry-Pi are protected against 5V signals.  The Atmega328 and the Atemege-48 have exactly the same pins with the same functionality.The devices only differ in the size of their various memories. So What was written about the Atmega328 also is valid for the Atmega48.

But if you make programming errors with the Atmege328 the device can easily be replaced. However, this is not the case with the Atmega48. It is therefore strongly recommended that you are extra careful and not damage any of the I/O ports. Also you can remove the board from the Raspberry Pi and use it standalone. This bridge is priced at 23,58 €

First of all, pay attention to the compatibility, some of these boards will only work with some versions of the Raspberry PI. Check twice and buy once.

Maybe an important consideration is to define if you want an integrated solution or not. The big advantage of the UDOO is its neatness. This board is really gorgeous and some versions come with extra computing power and extra features.

On the other hand, being integrated means that it has an extra cost, especially if you already own a Raspberry Pi, but also extra risks. You could very well damage the board, which would be equivalent to damage both an arduino and a Pi board.What a shame...

Maybe the best solution is to develop and test on a simple Raspberry Pi with a bridge and, once the prototype is validated, reproduce your project on a Udoo.

When it comes to the bridges, there are plenty of solutions. According to your preferences you can 
either promote public domain or a more commercial approach. Indeed, blueprints of some of these bridges are available online (Arduipi, Gertduino,...).

But whatever your preferences are, pay attention to the extra features offered by each board. For instance bridges with socketed microcontrollers seems to me quite more "forgiving", but it is just a point of view, havind a SD card slot or a network connection is, of course, also very tempting.

More info on Udoo here
More info on FreeScale here
More info on Arduberry here
More info on dexter industries here
More info on Arduberry on Kickstarter here
More info on Alamode here

Alamode on SeeedStudio here
More info on Wyolum Team here
More info on cooking hacks here
More info on Arduipi here
More info on GertDuino here

Tuesday, January 21

Pocket Drone, The Foldable Drone

Just a few days after Parrot introduced its MiniDrone (see here), a new Kickstarter project appeard with a quite interesting concept. Indeed, the "Pocket Drone" is powerful enough to carry a high quality action camera (Go-Pro like or up to 1/2 pound payload) and folds up smaller than a 7in tablet.

The controller relies on 6-axis accelerometers, 3-axis gyroscopes and an barometric sensor for the altitude. The final version will work with Mac, Linux or PC desktop operating systems, but also with Android smartphone. The software is open-source. Note that this litlle friendly gizmo is comptabile with Mission Planner and QGroundControl. An iOS compatible application is also planned.

The Pocket Drone also connects to a standard radio controller. Optional goggles allow the user to see what the drone is seeing at any given moment.

Note that the funding is going very well, they already collect nearly 10 times their initial goal !
The Pocket Drone can be yours for $455.00 and the will to wait until June 2014...

Sunday, January 19


Autodesk, Inc. has acquired the technology and the development team of Circuits.io, a web-based app and connected community for designing and simulating electronic circuits. Autodesk partnered with the Circuits.io team to introduce Autodesk 123D Circuits in 2013.

To celebrate this acquisition, Autodesk is organizing a contest Submit any circuits-related project to the 123D Circuits contest on Instructables for your shot at winning prize packages valued at almost $1,500 each!! 

Autodesk released 123D Circuits in September 2013, which expanded on the existing Circuits.io app by adding a breadboard view, and let users run code and simulate circuits in the app. Since this time, the community has grown to more than 30,000 users.

Users have the ability to share circuits with the community, and to start new projects based on a circuit created by other members of the community. In addition users can order custom circuit boards of what they’ve designed in the app to be manufactured and shipped to them.

Compared with other Arduino simulators on the market, one can say that the Autodesk's “feel” and sophisticated UI and the close integration with Instructables is certainly a major advantage, but that's not all, you can also...

Breadboard Editor With Realtime Simulation
Test your Arduino code in our real-time simulation environment and see your designs come to life in the browser.

Fully-Featured Schematic Editor
All the tools you need to design advanced schematics with the components you need.

Improve existing designs from the community, or edit circuits in collaboratively in real-time

Venture from the world  of circuits and into 3D
Check out the other free apps on Autodesk 123D to take you from circuits to modeling, making, and more.

More information on 123D applications here.
More information about 123D circuits here.
More info on the contest here