John Arne Birkeland's Posts (23)

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3689717951?profile=originalAs some of you may be aware off, there have been a lot of modding/hacking activity with regard to DJI products lately. In what seems to be an response to this, DJI has just taken the unprecedented step of forcing an app update on all users not running the latest GO 4 v.4.1.3 version.

Personally I find this action worrying on many levels. Especially since the only information currently available regarding the forced update, and official statement from DJI is as follows.

Bugs fix

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ArduPilot and DroneCode part ways


For the attention of the users, supporters, fans and corporate users of ArduPilot:

The ArduPilot project is going through a transition. We will no longer be associated with DroneCode and instead will be focused directly on the needs of our users, contributors and partners.

We had high hopes for DroneCode as a collaborative project. DroneCode was born out of the ArduPilot project and we led the technical collaboration since its inception nearly two years ago. As part of that collaboration we welcomed and nurtured close ties with the PX4 project and worked closely with a number of corporate partners.

Unfortunately DroneCode has a built-in flaw. The structure and bylaws of DroneCode are built around exceptional power for the Platinum members, giving them extraordinary control over the future of DroneCode. This is a fundamental flaw in a project meant to promote free and open source software as it means that the business interests of a very small number of members can override the interests of the rest of the members and the community.

Just how great a flaw that is has been shown by the actions of the Platinum members over the last two months. Due to their overwhelming desire to be able to make a proprietary autopilot stack the Platinum members staged what can only be called a coup. They removed all top level open source projects from DroneCode, leaving only their own nominees in the Technical Steering Committee. They passed a resolution requiring that all projects hand over control of all trademarks, accounts and domains to their control.

The PX4 project leadership decided to accept this, and will be handing over control of the PX4 project in order to remain in DroneCode. The ArduPilot project won’t be doing this, as we firmly believe that community directed development is the best way to create a long-term sustainable free software autopilot stack. That means we are not willing to hand control of our domains, trademarks and development accounts to DroneCode, and by extension to the Platinum members. We believe that giving the Platinum members that degree of control over the future of ArduPilot would be irresponsible. ArduPilot is a community project, and its future direction must be set by the community.

We did not want this outcome, and neither did the Silver members (represented by all 3 elected Dronecode board members). We wanted to continue to collaborate, but the actions of the Platinum members and the choice made by the PX4 project means that DroneCode is no longer a place where community directed collaboration is welcome.

There is one aspect of DroneCode which we will miss. It offered a forum where we could work with the many companies that use ArduPilot to help their businesses make the most of ArduPilot.

To allow us to continue to have that relationship and improve upon the flawed DroneCode model we have made the decision to accept partners to the ArduPilot project. These partners will have their logo displayed on our new homepage (unveiled today; visit us at www.ardupilot.org33) and we will work closely with them to build a strong relationship for the benefit of both their businesses and the ArduPilot project.

We will have a monthly meeting between the ArduPilot development team and partners where we will discuss the future direction of ArduPilot and work together on issues that are important to our partners.

More information on becoming an ArduPilot partner is available here:

We also welcome individual contributions, with donations welcome from all users. The most important contributions, however, are those made by the hundreds of people in our vibrant community who have contributed code, documentation, code reviews and support for our users.

The ArduPilot development team would like to thank all our users, contributors and partners for their support, and we look forward to continuing the development of the autopilot that this community loves.

The ArduPilot Dev Team

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Fast accurate LIDAR

news-terabee2.jpg?itok=bV8vfRsqInteresting article in EE Timers Europe.

Working deeply with CERN (European Centre for Nuclear Research) in 2012, French startup Terabee has taken IR-based time-of-flight (ToF) to centimetre-level, boasting update frequencies up to 1kHz for fast moving robots and drones.

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3689689108?profile=originalArticle from ZDNet.

GoPro quietly announced its Developer Program on Tuesday, as it looks to incorporate its action sports cameras into third-party products. Third-party companies have been building accessories for the GoPro over the years, but now GoPro wants to provide official support.

The GoPro Developer Program provides toolkits, technical information and support to enable companies to add GoPro camera connectivity into their products. There is a camera toolkit for iOS and Android apps to control a GoPro camera and manage media, along with a mechanical toolkit to attach GoPro cameras to third-party products.

GoPro held an event in San Francisco, California to highlight the new program, where it announced there are more than 100 companies partnering with GoPro, including brands from BMW, Fisher-Price, and Polar. GoPro showed off potential third-party integration ideas in a video showing a gesture-based camera control system.

"Over the last few years we've been excited by the creativity and enthusiasm other brands have demonstrated when integrating GoPro into their own solutions," Nick Woodman, CEO and founder of GoPro, said in a prepared statement. "The GoPro Developer Program is a way for us to celebrate the innovative work of our developer community and more importantly, help enable what comes next."

GoPro first showed its third-party support when it announced integration with Twitter's live streaming platform Periscope in January. Owners of the GoPro Hero 4 can publish to Periscope directly through the social media app on iOS.

GoPro has been at a crossroads as of late; its stock price has been hammered as it has missed sales projections. CEO Nick Woodman is working to reinvigorate the company with new products, new hires, and now support for developers.

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suavc_logo_350.pngFrom USA Today article Drone coalition splits as DJI, GoPro faction quits.

SAN FRANCISCO — The national group that represents companies that make and sell drones has split, with those focused on consumers leaving to form their own organization.

Four drone companies left the Small UAV Coalition on Thursday. They are China-based DJI, French-based Parrot, San Mateo, Calif.-based GoPro and Berkeley, Calif.-based 3DR.

UAV stands for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.

While still tightly aligned with the coalition on big issues, the break-away companies plan to create a still-unnamed group to very specifically focus on consumer issues, said GoPro spokesman Jeff Brown.

As the drone market matures, a shifting of needs was inevitable. Larger companies such as Amazon’s Prime Air, Alphabet’s Google X and others are looking more at drones for delivery, cargo and more commercial uses. Consumers have gravitated to using drones for photography, racing and just to play with.

“We think there are going to be millions of consumers that fly these, and that are focused on safe and responsible fight, and we want to make sure that the regulations track with them,” said Brown.

DJI and the other three companies all joined the Coalition about a year ago, "so it was a natural time to review where we were going,” said Adam Lisberg, spokesman for DJI Technology, the world’s largest drone manufacturer.

“We consider the Small UAV Coalition to be allies and friends. But the business is growing so big that we thought we would most benefit  from a group focused on the issues that are important to small drone manufacturers and our customers,” said Lisberg.

Many of the regulatory issues that surround drones are beginning to diverge, as the FAA makes a distinction between pleasure and commercial use. However the final outlines of what the rules will look like is still far from clear.

“The issues for our customers are about where and how average people can fly small drones,” Lisberg said.

The split was not unexpected and was very amicable, said Michael Drobac with the law firm of Akin Gump in Washington D.C. He is the spokesperson for the Small UAV Coalition.

“We wish them incredibly well in their work and we remain committed as a coalition to what we believe is going to be an incredibly vibrant commercial marketplace,” he said.

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Another multicopter crash into a crowd..


So it happened again, and it will continue to happen until people realize this technology is far from mature enough to be used for such tasks.

Aside from endangering peoples lives, the public opinion created from such incidents will be very damaging and contribute to overly restrictive UAV laws in the future.

Do not fly over people, especially crowds!

Original article with crash video:

English translation:

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ZeroUAV YS-X4 teardown

3689493405?profile=originalSo no completely trusting that Santa had gotten the message, I made sure that there at least was one present under the tree that I would like.

The YS-X4 is the latest multi-rotor autopilot from ZeroUAV, and their entry into the relatively low priced hobby segment. Since this blog will be a hardware teardown, I will not go into details about performance and features. More information can be found in detail at the official site or in the RCGroups thread.

So having opened my present (Ooh!! A YS-X4!!! Just what I wanted!! How did I know!?), I was curious just how a hobby grade autopilot made by a serious industrial UAV company would be designed. So naturally dismantling the autopilot unit seemed like the sensible thing to do.

The main components in the package are (top, left to right):

GPS unit, status LED, autopilot, WiFI unit , USB interface and power supply module. And then there is the usual assortment of servo wires, GPS standoff mount and such.


First let's start by physically comparing the YS-X4 autopilot with the APM 2.5 (from the first batch, so there is no casing).

The YS-X4 autopilot unit is a solid block of machined, anodized aluminum with horizontal connectors and weighs 106 grams. Slightly longer and wider then the APM, and at least twice as high. So obviously it will require a bit more space to install. But the thing is very solid. Feels like you could clobber someone to death, and not even get a reboot. Very good first impression.

Opening up the casing, I was surprised how little unused space there is. Clearly they have made the casing as compact as possible, with the electronics they wanted to use.



The system is a two board stack with the IMU unit and connectors at the bottom (left picture), and processor unit at the top (right picture).



3689493477?profile=originalThe IMU unit in particular is very impressive with sensors built inside a solid piece of metal to ensure rigidity, and then mounted using internal vibration dampening. A black piece of foam on the processing board, is there so that it presses down on the IMU unit when the boards are stacked together. I decided to leave the IMU unit alone. At least until I have had a chance to fly the system once or twice. But judging by the rest of the system, I would not be surprised to find well known reputable sensors from Analog Devices and Freescale. Just like in the professional YS-X6 version (ADXRS620, ADXL203, MPXH6115A).

The processor board on top of the stack has two chips of interest.

- Atmel ARM920T 32-bit RISC processor

- Altera Cyclone FPGA

I can only speculate but my guess would be that the FPGA is used for radio inputs and motor output PWM's, and perhaps some of the more intensive sensor fusion maths.

The ARM CPU then handles the rest of the programmable logic as needed.

This is the exact same components found in the professional YS-X6 version. In other words a dedicated system with component selected that best suite the task. Considering this is a hobby range product, I am very impressed by the components used.

So in conclusion, the ZeroUAV YS-X4 seem to use more or less the exact same components found in the more expensive YS-X6 version. As such it is logical to assume the most of the programming used is also the same. So performance should be close if not identical to the $1000+ professional YS-X6. Most feature limitations (like only 6 motor outputs if you want to use a camera gimbal) are there to segment the two products in the marked. Considering the price ($450 - $640 depending on software options), this is impressive. Sure, nowhere near the price of the 3DRobotics APM, but then again the YS-X4 has MUCH more impressive hardware and ZeroUAV doesn't get most the software developed for free.

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Teensy 3.0


Just a heads-up that Teensy my favorite small form factor Arduino compatible board, just got a solid upgrade with the 32bit ARM Cortex-M4 48mhz based Teensy 3.0. The Teensy 2.0 has pretty much been my bread and butter board for homegrown experiments (and some work related ones also). Looking forward to playing with the capabilities of the new one. The creator also aims to keep Arduino compatibility with the new ARM chip, if you don't want to talk directly to the hardware.

More information about the Teensy 3.0 should become available once the Kickstarter pre-order is completed and the Teensy 3.0 becomes official in the store.

But a quick highlight of the specification are:

  • 32 bit ARM Cortex-M4 48 MHz CPU (M4 = DSP extensions)
  • 128K Flash Memory, 16K RAM, 2K EEPROM
  • 14* High Resolution Analog Inputs (13 bits usable, 16 bit hardware)
  • 34* Digital I/O Pins (10 shared with analog)
  • 10 PWM outputs
  • 8 Timers for intervals/delays, separate from PWM
  • USB with dedicated DMA memory transfers
  • 3 UARTs (serial ports)
  • SPI, I2C, I2S, IR modulator
  • I2S (for high quality audio interface)
  • Real Time Clock (with user-added 32.768 crystal and battery)
  • 4 general purpose DMA channels (separate from USB)
  • Touch Sensor Inputs

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I just want to give a shout about a Kickstarter project that I think deserve some attention.

Basically a well established hardware chip design firm, want's to make a $99 parallel "super" computer and needs help financing mass production to lower the cost of chip production. In return for our support they promise full disclosure for all hardware and dedicated open source development tools.

So for a $99 Kickstarter pledge you get:

  • Dual-core ARM A9 CPU
  • Epiphany Multicore Accelerator (16 or 64 cores)
  • 1GB RAM 
  • MicroSD Card
  • USB 2.0 (two) 
  • Two general purpose expansion connectors
  • Ethernet 10/100/1000
  • HDMI connection
  • Ships with Ubuntu OS
  • Ships with free open source Epiphany development tools that include C compiler, multicore debugger, Eclipse IDE, OpenCL SDK/compiler, and run time libraries. 
  • Dimensions are 3.4'' x 2.1''  

The reason I am so excited about this, is that this thing is more or less made for next generation autopilots.

- Full blown extended Kalman filter with all the bells and whistles? Would not even break a sweat doing that.

- Real-time visual navigation and object detection? You bet!

- Generate aerial maps on the fly. Be my guest!

You get the idea, and all this would be possible using a 86x54mm board consuming 5W on average. Needless to say I am a bit excited. :)

The $99 pledge is for a 16 core version, but there is talk about a $199 64-core version if they get enough to ramp up the production.

For more information visit the kickstarter here:

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Confessions of a gadget addict...


I am probably going to get hate mail for this, but a clear warning to any future addicts needs to be made. So here goes.

I was doing some spring cleaning and those darn DIY gadgets just kept on coming out of the woodwork. I knew I had a lot of stuff lying around, but this time I even surprised myself. And this is just DIY/FPV/Autopilot electronics currently not installed in a project. I will not show the pile of unfinished projects like copters, planes, rovers etc. It's just embarrassing. And the is also a big pile of general R/C stuff like ESC's motors, servos,  gyros, receivers and such..

Anyways, there should be some well knows gadgets in this picture, and some not so well known ones also. Geek points to the first one to correctly identify them all, excluding the self made stuff that only I would know of.

Morale of the story? Get bigger storage boxes I guess..

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Full scale octocopter


There has been some posts lately about people building and trying to fly full scale multi-copters. Following this trend I though I should share the most successful project I have seen so far. Mr. Ivoprop over at youtube seem to have a fully working octocopter design built around a micro-plane.

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The PPM Encoder team has been working on a new servo input to ppm firmware for the PhoneDrone board and any future boards using the ATmega32u2 chip.

Since there has been reports of problems with the old APM firmware (PPM encoder problem, loosing CH3 again with new APM board) when used together with receivers that has synchronous changes on multiple servo channels. So Olivier ADLER and me decided to back port the new atmega32u2 firmware to the ATmega328p chip used in APM boards.

We now feel that the new and hopefully improved firmware is ready for public beta testing. Source code and compiled firmware are available in the official APM repository (Unified ArduCoder). Please read the readme.txt carefully before usage and report any problems.

Future updates for the new firmware will have PPM pass-trough for receivers with PPM output and also possibly native support for Spektrum satellite receivers.

Happy flying!

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