3D Robotics

As Gary Mortimer noted, the forthcoming Parrot AR.Drone GPS add-on, which was announced at CES, supports MAVLink and can work with QGroundControl and the APM Mission Planner. I talked to Parrot at CES, and it sounds like they're going to leave autonomy to hackers and third-parties; the official AR.Drone software will support GPS datalogging, but not control, itself. They also haven't announced a price or release date for the GPS/datalogging module yet.

But for us in the MAVLink world, this is great news. There are now 500,000 AR.Drones out there, and the possibility for them to become real drones, with autonomy, could lead to a huge surge of people getting into amateur UAVs.

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  • I just got an AR Drone to play with a couple days ago. It does have a failsafe, it automatically goes into a stabilised hover when it loses connection, and descends to ~ 1 metre. It also does this if you get a phone call. If it runs out of battery it automatically lands.

  • The AR Drone is wifi, not RC, and my APM is set to RTL when it loses the Tx. I must have been misinformed about the French gnome living inside each AR Drone that keeps track of the wifi :\

  • Dave, I don't know... I'm sure I've never had anything R/C that stopped automatically before going out of range? Why would you expect this one to magically know when to do that? Given that the default out-of-the-box flight ceiling is 3 meters, I think they were trying to protect people from themselves. So yes, I would attribute any Amazon complaints to human error, plain and simple.

    John, you're right, the downward camera is also used for keeping it from drifting during hover. That makes perfect sense, now that I think of it, and it explains how it manages it's stability. I always thought it was too stable to just be relying on the internal gyro.

  • A ventral camera would be good for geomapping, obviously, yet I just now realized. But the operator needs to stay within range, unless they have this GPS... Ah, NOW I understand linear thinking. I'll get the hang eventually ;)

  • I misremembered the parts about the sonar and the camera, but the lack of a failsafe for the wifi is just plain bad design.

    Nope, I have never flown an AR Drone, but I was tempted to purchase one. I read quite a few Amazon reviews from people who actually bought one, took it outside and promptly lost it around 150', the maximum range of wifi. They seem to have not switched the drone to outside mode, so it all boils down to human error. But there have been the occasional fly off, obviously due to an exited new owner who never reads manuals.

    I'm building a Arducopter Hexa with all the bells and wistles, BTW :D

  • The downward facing camera is supposedly also used for optical flow/visual odometry, which I believe contributes to its very solid stability.  And yeah, it's a great machine that is very hackable (e.g. I put ADS-B on mine) and I haven't seen any of the problems that people have reported here--comments like the one about sonar pointing up make me think some people are commenting without ever having flown one.

    Cheap ADS-B on amateur drones — Lemondronor
    ADS-B is the name of a radio transponder system used by aircraft to broadcast their position, velocity and other information to other aircraft and t…
  • Dave, you couldn't have been more wrong. I realize I'm replying very late, but I wanted to make sure people weren't persuaded by your comments.

    1) The sonar is NOT on the top. (Why would they ever do that?) It's on the bottom, as you would expect. That sonar is a short-range altitude detector. There is another (pressure based) altitude sensor for higher flying. There is also an artificial flight ceiling you can set in software so that it never goes too high.

    2) The downward facing camera is for video and photos, not altitude detection.

    Perhaps you could do a bit more research next time. Overall, it's some very cool miniaturized tech that makes extremely stable flight possible. Add on live streaming video and Linux? Yes please. It's the first helicopter that I've paid hundreds for where I actually put the controls in the hands of my wife AND 12yo son with no negative consequences. It's really a fun little flyer.

    Do you know how cool it is to be able to telnet in to your quadrocopter!? :)

  • John: have you taken it outside yet? I'm sure it works fine under high ceilings, like in a warehouse, but that "Rocket Man" glitch is a showstopper for me. I've also heard that recording video to thumbdrives can be problematic. Good to know that it's hackable, that jostles my purchasing decision somewhat. I'm still waiting for my ArduCopter kit to arrive, and since I'm a total noob and have absolutely zero UAS/RC experience, I'll let the fairly dismal Amazon user reviews attest for the engineering quality of the Parrot AR.
  • This is good news!  I've really enjoyed hacking on my AR.Drone, and it's out-of-the-box stability is very impressive.  The inertial + optical flow + sonar + barometer sensor fusion seems to result in some awesome positional accuracy.

  • How will it send/receive data between the new gps flight recorder and computer? Is there a receiver that comes with it?

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