New IR-tracking Kickstarter project for drones

This new Kickstarter project looks awesome. I've backed it, and will experiment with it for autonomous blimps (as well as copters):

Simple and accurate target tracking hardware for Drones & DIY Robotics. Works in bright sunlight and even complete darkness.

IR Target Tracking for Everybody!

The custom-manufactured IR-LOCK filter enables simple and accurate target tracking for Drones and other DIY robotics projects. Positions of IR LEDs are accurately reported at 50Hz, with a detection range of over 50 ft when using high-power LEDs. The product platform is based on the user-friendly Pixy vision sensor (link), running IR-LOCK's specialized firmware. 

IR-LOCK & Your Project

The Pixy vision sensor is Arduino-compatible for your complex target-tracking projects. If you want to keep things simple, you can control pan/tilt setups by directly connecting to two servos. The developed IR-LOCK firmware reports the location of all IR targets (for microcontroller setups), or tracks the largest IR target (for pan/tilt setups).

How it Works

The custom-manufactured IR-LOCK filter blocks visible light, while allowing particular wavelengths of infrared light to pass through. 940nm IR LEDs are easily detected by the Pixy vision sensor. Since these LEDs are widely used in DIY and consumer products, the development cost for an IR target can be as low as $1 for an LED and coin battery, or long-range markers can be created using high-power LEDs.

Max Tracking Range

The tracking range of the IR-LOCK filtered Pixy can be increased in various ways: (1) multiple LEDs can be clustered together to increase the size of the infrared target, (2) a lens with a narrower field of view will increase detection range (link), and (3) high-power LEDs can be used for long-range, outdoor applications.  

Custom IR Target Creation

What IR-LOCK target will you create? Here are some ideas to help get you started. If you want to hit the ground running, get our 360° tracking pod and simply plug it into a lipo battery


Take advantage of the Early Bird discounts while they last. Thanks for your support!

If you don't have a Pixy, check out one of these two kits (below). They include an IR-LOCK filtered Pixy w/ specialized firmware.

If you already own a Pixy, check out these modification kits (below).

Technology Capabilities & Limitations

The key benefit of using IR LEDs as targets is that the performance is not dependent on ambient lighting conditions (e.g., shade, dim lighting, bright sunlight, etc.). Actually, IR-LOCK target tracking works great in complete darkness.

IR-LOCK is continuously working on solutions to minimize 'false detections', while maintaining sensor range and sensitivity. Unfortunately, sunlight and lightbulbs also emit infrared light. The IR-LOCK filter blocks most of this light, but some of it will inevitably pass through to the Pixy sensor. Thus, 'false detections' may occur if the Pixy is (a) pointed directly at a light bulb, or (b) bright sunlight is reflected from a contoured, shiny object (i.e., 'glare'). 

interference from 72W lampinterference from 72W lamp
reduce chance of 'false detections' by changing brightness settingreduce chance of 'false detections' by changing brightness setting

Tech Specs

Development Team

Thomas Stone is leading the IR-LOCK development effort, along with the invaluable support of colleagues, friends, family, and Pixy (Charmed Labs). Thomas is a research assistant in the Robust Product Creation Lab (RPC) at Georgia Tech. He previouslyworked in consumer product development both for startup companies and large companies such as Coca-colaCraftsman, and Jarden.

Development Timeline

All rewards are scheduled to ship by December 2014 (and the sooner, the better!)

Views: 4276

Comment by johnkowalsky on August 30, 2014 at 9:03am

What gimbal did you use at 2:35 ? I see this could offer hours of fun for cats. Just place a tag on them and put a slightly offset laser pointer on the camera.

Comment by Thomas Stone on August 30, 2014 at 9:11am

Ha, sounds like an interesting 'Stretch Goal' :) ... It is simply two servos (in a pan/tilt configuration). Pixy can directly connect to servos, so it makes it easy. 

It is also possible to control a gimbal (w/ brushless motors) for more stable videography. However, you have to consider how to mount the Pixy without upsetting the gimbal balance .... Or mount the Pixy separately and change some code around.  

Comment by Roberto Navoni on August 30, 2014 at 12:43pm

I doing some test and patch for integration of Pixy and VR Gimbal ... the result is very good . The main problem is the PID for obtain a smooth managment of position offset :) 

Comment by Thomas Stone on August 30, 2014 at 12:54pm

Wow. That's great!

I also started working a Pixy-gimbal combo, but I didn't have time to tune all of the PID parameters ... so I just switched to servos, which obviously do not produce the same video quality. 

Adding the Pixy input to the gimbal increases the tuning complexity, BUT IT IS POSSIBLE :). 

Can I share your video with the "3DRobotics IRIS Owners Page"?


Comment by Roberto Navoni on August 30, 2014 at 1:21pm

Hi Thomas ,

sure you can share ... I think that it can work with our 3th axis gimbal without problem ... We adapt the code on VR Gimbal  for interact with Pixy . In our application we can switch from VR Leash to Optical flow automatically depend of range ... Doing some test on early prototype all is ok the only problem is pixy that is big .. could be nice to have smaller version ... or a version with camera indipendent respect of othr part of electronic. 

I'd like to speak with you about filter and optic that are you use ... could be nice share some experience about this technology :) My skype account is virtualrobotix 



Comment by Jack Crossfire on August 30, 2014 at 2:26pm

Had better luck with visible LEDs.  It doesn't work outdoors.  Overall, it sucks.

Comment by Thomas Stone on August 30, 2014 at 2:57pm


I am not completely familiar with the particular gimbal products, but thanks for sharing. Yes, it is a hassle to attach the Pixy directly to the moving components of the gimbal. You could mount it to the quad, but that may limit the 'trackable field of view'. 

I would love to talk with you, but please accept my apologies if I am slow to respond. I am very busy with the Kickstarter project.

I will send my contact info to you via Skype.



Comment by Thomas Stone on August 30, 2014 at 3:01pm

Hi Jack,

I feel your pain. Investigating the infrared components can be a headache. We spent a lot of effort developing the IR-LOCK system to make it work (even at 30-60 feet outdoors). 


Comment by Thomas Stone on August 31, 2014 at 5:33am

By the way, here is a short clip of a servo-based setup ... No tuning headaches. :)

Comment by Roberto Navoni on August 31, 2014 at 7:51am

Hi Thomas, good job , I start my test with servo ,too but i found same glitch that are in your video it's not good . When i change to brushless gimbal all work better ...  I think that you stabilize the video ,too the raw video could be a lot bad :) 


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