3D Robotics

3689677833?profile=originalThis new companion computer from Volta costs just $299 but brings a huge amount of power to Pixhawk-based drones. It's designed to compete with the DJI Manifold at a lower price, and it's open source. OpenCV-based computer vision, streaming HD video, 4G wireless and a 30-second installation with Pixhawk.  Impressive! 


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  • I'm in favour of 3g/4g video + telemetry, in partnership with a standard RC transmitter & receiver in control of the vehicle. I think it allows smaller lighter vehicles

  • DIY vs. Plug-&-Play is "save-on-money" vs. "save-on-time".

    Some more skilled people - like @Bill - prefers to buy the wood and build the table, others - like me - just buy the table at IKEA and follow the instructions (also because my table would suck :)  ). 

    I personally agree with @Randy; I think that Volta's commitment is great for those who don't want to deal with spare parts, soldering the FTDI, installing sw and do the annoying parts. They simply want something that just works with just few instructions/wizard. I can't imagine myself spending a day dealing with that, with the risk that something goes wrong. I buy 4Gmetry.

  • Developer

    The meaning of "unlimited range" is that, assuming there's enough bandwidth, you can control and supervise your vehicle from an unlimited distance,

    "unlimited range" is not possible, you will always be limited to the proximity of the drone to a 4G Radio Tower. It's marketing babble to say "unlimited range". The range is probably 3-5Km The improvement is in the 4G tower has better power output and is more sensitive receive. That said the 4G dongle has a crap antenna in it and limited power output, so isn't going to help.

    I'm not saying 4G isn't a solution for certain problems, but as with everything it as it's limitations. 

    Here's a shopping list.

    1) ODROID-XU4 $74 

    2) FTDI Cable$5 (which you don't need if you connect to the more reliable serial connection on the XU4)

    3) Case $3

    4) LTE Dongle ($30-$80)

    The other thing is performance of OpenCV on these platforms generally sucks, as it's not been ported to use the Graphics Processor (GPU) for doing the image processing. It's all done using brute force on the CPUs. Leaving little headroom to run anything else. I think, personally, for anybody to get excited about OpenCV support on a SBC is when the supplier indicates they have optimized those routines for the GPU.

    NVIDIA has done this for OpenCV http://docs.opencv.org/3.0-last-rst/modules/cuda/doc/introduction.h... Which arguably puts the DJI choice of using NVIDIA board as better option.

    or just buy the board for $192 https://developer.nvidia.com/embedded/buy/jetson-tk1-devkit ;)

  • 4Gmetry, instead of relying uniquely on your own radio link, exploits a worldwide, preexisting, fast, growing, affordable network of hundreds of thousands antennas: 4G Internet.

    4G Internet was inexistent just 5 years ago. Today is certainly not ubiquitous. Technically MAVlink uses just a few Kbps, nothing if compared to 20Mbps typically offered by 4G/LTE connection.  

    The meaning of "unlimited range" is that, assuming there's enough bandwidth, you can control and supervise your vehicle from an unlimited distance, also from the other side of the world. A great advance if compared to other radio solutions commercially available in the same price range. This opens endless possibilities and applications across several industries.

    Volta 4Gmetry | Companion Computer
  • Developer
    Why the OS questioned marked. The Manifold will run Ubuntu 14.04LTS which was pretty much a given since ROS support was mentioned.

    Name one embedded ARM based computer (not micro controller) that doesn't run a version of Linux?

    And why say it has 4G and that means it has unlimited range. In urban areas and major trunks roads you are good, but as soon as you get away from there you'll have no range!

    And connecting using the USB port to Pixhawk needs to be changed to something more reliable than an FTDI cable.

    It's a nice package, but still some things that could be improved
  • Developer

    It's great to see this companion computer.  Some people are happy to build there own but for many people it's more efficient to just buy it and avoid the soldering of the BEC, cables and board setup.

    Re some requests above for companion computer setup info, we have some of what's being asked for I think.

  • @ Chris, running full size USB plug, RJ45 and barrel plug on something that is meant to fly?  

    what we need is a dedicated companion computer with:

    microUSB and standard servo breakout USB pins or at least df13 plug like on a pixhawk (2-3 such usb ports),

    integrated hi-powered mimo wifi with ufl antenna connectors,

    a pair of screw on terminals for power with ability to take in 6-8s lipo voltages directly,

    HDMI in port for use with HD video streams. 

  • MR60

    This DIY community should solve point 1) so that everyone could follow a documented install procedure on an Odroid XU4, point 2) and 3) are no real sales arguments (nice to have).

  • 4Gmetry III is built on a well known, commecially available computer (as Manifold is): this makes sense now and in the future, to mantain the prices low. 

    We’ve done our homework: a turnkey companion for Pixhawk. We take care of every detail and of all the annoying parts so that the final user can enjoy this wanderful “second brain” simply plug&play.

    Obviuosly one can do all the work DIY at a slightly lower cost; we’re happy when this happens! We don't forget that our roots are in this amazing DIY group! (where you can find a 10% discount coupon and a lot of support).

  • 3D Robotics

    I think the additions over the standard Odroid are 1) software setup wizard and pre-installed tools, 2) Enclosure, 3) Pixhawk-compatible cable. 

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