3D Robotics

Sense and Avoid "eBumper" available for IRIS+

3689640961?profile=originalThe Panoptes eBumper just went live on Kickstarter. Backed!

eBumper4 helps a pilot avoid obstacles at low speeds. It also provides additional protection against erroneous control inputs and occasional light wind gusts.

  • Fly - With eBumper4 installed, flight in open areas is unchanged. The pilot can switch to Precision Mode which scales back control inputs, allowing for more precise aircraft control.
  • Detect - The eBumper4 continuously monitors its environment for obstacles. If one is detected, eBumper4 responds to reduce the likelihood of a collision.
  • Correct - As the aircraft moves away from the obstacle, normal control is returned to the user, and operations can continue as before.

Four sonar sensors provide the drone with information about the physical environment to the front, right, left, and above it. When eBumper4 senses an obstacle in its field of view, it prevents the drone from getting too close to the obstacle. It “bumps” off the object, keeping the drone at a safe distance. You can then navigate the drone safely away from the obstruction. 

eBumper4 Components for Phantom 2 line(beta version shown)eBumper4 Components for Phantom 2 line(beta version shown)
eBumper4 Components for Iris+ (functional "works like" prototype version shown)eBumper4 Components for Iris+ (functional "works like" prototype version shown)

Robust integration of the eBumper4 sonar sensors required a significant development and testing effort to understand the very noisy environment of a quadcopter. Our solution ultimately combines a mix of precise sensor placement and triggering, clever filtering, as well as smart physical integration.

eBumper4 for Phantom 2 line (beta version shown)eBumper4 for Phantom 2 line (beta version shown)
eBumper4 for Iris+ (functional "works like" prototype version shown)eBumper4 for Iris+ (functional "works like" prototype version shown)

The eBumper4 ships with a set of base features, all of which you can configure:

  • Precision and Performance Modes: From your remote, select one of two eBumper4 protection distances, which governs how far away the drone starts executing a bump avoidance maneuver. Choose Performance Mode for faster speeds in open areas, or choose Precision Mode for slower speeds in more cluttered environments.
  • Auto-Takeoff: With the literal flip of a switch, your drone takes off to a hover about 6 feet off the ground. Thanks to the top sensor, there will be no more unfortunate encounters with your living room ceiling.
  • Precision Control: Adjust the sensitivity of your aircraft to your control inputs, giving you the ability to more precisely control position and velocity. This is especially useful for indoor flight in tight spaces.
  • Self-Centering: When obstacles are present to the left and right, the self-centering function centers the aircraft between them, equalizing the distance to the obstacle on either side.
  • More to come (see "The Future of eBumper4" section)!

eBumper4 features can be configured via a graphical user interface available for Android and Windows PC, so you can tailor eBumper4 to best suit your individual needs. Don't have Android phone/tablet or Windows PC and want Mac or iPhone? Let us know, and we'll see what we can do!

eBumper4 Configuration Interface Mock-UpeBumper4 Configuration Interface Mock-Up

eBumper4 comes with four sonar sensors and an electronics board pre-installed in an injection-molded ABS plastic housing, mounting hardware, installation manual, operations manual, some nifty Panoptes stickers, and a Panoptes lanyard for your remote control.

eBumper4 is designed as a retrofit kit that attaches to pre-existing interfaces on your drone, and installs in about 10-20 minutes. Below are the main installation steps for the eBumper4 on the DJI Phantom. The install for Iris+ will be similarly straightforward.

eBumper4 Installation on Phantom 2 Vision (beta version)eBumper4 Installation on Phantom 2 Vision (beta version)

 eBumper4 is designed with the future in mind. New capabilities will be available as software updates instead of costly hardware upgrades. The Panoptes team is busy developing additional features for the eBumper4:

  • Tractor Beam: Smoothly approach an object of interest, giving a real-life zoom effect to your video.
  • Relative Position Hold: Keep a constant position relative to an object of interest - whether it is moving or not.
  • Obstacle Avoidance for Waypoint Flying: When on a waypoint following mission, autonomously avoid obstacles.
  • Training Mode: Learning to fly a powerful drone like the Phantom and Iris+ can be an intimidating task. Training mode lets you gradually scale up your control inputs as you become more comfortable with flying.

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  • If it connects to the RC port on Pixhawk, what do I do with my S-Bus connection to the RC.

  • Jimmy - With the initial version shipped your transmitter will need to be configured like the stock Iris+ model, and we will supply instructions on configuring an 8th channel for eBumper control. Custom RC configurations will be supported through our eBumper Configuration utility, much like how you can customize your RC config through Mission Planner.

    Roberto - Those are all great points, and well known limitations of sonar sensors. Using 6 sensors simultaneously will pose a significant challenge, that is why the initial version of eBumper only ships with 4 sensors. In terms of false positives, we use a unique filtering method to achieve our estimate used in control of the aircraft. And yes, the type of material does have an effect on the return acoustic signal, for instance the eBumper will settle closer to a chain link fence than it would to a tree trunk.

    Crashpilot - eBumper's precision mode is intended for slow flights around objects of interest and indoors, where the goal is a controlled flight covering relatively short distances at low altitudes. Our most recent tests with the Iris+ repeatably stop head-on collision at speeds of 2.5 m/s, and we will update our technical specifications for the Iris+ when verification and validation testing is complete. While that might not be a typical cruising speed, we believe it should be able to reduce the likelihood of various other collisions. Lastly, I agree, flying in a living room is not for the faint of heart, and our intention was to invoke the idea of enclosed spaces, so perhaps think garage or basement.

  • I think that an 'indoor drone' with blade guards with the OA system would be useful for real estate, trade show and warehouse applications. I know the Bebop is a close version of this idea. I would like consumers to be able to choose the camera they prefer. I am not a huge fan of the fish-eye look. I have a hexacopter with the sonic sensors already, just on a KK2. It's not super difficult. I have yet to do this with Pixhawk and such. IR sensors are not as smooth as the sonic sensors. IrisMini? 1080p with flat lens please :-) 

  • not tilt compensated, short range, easily disturbed... that solution is basically the easiest one we could find and obviously not the best, pretty useless imo.

  • Roberto: +1

    Looks to be something for slow flying in tunnels. The Kickstarter page: 4ft/s = 2,7mph or double the speed in "performance" mode - whatever that means. I doubt that it will be very useful for normal outdoor flying let alone avoiding trees at normal cruising speeds. "..there will be no more unfortunate encounters with your living room ceiling.. " Flying in the livingroom with 450-sized copters is not for the faint of heart and not a good idea to say it friendly.

    That product *may* be a good idea for a small niche market but I don't see average copter Joe taking an advantage that wants to avoid trees at speeds that are higher than walking speeds.

  • Moderator

    This solution have some limit x ex if you use standard sonar cannot use at the same time all 6 sonar for interference reason ... And the other problem of sonar is false read ... In my test for deveopment of other technology the main limit was material where the audio signal is reflected.

  • Hmmmm. What happens to the current RC config? Is it a pass through plug situation? 

  • Thank you Chris for the post, and thanks everyone else for your interest!

    Jimmy - the eBumper connects to the RC port of the Pixhawk

    Mike - thank you! For the Phantom our hardware adds 82g, and we are doing our best to keep the weight as low as possible on the Iris+

    Thomas - While in theory the Iris+ version could be adapted to any Pixhawk powered multirotor, there is significant challenge in placing the sensors to achieve a signal-to-noise ratio necessary for control. By using the shell we provide, we can ensure the sensors perform as intended. In terms of hardware, everything you need is already included with the Iris+.

  • Seems like an custom Iris+ dome for the sensors would be easier for them to create than their custom Phantom top shell.

  • What plug does it go into on the Pixhawk? 

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