I am creating this blog to document the design and development of my quadcopter. This is going to be my first attempt at designing a quadcopter and I am really excited about it.
"Is this Yet An Other Quadcopter? Is there anything interesting, new, different about this quacopter? What is he doing differently that has not been done before?" All these questions are valid, after all there are thousand of blogs about quadcopters not just in this community but all over the net... So what I am bringing to the table that is new?
Well what I am trying to do differently is to use an FPGA rather than a microcontroller as the core of the quadcopter. I am sure this has been done before but it is my belief that there is a lot less material and support out there for people who want to take this approach. And I want to share my efforts with this community.
Well some might ask, Why FPGAs, after all, microcontrollers work perfectly fine. They are good enough to get all kinds of flying machines airborne and they are dirt cheap, easy to program and they work well... So why bother with FPGAs?
Well the honest answer for me is that, it will be more fun. Of course, FPGAs have a number of advantages over the microcontroller, (flexibility in logic implementation, parallelism....) but whether these advantages are really useful and help an airborne machine fly better is a question I really cannot answer at this stage, but it is something that I will really enjoy exploring.
Additionally, some FPGAs are reasonably cheap nowadays, and in my opinion, comparably as cheap as some of the microcontrollers out there, so it makes sense to me to try and use them in some of the applications that microcontrollers are used for in the RC community, maybe some advantages can be gained from down that route. And I want to share my experience with this community.
So why DIYDrones? Well to be honest, I think it is one of the best communities out there for hobbyist and RC geeks :p I have been doing some research for quite sometime around this area and I have always found DIYDrones to be a great source of information and support. The people in this community seem to be really enthusiastic and really knowledgeable. Also it seem to have a lot of members from the UK as well which is a plus for me.
As I am developing this project, I am willing to share EVERYTHING with anyone that is vaguely interested. If anyone has any questions, interests and ideas for collaboration, feel free to get in touch with me.
I am really looking forward to sharing my work with this group.
P.S. I chose the project name Colossus not because the quadcopter is going to be a huge machine, but because I realise how big the task ahead of me is. It should be a fun journey though.
Do you already have a webpage/blog with information about the progress of your work?
The Cyclone V HPS range does look like a very attractive platform with dual core arm A9 and from 85K logic upwards...
And you are right, to go for altera, VIVADO does not seem to be mature enough for Zynq to be a strong competitor to the Cyclone 5 HPS range...
My current work project uses Nios soft core processors. I have one of the Arrow SoCKit eval boards with the Altera HPS Cylcone V. I think these devices will provide a very good mix with the ARM to run high level functions and management, possibly one or two softcores for IRQ management of the hardware accelerated functions. I am not sure if everyone is familiar with the terminology since these devices are relatively new, but I am talking about using the xilinx zynq EPP == altera cyclone V HPS(they were mentioned earlier in the thread). Both companies devices in this category contain the ARM A9 processor along with FPGA fabric as a SoC. I am very excited with the emerging SoC technologies.
This FPGA threat is getting tasty! I will follow!
I see, you are going for the FPGA = Dedicated accelerator approach rather than having an FPGA contain the entire SOC. That is great. The is exactely the route I eventually want to go down. But wanted to test a few ideas on a cheap platform before investing something else.
Have you explored soft cores on FPGAs.... you can get quite good performance on them...
Yes, I would love to bounce around ideas. My focus is to work towards a SoC FPGA and not a traditional FPGA. Hopefully provide the best of both worlds with the ARM processor and programmable logic. I know there are other boards like parallela, but I want to stay simple and small with only the SoC chip (Cyclone V SoC) and a few peripherals. Similar to you, I am working on a prototype for myself and see if it generates any interest.
Even though, I don't have everything ready to submit to the community, I felt compelled to share this photo.
The focus of this image is the try and highlight the pcb I had to design (In Altium) to translate 5v signals for ESCs PWM and RX to 3.3v/2.5v to the FPGAs.
Alas, most FPGAs nowadays do not support 5v io standards.... so this is necessary if you don't want to damage your IOs... they are not 5v tolerant. I've got so many images to share, but I shall hold of for the moment and focus on getting her airborne.
Thanks for the comment, I haven't done the maiden flight yet, I have a test rig with which I am testing the effectiveness of the PID controller. But I just can't wait to get this thing airborne. She is a real beauty. I don't know if I should be doing this but here is where I got the frame.
I'm based in the UK and the delivery service was surprisingly fast.
Hi Bryan, your project sounds great and with 15years experience under your belt, I'm sure you have the expertise to take this forward. Would you be interested in having a chat about the architecture for the board that you are designing, I think it would be interesting to bounce ideas around.
There certainly seems to be a lot of interest regarding getting an FPGA board out there for the RC community, though to be honest I haven't done much research to find out what is already out there (for robotic hobbyists....) there are of course a lot of cheat FPGA platforms out there...
But it would be interesting to have a chat with you so let me know if you are interested.
"I am hoping to provide a board and a website with tutorials to get people started. "
That will be great. Thanks