New year, new plans. Have started planning for the year ahead and the nodecopter project has really been bugging me for a while in terms of simplicity and extensibility… Looking at the libraries it seems it’s more control- and fly-focused, but need to dig into this further.

Looking back at last year, the baseline x-drone developed was well and good for a simple, self-contained and relatively rounded solution, but not particularly sturdy in terms of failover. Vibration issues were really a headache and need to look into a number of issues there: erratic rotor behaviour, inefficiencies in the (handbuilt) vibration damping structure, overzealous (second-degree) PID coefficients, bullet connectors soldered as opposed to fixed etc. Although these issues are crucial for stable autonomous flight from A to B, issues of redundancy seem more likely to crowd out my time slots this year.

And hence the issue of autonomous formation flying, or more usefully for my purposes, autonomous drone failover. Have to look into how people like ETH Zurich have gone about it, but I’m more interested in a situation where the drones are physically connected to each other with a rigid structure and working as a team… More thinking needed as to how to put the rig  together and start experimenting! 

Finally printed Uchusen’s first fully-functioning home-designed Arduino-powered PCB board for an upcoming aerospace project. Naturally can’t give away too much at this time, but it’s clearly a step forward for Uchusen. Just under a year since I started this blog and experimenting with various electronics components, all the hard work has finally come together… and I realise how much more is yet to come!
Now that I have the foundation and ironed out all the kinks in the process, it’s time to work on a more fully-fledged system and get closer to the reality of a nano-spacecraft built from first principles.

Finally printed Uchusen’s first fully-functioning home-designed Arduino-powered PCB board for an upcoming aerospace project. Naturally can’t give away too much at this time, but it’s clearly a step forward for Uchusen. Just under a year since I started this blog and experimenting with various electronics components, all the hard work has finally come together… and I realise how much more is yet to come!

Now that I have the foundation and ironed out all the kinks in the process, it’s time to work on a more fully-fledged system and get closer to the reality of a nano-spacecraft built from first principles.

Casual note next to download link for pre-release version 2.0b7 of Processing software reads “475,382 bug fixes”… Well I hope that’s a typo because that’s a hell of a lot of bugs just to manage let alone fix!!

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Note: Razor IMU code works fine in the beta build, even though Processing itself is a massive 167MB beast zipped up. Assuming that there’s a bunch of beta bloatware in there that will be cleaned up when the build goes legit.

Casual note next to download link for pre-release version 2.0b7 of Processing software reads “475,382 bug fixes”… Well I hope that’s a typo because that’s a hell of a lot of bugs just to manage let alone fix!!

—-

Note: Razor IMU code works fine in the beta build, even though Processing itself is a massive 167MB beast zipped up. Assuming that there’s a bunch of beta bloatware in there that will be cleaned up when the build goes legit.

Ultrasonic sensor is here, a mere 3 days after purchase, and no customs tax / shipping either. Tinkersoup is just great - Berlin power! Definitely order from them again.
Only problem is that the screw at the back of the sensor is so big (I assume to compensate for the sensor on the front) that a regular breakaway header is too short to plug into the breadboard. Time to head over to Conrad tomorrow evening before they close and grab a couple of 90-deg breakaway headers, plug into Arduino and my solar power system, and see if the conversion from pulse width to distance really is as easy as it sounds! Also curious to see how stable the signal will fare both indoors and out, and if any temperature-related variance crops up, but that will have to wait for the weekend.

Ultrasonic sensor is here, a mere 3 days after purchase, and no customs tax / shipping either. Tinkersoup is just great - Berlin power! Definitely order from them again.

Only problem is that the screw at the back of the sensor is so big (I assume to compensate for the sensor on the front) that a regular breakaway header is too short to plug into the breadboard. Time to head over to Conrad tomorrow evening before they close and grab a couple of 90-deg breakaway headers, plug into Arduino and my solar power system, and see if the conversion from pulse width to distance really is as easy as it sounds! Also curious to see how stable the signal will fare both indoors and out, and if any temperature-related variance crops up, but that will have to wait for the weekend.

Wow, Adafruit’s Lady Ada named Entrepreneur of the Year by Entrepreneur Magazine! Great news and recognition for her hard work over the years… my first couple of kits were from there, regardless of the extra tax to be paid to ship over from the US. The implementations are a bit quirky, such as the Xbee implementation etc (see other articles on this blog about that one).
But, you could put the kit together with some time spent perusing her images and detailed steps/hints on the website, you had basic software provided that actually did the job out of the box without detailed knowledge of chips, signals and electronical engineering, and the units themselves were pretty much sturdy and worked! FAQs were there, useful and responsive forums, goods generally delivered fast unless stuck in customs (nothing much that can be done there).
Now that I’m working on more complex systems, I feel I have reached close to the limit of what Adafruit can offer me, but I have lost count of how many parts I have bought and run successfully for Uchusen prototypes on Arduino. For example the (fish-eye-lensed) TTL Serial JPEG Camera was a great one, with virtually no-one else offering the same with such usability, although soldering wiring direct to the PCB and not being able to break out of the one-pic-only config was not ideal.
To sum it up, quirky but solid. A boon to all those of us who are not born electronics geniuses, but still want to spend the time to learn and hack together something cool that could be useful in other fields of industry outside the hobbyist community.

Wow, Adafruit’s Lady Ada named Entrepreneur of the Year by Entrepreneur Magazine! Great news and recognition for her hard work over the years… my first couple of kits were from there, regardless of the extra tax to be paid to ship over from the US. The implementations are a bit quirky, such as the Xbee implementation etc (see other articles on this blog about that one).

But, you could put the kit together with some time spent perusing her images and detailed steps/hints on the website, you had basic software provided that actually did the job out of the box without detailed knowledge of chips, signals and electronical engineering, and the units themselves were pretty much sturdy and worked! FAQs were there, useful and responsive forums, goods generally delivered fast unless stuck in customs (nothing much that can be done there).

Now that I’m working on more complex systems, I feel I have reached close to the limit of what Adafruit can offer me, but I have lost count of how many parts I have bought and run successfully for Uchusen prototypes on Arduino. For example the (fish-eye-lensed) TTL Serial JPEG Camera was a great one, with virtually no-one else offering the same with such usability, although soldering wiring direct to the PCB and not being able to break out of the one-pic-only config was not ideal.

To sum it up, quirky but solid. A boon to all those of us who are not born electronics geniuses, but still want to spend the time to learn and hack together something cool that could be useful in other fields of industry outside the hobbyist community.

Atomic clocks for nanosat GPS? Symmetricom’s new 35g SA.45s atomic clock on a chip might fit the bill… I was talking about NASA flying their own atomic clock back in April 2012 here and that weighed in at a full 3.5kg. This guy (developed already a yr or so ago) is 100x lighter and at 120mW runs on 250x less power. Oh yes I forgot to mention the size: 16cm3. Now that is tiny.
I got in touch with them last week, but maybe they didn’t get my email. I’m trying again though: I really believe this unit could revolutionise timing, navigation and formation flying in space, on the tiny energy and mass budgets of nanosatellite engineering. This could easily help build multiply-redundant comms and nav infrastructures for our societies that would be extremely difficult to bring down. Or alternatively, these could be used for deep space GPS infrastructure that could act as lighthouses on the way out into space, and as recalibrators for on-board IMUs or signals from the DSN.
OK the NASA clock’s Allan Deviation at 1 day > 2e-14 according to this paper by the people who built it, compared to the SA.45s’ approx 2e-10, but still for such a compact package running at a sweet 3.3V… it really is a vision of the future for small satellite precision timing and positioning.

Atomic clocks for nanosat GPS? Symmetricom’s new 35g SA.45s atomic clock on a chip might fit the bill… I was talking about NASA flying their own atomic clock back in April 2012 here and that weighed in at a full 3.5kg. This guy (developed already a yr or so ago) is 100x lighter and at 120mW runs on 250x less power. Oh yes I forgot to mention the size: 16cm3. Now that is tiny.

I got in touch with them last week, but maybe they didn’t get my email. I’m trying again though: I really believe this unit could revolutionise timing, navigation and formation flying in space, on the tiny energy and mass budgets of nanosatellite engineering. This could easily help build multiply-redundant comms and nav infrastructures for our societies that would be extremely difficult to bring down. Or alternatively, these could be used for deep space GPS infrastructure that could act as lighthouses on the way out into space, and as recalibrators for on-board IMUs or signals from the DSN.

OK the NASA clock’s Allan Deviation at 1 day > 2e-14 according to this paper by the people who built it, compared to the SA.45s’ approx 2e-10, but still for such a compact package running at a sweet 3.3V… it really is a vision of the future for small satellite precision timing and positioning.