Monday, August 5, 2013

Mini quadcopters to take sensor measurements!

We love the quadcopters here at Digital Diner.  It seems that every day someone is doing something new and cool that involves a quadcopter one way or another.  Today is no different.  A former colleague of mine, Chris Fustings has been having fun with some very tiny little quadcopters.  The Crazyflie is a nano quadcopter from a company called Bitcraze in Sweden.  It is a slight 19 grams in weight and a mere 9 cm span from motor to motor, but still it includes sensors and controls that let it fly like the big boys.  The specs are pretty impressive.  For $120-$180 you get, 7 minutes of flight time, a low energy radio, wireless firmware updating, a 72Mhz 32bit processor, 3-axis accelerometers, gyros, magnetometers and altimeter in a cute little package that can carry a 5-10 gram payload.  Pretty impressive if you ask me.  The 10 degree of freedom (DOF) version of the quadcopter has enough sensors and processing power to do sensor fusion and stabilized flight, although the software has not yet been written (sounds like an opportunity!).

So what can you do with these?  Chris took one and added a distance sensor to it so that he could do a little obstacle avoidance.  His blog does a nice job of laying out the steps so that you can do the same should you desire.  This is a promising start, but he has dreams of doing much more.  He imagines setting up one of these little gadgets to autonomously explore and measure a 3 dimensional grid by autonomously flying to predetermined locations and taking sensor readings.  Quite cool.  Imagine fitting one of these guys out with a geiger counter (a really small one) and flying it around the Fukushima power plant to create a 3D map of radiation.  We just need some really light weight sensors and a really good method for determining 3D location.   You should get to work on this right away.

Take a look at Chris' blog post, get one of these little gadgets and have some fun!  Nice job Chris.