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$200 prize for whoever can make this mod 
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New post $200 prize for whoever can make this mod
I will send $200 USD by paypal to whoever can design/program up the circuits and Arduino necessary to make an adapter for the AR AR.Drone to output PWM signals instead of using the original AR AR.Drone motor controllers and motors. Payout is when I can duplicate the results myself (since I already have an Arduino and can solder up any other components needed) enough to fly a AR.Drone on four bigger esc's and motors. Maybe not fly *well* but that can be a matter of tuning.

Specifically, this would be a module which would have input plugs (pulled off a damaged central cross) that hook into an unmodified AR AR.Drone mainboard, and then an Arduino reads these serial inputs and talks back to the AR AR.Drone like it's pretending to be OEM motor controllers, and then takes what motor values are being called for and turns them into PWM signals, and then outputs them to standard plugs that conventional ESC's and motors can be plugged into. The ESC's would draw their power straight from the battery instead of through the mainboards (due to the higher power desired).

WHY: The AR AR.Drone offers hovering control that no other quadcopter on the market has, in terms of using the down-facing camera for positional hold, and ultrasonic / barometer for height hold. But it is unable to carry much payload, meaning there is a finite limit on how much battery life it can carry, and how much other stuff it can carry such as a GoPro2, tilt/roll mount with stabilizer, 800mW 5.8ghz video transmitter, GPS on-screen display, and on and on. If we could swap to bigger esc's and motors, now we could. With the right motors, props and batteries, I should be able to make a Super-AR.Drone that can fly for half an hour and carry all the equipment I want.

Resource: Here is a link with what I'm guessing would be all somebody would need, aside from maybe a chip to read I2C commands and feed them to the Arduino, and a PWM output chip, pessimistically assuming the Arduino couldn't just directly handle the inputs and outputs itself.
http://blog.perquin.com/blog/ardrone-motor-controller/

I base the discussion around an Arduino because that seems to be the current preferred chip for people to work with, and I have two (from old R/C mod's I don't use anymore). Yeah, I'll have to learn how to update the sketch on them, and solder them up to everything, but I am not looking to personally learn how to program an Arduino. I believe this can all be done with stock AR AR.Drone (1 or 2) firmware, since this mod is all "down stream" of the boards, aside from this mod needing to talk back to the boards in terms of pretending to be the motor controller saying "Yep I'm here, version x.x.x, no problems to report"

Maybe this isn't possible. But if it is, and for what this would allow us to do (putting AR AR.Drone's in the center of much bigger multicopters) I think this is something worth putting a prize out there for. And of course, look at the amount of people buying R/C mods, well this is an output rather than input mod, so there would be some serious money a person could make off of this too (not me - just really want it for myself).

So, Arduino programmers, what do you say, is this within possibility? I welcome discussion.


31 Dec 2012, 02:23
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New post Re: $200 prize for whoever can make this mod
What hgt said is probably more feasible. Doing any other way would involve completely reverse engineering the parrot hardware, no mean feat, I think you'd need to dig deeper to get someone to do it

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31 Dec 2012, 03:42
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New post Re: $200 prize for whoever can make this mod
HGT, you say to amplify output? Like, take the three wires going to the motor from the motor controller, and read those to a chip which then sees how much power the motor is getting, and scales THAT to a pwm output?

Well that wouldn't be an unreasonable approach, if they were brushed motors. Sigh. But since they're brushless, the motor actually has to be there for the motor controller to, well, control it. Unlike a brushed motor, brushless motors actually in a sense DO communicate back to the controller - it senses the windings passing the magnets and knows then when to fire the next pulse, or something like that. One way or another, it sounds tougher.

But from my side of things... if you can make it work, I got $200 for ya!

Sorry don't take this as sarcasm or negativity. This is all constructive conversation here, sorry if it comes across otherwise. Thanks for the input and ideas.


31 Dec 2012, 03:56
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New post Re: $200 prize for whoever can make this mod
For reference, right now we're using motors that are rated peak 15w each? I'm looking at being able to run 150w motors with bigger props. At peak, 600w will flow. I don't know exactly how you mean by amplifying the motor current, but at some point it seems like we're talking about needing some big 30A esc's in there. And some big power wires leading from the battery to these ESC's, in parallel with the mainboards. Otherwise, just looking at the battery connector, 600w is going to melt the AR AR.Drone's wires.


31 Dec 2012, 04:38
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New post Re: $200 prize for whoever can make this mod
You were "Tim the Toolman Taylor" in your former life weren't you?

Moar power!!!! :)

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31 Dec 2012, 05:46
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New post Re: $200 prize for whoever can make this mod
More power. More range. More carrying capacity. More features. Better cameras. GPS flight tracking real time. Google Earth-based waypoint navigation by full autopilot. Emergency parachutes.

All these things are possible on the AR AR.Drone once somebody can write an I2C to PWM converter program for an Arduino that sends back the one or two bits of data the AR AR.Drone needs to think it's regular motor controllers it's talking with.


31 Dec 2012, 05:52
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New post Re: $200 prize for whoever can make this mod
I admire your thinking!

But perhaps your trying to reinvent the wheel just to get the hoverlock function that the AR AR.Drone provides? Whilst I haven't sampled the latest and greatest quads and other aircraft they have come a long way and offer everything you want in the way of speed and range and payload and their hovering functions have come a long way these days with the bettery gryos and flight controllers using ever more sensitive GPS receivers.

The problem you'll face and to which others have tried is that ultimately the AR.Drone's firmware and control software is based around known flight characteristics. So even if you got it fooled to think it had regular motors but indeed had a fully upgraded set of motors and props etc it would by the nature of what your proposing try to fly it as if it was a real AR.Drone with real AR.Drone parts so any advantages you might gain hardware wise would probably get lost.

That or it would just go bugnuts trying to keep control and in the air whilst using Formula 1 motors to drive around the block!

Be interesting to see 1 if you could make it work at all and 2 how would it handle the different hardware based on its own firmware.

I've always said that anything that greatly changes the flight characteristics would also need the firmware reprogrammed to compensate for it.

Good luck and look forward to seeing if you get anywhere with it.

P.S. I think the others are right you'd need to pay a fortune to a firmware developer to do it properly otherwise Parrot would have done it that way in the first place.

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31 Dec 2012, 06:00
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New post Re: $200 prize for whoever can make this mod
In the Arduino, a person would have to tune it so that it changes the PWM signal by an amount that is proportionally correct for the motors used. Hovering throttle may be 58% on a stock AR.Drone, but we may need the PWM signal to be telling the bigger ESC's and motors to run at 45% throttle. To roll left, the Arduino might see the AR.Drone's motor output looking like +10% right side -8% left side (to not lose altitude since thrust is no longer straight down), but then to make it work, we may need to be an output of PWM signals for +20% right side, -16% left side, since it may take more to roll the bigger aircraft at the same rate. The conversion factor for hovering would be one variable needing practically an external easy-adjust knob (pot), and then the roll rate would be another needing this. Another knob would be needed for the conversion factor on yaw (pitch and roll would be the same factor, given the longitudinal and latitudinal symmetry of the aircraft).


31 Dec 2012, 06:26
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New post Re: $200 prize for whoever can make this mod
HighGainTuning wrote:
At this point, you no longer have an AR AR.Drone... Build as strong of a AR.Drone as you want around a DJI Naza controller.
My AR AR.Drone has a GPS :D


Hovering a DJI Naza-controlled aircraft a few feet up, and nearby hovering an AR AR.Drone, with a slight breeze (nothing dangerous), would the DJI Naza come anywhere close to holding as accurately stable of a position as the AR AR.Drone? Without a downward facing camera tracking precise lateral movement, and without an ultrasonic sensor for height, I don't see how a GPS-only autopilot can have enough precision.

I have another quad-thingy, a QuadShot to be exact, and it is aggravating how it never hovers, always slightly going up or down, translating with the wind, etc. The AR AR.Drone hovers MUCH better, and I would want all future quadcopters of mine to hover so peacefully hands-off as this one does.


31 Dec 2012, 06:31
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New post Re: $200 prize for whoever can make this mod
Mostly outdoors, hovering in heights ranging from 4 feet to 100 feet, but also raising to 200-300 feet for longer distance flights. Alot of flying below 50 feet trying to film stuff from the air (such as outdoor sporting events, but not from directly overhead for obvious safety reasons, rather, to be flown over empty adjacent areas). No flying for profit or any of that can of worms - just all for fun.


31 Dec 2012, 07:47
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New post Re: $200 prize for whoever can make this mod
HighGainTuning wrote:
Don't waste your time with the AR AR.Drone then... Do a ground up Naza build


This could be the default reply to pretty much everything on this forum. Long range wifi control? R/C mod? Batteries, bearings, other upgrades for more flight time? Why waste your time upgrading a toy when you could build a Naza?


31 Dec 2012, 18:52
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New post Re: $200 prize for whoever can make this mod
HighGainTuning wrote:
You won't see me buying another one.


Then go to the Naza forum.


01 Jan 2013, 03:38
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New post Re: $200 prize for whoever can make this mod
Here we go again.


01 Jan 2013, 04:37
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New post Re: $200 prize for whoever can make this mod
First of all: I'm no Arduino-programmer and don't like it very much.
I'm a student and program microcontrollers (preferred Atmel) in assembler
and ANSI-C.

Back to our problem:
If the AR.AR.Drone communicates with the ESCs using a simple (standard) I2C protocol,
a software would be very easy to implement.
On the other hand, no professional (stable flying) quadcopter uses PWM for its ESCs,
because it's too slow.
They use either I2C or UART.

You should think about that.


01 Jan 2013, 14:51
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New post Re: $200 prize for whoever can make this mod
For hobby level, all of the multi-rotor ESC's I have seen are using PWM although it is at a faster Hz than your normal servos use. For example, the Turnigy Multistar esc supports "480Hz+ high refresh rates (up to 499hz)" and one of the flight controllers stated a PWM output of 400Hz. All said and done, I plan on building multicopters that are equal to or larger than the AR AR.Drone, so they will also gain some stability from the larger moment of inertia, compared to a really small quadcopter. Just like how it's easier to fly a bigger r/c plane than a teeny tiny one, because the bigger one flies smoother and doesn't react as twitchy or fast, so the pilot's reaction time need not be so fast.

However, if there is another series of motor controllers that interface differently, and are comparably suited as being the ESC's to use, then I will look at them and see if that is the desired output (I2C or UART) instead of PWM. By whatever means to open up the possible usefulness of the AR AR.Drone to be the boards inside bigger and more capable aircraft, I'm all for it.


02 Jan 2013, 04:45
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