Weekly Robotics Newsletter Archive [17/27]

  • Weekly Robotics #40


    Welcome to Weekly Robotics Newsletter #40 and thank you for being with us! We are striving for constant improvement and your feedback is highly appreciated! For any suggestions you can send us an e-mail. We are currently working really hard to bring to you a special sub projects that will premiere with issue #42, where all your questions will be answered. In other news: have you seen this dog-off at ICRA 2019?

    1) It’s Not a Bird! But it’s Flying!
    INFO: This YouTube video by CyberCouch shows the process of creating an Ornithopter, a flapping wing flying structure. The video goes through the basics required for a design, flapping mechanisms, motor and component selection and transmission systems. This video linked above ends with the working mechanism. The second episode goes over the design of fuselage, wings and tail. You can find more information on the project and build instructions on instructables.com.

    2) Self-driving trucks begin mail delivery test for U.S. Postal Service.
    INFO: U.S. Postal Service together with a startup TuSimple started a two week test of self-driving trucks that will be used for long distance transport. During the pilot program the trucks are planned to travel 3,380 km (2,100 mi) - 5 round trips between Phoenix and Dallas. Each truck will have a safety driver behind the wheel and an engineer on a passenger seat. For some more insights on TuSimple operations you can check out this article from Tucson Weekly.

    3) LineRanger: A Revolution in Transmission Line Robotics.
    INFO: Big thanks to Ludovic for pointing out this project by Hydro-Québec, we’ve found it to be quite inspiring! This transmission line robot is capable of attaching to power lines and traverse them (including the line crossings). Currently the robot needs to be deployed on the power lines using human assistance.

    4) ROS Indigo Igloo Officially EOL.
    INFO: Indigo Igloo, the first LTS (Long Term Support) distribution,officially reached the end of life (EOL). The distribution was released in July 2014. There were 475 people that contributed to the distribution, averaging 16 commits per author. The remaining LTS ROS distributions are Kinetic (EOL April 2021) and Melodic (EOL May 2021).

    5) How Zipline Became a $1.2 Billion Drone Company.
    Drone Life
    INFO: On the 17th of May Zipline, a drone delivery service company, announced $190M in new financing, bringing the total valuation to $1.2 Billion. Zipline drones can carry 1.75 kg (3.86 lbs) of cargo, cruise at 110 km/h (68 mph / 60 knots) and can cover a round trip range of 160 km (100 mi). Since launching in Rwanda in 2016 Zipline performed over 14,000 deliveries. If you would like to know more about how Zipline operates in Rwanda we found this video from RealEngineering very informative.

    6) UC Berkeley’s “Hyper-Aggressive Pogo-Stick” Robot Now Works Outdoors.
    INFO: We mentioned Salto 1-P back in Weekly Robotics #9. The new update to the robot removes the need for the motion capture system and can be controlled using a joystick. Currently the system uses dead reckoning for position estimation.

    7) Publication of the Week - Behavior Trees in Robotics and AI: An Introduction (2018).
    INFO: Behaviour Trees Behaviour can serve as an alternative to Finite State Machine and be used for complex task planning in Robotics. The above contains a pre-print version of the CRC Press Book. If you would like to start implementing BehaviourTrees in your systems then you might want to take a look at BehaviourTree.CPP (featured in Weekly Robotics #17).

    1) YDLIDAR X2 - ROS review and Cartographer setup.
    INFO: In this blog post Mat, the author of Weekly Robotics, reviews YDLIDAR X2 - an $89 360 degree LiDAR with 7Hz update rate. The post shows the LiDAR working with Cartographer and points to the repository with full implementation of Mat’s solution.


    1) Franka Emika (Munich, Germany) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Franka Emika is a dynamic company that develops robotics technology for everyone, with a goal to overcome one of the biggest challenges of the modern society, relieving an entire generation of tedious, potentially dangerous, vastly time-consuming, and monotonous labor.

    2) National Robotics Engineering Center (Pittsburgh, PA, US) - Various Positions.
    INFO: NREC develops and matures robotics technologies and solutions from concept to commercialization. Our unique expertise places us at the forefront of unmanned ground vehicle design, autonomy, sensing and perception, machine learning, machine vision, operator assistance, 3D mapping and position estimation.

  • Weekly Robotics #39


    1) Stanford Engineers Design a Robotic Gripper for Cleaning Up Space Debris (2017).
    INFO: This YouTube video shows a gecko inspired gripper created by Stanford researchers that in the future could be used for object manipulation in space and cleaning space debris.

    2) A Machine Learning Course with Python.
    INFO: The link above is a short course on Machine Learning by Machine Learning Mindset. The course contains both tutorial text and Python source code.

    3) The Rise of ROS.
    AP News
    INFO: According to ABI Research nearly 55% of total commercial robots shipped in 2024, over 915,000 units, will have at least one ROS package installed.

    4) Event Camera Helps Drone Dodge Thrown Objects.
    INFO: Researchers from Robotics and Perception Group presented dynamic obstacle avoidance on a drone allowing it to dodge a ball thrown at it at 10m/s. The drone showcased in the article uses an event camera for localization and obstacle detection and in some experiments a motion capture system is used for getting ground truth information for both a drone and the ball.

    5) This Two-Wheeled RC Car Is Rather Quick.
    INFO: Compared to Bobble-Bot that we covered in the previous issue this self-balancing platform is a simpler build when it comes to software but we still found it quite interesting and entertaining to watch. The platform is based on the oDrive motor controller, a Teensy 3.6 micro computer and MPU6050 IMU. According to the captions in the attached video the platform is capable of driving at 40 MPH (64 km/h).

    6) Underground Robots: How Robotics Is Changing the Mining Industry.
    INFO: This article shows couple of use cases how robotics can be used in the mining industry for searching for rare metals and free humans from needing to be exposed to danger in mines. Part of the article focuses on the UX-1 robot developed as a part of the UNEXMiN project. UX-1 is an underwater robot with expected weight of 112 kg (247 lbs) and 0.6 m (2 ft) diameter and capable of operating at a maximum depth of 500 m.

    7) Publication of the Week - Astrobee Robot Software: Enabling Mobile Autonomy on the ISS (PDF) (2018).
    INFO: We mentioned Astrobee back in Weekly Robotics #35. The above paper presents the software architecture of Astrobee. Each Astrobee runs on 3 interconnected ARM processors communicating over ethernet and interfacing with 7 microcontrollers, 6 cameras, propulsion system etc. The system is composed of about 46 ROS nodelets. The low and medium level processors run Ubuntu 16.04, while the high level one runs Android (Nougat 7.1) that is used for guest science applications developed by research partners. The system does not require real-time kernel extensions due to the control loop running at low speed of 62.5Hz. The system has 3 sources of localization depending on the localization mode: 120° camera, AR markers for docking or depth camera for perching. Apart from the publication we found this talk by Andrew Symington to be a good summary of the software stack.

    1) Humble Book Bundle: Artificial Intelligence & Deep Learning by Packt.
    INFO: Pay what you want for those 25 books on AI & Deep Learning. By using the above link you can choose to support WeeklyRobotics and help us grow.


    1) Aeolus Robotics (Various Countries and Remote) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Founded to bring the first generation of multi-purpose robot assistants into service across the globe, Aeolus Robotics is a global company with offices in Taiwan, Poland, Austria and the USA. Integrating world-class, world-wide AI and Robot Systems genius with Taiwanese manufacturing aptitude, we are breaking new ground in general-purpose commercial-consumer robotics with capabilities in unstructured “human” spaces.

    2) Magazino (Munich, Germany) - Robot QA Engineer.
    INFO: Magazino develops and builds intelligent, mobile robots for intralogistics.

    3) Cobalt Robotics (San Mateo, CA, US) - Robotics Software Engineer.
    INFO: Cobalt builds autonomous security robots that keep buildings safe by combining the reliability of machines and the friendly face of human-in-the-loop “Robot Specialists.”


    1) UNEXMiN Final Conference - 26 September 2019.
    INFO: We mentioned UNEXMiN and UX-1 robot in 6th entry of this newsletter. On 26th of September this year the project results will be presented in Belgium and you can attend the event free of charge.

    2) AI in Finance Summit, New York.
    INFO: Discover advances in AI & machine learning tools and techniques from the world’s leading innovators across industry, research and the financial sector. As a media partner of the summit, Weekly Robotics readers can now get up to 40% off summit passes using discount code WR20. See the full agenda, list of speakers and registration details here. Summit passes to the Deep Learning Summit will also grant you access to the AI Assistant Summit and AI in Retail and Advertising Summit.

    3) Deep Learning Summit, Europe.
    INFO: Bridging the gap between the latest technological research advancements and real-world applications in business and society. Weekly Robotics readers can now get up to 40% off summit passes using discount code WR20. See the full agenda, list of speakers and registration details here. Summit passes to the Deep Learning Summit will also grant you access to the AI Assistant Summit and AI in Retail and Advertising Summit.

  • Weekly Robotics #38


    0) Anki Addresses Shutdown.
    INFO: Back in the issue 37 we mentioned Anki closing down. The Anki addressed the shutdown in a pop up window on their website linked above. According to the statement Anki has contracted most senior leaders and engineers to provide a long term support for the devices. We will update you on any new information we find about Anki shut down.

    1) A Comprehensive List of 3D Sensors Commonly Leveraged in ROS Development.
    INFO: This ROS-Industrial page contains a list of affordable ROS-compatible 3D sensors. If you are looking for 3D sensors for your project this page might be a good first step.

    2) Microsoft Launches a New Platform for Building Autonomous Robots.
    INFO: At Build developer conference Microsoft announced an Azure-based platform that is said to provide AI solutions for automation tasks. You can find the project website here.

    3) Digital Fabrication of Soft Actuated Objects by Machine Knitting 2019.
    Morphing Matter Lab
    INFO: This work done by Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University explores computationally-controlled machine knitting. By integrating tendons into the design the authors are able to create actuated soft objects. We recommend watching the two videos in the linked page and if you would like to know more - the page also has a link to the publication.

    4) Bobble-Bot.
    INFO: Bobble-Bot is a self balancing robot built with Raspberry Pi 3B, brushless DC motors and is running ROS (according to the article the authors are eyeing ROS2 implementation too). We enjoyed the comparison of non-real time and real time control that can be found in this log entry. You can find the project repository on GitHub. The project comes with a Gazebo model, allowing you to simulate the robot yourself.

    5) The UZH-FPV Drone Racing Dataset.
    Robot Perception Group
    INFO: The above dataset provides camera images, IMU data, ground truth from a laser tracker, event data from an event camera and high resolution images from the pilot’s FPV camera. The goal of this dataset is to help advance the state of the art in high speed state estimation. At the moment the data is only available as a rosbag (a recording of ROS messages).

    6) This Robot Hummingbird Is Almost as Agile as the Real Thing.
    INFO: Researchers from Purdue University’s Bio-Robotics Lab have developed a robotic hummingbird. The robot weights only 12g and has a size of an actual hummingbird. In the videos you can see the robot being tethered for both control and power but according to the interview with Professor Xinyan Deng the robot should fly untethered in the future.

    7) Publication of the Week - Sweeper: A Sweet-pepper Harvesting Robot, a Webinar (2019).
    INFO: This 56 minutes webinar talks about a sweet pepper harvesting robot destined for indoor pepper farms and using heat pipes as rails. The first part of the webinar focuses on the project scope and result while the second part covers deep learning for pepper detection. The robot developed for this project is equipped with a 6 DOF robot arm mounted on a scissor lift and uses deep learning ready GPUs and the control system is based on ROS. The end effector used for harvesting is equipped with RGB + 3D ToF camera, an LED flashlight, a cutting tool and a catching device. The vision systems challenges a project like this faces are leaf occlusion, varying light conditions, ripe detection. The best results obtained during testing was 81% success rate (compared to ~100% required) and a cycle time of 24s to harvest a single pepper (compared to 10s required). To learn more about the project visit Sweeper website.

    1) One Year of Working as a Robotics Consultant.
    INFO: In this blog post Mat, the author of Weekly Robotics, sums up his first year as a robotics consultant. In the post, among other things, Mat describes his experience with UpWork and lists the projects he has worked on. The posts ends with potentially useful tips on helpful tools to use with ROS.


    1) Sevensense (Zurich, Switzerland) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Sevensense is committed to helping industries achieve new levels of efficiency by pushing the frontiers of mobile robotics. Our team in Zurich develops and delivers both software and hardware, providing a complete solution to the robot navigation problem.

    2) wheel.me (Oslo, Norway) - Computer Vision Engineer.
    INFO: wheel.me is a Norwegian IoT company with global ambitions, located in Oslo. We help people improve the way they live and work by enabling everything indoors to move effortlessly on smart wheels.

    3) FarmWise (San Francisco, CA, US) - Various Positions.
    INFO: At FarmWise, we build autonomous robots for agriculture. We work with and for growers to help them move away from chemical-based processes and face the labor crisis that is transforming the face of agriculture.

  • Weekly Robotics #37


    1) ROS Industrial (Melodic) Training Exercises.
    INFO: This ReadTheDocs page from ROS Industrial contains what we would classify as intermediate to advanced exercises for ROS. Each set of exercises is accompanied by slides prepared by Southwest Research Institute.

    2) The Hundred-Tonne Robots That Help Keep New Zealand Running.
    INFO: In this video Tom Scott presents the 70 tonnes autonomous robots for moving ship containers that are being tested in New Zealand. According to the video the robots can stack containers with accuracy of couple of centimeters (which in itself can cause other problems as you can learn from the video). Quite interesting development is the local positioning system used by these robots.

    3) Successful Demonstration of Breakthrough Blown-air Flight Technologies to Revolutionise Future Aircraft Design.
    BAE Systems
    INFO: MAGMA is an UAV designed and developed by researchers at The University of Manchester in collaboration with engineers from BAE Systems. The article presents two falp-free fixed wing aircraft control methods. The demonstrators were: Wing Circulation Control: taking air from the aircraft engine and blowing it supersonically through narrow slots around a specially shaped wing tailing edge in order to control the aircraft and Fluidic Thrust Vectoring: controlling the aircraft by blowing air jets inside the nozzle to deflect the exhaust jet and generate a control force.

    4) Seven Dreamers / Anki closes down.
    The Robot Report/IEEE
    INFO: The past week has been filled with bad news for those waiting for a rise of consumer robots. Seven Dreamers, a company working on the Laundroid laundry-folding robot close down. We were very surprised to learn that Anki (which we mentioned when we showcased vector_ros project one week ago) is also closing down due to failing to secure a new round of financing. The linked IEEE article raises a good point on what happens to customer’s robots if the cloud servers go down. This guest article by Guy Hoffman is an interesting analysis of failed social robot startups.

    5) The Best Robots on Four Legs with Marc Raibert (Boston Dynamics).
    INFO: In this video from TechCrunch Marc Raibert, CEO of Boston Dynamics, discusses the current state of Boston Dynamics and offers some interesting insights on development of robotics products. At 7:30 you can see how components of Spot Mini and the robots themselves are tested.

    6) Hitachi Establishes the Corporate Venture Capital Fund to Support Startups as an Innovation Partner.
    INFO: Hitachi is establishing Hitachi Ventures GmbH that will start on 1st of June and will start with $150M fund.

    7) Publication of the week - NASA Investigative Summary: TaurusXLT8 and T9 Mission Failures (2019)(PDF).
    INFO: Sapa Profiles, Inc. (SPI) provided NASA with faulty materials that ended up being a root cause of 2 launch failures and causing a loss of $700 million. The PDF file linked above is a summary of the investigation carried out by NASA.


    1) Sense Photonics (Edinurgh, UK / Research Triangle, San Francisco US) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Sense Photonics produces advanced LiDAR and 3D sensor solutions for the autonomous vehicle, UAV and industrial automation markets.

    2) Enway (Berlin, Germany / Singapore, Singapore) - Various Positions.
    INFO: We are building the technology for high precision autonomous service vehicles. Enabling cleaner and more liveable cities.