Weekly Robotics Newsletter Archive [26/27]

  • Weekly Robotics #5

    1) Drone Racing League launches an autonomous drone competition.
    INFO: Drone Racing League will host a range of competitions where autonomous drones will race professional FPV (First Person View) drone pilots. The prize pool is said to be $2 million.

    2) How to store LiPo batteries safely.
    INFO: If you are using any kind of LiPo batteries you ought to watch this 11 minute video showing how different kinds of battery storages handle LiPo fires. Battery fires are no joke. In this 2009 RC groups post you can find a list of battery related incidents. There are also cases of people losing their homes to battery related fires.

    3) Bat-inspired Robot uses echolocation to map, navigate environment.
    INFO: Tel Aviv University (TAU) graduate student Itamar Eliakim created a robot capable of performing Acoustic SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping). In the article you fill find an attached YouTube video presenting the robot in action.

    4) ExoMars 2016 - Schiaparelli Anomaly Inquiry (2017).
    INFO: Schiaparelli EDM (Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstrator Module) was intended to test the technology for soft landings on the surface of Mars. In October 2016 it suffered a catastrophic failure due to saturation of the IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit). The linked document presents the failure analysis performed by the Schiaparelli Inquiry Board.

    5) Robots can now pick up any object after inspecting it.
    INFO: Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) created a system called Dense Object Nets (DON) that is capable of looking at an object from various perspectives and then recognizing specific points from multiple positions. This allows the robot to grasp a specific spot on an object, even if the robot has not seen it before (the video in the article covers grasping a tongue of a shoe).

    6) 99 Things That Robots Were Supposed to Be Doing by Now.
    INFO: A rather humouristic collection of links about the expectations about robots from the past. Did you know that by now robots were supposed to help men shave in the morning? Deliver our jumpsuits? Terrorize musicians?

    7) Paper of the week - PID Without a PhD (2016).
    INFO: A classic 30 page guide to PID controllers and implementing them in code with examples. If you need a refresher on PID control or to find some strategies on controller tunning then look no further.


    0) Would you like to advertise an open position in a robotics related company?
    INFO: We are starting a careers section. If you would like to advertise an open position please head over to Careers Section in the above link.

    1) SkyCircuits (Salisbury, UK) - Real Time Embedded Software Engineer.
    INFO: SkyCircuits is a subsidiary of Callen-Lenz specialising in manned and unmanned aircraft operations and technology.

    2) Drotek (Toulouse, France) - Various Positions.
    INFO: Drotek was established in 2012 and is dedicated to intense R&D around the rise of the autonomous vehicles market.

    3) Flyability (Lausanne, Switzerland) - Automation Engineer.
    INFO: Flyability produces safe drones for inaccessible places that are collision tolerant.

    4) Trexo Robotics (Mississauga, Canada) - Robotics Software Developer Intern.
    INFO: Trexo Robotics are creating wearable robotics to help children with disabilities.

  • Weekly Robotics #4

    1) Ikarus Single Rotor Drone.
    INFO: One of the most interesting drone projects we’ve seen lately. A single rotor drone Ikarus “rocket” is based on a 70$ ducted fan. The 30 minutes investment in watching the following video will show you the decision process the author of this project has taken, the problems he experienced and lessons learned. What seems to be the core problem to solve in this type of aircraft is the gyroscopic effect compensation (very well explained at 08:00 in the video). In the linked page you will find part lists, CAD designs and autopilot setup.

    2) ESA satellite deorbiting mission.
    INFO: Space is full of junk that can delay launches or put spacecraft or astronauts at risk. ESA e-deorbit mission aims at creating a custom spacecraft to capture a retired ESA satellite and move it in such way that it burns down in the atmosphere. Currently two capture methods are considered: a net and a robotic arm (it seems that at early stages of the project a harpoon was also a consideration).

    3) Japanesee hotel staffed by dinosaurs.
    INFO: Henn na Hotel in Japan is said to be fully staffed by robots. The guests will experience animatronic dinosaurs and fish in the hotel lobby, as well as robotic vacuum and window cleaners. Inside the rooms the guests will find a dinosaur egg assistant, allowing them to control some aspects of the room (light, TV and so on). If you want to see the hotel in action there is a video by Abroad In Japan.

    4) Neato vacuum cleaners to introduce persistent maps.
    INFO: The more devices performing SLAM and utilizing LiDAR the better (at least for those of us waiting impatiently for LiDAR sensor prices to go down). With this feature Neato users will be able to specify the areas the vacuum cleaner should focus on the most.

    5) Skydio to introduce a developer platform
    INFO: Skydio, is a drone platform famous for its obstacle avoidance capabilities and tracking (here you can see its performance in a warehouse full of obstacles). The developer platform will allow to create custom Skills(application specific behaviours), issue movement commands, query 3D map distances, obtain telemetry data etc.

    6) Real-time Linux communications for robotic applications
    INFO: Computer Science ahead! This article from Erle Robotics engineers analyzes using Real-time Preemption Patch for UDP communication in Linux. If you look at the table that compares the results in the article you can see that without a Real-time patch the latency varies a lot (in case of stress test it’s between 262 to 46742 µs for no RT patch and 254 to 618 µs for RT Normal). Latency is especially important topic when working with safety certified systems - it’s not fast results that are of interests but consistency and determinism.

    7) Paper of the week - Feature and performance comparison of the V-REP, Gazebo and ARGoS robot simulators.
    INFO: This blog post (and a paper it links to) is a comparison of 3 open source robotics simulators: V-REP, Gazebo and ARGoS.

  • Weekly Robotics #3

    1) DIY 3D-printed Electric Motor.
    INFO: This project showcases a 3D printed brushless motor in which the motor coils are deposited on a PCB (Printed Circuit Board). With the current design the static torque was measured to be 0.9 gram-centimeters - not enough to include those motors in a tiny quadrotor just yet but we are very keen to see where the author takes this project in the future.

    2) Humble Book Bundle - Machine Learning.
    INFO: Humble Bundle teamed up with O’Reilly for the Machine Learning bundle. You can grab up to 15 books and support Code for America. Before checkout you can select how you want your money to be distributed between HumbleBundle, O’Reilly and Code for America. The bundle ends on 10.09.2018.

    3) Johnny-Five - Program Robots in Javascript.
    INFO: Johnny-Five is a Robotics and IoT platform working with Arduino compatible boards. It seems perfect for people who want to start their adventure with Arduino and have web development background. In the Examples you can find anything from blinking LED to handling joysticks, servos, motor shields, IMUs etc. Most of the examples have a very clear images showing the wiring between Arduino and hardware, which should also help if you are a beginner.

    4) MIT researchers take a step forwards in water-air communications.
    INFO: MIT researches propose a system where a sonar submerged in water directs the signal to the surface, causing tiny vibrations that represent transmitted bits. Above the surface a highly sensitive receiver reads the disturbances and decodes the signal. The emitter sends sonar waves at different frequencies (e.g. 100Hz for 0 and 200Hz for 1), causing tiny ripples in water. The receiver is a high-frequency radar that processes signals in the millimeter wave spectrum of wireless transmission, between 30 and 300 gigahertz.

    5) Waymo’s left turns frustrate drivers.
    INFO: According to author’s sources some people are getting frustrated with driving patterns of autonomous Waymo vans. Author mentions that the reason cars are timid is not caused by the technology (Waymo cars are equipped high resolution LiDAR sensor that can have 200+ meters) but by the teams avoiding risks at early stages.

    6) Learn about Curiosity.
    INFO: Did you know that NASA’s Curiosity has roughly the size of a car (10x9x7 feet or 3x2.7x2.2 meters with a mass of 1,982 pounds or 899 kg). This interactive website allows for looking at the rover from different perspectives and provide information on the rover subsystems.

    7) towr - Trajectory Optimizer for Walking Robots.
    INFO: towr is a ROS package for trajectory optimization for legged robots. The library includes an Rviz (ROS visualization software) plugin that allows for creating robot representation and visualizing gait (see section two in the repository documentation for the short presentation). If you want to build your own AT-AT you can probably start here.

  • Weekly Robotics #2

    1) ViSP - an open source visual servoing platform library.
    INFO: ViSP (Visual Servoing Platform) helps in developing robotics control systems in which visual tracking is at the heart of the project. ViSP team youtube channel is full of videos with interesting applications (top picks: 1, 2). It’s also worth noting a very well managed project documentation.

    2) DonkeyCar - DIY self driving platform.
    INFO: The project uses off the shelf R/C car that you can modify (add a camera, print 3D parts, program a Raspberry Pi). The project is fully open source and there is a very supportive community maintaining it. Here is a video showing an autonomous donkey race in action.

    3) DARPA Subterranean Challenge.
    INFO: DARPA is organizing a Subterranean Challenge aiming to explore technologies to map, navigate and search underground environments. The final event will take place in 2021 and the finalist will take a $2M USD price.

    4) Caltech engineers herd birds with a drone.
    INFO: The engineers developed an algorithm aiming at making passenger aircrafts takeoffs and landings safer by positioning a with respect to the flock of birds in such way that the whole flock changes the course. Interestingly, during operation the drone has to stay at just the right distance from the flock, if it comes too close the flock will scatter. You can find the full paper here.

    5) PythonRobotics - repository with robotics algorithms. Written in Python.
    INFO: This project by Atsushi Sakai
    showcases various robotics algorithms through nice visualizations. The repository
    seems to contain all the source files needed to replicate the results, making it a great learning resource. If you find this resource helpful please consider supporting the author.

    6) European Space Agency (ESA) is looking for ideas for new space transportation services.
    INFO: ESA is offering feedback on concepts for new commercial space transportation services. The ideas have to be sound, commercially viable and complement existing ESA space transportation programmes and activities. Three outstanding entries received before 14th of September 2018 will win a trip to Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana to see a launch.

    7) Paper of the week - ROS: an open-source Robot Operating System (2009).
    INFO: ROS (Robot Operating System) is a framework (or a middleware) that supports rapid prototyping of software for robotics systems. The paper introduces the design goals of ROS. It also covers the basic nomenclature (nodes, topics, messages) and provides some usecases. If you want to explore ROS further then the official ROS website
    is probably the best place to start. You will also need a computer (or a virtual machine) running Ubuntu or Debian.