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Would you be interested in a $200 quadcopter based on a LaunchPad  

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Hi 43oh!

 

Some of you may have seen me over at c2kcentral, but I'm mostly a lurker here.  For a while now, I've been working on developing a low cost quadcopter.  Well that quadcopter is nearly done!  Boards are being manufactured as I type this, and I plan to have it flying at the Bay Area MakerFaire in May.

 

Here's a picture of the top of the motor driver board:

Bj1vEi_CAAAB8kT.png

 

Personally, I would like to see this manufactured and sold, but before I invest the effort to do that I need to ensure there is a demand for such a board.  The finished quad will be about 1 square foot in size, will cost ~$200, and will be able to carry a small payload (I've got my fingers crossed we'll have enough thrust for a Go Pro).  If you would please take a second to answer the poll as to whether or not you would be interested in purchasing one.

 

This is all very preliminary, but I appreciate any feedback you may have.

 

Thanks!

 

Edit:

Moving some of the information regarding the setup up here:

 

4x TMS320F28027F + DRV8312 make up the ESC.  That is the bulk of what is on the board which you can see on the first post.

1x C2000 LP acts as the brain.  This board decodes the control signals and sends torque commands to each of the ESCs via a PWM signal.  This LaunchPad runs the open source AeroQuad firmware on top of Energia...which also means other LaunchPads could be used as the brain.

Control Inputs come via a standard RC 2.4GHz radio and receiver.  Because the LaunchPad doesn't have 1 million capture inputs I am using a receiver which supports S.Bus.

3 axis accelerometer, gyro, magnetometer, barometer and GPS

 

Update 4/16:

Got the IMU board in today.  Here's a picture:

BlXNV2qCUAAgaFt.jpg

 

Yellow - TC6000GN - CC4000 based GPS

Red - MPU6000 - 6 axis IMU

Blue - HMC5983 - 3 axis Mag

Purple - MS5611 Barometer

 

Update 4/21:

Got in a car accident and have been dealing with insurance, so instead of working on this I've been dealing with BS.  Good news is that all that is finally taken care of and the motor boards are here!  These are by far the most complex and visually appealing boards I've even designed.  Take a look:

BlxE_ihCMAAMq-i.jpg

 

I'm still waiting on a few structural pieces to arrive which are being water cut.  I expect I'll have them later this week.  I'll post some more pictures once I get the boards assembled.

 

Update 4/22:

Motor boards are assembled and basic functionality checks out.  Next checks will include JTAG connectivity, and then motor drive capability.  The design is based off an earlier prototype that was proven out, so I expect everything to work splendidly on this board.

Bl3BjyzCQAAvHSP.jpg

 

 

If you're not already, follow me on twitter for up to the minute project updates! @yertnamreg1218

 

Update 4/24:

The 4 InstaSpin Piccolos are all in a JTAG chain.  Initially I had a little trouble getting CCS to connect, but after a little re-soldering of the ICs JTAG started working.  I now have all 4 device programmed with the motor control software.  I was also able to verify operating on a battery and the serial data link between the receiver and main microcontroller.

BmAsJO-CMAANU-E.jpg

 

Yes, I'm aware my desk is a mess right now. :-P

 

Update 5/6:

Lots of work has been going into the AeroQuad firmware I'll be running on the LaunchPad.  The two main contenders for firmware were Arducopter and Aeroquad.  The reason Aeroquad was chosen over Arducopter was their use of the standard Arduino IDE to build their firmware.  Arducopter uses a hacked together one off build system.  Since Energia is based off Arduino, getting the AeroQuad project to build was much easier than Arducopter would have been.  

 

With that said, I'm happy to announce that today I was able to compile AeroQuad successfully for the C2k LaunchPad in Energia.  This is a huge milestone!

Bm_QtRWCYAAhtRj.png

 

As you can see it didn't link, but that's an easy problem to fix.  With MakerFaire less than 2 week away, the pressure is on!  Will Trey get the quadcopter flying in time or will Murphy raise his evil head and sabotage the project?  Stay tuned to find out!

 

Update 5/23:

After my last update I had to really focus on getting the thing done in time for MakerFaire, so I slacked off on project updates.  Sadly, Murphy paid me a visit and threw a few wrenches into my plan.

 

Problem #1: Everything on the motor drive boards appears to be working as planned with the exception of the current feedback circuitry for the motors.  The old board can spin the motors just fine, but on the new board the current feedback isn't behaving nicely which is causing us problems with the motor control software.  The boards are based on the same schematic, but the original developer changed some of the components in the feedback circuitry.  I have a list of the changes and the new board has incorporated those changes, but still has problems.  I'm unsure if the issue is layout or component related and will be doing some experiments in the coming weeks to determine and fix the cause.

 

Problem #2: I pulled a special favor to get the structural materials (i.e. frame) for the quadcopter cut on a waterjet.  I kicked this off in early April, but because it was a favor and there were other users of this machine my parts didn't end up getting cut in time.  I'm currently looking for a place in town that can do CNC routing and drilling to get these parts cut.

 

MakerFaire was still a big success and I was able to talk to a ton of people about LaunchPad, Energia, and the quadcopter.  I even met a few 43oh members while I was there!  I also talked to the creators of the Aeroquad firmware and they are very excited about this project.  Once the C2000 port is more stable I will be merging my changes upstream to the main Aeroquad repository.  

 

I also talked to them about structural materials for the frame.  The Aeroquad guys use a material called DiBond.  Its a composite aluminum/polyethylene laminate which is less dense than FR4 with comparable material properties.  It is commonly used in signage applications, but also makes for an excellent quadcopter frame.  At MakerFaire the AeroQuad team participated in an event called the "Game of Drones".  This event pitted two quadcopters against eachother in air to air combat.  Take a look at this video showing off some of the fights: 

 

http://youtu.be/91OCQ-1KP08

 

After seeing how well they performed in the competition I am considering switching to use DiBond as the structural material in my quadcopter as well.

 

Update 8/19

It took me a while to find someone to cut the frame at a reasonable price, but I finally did.  I just received the frame back from the fabricator and it looks great.  I'll still need to tweak the design a bit due to machining tolerances, but that's something that's easily accomplished.  Without further ado, here are the pics:

BvaNMZ7CcAAD5sg.jpg

 

BvaNcjRCEAEHx4b.jpg

 

There are some spars that connect the two pieces together that should also be here, but the fabricator was confused and thought they were scrap.  I should be able to fully assembled the quad after I get back the tweaked version of the frame.

 

I also was lucky enough to be a guest on "The Amp Hour" this week.  Be sure to tune in!  I talk about my experience in college at Rose-Hulman, my first job after college with Simma Software, and I reveal a new job I've accepted at TI!!!!

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I'm not sure I need a quad right now, but certainly very interesting. What am I saying? I'd probably crumble and get one!

 

A couple of questions if you don't mind though:

 - Why use a LaunchPad rather than saving weight by having the microcontroller on the board? I assume as you work for TI it might be a bit of a LP promotional thing.

 - What's the wireless link / control going to be?

 

I think it may have been this tiny quad that made me take notice MSP430s in the first place: http://43oh.com/2010/11/msp430-based-quadcopter-ez430-rf2500/

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I'd pay $200 for one. But like @@Fred asked, how will it be controlled? Can I use a standard 5-7 channel RC transmitter?

 

I think it would also be better as a standalone board. Without having a launchpad attached below it. The cost would be neglible cost to add an MSP micro to the board and remove the headers.

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Although contradicting myself a bit, if C2000 is @@TI_Trey 's platform of choice I don't really have the time to get into yet another microcontroller (however nice it may be). Being able to swap in MSP430 / Tiva would be a plus.

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Not too sure that the C2K LP InstaSPIN edition can drive 4 motors by itself, so I assume there will be 1 or more C2K onboard doing the actual motor drive while the LaunchPad is merely directing it, but Trey can explain that better ;) Alas, I'm guessing this is as much of a LaunchPad promo as it is a gadget, so I wouldn't expect to find a hardcoded choice of MCU for the brain.

 

Sent from my Galaxy Note II with Tapatalk 4

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I think you should consider selling the populated PCB separately - there are a lot of quads out there already, and if I had one and could swap out the brains for ~$75, that's an option I would find more interesting than an entire second copter.  Obviously I don't know what your BOM is and how the costs split out, but I suspect the board and it's parts are not the lions share of the cost, but I could be wrong - hard to believe, I know, but it has happened!

 

Plus it gives people a way to buy it in smaller pieces that don't attract the attention of spousal units as much....

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