Tag Archives: UAV

This giant drone lifted a record-setting weight of 134 pounds

One team of students from Norway built a massive Megacopter that set the record for the heaviest payload lifted by a remote-controlled drone.

The University of Oslo’s Department of Informatics has aspirations of one day using drones to transport people. (Not unlike the Ehang team, which debuted its person-carrying, helicopter-ish aerial vehicle at CES 2016.) Taking a step closer to a Jetsons-like future, one team of students led by Henning Pedersen has developed a giant aircraft which has set a new Guinness World Record for lifting the heaviest payload by a remote-controlled ‘copter.


The aptly named Megacopter is essentially a series of several small drones attached to a larger frame comprised of aluminum and plywood. There are a total of 48 motors and 13 propellers arranged in eight groups, as well as 24 LiPo batteries. A separate onboard controller kicks in if signal from the pilot is lost in order to help it float back down to the ground.

As you can see in the video below, large exercise balls were used as landing feet. Meanwhile, gyroscopes and accelerometers were employed as motor control and horizontal stabilizers.


A limited battery capacity gave the team five attempts to lift the weight, with the first two tries unsuccessful in achieving the 30-second minimum. Eventually, the Megacopter was able to raise its 134-pounds and 7.6-ounce load in the air for 37 seconds to claim its stake in the record books.

According to its creators, the drone only flies for three to six minutes but they hope to extend that time by adding more batteries in the near future. Currently, the Megacopter is registered to heft up to 330.5 pounds, but it is unknown for how long or how high.


Parrot unveils the Bebop 2 drone

Parrot’s new Bebop 2 drone boasts longer battery life and up to 25 minutes in the sky. 

Last year, Parrot launched the Bebop Drone. This low-cost device features a 180-degree 14MP camera, four three-blade propellers and the capability of streaming video footage to a smartphone or tablet. Plus, a ‘return home’ function enables the drone to easily head back to its takeoff point with the help of its built-in GPS system.


The original Bebop is able to remain in the air for 12 minutes on a single charge, which is pretty darn good considering the fact that it weighs 400g. However, Parrot has taken their game to new heights by unveiling the next generation of the ‘copter, which promises to double the flight time and enhance performance with more thrust and speed. Most notably, the aptly named Bebop 2 can soar through the sky for 25 minutes.

The recently-revealed drone is expected to cost $550 and is more of a consumer gadget than toy, Parrot CEO Henri Seydoux says. Not unlike its predecessor, it relies on GPS, proximity sensors and cameras to hover in place when you take your hands off the controls, regardless of where you are. The Bebop 2 will also maintain its compact, robust and lightweight frame, weighing in at just 500g.

What’s more, the drone can be piloted over Wi-Fi using its accompanying mobile app, and is compatible with the XMEGA32 powered Skycontroller which is an optional standalone remote that extends flight range up to 2 kilometers (1.2 miles).

The unit’s lithium battery has been upsized from 1,200mAh to 2,700mAh, which boosted its flight time from 11 to 25 minutes. Not only can it stay in the sky longer, the latest model can fly faster achieving a top speed of 37 mph horizontally (up from the Bebop’s 24 mph) and 13 mph vertically. In order make up for the weight differential of a larger battery, Parrot has extended the diameter of its three-blade propellers from 5.5” to 6″ in diameter.


Similar to is earlier version, the Bebop 2 still boasts a 14-megapixel camera with a wide-angle lens, as well as a 180-degree field of view and 1080p video recording support. Another basic spec worth mentioning is 8GB storage space for holding your video content.

When you’re done, simply press the “landing” button and the Bebop 2 will automatically come down, despite its altitude. And thanks to its autopilot system, the drone will be relatively easy to maneuver in less-than-ideal conditions. But that’s not all. An improved propeller system will autonomously turn off if and when it comes in contact with an obstacle.

With an incredible flight time, expect hobbyists, photographers and videographers looking to get their hands on this bad boy. Want one for yourself this holiday season? You’re in luck. Bebop 2 drone will be available for purchase on December 14th. Until then, fly over to Parrot’s page for more.

[Images: Parrot]

Turning drones into a hologram you can physically touch

Queens University researchers developing a real-life AR system that will enable users to physically interact with data through different types of drones.

Get ready to file this recent project from researchers at Queen’s University’s Human Media Lab under the “What the…” category. That’s because the team is developing a human-computer interface that employs a swarm of tiny drones as flying pixels in an immersive 3D display. The hope is that BitDrones one day can revolutionize the way people interact with virtual reality. These itsy bitsy flying apparatuses will enable users to explore virtual 3D information by engaging with physical self-levitating building blocks. In other words, they’re turning drones into holograms that people can actually touch.


According to Queen’s professor Roel Vertegaal and his team, BitDrones will be the first step towards creating interactive self-levitating programmable matter — materials capable of changing their 3D shape in a programmable fashion — using swarms of nano quadcopters. The work highlights many possible applications for the new technology, including real-reality 3D modeling, gaming, molecular modeling, medical imaging, robotics and online information visualization.

“BitDrones brings flying programmable matter, such as featured in the futuristic Disney movie Big Hero 6, closer to reality. It is a first step towards allowing people to interact with virtual 3D objects as real physical objects,” Dr. Vertegaal explains.


The team has already built three types of BitDrones: First, PixelDrones are equipped with one LED and a small dot matrix display. Next, ShapeDrones are augmented with a lightweight mesh and a 3D-printed geometric frame and serve as building blocks for complex 3D models. Meanwhile, DisplayDrones are fitted with a curved flexible high resolution touchscreen, a forward-facing video camera and Android smartphone board. All three models have reflective markers, which allow them to be individually tracked and positioned in real-time via motion capture technology. The system can detect a user’s hand motion and touch, which lets them manipulate the pixels in midair as if they were standing inside a 3D display.

But that’s not all — it gets even cooler. Since the program that commands the drones knows where each drone is, it can tell when someone has moved the tiny drone around in space. So what can the technology be used for, you ask? Thus far, the team has been able to demonstrate using the system to browse through files by simply swiping drones left and right to show their contents. The operator of the drone was able to open an architectural drawing, and the ShapeDrones then formed the basic positioning of the building in 3D. From there, users can drag drones to adjust the orientation of the building, and even modify parameters of the ShapeDrone using the touchscreen.


Aside from that, the BitDrone platform can be used for telepresence by letting remote users move around locally through a DisplayDrone with Skype. In this scenario, the DisplayDrone can automatically track and replicate all of the remote user’s head movements, giving a remote person the ability to virtually inspect a location and make it easier for the local user to understand the other individual’s actions.

While the platform currently only supports a dozen of comparatively large 2.5” – 5” sized drones, the team at the Human Media Lab is working hard to scale BitDrones so that it could thousands of other ‘copters. These future flying machines would measure no more than a half inch in size, and provide users the opportunity to render more high-res, programmable holograms. More importantly, it opens the doors to countess new interactions. Until then, you can check out the project on its official page, or see it all in action below!

Meet Easy Drone XL Pro, the quadcopter that can fly for 45 minutes

This modular, plug-and-fly drone is said to last three times longer in the air than any other quadcopter.

Looking to take the UAV experience to new heights, Brooklyn-based startup Easy Aerial has developed a lightweight, modular quadcopter that can last three times longer in the air than others on the market today. Not to mention, its price tag and simplicity will make Easy Drone XL Pro accessible to just about everyone.


Following a successful Kickstarter launch for their Easy Drone, its creators have spent the last year listening to customer feedback and designing a new addition to the lineup. Arguably its greatest selling point is that Easy Drone XL Pro can stay in the sky for 45 minutes on a single battery charge. What’s more, the ‘copter boasts a 28-inch span from motor to motor, diagonally, and with its size can effortlessly lift a combined weight of up to three pounds — particularly great if you’d like to attach a GoPro to it.


The flying device features the same modular, plug-and-fly design as its predecessor, along with the same control unit and travel backpack. Easy Drone XL Pro comes in kit form, which includes a sturdy frame, powerful 400KV motors and foldable 15-inch propellers, a proprietary modular command unit with a built-in video transmitter, a remote, a video receiver, a USB telemetry module, an 8,000mAh battery, a charger, and a convenient bag that makes storage a cinch. And not unlike others, a set of versatile AVR MCUs can be found at the heart of this remarkable UAV — in both the video and RC signal receiver boards.

Impressively, Easy Drone XL Pro is capable of carrying a GoPro and a FPV camera for 45 and 50 minutes, respectively, while streaming video to the screen on the ground. However, it should be noted that the weight and flight time are directly correlated — as the weight increases, the flight time shortens.


Sound like a drone you’d love to have? Fly over to its Kickstarter campaign, where Easy Aerial is closing in on its $30,000 goal.

Why do drones love the Atmel SAM E70?

Eric Esteve explains why the latest Cortex-M7 MCU series will open up countless capabilities for drones other than just flying. 

By nature, avionics is a mature market requiring the use of validated system solution: safety is an absolute requirement, while innovative systems require a stringent qualification phase. That’s why the very fast adoption of drones as an alternative solution for human piloted planes is impressive. It took 10 or so years for drones to become widely developed and employed for various applications, ranging from war to entertainment, with prices spanning a hundreds of dollars to several hundreds of thousands. But, even if we consider consumer-oriented, inexpensive drones, the required processing capabilities not only call for high performance but versatile MCU as well, capable of managing its built-in gyroscope, accelerator, geomagnetic sensor, GPS, rotational station, four to six-axis control, optical flow and so on.


When I was designing for avionics, namely the electronic CFM56 motor control (this reactor being jointly developed by GE in the U.S. and Snecma in France, equipping Boeing and Airbus planes), the CPU was a multi-hundred dollar Motorola 68020, leading to a $20 per MIPS cost! While I may not know the Atmel | SMART SAM E70 price precisely — I would guess that it cost a few dollars — what I do I know is that the MCU is offering an excess of 600 DMIPS. Aside from its high performance, this series boasts a rather large on-chip memory size of up to 384KB SRAM and 2MB Flash — just one of many pivotal reasons that this MCU has been selected to support the “drone with integrated navigation control to avoid obstacle and improve stability.”

In fact, the key design requirements for this application were: +600 DMIPS, camera sensor interface, dual ADC and PWM for motor control and dual CAN, all bundled up in a small package. Looking at the block diagram below helps link the MCU features with the various application capabilities: gyroscope (SPI), accelerator (SPI x2), geomagnetic sensor (I2C x2), GPS (UART), one or two-channel rotational station (UART x2), four or six-axis control communication (CAN x2), voltage/current (ADC), analog sensor (ADC), optical flow sensor (through image sensor Interface or ISI) and pulse width modulation (PWM x8) to support the rotational station and four or six-axis speed PWM control.

For those of you who may not know, the SAM E70 is based on the ARM-Cortex M7 — a principle and multi-verse handling MCU that combines superior performance with extensive peripheral sets supporting multi-threaded processes. It’s this multi-thread support that will surely open up countless capabilities for drones other than simply flying.

Atmel | SMART ARM Cortex M7 SAM E70

Today’s drones already possess the ability to soar through the air or stay stationary, snapping pictures or capturing HD footage. That’s already very impressive to see sub-kilogram devices offering such capabilities! However, the drone market is already looking ahead, preparing for the future, with the desire to get more application stacks into the UAVs so they can take in automation, routing, cloud connectivity (when available), 4G/5G, and other wireless functionalities to enhance data pulling and posting.

For instance, imagine a small town tallying a few thousand habitants, except a couple of days or weeks per year because of a special event or holiday, a hundred thousand people come storming into the area. These folks want to feed their smartphone with multimedia or share live experiences by sending movies or photos, most of them at the same time. The 4G/5G and cloud infrastructure is not tailored for such an amount of people, so the communication system may break. Yet, this problem could be fixed by simply calling in drone backup to reinforce the communication infrastructure for that period of time.

While this may be just one example of what could be achieved with the advanced usage of drones, each of the innovative applications will be characterized by a common set of requirements: high processing performance, large SRAM and flash memory capability, and extensive peripheral sets supporting multi-threaded processes. In this case, the Cortex M7 ARM-based SAM E70 MCU is an ideal choice with processing power in excess of 640 DMIPS, large on-chip SRAM (up to 384 KB) and Flash (up to 2MB) capabilities managing all sorts of sensors, navigation, automation, servos, motor, routing, adjustments, video/audio and more.

Intrigued? You’ll want to check out some of the products and design kits below:

This post has been republished with permission from SemiWiki.com, where Eric Esteve is a principle blogger as well as one of the four founding members of SemiWiki.com. This blog first appeared on SemiWiki on July 18, 2015.

This palm-sized drone streams live footage right to your smartphone

Micro Drone 3.0 can livestream video for your Meerkat followers.

Like many types of electronics, quadcopters these days are becoming increasingly smaller and smaller. And rightfully so, as pint-sized drones are super portable and generally come at a much cheaper price tag for novices looking to start out. Developed by UK-based Extreme Fliers, Micro Drone 3.0 is a mini UAV capable of capturing and streaming HD footage right to a smartphone.


Extreme Fliers is no stranger to the drone industry, as their recent Indiegogo campaign is the third iteration of the flying gadget. While its earlier take on the device was able to snap images in 640p, their latest on-board camera promises video resolution of 1280 x 720 at 30fps, and is stabilized by what is said to be the world’s smallest gimbal. This tiny robotic arm, though optional, retracts for takeoff and landing. What’s more, the company has developed special algorithms aimed at allowing the 1.96” x 5.7”, 2.5 oz. drone to take on rough winds of up to 45mph.

Based on an ARM Cortex processor, the Micro Drone 3.0 is equipped with a six-axis gyroscope, an accelerometer, an electronic compass, contra-rotational motors and Wi-Fi compatibility. It can be controlled with a radio controller or an iOS or Android device by way of its accompanying app, and uses a combination of motion sensor enabling it to hover and fly in straight lines. In addition to that, the UAV boasts first-person view flying capabilities and is designed to work with Google Cardboard VR. This means, users can slap on a headset to better immerse themselves in the flight experience.

Fight time is currently eight minutes, while the apparatus also packs a rechargeable lithium battery through USB and an on-board micro SD card stores the footage. Beyond simply maneuvering the UAV with its smartphone app, Micro Drone 3.0 has several integrated social plug-ins, most notably Meerkat livestreaming.


Another nice feature is that the Extreme Fliers crew has included expandability in the drone’s design. In other words, users can easily transform their hummingbirdish ‘copter into a much larger, more powerful drone. According to its creators, the firmware is programmed with three different settings to allow for simple adjustments between sizes.

And with the Maker crowd in mind, Micro Drone offers enhanced customization through 3D-printed frames. Backers will receive a selection of ready-to-print CAD files, ranging from wasps to drags, and more accessories are expected to be unveiled in the near future.

Intrigued? Soar on over to its official Indiegogo page, where the Extreme Fliers team has already well surpassed its initial $75,000 goal. Delivery is expected to get going in November 2015.

Single chip MCU + DSP architecture for automotive = SAM V71

Automotive apps are running in production by million units per year, and cost is a crucial factor when deciding on an integrated solution.

It’s all about Cost of Ownership (CoO) and system level integration. If you target automotive related application, like audio or video processing or control of systems (Motor control, inverter, etc.), you need to integrate strong performance capable MCU with a DSP. In fact, if you expect your system to support Audio Video Bridging (AVB) MAC on top of the targeted application and to get the automotive qualification, the ARM Cortex-M7 processor-based Atmel SAMV70/71 should be your selection: offering the fastest clock speed of his kind (300 MHz), integrating a DSP Floating Point Unit (FPU), supporting AVB and qualified for automotive.

Let’s have a closer look at the SAM V71 internal architecture, shall we?

A closer look at Atmel | SMART ARM based Cortex M7 - SAMV71 internal architecture.

A closer look at Atmel | SMART ARM based Cortex M7 – SAMV71 internal architecture.

When developing a system around a microcontroller unit, you expect this single chip to support as many peripherals as needed in your application to minimize the global cost of ownership. That’s why you can see the long list of system peripherals (top left of the block diagram). Meanwhile, the Atmel | SMART SAM V71 is dedicated to support automotive infotainment application, e.g. Dual CAN and Ethernet MAC (bottom right). If we delve deeper into these functions, we can list these supported features:

  • 10/100 Mbps, IEEE1588 support
  • MII (144-pin), RMII (64-, 100, 144-pin)
  • 12 KB SRAM plus DMA
  • AVB support with Qav & Qas HW support for Audio traffic support
  • 802.3az Energy efficiency support
  • Dual CAN-FD
  • Up to 64 SRAM-based mailboxes
  • Wake up from sleep or wake up modes on RX/TX

The automotive-qualified SAM V70 and V71 series also offers high-speed USB with integrated PHY and Media LB, which when combined with the Cortex-M7 DSP extensions, make the family ideal for infotainment connectivity and audio applications. Let’s take a look at this DSP benchmark:

DSP bench-Atmel-SAM-Cortex-M7

ARM CM7 Performance normalized relative to SHARC (Higher numbers are better).

If you are not limited by budget consideration and can afford integrating one standard DSP along with a MCU, you will probably select the SHARC 21489 DSP (from Analog Devices) offering the best-in-class benchmark results for FIR, Biquad and real FFT. However, such performance has a cost, not only monetarily but also in terms of power consumption and board footprint — we can call that “Cost of Ownership.” Automotive apps are running in production by million units per year, and cost is absolutely crucial in this market segment, especially when quickly deciding to go with an integrated solution.

To support audio or video infotainment application, you expect the DSP integrated in the Cortex-M7 to be “good enough” and you can see from this benchmark results that it’s the case for Biquad for example, as ARM CM7 is equal or better than any other DSP (TI C28, Blackfin 50x or 70x) except the SHARC 21489… but much cheaper! Good enough means that the SAMV70 will support automotive audio (Biquad in this case) and keep enough DSP power for Ethernet MAC (10/100 Mbps, IEEE1588) support.

Ethernet AVB via Atmel Cortex M7

Ethernet AVB Architectures (SAM V71)

In the picture above, you can see the logical SAM V71 architectures for Ethernet AVB support and how to use the DSP capabilities for Telematics Control Unit (TCU) or audio amplifier.

Integrating a DSP means that you need to develop the related DSP code. Because the DSP is tightly integrated into the ARM CM7 core, you may use the MCU development tools (and not specific DSP tools) for developing your code. Since February, the ATSAMV71-XULT (full-featured Xplained board, SAM V71 Xplained Ultra Evaluation Kit with software package drivers supporting basic drivers, software services, libraries for Atmel SAMV71, V70, E70, S70 Cortex-M7 based microcontrollers) is available from Atmel. As this board has been built around the feature-rich SAM V71, you can develop your automotive application on the same exact MCU architecture as the part going into production.

SAMV71 Ultra Xplained - Atmel ARM Cortex M7

Versatility and Integrated DSP built into the ARM CM7 core allows for MCU development tools to be used instead of having to revert to specific DSP tools. You can develop your automotive application on exactly the same MCU architecture than the part going into production.

Interested? More information on this eval/dev board can found here.

This post has been republished with permission from SemiWiki.com, where Eric Esteve is a principle blogger as well as one of the four founding members of SemiWiki.com. This blog first appeared on SemiWiki on April 29, 2015.