2. Coding UAVs with ROS. Subscribing to FCU data.

What’s this about?

In this post we will build a ROS node on a companion computer to subscribe to data being published by the flight control unit (FCU).  This will allow us to use the many data streams available from the flight controller as inputs to our system and then be able to make decisions over how the UAV should be controlled.

Continue reading “2. Coding UAVs with ROS. Subscribing to FCU data.”

1. Coding UAVs with ROS. SetUp

What’s this about?

This series of posts is for those who want to take more control of their UAV (or other robotic vehicle) using a companion computer connected to the flight control unit.  Typically to get started, this might be a Raspberry Pi connected to a Pixhawk FCU.

Continue reading “1. Coding UAVs with ROS. SetUp”

Autonomous UAV Coding Summer School – sneak peak

22 students from France will be spending the next two weeks building and coding autonomous drones as part of the UWE Bristol Summer School.  Along with Miles Isted s’Jacob, I am delighted to be leading on this activity and have produced a short sneak peek video of the challenge to share.

So six team drones racing autonomously on a single track? What’s not to like?

Code is based on that used for MAAXX Europe, so Python Dronekit, with ArduCopter on Pixhawk.  However, the final code will be posted on my github at the end of the Summer School.

MAAXX Europe 2018 DroneJam Coding MasterClass


(Nb. All resources for this post can be found on GitHub at https://github.com/mikeisted/maaxxeurope2018)

It’s been a while since my last post.  My research has since moved towards the use of machine learning in UAVs and so my trusty Groundhog now sports a Jetson TX2 instead of a Raspberry Pi and an Intel Realsense depthcam for ‘deep vision’ to match it’s deep learning capabilities.  But I digress… so I’ll blog more on this another time…

This post is about the DroneJam coding masterclass for autonomous UAV ‘newbies’ I ran for this year’s MAAXX Europe autonomous drone competition, held in March at the University of the West of England.

Continue reading “MAAXX Europe 2018 DroneJam Coding MasterClass”

Fuel Cells Kits

I recently came across Horizon Fuel Cells http://www.horizonfuelcell.com/ who were demonstrating educational kits at the BETT Show in London.

I have followed fuel cell developments for some time and so it was great to see affordable kits that can be used to show how hydrogen can be produced, stored safely in metal hydride canisters and subsequently used to create electricity.  These canisters appeared briefly on the market some years ago, but vanished again before I could obtain any. 

So have I purchased a great little car and a more sophisticated kit complete with a wind turbine and photvoltaic cells to produce environmentally friendly hydrogen.  The wind turbine in particular is well designed, with several different blade profiles and a variable angle of attack for experiments on efficiency.  I will use these kits to generate interest for our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) projects and also for more able and talented.

And what is even more fun is the RC car – check out the video on the website!  This uses two hydride canisters and a 30W fuel cell to boost a model RC car.  The hydride canisters will be able to be refilled from a ‘Hydrofill’ unit which I believe will be the first hydrogen generator designed for domestic use.  I wait eagerly to see this come into production.

So why not start to plan for  fuel cell projects in our schools?  We should be giving young people the opportunity to experiment with and build bikes, go-carts and whatever else (model planes?) using this exciting and suddenly accessible technology.

Hang on to your values, the technology is changing (again)

As I talk with colleagues around the country, it seems we are experiencing something of a rush of ‘situations’ arising from the use of mobile phones and social networking sites.

A school bus breaks down and children are quick to text friends and family. This may lead to a flood of enquiries at the school, taking up the time of the very people trying to manage the situation according to the contingency plan. Sometimes the enquirers are in a panic, having been given inaccurate or incomplete information. The result? More confusion, poorer communication and a harder time for the school in responding to something that is normally quite a simple job to sort out.

A minor accident happens on a school trip, say someone getting a cut whilst out walking. A friend uses a mobile phone to post the news on Facebook, perhaps with suitable embellishment. By a process of chinese and electronic whispers, the news is received by the parents of the injured child, by this time third hand, before the school is able to make direct contact. Frantic calls ensue over something quite minor.

The difficulty with both these scenarios is not the speed of the communication, but the quality and accuracy of the communication. In both cases, processes put in place to make sure parents get timely and accurate information are undermined, potentially causing unnecessary stress and confusion.

Other examples of problems ’caused’ by new technologies include images of children and teachers being posted on the internet without permission and children and adults talking about other people by name, or about sensitive issues in public social networking sites.

Of course some people blame the technology and use this as an excuse to become further entrenched as non-adopters. This is counter-productive and misses the point. Take our beloved capacity to chat: First we gossiped over the back fence, then we gossiped over the phone and now we gossip on Facebook. The problem is actually the gossip, not the technology. Whatever kind of people we are, and whatever values we hold, technology gives us more power for good or ill – that is all.

And so we need to take an urgent look at the values underpinning these difficult behaviours and perhaps a self-critical look at our collective responsibility to embed positive values which relate to on-line and mobile phone activities. Often, problems like those mentioned occur through thoughtlessness rather than ill-will. Children may not realise that Twittering over an emergency situation is unhelpful to say the least and can cause real and unnecessary distress. But in a world when even public service broadcasters are perceived to encourage the submission of such material, who can blame them?

So whilst the technologies keep changing, our core values such as consideration and respect for others do not. The challenge for us is to reinterpret these values for young people and often their parents in the context of new technologies, and to do clearly, consistently and early on. It is therefore critical that we embrace these technologies in our schools and help children understand from the earliest age that it IS what you do AND the way that you do it that gets (the right or the wrong) results.