Congratulations to Ardupilot Developer Jaime Machuca and Nick Nunno of Aion Robotics for winning the "Best Contribution of the Month" award for May 2017, for their work towards and including Ardupilot's successful demonstration at the MakerFaire Bay Area in May.
Invited by Intel and sponsored by both Intel and The Cube, the project for MakerFaire was started by Ardupilot hardware lead and Cube designer Philip Rowse. Philip unfortunately faced unexpected hard traveling constraints less than a month before the event, yet Jaime volunteered to step in and manage the project both remotely and on-site, prior to and during the event.
The project idea consisted of having a copter follow a rover with both vehicles running Ardupilot on a Cube aka Pixhawk 2, while showcasing Intel Joule or Edison. The copter would fly with an Intel Edison onboard, a camera, GPS precision RTK with Here+, IR-lock for precision target following, Poxyx UWB for geofencing, and a power tether for continuous flying. If time allowed obstacle avoidance and SLAM would be performed on the rover with a Joule and Intel RealSense ZR300 camera.
As is typical with complex projects of this nature, time (surprise!) became scarce quickly and deadlines approached faster than anticipated. With just a month to go, a team was formed together by Jaime and Philip, that included Nick who provided his freshly designed high end rover, Jonathan Challinger who started working on integrating a copter provided by EnRoute, Dan Pollock hard at work on Ardupilot SLAM solutions and ROS based Edison and Joule integration, and Mission Planner's Michael Oborne for on site help an support.
It's worth noting that Nick's rover is no average one, but instead a high power and industrial grade ground vehicle. Weighing in at over 30 pounds, two feet long and one and a half foot wide, the Aion Robotics rover also uses industrial grade servo motors for propulsion, with variable duty cycle. Given this, Ardupilot developer and Rover specialist Pierre Kancir volunteered and provided crucial on-going coding support, as Tridge also stepped in to add custom and compatible support for the previously unsupported motors and its control signaling requirements.
Randy McKay as Arducopter lead also stepped in and provided support on the copter side, along with Ardupilot developers Peter Barker and Grant Morphett. Needless to say the project saw many ups and downs, yet thanks to Jaime, Nick and the coordinated teamwork of all participants ultimately an "Up!", with great execution at the MakerFaire venue.
Challenges the team overcame included shipping delays, (parts were shipped from all over the world including Japan and Australia), unavailability of the tethered leash, and the typical yet nerve wracking technical trials and tribulations always present when building, integrating and testing a new and complex robotics system under harsh time constraints. Not to mention (as Jaime made his way from Aion Robotics in Colorado to Maker faire in California, after having visited and worked with Dan in Texas for the vision part of the project), a rare and unexpected May snow storm in Colorado!
Highlights of overcoming the many challenges faced included Jonathan and Jeff Wurzbach designing and building a working powered tether (link to documentation here) in what appeared to be the blink of an eye, and Tridge remotely debugging and tuning the rover from half way across the world and a 16 hour time zone difference.
Regrettably Intel has just recently announced the end of life of the Joule and Edison. The good news however is that the cube was designed with modularity as a starting point, and as such works equally well with other companion computers like the Rasberry Pi, the powerful NVidia TX1 and TX2, and many other computers. So work done for this project is not lost at all, and instead will continue to benefit this community.
If you missed them, Jaime made several videos documenting the "Road" to MakeFaire, well worth watching! They are available on his youtube channel, and were also blogged about on this forum: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3&4, and Episode 5.
Congratulations Jaime, Nick and the team!
The prize this month was $200 for the top contributor. Thanks to those who donated to ArduPilot, including our Corporate Partners. If you are a company and wish to donate a prize for an upcoming month, please email the partners email list (firstname.lastname@example.org).