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First flight with Snappy Ubuntu Core using APM

Just a few days ago we had the first flight with Ubuntu Snappy Core with our Linux autopilot Erle-Brain (video  link).

As announced in a previous blog post, together with Canonical and the OSRF we aim to bring an app store for drones based on ROS and the simple "snaps". A new packaging system that Canonical just introduced (something similar to a "zip" file).

Soon we hope to release a microSD image that would allow everyone with a PXF and/or Erle-Brain play with Snappy and start creating drone applications.

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Researchers develop autonomous drone to help fire-fighting inside ships

The micro-flyer can operate in confined spaces and rapidly accumulate situational information

From naval-technology.com

Researchers from the Carnegie Mellon University's (CMU) Robotics Institute and Sensible Machines have developed a new small quadrotor designed for fire-fighting inside navy ships.

During a demonstration on a decommissioned US Navy vessel, the micro-flyer autonomously flew through dark, smoke-filled compartments to detect fires and trace victims.

The drone has been built for deployment by the US Office of Naval Research (ONR) as part of the damage control technologies for the 21st century (DC-21) project.

Using the RGB-D camera, or depth camera as a primary sensor to create a map of fire areas, the micro-flyer can operate in confined spaces and rapidly accumulate situational information.

ONR DC-21 programme manager Thomas McKenna said: "With the micro-flyer, we wanted to show that it could autonomously navigate through the narrow hallways and doors, even in dense fire smoke, and locate fires.

"It succeeded at all those tasks."

Accumulated information is transmitted to the ONR's prototype humanoid robot Shipboard Autonomous Fire-fighting Robot, which then collaborates with humans to fight fires and undertake evacuation procedures.

"The micro-flyer can operate in confined spaces and rapidly accumulate situational information."

CMU Robotics systems scientist Sebastian Scherer said: "Flying autonomously through narrow doorways in darkness and smoke poses a number of technical challenges for these small drones.

"But this capability, known as fast lightweight autonomy, will have numerous applications beyond shipboard fires, such as investigation of building fires and inspection of hazardous chemical tanks and power plant cooling towers."

The ONR's project is supported by a small business innovation research grant to Sensible Machines, with Robotics Institute acting as the subcontractor.

Full article here naval fire fighting drone

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15 things every LiPo battery user should know

LiPo batteries are generally safer and more environmentally friendly than other R/C batteries like NiCd and NiMH. LiPo batteries have become the most common high performance R/C battery and are used in R/C cars, boats, planes, helis, multirotors and more. However, if charged, discharged, stored, maintained, or handled improperly, they can become extremely dangerous. This is a simple guide for safe LiPo battery ownership and use. This guide applies to all R/C LiPo batteries including all DJI Smart Batteries used in the Phantom 2 series and Inspire 1.

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1. Never charge, discharge, use, or store a damaged or puffy LiPo battery. Immediately follow proper disposal protocols.

2. Avoid purchasing used LiPo batteries. You never know what the previous owner did with them and they could already be badly damaged. “LiPo Battery Like New, Used Once” is usually a scam and should be avoided.

3. Always use a proper LiPo battery balance charger/discharger when charging and discharging your LiPos. It is crucial that all cells in a LiPo battery maintain the same voltage across all cells at all times. If the voltages across the cells deviate too much from each other (5mV ~ 10Mv), the battery can become unstable and dangerous. (Unless it’s a single cell LiPo, in which case you do not need to worry about cell balance).

4. Always use a fire proof LiPo safety bag, metal ammo box, or other fire proof container when you are charging, discharging, or storing your LiPo batteries. While LiPo fires are rare, they can happen incredibly quickly and can do a lot of damage. All it takes is an internal short circuit to set the battery off. There is no way to predict when it will happen. It does tend to happen more often when batteries are fully charged, being overcharged, or while being discharged, but it can happen to any LiPo at any time. Never fill the container to capacity with your batteries, always follow manufacturer recommendations on LiPo bags for how many mAh’s it can safely contain. Do not settle for cheap Chinese knock-off bags!

5. Do not use your flight case/travel case for long term LiPo storage. The foam and plastic in these cases can help spread a LiPo fire. Always use a fire proof container such as a metal ammo box or fire proof safe for storage.

6. Never leave your LiPo batteries charging while unattended. If a battery starts to become puffy, smoke, or catches fire you need to be able to immediately handle the situation. Walking away for even just 5 minutes can spell disaster.

7. A LiPo fire is a chemical fire. Always keep a Class D fire extinguisher nearby your battery charging/discharging and storage area. The battery charging/discharging and storage area should be free from any materials which can catch fire such as wood tables, carpet, or gasoline containers. The ideal surface for charging and storing LiPo batteries is concrete or ceramic.

8. Never overcharge a LiPo battery. Typically a full charge is 4.2v per cell. Never “trickle” charge a LiPo battery.

9. Never discharge a LiPo battery below 3.0v per cell. Ideally you never want to go below 3.2v per cell to maintain a healthy battery. 2.9v per cell and lower is causing permanent damage.

10. Never leave your LiPo batteries sitting around on a full charge for more than 2-3 days. If by the 3rd day you realize you are not going to use your battery today, you need to discharge your battery down to 3.6v-3.8v per cell for safe storage until you are ready to use the battery again.

11. Always store your LiPo batteries at room temperature. Do not store them in a hot garage, or in a cold refrigerator. Even though a cold battery has less chemical reaction taking place which can prolong its lifespan, taking a battery out from a cold fridge can cause condensation to occur on the inside of the battery, which can be very dangerous.

12. Always remember that heat is the number one enemy of LiPo batteries. The hotter your batteries get, the shorter their lifespan will be. Never charge a battery that is still warm from usage, and never use a battery that is still warm from charging.

13. Depending on how they are used, most LiPo batteries typically do not last longer than 300 charge cycles. Leaving them around on a full or depleted charge all the time, running them completely dead, or exposing them to high temperatures will shorten this lifespan dramatically.

sku_340046_1 14. LiPo batteries do not work well in cold weather. The colder it is, the shorter your run times will be due to the slowing down of the chemical activity within the battery. If it is below 14F (-10C), LiPo usage is not recommended at all. Your battery could cause your R/C vehicle to suddenly fail without warning in these temperatures.

15. Always pack your LiPo batteries in your carry-on bag and never in your checked baggage when traveling on an airplane. It’s the law.

Related posts:

Shop burns down after suspected LiPo fire: chat with Jim Bonnardel LiPo battery may have caused RC shop fire

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Drones for Good Make History in Dubai

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We've just wrapped up an incredible week at the first ever Drones for Good Challenge. Not only was this the first event of its kind in Dubai, it was the first ever such event in the world. I was thus hugely honored to both keynote this outstanding celebration of technologies for good and to also serve on the judging panel for the finalists. Some 800 teams from nearly 60 countries around the world submitted their "Drones for Good" ideas. Only 5 made it to the very final round today. I lived-tweeted the event and curated the  list of tweets below as a summary (all original tweets available here). My head is still spinning from all the possibilities, ideas and the incredible innovators that I had the good fortune to meet in person. I'll absolutely be following up with a number of them for several Humanitarian UAV projects I am working on. In the meantime, huge thanks to the organizing event team for their very kind invitation and friendship!

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I'm excited to explore the above possibility with a number of key individuals who I met and spoke with whilst in Dubai.

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Wired: "Why the US Government Is Terrified of Hobbyist Drones"

We have a standing policy here at DIY Drones of no discussion of weaponizing drones, but the White House incident was so important and this Wired article so illuminating that I'm going to make an exception this time. From Wired:

If you want to understand why the government freaked out when a $400 remote-controlled quadcopter landed on the White House grounds last week, you need to look four miles away, to a small briefing room in Arlington, Virginia. There, just 10 days earlier, officials from the US military, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FAA gathered for a DHS “summit” on a danger that had been consuming them privately for years: the potential use of hobbyist drones as weapons of terror or assassination.

The conference was open to civilians, but explicitly closed to the press. One attendee described it as an eye-opener. The officials played videos of low-cost drones firing semi-automatic weapons, revealed that Syrian rebels are importing consumer-grade drones to launch attacks, and flashed photos from an exercise that pitted $5,000 worth of drones against a convoy of armored vehicles. (The drones won.) But the most striking visual aid was on an exhibit table outside the auditorium, where a buffet of low-cost drones had been converted into simulated flying bombs. One quadcopter, strapped to 3 pounds of inert explosive, was a DJI Phantom 2, a newer version of the very drone that would land at the White House the next week.

Attendee Daniel Herbert snapped a photo and posted it to his website along with detailed notes from the conference. The day after the White House incident, he says, DHS phoned him and politely asked him to remove the entire post. He complied. “I’m not going to be the one to challenge Homeland Security and cause more contention,” says Herbert, who runs a small drone shop in Delaware called Skygear Solutions.

Read the rest here

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