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Month: June 2016

The Little Charger That Could

The Little Charger That Could

I happened to be browsing Seeed Studio‘s site the other day after buying a cable and found a new product from Bitcraze that I hadn’t known about.

It’s a tiny battery charger for spare Crazyflie batteries!

CF2 Battery Charger FrontThis little gem is a 500mA charger based on the MCP73832 single-cell LiPo charge controller. It’s exceptionally small and works with the stock Crazyflie 2 batteries.

One of the cool added features are the connection points you can use to solder multiple chargers together in a chain, thereby creating a charging station for multiple batteries. For the sport flier, I can see this as being a great way to increase flight times or make multiple-battery racing heats. For the researcher, these will go a long way to increasing precious flight time for further data acquisition and experimentation.

Seeed Studio is stocking these with extra batteries for $8 USD (a battery alone is $5.50 USD) so the price is not restrictive if you want a few of them!

CF2 Battery Charger BackI picked one up the other day and found it quite useful. I have a few Crazyflie 2s and these days I love using my Devo 7e so much, I’ve set the channel and data rate the same on each of my ‘flies to facilitate control with the Devo 7e. Of course, if I plug a Crazyflie in to charge it, I can’t fly another since the transmitter controls both the one I’m using and the one I’m charging! I accidentally realized this the hard way. Now, I disconnect the battery of the one I’m charging so that the Crazyflie doesn’t have to be “on,” and I can charge the battery with this little charger while I fly my other ‘flie. As a result, I can keep the channels the same on all my ‘flies and not have any unintended, tethered flights!

I might have to pick up a few more chargers and put together a charging bank!

Decks

Decks

Deck is the official name of Crazyflie 2.0 expansion boards and now the variety of them is growing!

At first, Bitcraze had only released a few decks, which I covered here on the Crazyflier blog. The LED ring is the most vibrant and flashy of them, followed by the functional and convenient Qi Charging deck.

Breakout DeckI didn’t write about the breakout deck for use with breadboards nor the prototype deck, which is perfect for modding projects. These two decks are quintessential for anyone tinkering with the Crazyflie expansion connectors. They make both development and early prototyping easy and fun. They’re also relatively cheap.

Recently, (well at the end of last year) Bitcraze started producing a few more decks, bringing the total to five (six if you included the battery holder deck, which has only specialized functionality). The new offerings include the Buzzer and the Big Quad decks. The Big Quad deck is, as of this writing, still in early access.

Buzzer deckThe Buzzer deck provides some useful and fun functionality. Tones sound at start up, when battery is low, when the battery is charged, when USB is connected or disconnected, and a few other events. While it may, at first, seem just a novelty, the Buzzer deck is surprisingly functional and convenient. Plus, since it mounts on top, you can even use it together with the Qi charger or LED ring decks! Don’t get me wrong… It is as fun as it is functional. Out of the box, the firmware can play the Star Wars theme and the opening of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” (the latter provide by yours truly). Just imagine your Crazyflie 2, in a darkened room, headlights on, rising above your desk, playing the “helicopter” theme from “Apocalypse Now!” I think that’s worthy of a promo video.

Big Quad deckThe Big Quad deck may be one of the coolest consumer decks on offer right now as it allows your Crazyflie 2 to interface with the hardware typically used on the larger (250mm class and above) quadcopters. The great thing about the Big Quad deck is that it allows you use the familiar Crazyflie 2 “brain” on larger quads. Given the firmware for the Crazyflie 2 is open-source and constantly being improved upon by the community, you have significant control over the flight characteristics of your large quad. The Big Quad deck seems, to my mind, to be perfect for the 250 class first-person-view (FPV) copters! Anyone into FPV racing could benefit from the Big Quad deck as a way to make the Crazyflie (and all its open-source goodness) the heart of a winning racer quad.

Loco Positioning deckFinally, still in development and currently in its early access stage, is the local-positioning-system (LPS) deck and nodes – appropriately dubbed “Loco” positioning. This trick system gives you absolute positioning of the Crazyflie indoors using ultra-wide-band radio. The system reached its alpha-stage early this year. There’s plenty more about it on Bitcraze’s blog. While in its early stage it may mainly appeal to academic and research efforts, once the system matures and it’s price drops due to mass production, this could be an awesome system to make your autonomous, household drone a reality. I can’t wait to add a Crazyflie 2 to my home automation system. I’m imagining the doorbell ringing, my front door video identifying who it is, my automatic door lock unlocking and my door solenoid opening the door to my FPV Crazyflie waiting to greet the visitor and allow me to interact via audio. After all, I’m downstairs in my “lab” working on another project, why should I want to interrupt myself just for a package delivery? The best part of this future is that three-quarters of this system already exists in my house!

A few more decks are still in development and its exciting anticipating their release. The global-positioning-system (GPS) deck, and the WiFi (ESP8266) deck should be on their way soon.

Crazyflie 2 expansions look to be gaining momentum these days and I think it’s a great time to be a Crazyflie fan. I’m really looking forward to the potential of all these new open-hardware/open-source expansion decks!