Category Archives: drones

New adapter for remote camera control

We’ve just announced our ALE726 Sony Remote to Serial adapter to the market.

This adapter, combined with our ALE716 Serial to LANC controller, allows the use of any wired Sony LANC remote over long serial or fiber optic cables.  This means that the LANC remote can be physically separated from the camera by hundreds of feet in situations where the operator is not in proximity to the camera.

Any wired LANC remote can be used and the system is compatible with Sony, Canon, and Blackmagic cameras and camcorders that are LANC compatible.

This adapter was created to fill the need for scientific and research applications with deep water ROVs, terrestrial drones, and other remote control needs in labs or in the field.  It is also useful for sporting events, movie production, and other applications requiring remote camera control.

The ALE726 Sony Remote to Serial adapter is available now and can be ordered directly from our ecommerce provider here.

IRIS+ — not ready for prime time

Recently, we were commissioned by a local Twin Cities company to do a study on drones being marketed for their ability to fly in a programmed “automated” mode and, in particular, their ability to follow a person on the ground to video record him/her while engaged in various “extreme” sports (i.e. BMX biking, skiing, skateboarding, etc.). This article summarizes some of our findings.

iris+2

After a lengthy study, we selected the 3D Robotic’s IRIS+ quadcopter as a good, mid-range vehicle that was heavily marketed for its ability to fly on a preprogrammed course and also its ability to fly via its “follow me” technology, which allows the drone to follow a user on the ground who is holding a telemetry unit containing a GPS receiver. The telemetry unit broadcasts the user’s GPS position to the drone, allowing it to position itself in real time.

Sounds good, right? Well — not so fast. We very quickly learned that this technology is far from the consumer-grade experience that is being marketed. Here’s why:

  • Quadcopters are evolving rapidly, but they are still a bit of a science project. While being marketed as “flight ready” out of the box, the user needs to do some light assembly, source and attach a gimbal and camera, acquire a Tablet PC and find / load the necessary software (application and drivers). There is also an investment in time to learn the basics of manual flight and how the autopilot software works before anything can really be accomplished.
  • We were particularly disappointed in the camera gimbal mechanism. This device keeps the camera steady while the quadcopter is in flight.  This particular gimbal (made by Tarot) is essentially a circuit board mounted to the outside of the vehicle. The electronics and fragile cabling are completely exposed (no housing) where they can be easily damaged by a rough landing. It also required a hex wrench to attach/detach the GoPro camera, which needed to be done all the time to transfer video files and to charge the camera’s battery.
  • The software loaded onto the Android tablet (we used a Nexus 3) was the Tower application (also known as Droid Planner 3). At first glance, it appeared to be well constructed and fairly straightforward to use. However, we found out that it had VERY specific steps that needed to be followed in a very particular sequence in order to preprogram a flight plan that were not intuitive.   We learned that deviation from this pattern, while not obvious, can create disastrous results.
  • On a few occasions, we crashed the drone — not unexpected. However, we did learn that you are on your own for repairs. 3DR does not repair the product that it sells.       They do sell most of the parts for DIY repairs. However, the IRIS+ is clearly not designed to be repaired. We needed multiple tools just to get the covers off to expose the electronics and in one case we needed to unsolder wires to replace a broken plastic support arm. Definitely not user friendly even for experienced repair techs.
  • Lastly, we found lots of problems with their internal firmware in the flight control system. By far, the most annoying was a problem in which the IRIS+ did not detect a crash and continued to try to turn its props. This usually resulted in at least the destruction of the props and in one case caused the motor control printed circuit board to burn up (literally started on fire) when it overheated due to the excessive current being drawn from the stalled motors.

In summary, this mid-range quadcopter technology (and in particular the 3DR IRIS+ drone) is still very immature and requires a good deal of “tinkering” before it will do much of anything.   The control software is really in the same state — an open-source project that continues to evolve, but currently has many issues that can cause unpredictable results. And lastly, the design of the IRIS+ is marginal at best, with several firmware issues that need to be addressed before this can be called a stable, robust platform for the average consumer.

This technology will continue to advance to a consumer grade platform, but be advised it is not there yet.

Wreck hunting with openROV

David Lang, co-founder of openROV (www.openrov.com) and I had a chance to get out on Lake Minnetonka yesterday to do a little wreck hunting.  I’m very interested in how ROVs can help make the survey work we are doing with Maritime Heritage Minnesota more efficient (as compared to deploying divers to investigate every anomaly).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I was impressed by this little ROV’s capability and I believe it can be used in a number of ways — quick investigations of anomalies,  video/photo documentation, and diver support during survey dives. Very cool!

Nereus – a great loss

It’s the risk that comes with exploring the unknown: Saturday afternoon, 6 miles under the sea, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute’s remote-controlled robot probing one of the coldest, deepest ocean trenches on Earth imploded.

rov

The one-of-a-kind Nereus, built by WHOI, had just embarked on a three-year project to explore deep-sea ecosystems and the weird, unknown critters that inhabit the ocean’s most remote trenches. Researchers said the loss of the $8 million sub is a huge disappointment for the expedition’s scientists and a major setback for ocean science.

Applied Logic had supplied camera control technology for Nereus and we support our good friends at WHOI — you have a difficult job in the most challenging environment on Earth.  Keep going.

 

Drone Study

quadcopter

We just completed a study for a local technology company regarding the current state of drones and drone controller technology.  The advent of low cost quadcopters that are incredibly capable, including high resolution video / photo capture capability, has opened up new markets, from surveillance to aerial photography to payload delivery.   We’re excited to part of this emerging technology sector.