New planetWRF (beta) Release

We just uploaded to planetwrf.com the first major update to the public planetWRF model since 2008.  Lots of new ‘goodies’ in the model, including the KDM radiative transfer scheme.  The model has been updated to base off of the NCAR V3.3.1 and represents a merge of several different developments that had been ongoing from Ashima, JPL, Cornell, APL, and Caltech from roughly 2008-2012.

The release should be considered a beta: it has been internally tested, but not widely tested outside of the planetWRF development group.  The public version also does not include some internal dev features such as interactive aerosols for Mars and the base Titan system.  Stubs and prototype pieces for some of these are present, but do not represent tested / validated components: so user beware!

Prototype Production Board Flying

In the last two updates on the flyer and AshimaCore we showed you the production prototype board when it arrived and after it was populated and bolted to a Talon flyer frame. Now here’s some video of it flying! The video was taken last week and was part of a set of flight experiments using our new height hold system. The new system uses a standard pressure sensor to measure altitude but smooths out the noisy measurements using a Kalman filter and also “fuses” the pressure sensor data along with measurements from the accelerometer, which gives us excellent vertical stability. We’ve also gone through another iteration of the board to make a small component change on the power distribution side; next up is the testing of the SD card port. Enjoy the video:

Kickstarter Pieces Coming Together

The pieces for the Kickstarter order are coming together. We’ve had the final prototype board back for a couple of weeks now. The board has been populated and tested for functionality. We’ve even had the board flying / controlling the talon quadcopter. The first of the attached photos shows the final prototype on the frame, mounted using the new 45x45mm wings, and with the control and power cables connected. The cables should be a little neater in the production board (once we switch to port 2 in the AQ32+ software). In fact, we may swap to low profile horizontal connectors for frames without much vertical space. We’ve also received all of the parts for the quadcopter orders. The frames are being assembled (the second photo shows a stack of the talon frames fresh in from HobbyKing). We’ve also got the ST-LINK debuggers in stock and ready to ship.

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AshimaCore Production Prototype

The production PCB prototypes for the AshimaCore board are back and we are hand assembling prototypes now. We got a lot of feedback during the Kickstarter campaign for AshimaCore and much of this has made it into an improved board design. Some of the features include a 3.3v power and USB-data connection on the main board, reducing the number of applications that need the power / programming board; Re-positioned the XBee mount by 9mm, to reduce the need for mag calibration; and, Addition of the common 45x45mm mounting holes for flight frames, which can easily be removed in case you want the original, more compact AshimaCore shape.

We’ve also fed a lot of code back to the AQ32PLUS flight software code base, with specifics on our AQ32PLUS wikipage. Checkout our PolyHelo website for more info on the AshimaCore board.

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AshimaCore Flying

AshimaCore flying on a few different frames. This is actually the same AshimaCore brain in all the movies – it only takes a couple of minutes to move it from frame-to-frame. We added some new levels to our Kickstarter project for people just wanting to get an “almost ready to fly” quad (the “almost” is because we can’t reasonably ship a 100% assembled quad in the mail).

We also have some stills of the various frames here.

AshimaCore Kickstarter

We launched the AshimaCore Kickstarter project today! The project has a few different combinations of the main board, the programmer / power board, various XBee antennas, debugger, and extras available. The goal is to get a batch of the boards built using automated production and to establish a production line that we can setup for distribution via an electronics / hobby retailer.

kickstarter page

AshimaCore Prototype

A month or so ago we showed you the unpopulated versions of our flier boards. Since then, we populated the main processor board and its daughter programmer / power board and been doing some testing. The image below shows the prototype main and daughter boards, along with a penny and a micro-SD card for scale.

We’ve started calling the combined unit the AshimaCore. It packages together a few nice pieces of kit that we think are likely to be of use for other projects. Here’s what is in the AshimaCore:

  • STM32F4: a 168 MHz, ARM Cortex M4 with FPU, 1 Mb Flash, 192K memory
  • MPU 9150: a compact, collocated, co-aligned accelerometer, gyro, and mag
  • The usual host of digital, analog, and bus I/O that you expect for microcontrollers

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PDF Table Extraction Tool

Some times while working on one project, it ends up being necessary to build a tool that doesn’t exist in the form you want. That recently happened while we were building our open-source STM32F libraries. The result of this, however, turned out to be kind of cool and we figured it might be useful for others. So we stuck it in a GitHub repo.

What the code does is help pdftotext to extract well delineated (black rectangular bounded) table cells, and outputs them in a number of different formats for use with down stream tools. In one format, the code can output the scanned table and colour code what it thinks are distinct cells, so you can check that it’s getting things right (see figure, below).

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Flight boards are here

The latest flight boards are back from the manufacturer. On the right at top we have the “wing” electronic speed controller (ESC) for the “Pod” flier, and below it a more standard rectangular form-factor version of the ESC. On the left is the main processor and sensor board (top) and its associated daughter board. For reference, the short axis on the rectangular ESC is 2.8 cm, or just over 1 inch.

Image of the prototype flight boards from Feb 2013