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Need range? Microhard™ pDDL Communications for VOXL

Need range? Microhard™ pDDL Communications for VOXL

Need range? We have two new products we are excited to share built around Microhard™’s pDDL point to point, long range communications modules. Customers are achieving 2-5km of line of sight range using Microhard™’s pDDL, so this is a great addition to VOXL’s capabilities.

The first product is an add-on to our autonomous navigation and computing platform, VOXL. When connected to VOXL, the add-on enables compact point to point connectivity with another Microhard™ pDDL module.

The second product is a stand-alone USB dongle for Microhard™ pDDL. This device exposes an IP endpoint via USB. It is the first broadly available Microhard™ pDDL carrier that does not require Ethernet! You connect the dongle to any computing platform (tablet, phone or computer) that can receive IP over USB, and you are now connected wirelessly to your drone.

We have posted configuration scripts here to make your life easier by automatically pairing the add-on and standalone modules.

VOXL now supports a broad array of communications: WiFi on board, Microhard pDDL and 4G/LTE through add-ons. VOXL is the most comprehensive sUAS computing platform around and we are happy to consider any new feature requests you might have!

Both products are carriers for Microhard™ modules, and do not include the pDDL module. If you need help obtaining the modules, please reach out to contact@modalai.com

Please stay safe and well wherever you are!

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SLAM: The L is for Localization – the M is for Mapping

SLAM: The L is for Localization – the M is for Mapping

Autonomous Drone Sensing Technologies for SLAM

There are many components and technologies that go into building a drone that can navigate on its own. An autonomous drone uses an on-going loop of sensing, thinking and acting. A robot is only as good as its sensors, so sensing is an essential component that allows the drone to reach its destination.

SLAM, short for Simultaneous Location and Mapping, is the foundation of a self-navigating system and provides the framework within the robot can path plan. To arrive at its destination, a drone needs to know its location, build a map of its surroundings, and then plan a path or trajectory to where it’s going. In a dynamic environment, the drone needs to continuously update its mapping and SLAM supports that in real-time. If an object enters the drone’s path, it needs to generate a new path.

See an overview video about SLAM here.

ModalAI is using Visual Inertial Odometry (VIO) to support localization capabilities in its SLAM implementation and Voxels for the mapping elements.

Visual Inertial Odometry (VIO)

Visual Inertial Odometry (VIO) fuses an image sensor and an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) to estimate the drone’s change in position relative to where it started. In VOXL we use a global shutter image sensor that captures low-distortion pixels needed for computer vision simultaneously, instead of a rolling shutter sensor that is affected by the rapid movement of a drone.

Voxels

Voxels, or volumetric pixels, are computed by using the drone’s current location and projecting points from a depth map into 3D space. Voxel mapping is used for the Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) to understand the structure of its environment. For indoor applications, such as warehouse or security inspection, an active depth sensor like Time of Flight provides great results. For outdoor applications, passive stereo cameras work best, especially to compute depth maps at a longer range.

How it Works

As the drone takes flight, the UAS maintains its position using VIO and voxel mapping begins. 

Once the 3D structure is known, tree-based path planning (RRT*) can be used to generate a trajectory.

As the drone proceeds on its flight path, it continuously updates the mapping to stay on its mission and avoid obstacles. When new voxels obstruct the UAS’ planned path, it computes a new path to navigate around the obstacle.

While performing its mission, the drone is streaming the video the operator needs for the application. Some examples are mission-critical defense and security applications or safety inspections of a bridge or road.

The drone typically records video at a much higher resolution than it streams while in flight. You can use the captured video for further offline analysis.

ModalAI is Accelerating the Path to Autonomy

ModalAI is Accelerating the Path to Autonomy

At ModalAI, we are making our VOXL navigation computer easier than ever to use. Big news: Flight Deck is now available in our store! Flight deck is everything you need to get going on your own drone frame; it includes VOXL, Flight Core, and calibrated computer vision sensors ready to mount on your drone for visual inertial odometry and obstacle avoidance. All of our flight control hardware is made in the USA.

 

To help make the transition to our platform even easier, we have a complete reference drone for folks looking for a development platform to work out of the box. Check out our VOXL m500 here.

 

VOXL-Flight, our upcoming platform that combines a Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC on the same PCB as an STM32F7 fight controller, is back from our Southern California manufacturer. Check out our first flight here! VOXL-Flight combines VOXL and Flight Core to reduce cabling, size and cost. Long term, VOXL-Flight will enable advanced redundancy with multiple flight controllers running in parallel. 

Please post any suggestions or feature requests at support.modalai.com and we will do our best to incorporate in future releases.

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