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Just got my new toy in the mail

Posted by blewisjr, 25 March 2014 · 361 views

Hey guys it has been a while since my last post. So I would first like to give a few little updates to what I have been upto.

First and foremost my attempts to get back into game development was a total fail. It just did not work out. I was starting then I lost interest quickly and proceeded to get slamed into the dirt by massive ammounts of school work. On the bright side I am only 3 1/2 classes from graduation woo. After all these years of slugging it away at a pointless job it feels good to be almost to my goal of correcting my past mistakes of dropping out of college.

Now onto more goodies. I have always loved electronics such fun to make electricity do cool things and it is even a very good experience to become a much better developer. Having to deal with everything at such a low level it really brings to light some skills that can even help developers create better software at the high level. It is amazing what high level languages sacrifice often for ease of use and it is also amazing how universities do not teach there students the low level stuff really anymore.

So I have been looking into building a interesting robotics project well not exactly robotics but more of a drone project. This is a aspect of engineering I really enjoy because it is a tough project with lots of room to learn and also a larger project that can grow overtime. The issue with a lot of the simpler electronics projects is that they have small room for growth. After some design I realized I am going to need lots of power for this project so it is time for me to leave the world of PIC and AVR and move to ARM Cortex-M. The overall reasoning behind this is that you need some decent processing power to handle all the math needed for the flight controller and the smaller chips have a very hard time with this.

The board I chose is quite powerful for a development board.
  • Cortex-M4 processor (has hardware FPU)
  • Contains a mulit axis accelerometer
  • Contains a Mag sensor for reading magnetic fields of the earth
These few features are awesome because both sensors are needed for accurate flight and maximum stability adjustments.

The board is made by STM as well as the chip and has a built in programmer/debugger making life a lot cheaper then buying external debugging hardware. Super powerful dev package for only $10 can't go wrong. Here is a link to the site for the board if you are interested...
http://www.st.com/web/en/catalog/tools/FM116/SC959/SS1532/PF254044

Here is also a picture of the beast if you choose not to visit the link above...

stm32f3discovery


Now that this is all said and done I need to test various IDE's to see what I like. Right now I am testing out CooCox on windows which is free. Seems rather solid despite being a really stripped down version of eclipse as in missing the good features. Eclipse is another option but would have to be run on linux due to the need for make and some other unix tools to function properly without having to run through massive windows GNU loopholes to get it working on windows. Commercial IDE's are not an option because for some reason the Embedded world things $4000 for an IDE is normal. Posted Image

I will have some more updates on my learning in the future until then have fun coding.




Have you looked into something like the Ardupilot, for the APM? Those are two of the same thing (the APM comes with a bunch of software, though). I've used it for multiple projects, has been great and easy to use! It's all arduino and open-source, which also makes for a good community backing it up, too.

Have you looked into something like the Ardupilot, for the APM? Those are two of the same thing (the APM comes with a bunch of software, though). I've used it for multiple projects, has been great and easy to use! It's all arduino and open-source, which also makes for a good community backing it up, too.

 

Sorry no I have not.  I am not a fan of Arduino at all I prefer the more low end hands on approach to electronics.  I have a Arduino Uno and I tinkered with it but not my cup of tea.  I tend to avoid many of the precanned electronics projects and other firmware packages as well because you are really not learning anything by using them.  Also I tend to develop project that require high performance and many precanned stuff just does not cut it. It is one thing to not reinvent the wheel when it comes to game development it is another thing with electronics.

 

When it comes to electronics and firmware for the electronics projects quite often things are very customized for the hardware and the way it needs to work so many open cross platform systems do not work correctly on all hardware.  Code might have issues on certain chips and combinations of components.  So more often then not projects write there own code.  There is nothing worse then trying to debug someone elses firmware you are using when you have nothing but logic analyzers and scopes;  as a lot of electronics firmware code can not be debugged like a desktop app.  This is because breaking on code often causes it's own issues as everything gets out of clock sync.

 

Sorry for the long winded response.

Blewisjr,

 

Your response makes perfect sense! Each has his own reasons. I decided on the Ardupilot because I didn't have the time to develop my own code -- one year for fully autonomous, mission-ready flight is not easy to do from scratch. Good on ya though! I think if I continue this project next year I'll probably get to be more careful about my hardware and make custom solutions like you are doing.

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