Oct 5, 2008

One Month In France


Hi Everyone, Its been a long time between blogging but I have an excuse. I have moved from Christchurch New Zealand, to ENAC, Toulouse, France. I have now been here for a month, working with the UAV team here.

Screen Envy?

The work has been really challenging, and I have settled into my routine, working towards some things I would like to demonstrate before I leave. I have spent a few weeks doing a lot of electronics design,  updating the paparazzi autopilot board, the IMU, and the GPS boards. Nothing revolutionary, just some evolutionary improvements over the previous hardware.

  • Consolidation of the interfaces between the main board, and the IMU+GPS+Radio+Motors. IMU interface is now SPI only, GPS interface is I2C only / UART only.

  • Addition of a 24bit ADC on the main board to directly measure the pressure sensor, no more op-amp+calibrate the offset at startup.

  • Physically smaller stackable board design.

A lot of this work has been done with an eye towards moving some of the off-board vision processing I am currently doing onto the flying aircraft. I have been experimenting with the beagleboard, and one of the goals of the hardware refactoring above is to free up an interface to push data between the beagleboard and the flight controller. Probably I2C or UART, I am not sure yet.

Can anyone get hold of a Gumstix Overo for me?

I am hoping to be able to demonstrate some biomimetic control responses from my onboard vision system, using image motion information. I also hope to demonstrate hybrid external position estimation system using an off aircraft 3d vision system aided (kalman estimator) by on-board IMU .

Plenty of work for me ahead.


I finally managed to upgrade to the Ubuntu Intrepid beta. I was pleased to see that it contained all sorts of productivity improvements;

  • I used to waste about an hour a day keeping up with the US election news on Youtube, watching Sarah Palin insult the intelligence of all mammals on the planet with her existence. Intrepid fixed this for me by removing the feature where sound embedded in flash videos was played through the soundcard of my computer. Phew, thats a relief. I guess I will just need to go and watch Fargo instead.

  • Keeping in contact with my family via Skype was also a PITA, luckily Intrepid removed the ability for me to do that too, no sound to hear my parents nag me, and no video which would let them see me all hung over and tired.

Im sure everyone reading this is aware of that feeling when you go and use a friends brand new $2000 Windows Vista computer. The way it runs so slowly with 2GHz of processing power at its disposal, crashes all the time and takes 6 minutes to turn on. It is brand new FFS. When I am in that situation it makes me feel like the entire engineering profession has failed me.

I got that feeling with Ubuntu this week.


Unfortunately I have not been able to work on Conduit very much over the last month, and it appears that no one else seems to have had the time to either. This upgrade pain has destroyed my motivation, and I only just recovered from the previous month, where approximately 14,000 people reminded me that the Conduit GUI made them vomit in their mouth. Some positive re-inforcement (and some help hacking) would be a welcome change about now.