Tractobot: The Self-Driving Robot Tractor with ROS

What would be if farmers would become computer operators who just supervise the robots capable of working the land without the tractor’s operator intervention?

The robots capable of doing autonomous activities in agriculture already exist and are prepared to take on much of the responsibility of a tractor operator.

Tractobot is a project developed by Kyler Laird. Kyler started publishing information about the autonomous tractor as early as 2016, and the first thing he developed was an algorithm able to change the direction of the tractor.

The project has gone through many stages of development. One of the steps that led to the creation of an autonomous tractor was the use of the ROS framework.

Tractobot is already capable of going straight, turning, and manage the tools used in agricultural activities to work the land.

Besides the fact that the project itself consists of transforming normal tractors into robots, the total cost of conversion is quite small. Total costs are around $ 2,000, which is very cheap for such a project. Read more →

ROS for the Cozmo robot toy

One of the ROS users launched a ROS driver for the robot toy Anki Cozmo. For whom who doesn’t know, Cozmo is a robot toy programmed to express emotions, talk with users, or play games with the user.

OTL, because it’s about him, managed to use ROS to remotely control the robot, and even access the camera to detect objects. With the Cozmo SDK, the ROS driver can access sensors, battery status, or move the robot’s mobile parts. In conclusion, with the ROS driver, you have access to the Cozmo functionality.

If you already have a Cozmo and you are one of the ROS users, you can download the ROS driver to develop new toy functionality.
Read more →

How To Build a Remote Controlled Robot From Scratch

The nice part when I build things in robotics is that I can reuse the components from one project to another. Several boxes full of sensors, motor drivers, and a wide range of kits. What is missing here is just an idea and some time to put it together. So, I decided to build something new, something that I have never built before.

I chose to use a remote control with a receiver, a mobile platform, and one of the powerful motor drivers on the market, and at the same time, the best of my collection. The result is a remote controlled robot.

Such a project requires basic knowledge in electronics (something about voltage, ampere, how to use power wires, soldering, etc.). Moreover, this is a simple project that can be finished in a few hours.

Probably the best books to start building robots:

In this article, I described the components used, how to assemble the components, and finally, you’ll see how I tested the robot in my own kitchen.

The hardware components used in the project

  • The remote control is a Flysky FS-T6-RB6 2.4GHz FS

    I found the 2.4GHz remote control and the receiver at a good price on eBay, somewhere early this year.

  • The receiver with six radio channels
    it came bundled with the remote control.
  • Read more →

LOCORO: open-source, Raspberry Pi, ROS, and 3D printed parts

LOCORO is an open-source project available to roboticists enthusiastic to work with Raspberry Pi, ROS, and Linux. Here, I would be adding the parts that can be printed at home with a 3D printer. In conclusion, the final dimensions of the robot may differ depending on the requirements and needs.

Let’s go back to the interesting part, the smart components. What should be noted here is:

  • the robot brain Raspberry Pi 3 runs Raspbian. Pi 3 control sensors, motors, and almost everything must be controlled
  • ROS does what it does best. Allows the addition of capabilities such as mapping or computer vision
  • electronic component assembly is here
  • the instructions for hardware assembly is here
  • here are the steps for software
  • the web application can be found here
  • the program written in Python is here
  • and the parts that can be printed can be found here, including the wheels


Beaglebone Blue: a competitor for Raspberry Pi 3, but with features for robots

Beaglebone was and is a direct competitor for Raspberry Pi. With Pi 3, Raspberry introduced the WiFi and Bluetooth connections. With Blue, Beaglebone does the same.

In terms of processor and the RAM memory, Blue is a bit anemic. With the 1GHz processor and 500MB RAM, Blue will hardly cope to a framework for robots like ROS and an operating system such as Ubuntu Mate. Instead, Raspberry Pi 3 is doing quite well while running Ubuntu Mate and ROS.

If to build a robot with a Pi 3 board you need driver motors and sensors, with Blue things are slightly lighter. Connectors for sensors, a driver for DC motors, Analog to Digital converters, battery connector, or IMU and barometer sensors. All these things make the difference between Blue and Pi 3.

Blue comes with 4GB of flash memory. No matter what operating system and what software you choose to run on Blue, everything must fit in these 4GB of internal memory.

The price is $ 79.95. Only three distributors are now selling the Blue board. They are Element14, Mouser, and Arrow.

And the specifications:

  • Processor: Octavo Systems OSD3358 1GHz ARM® Cortex-A8
  • 512MB DDR3 RAM
  • 4GB 8-bit on-board flash storage
  • 2×32-bit 200-MHz programmable real-time units (PRUs)
  • On-board flash programmed with Linux distribution

Connectivity and sensors

  • Battery: 2-cell LiPo support with balancing, 6-16V charger input
  • Wireless: 802.11bgn, Bluetooth 4.1 and BLE
  • Motor control: 8 6V servo out, 4 DC motor out, 4 quad enc in
  • Sensors: 9 axis IMU, barometer
  • Connectivity: HighSpeed USB 2.0 client and host
  • Other easy connect interfaces: GPS, DSM2 radio, UARTs, SPI, I2C, analog, buttons, LEDs

Software Compatibility

  • Debian, ROS, Ardupilot
  • Graphical programming, Cloud9 IDE on Node.js
Beaglebone Blue

Beaglebone Blue

How To install ROS Kinetic on Raspberry Pi 3 (Ubuntu Mate)

The ROS framework is compatible with a short list of Linux distributions. Neither the hardware side is not better. There are just few hardware architectures compatible with ROS. Raspberry Pi is one of the development boards compatible in terms of hardware with ROS.

So, I thought to install ROS Kinetic on the Raspberry Pi 3 running Ubuntu Mate. But only a certain version of Ubuntu Mate is compatible with ROS and Raspberry Pi 3, it is about the Ubuntu MATE for Raspberry Pi 3. This is an OS version released last year and include support for the WiFi and Bluetooth modules integrated into the Pi 3.

Probably the best books to learn ROS

The OS version used by me on Raspberry Pi 3 is Ubuntu MATE 16.04.2.

The ROS version that I have installed is Kinetic Kame. Kinetic was released early last year and is compatible with Ubuntu Mate 16.04. I chose this version for two reasons:

  1. it will be officially supported for the next five years;
  2. it is the most complete version after Indigo;

The first step in installing ROS on Raspberry Pi 3 is called Mate. Ubuntu Mate. The operating system is simple to install. I followed the steps on the download page, and within minutes I managed to have a Pi 3 running Ubuntu Mate.
Read more →

Battery packs for drones, robots and electric vehicles (the same batteries used to power the Tesla cars)

The Dutch company CMIUTA Electric Company produces Lithium-ion battery packs for drones, robots, and electric vehicles. The same type of battery is used in the production of battery packs used to power the Tesla cars.

The Panasonic NCR18650’s have an energy/weight ratio by 70% higher compared to other batteries. For a drone, 70% more power at the same weight translates into a greater flight time by 70%. For a robot or an electric vehicle, the time increases substantially.

The company has three ranges of batteries as standard:

  • 3S with capacities between 3,5Ah and 31,5Ah
  • 4S with capacities between 7Ah and 52,5Ah
  • 6S with capacities between 14Ah and 42Ah

The specifications of a battery pack with a capacity of 46,4Ah:

  • Voltage: 25.2V (max.29.4V)
  • Capacity: 46.4Ah
  • Current: 160A continuous
  • Power: 1.3kWh
  • Battery pack dimensions: 28,5 x 16,5 x 7
  • Weight: 6200g
  • Configuration: 7S16P Genuine Panasonic NCR18650PF 10A/cell

Price list and variants:

Price list

You can order batteries using this page for orders.

Niryo One: The Robotic Arm Designed For ROS, Arduino and Raspberry Pi

The recipe for Niryo One is as follows: 3D printing, Raspberry Pi 3, Arduino Mega, RAMPS 1.4, ROS (Robot Operating System), Linux Ubuntu for Raspberry Pi, and lots of open-source code.

Let us study each feature:

3D printed:
All the components of the robotic arm that can be printed, have been printed with a 3D printer. The producers have used PLA as the printing material, but other materials may also be used.

Using the 3D printing technology to build most parts of the robot, the final price of such a project is lower when compared to traditional methods to build the same parts of a robot. Another benefit is that you can print components at home, or replace them if necessary.

Raspberry Pi 3: WiFi, Bluetooth, Ubuntu, ROS, Python.
Pi 3 connects the robot arm to the Internet or to a mobile device via WiFi and Bluetooth. Also, Pi runs important programs to control the Arduino board, and programs written in Python. In other words, Pi 3 running all programs that cannot run on the Arduino Mega.

Arduino Mega: the RAMPS 1.4 shield, control of DC motors, control of sensors.
That’s what Arduino does in this project. Read data from the sensors and control the DC motors. The data and commands are flowing through the RAMPS 1.4 shield.

RAMPS is a shield specifically designed to be compatible with the Arduino Mega board. This shield can control up to 5 stepper motors and few servo motors. It is interesting that such shields are used to build 3D printers. So, if you want to reuse some of the components of the robotic arm, you can build a 3D printer.

ROS: algorithms, applications
ROS running on the Raspberry Pi 3. The framework is designed to let the user add intelligence to the robotic arm. How? For example, it can add a camera and write an application for processing and analyze the images. In other words, the robotic arm can be programmed to recognize objects and sort them by color, size, etc. Moreover, ROS is open source and has a very active community.

Programs: open-source, GitHub
All the programs developed for Niryo will be available on GitHub. These programs can be downloaded and used to control the robotic arm.

Niryo One

Niryo One

Balboa 32U4 is an Arduino And Raspberry Pi Self-Balancing Robot Kit

Later edit: 14.03.2017
The Balboa 32U4 Balancing is a robotic kit that can be programmed with Arduino IDE and the Arduino libraries.

If you want more, the ATmega32U4 controller has an interface for connecting a Raspberry Pi board. If you connect a Raspberry Pi board to the kit, you can control it via the Internet or Bluetooth.

The price is $69.95. The two wheels and DC motors are not included, which is not necessarily a surprise. This practice is quite frequently and many manufacturers sell incomplete kits.

You can’t use the kit without wheels and DC motors. So, Pololu sells wheels with the same size, but colored in five different colors.
For DC motors, you choose between three different variants, each of it with different gear.

At the price of the kit, you have to add the price of the two wheels (2 X $9.25) ($9.25 for a pair), and the price for two DC motors (2 X $18.95).

The kit comes disassembled and requires soldering. During assembly, you need a soldering iron, solder paste, and solder wire.

The kit includes an IMU sensor (accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer), a 5V regulator able to provide a current of 2A, and two H-bridge motor drivers.

Balboa 32U4 Balancing Robot Kit

Balboa 32U4 Balancing Robot Kit

50A H-Bridge with two channels, Arduino compatible, and rated voltage between 3V and 15V

If until now we used drivers from Sabertooth or RoboClaw for heavy-duty robots, this motor driver sold by CandyQ is very interesting in terms of price and specifications.

This is a no-name motor driver that will give an output of 50A on each channel. It could be added to the list of DC motor drivers for heavy-duty robots. But until then, I just ordered it from Amazon. I’ll come back with another post and a review of it.

The driver is Arduino compatible, and of course, this is not a big surprise. I have to mention this detail since the target for this driver are the robotics competitions.

Returning to the specification, the driver may be supplied with a rated voltage between 3V and 15V. The current for each channel is 50A, but for a few seconds, the driver can supply a current up to 100 A on each of the two channels.

Unfortunately, I have not found anything about the thermal protection or current protection. It would be interesting to know such details. These protections are almost mandatory for robots with powerful DC motors.

The details of the H-Bridge are also missing from the motor driver description.

The motor driver has a price of $27.99 on Amazon and free delivery.

50A H-Bridge with two channels, Arduino compatible, and rated voltage between 3V and 15V

50A H-Bridge with two channels, Arduino compatible, and rated voltage between 3V and 15V