After over a year of R&D, Parallax has taken a tremendous leap in the sUAV industry by releasing the first ever completely open-source flight controller to feature a multi-core microprocessor
; the ELEV-8 Flight Controller
. To mark the occasion and showcase some the ELEV-8 Flight Controller's, we thought this would be a great opportunity to bring back the Open Propeller Project
We invite you to join this project and explore one of the ELEV-8 Flight Controller's most innovative features: support for two-way communication with ESCs (allowing for ESC programming, closed loop control, and more!) We're even giving away an ELEV-8 v3 Quadcopter Kit
and four ELEV-8 Flight Controllers
along the way! Read on for the details...
Use SimpleIDE and the ELEV-8 Flight Controller (#80204)
to load and configure firmware for the Parallax xRotor 20A ESCs (#752-90015)
, with error checking and the ability to program ESCs in batches.
An ELEV-8 v3 Quadcopter Kit will be awarded to the individual who has the most beneficial impact on this project as judged by Parallax staff (we will be looking for frequent contributions that are positive and constructive, not just a final product)!*
We have broken the overall end objective into a series of milestones, or “sub-objectives”. These do not necessarily have to be met, or in this order, but may be useful steps towards the ultimate objective.
- Demonstrate two-way communication between an ELEV-8 Flight Controller and a Parallax xRotor ESC via SimpleIDE terminal.
- Demonstrate the ability to modify the configuration settings of a Parallax xRotor ESC with an ELEV-8 Flight Controller via SimpleIDE, with error checking.
- Demonstrate the ability to flash BLHeli firmware onto a Parallax xRotor ESC with an ELEV-8 Flight Controller via SimpleIDE, with error checking.
- Final objective, as described above.
The first individual to share functioning source code for any individual milestone will receive a complimentary ELEV-8 Flight Controller (or refund for a previously purchased flight controller).*
DETAIL & BACKGROUND
The ELEV-8 Flight Controller
is the first open-source flight controller (to our knowledge) has been engineered to allow for two-way communication with Electronic Speed Controllers (ESC)s. The goal of this challenge is to explore one the possibilities created by this feature; seamless programming of ESC firmware.
The Parallax xRotor 20A ESCs
are manufactured for Parallax by HobbyWing, and are based on their xRotor 20A ESC, but differ in that the Parallax model runs BLHeli Firmware (BLHeli bootloader & firmware factory-loaded) and has bullet connectors factory-installed. We chose these ESCs because of their solid reputation and performance, high quality in design and production, and omission of a BEC. The xRotor ESC runs on a F396
MCU with six TPCA8087
MOSFETs, but is not open-source.
As just mentioned, we have chosen to run BLHeli
firmware on our ESCs. We ultimately decided on BLHeli (over SimonK and HobbyWing) because it’s open source, performed very well in our tests, works on both AVR and SiLabs based ESCS, and a GUI interface
is available for configuration.
ESCs with SiLabs ICs (such as ours) can be flashed with BLHeli a number of ways. For ESCs that do not already have a SimonK or BLHeli bootloader, initial flashing of the firmware must be done via a C2 interface, requiring contact to three pads on the PCB. For ESCs with SiLabs ICs that already have the BLHeli bootloader (as the Parallax xRotor ESC does), programming (including flashing w/ new firmware) can be done solely through the 2-wire signal cable. This is normally done with a programming adapter
. Our objective is to utilize a propeller-based microcontroller as the programming adapter (eventually) independent of BLHeli Suite.
Although it might be possible to coordinate with the creator of BLHeliSuite to get that software to support propeller-based flashing interfaces, there are a number of reasons why we think developing an independent solution would be superior. First, we have had numerous challenges with “bugs” associated with BLHeliSuite (won’t detail them now, but can provide details if anyone is interested). Second, it’s overkill for this application - if any settings ever need to be changed, is very few and very rarely, and therefore could easily edited in a terminal. Finally, not only will developing Propeller-based BLHeli programming allow for a more seamless experience for Propeller users, but it will also lay the foundation for further development of 2-way ESC communication.
This will be the key to the success of this project. We will establish both a forum post and folder in the GitHub repository for this project. We expect any and all code to be managed through GitHub. Links to those resources will be added here as they become available. Parallax welcomes any other suggestions on how we may support this project.
*As this project evolves, Parallax reserves the right to modify the scope or other constraints. In order to be eligible any awards/gifts/complimentary products, a participant must release all of their work under a GNU General Public License
and upload all source code (well-documented and commented, including instructions for use/operation) to the Project’s GitHub repository. Limit of one award/gift/complimentary product per person per type of gift. We will not provide complimentary hardware up front.