Funded! This project was successfully funded on September 12, 2013.

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Meet Spiri, the programmable, autonomous flying robot. Designed for you and your projects.

Spiri is a versatile, airborne Linux device with sensors, cameras, wifi, cloud support, development tools and more. Our design builds on four principles: (1) Spiri as a platform for creation and development, (2) Spiri as a well-balanced and sensitive physical machine, (3) Spiri as an autonomous and social creature, and (4) Spiri as a way to bring people together. 

Our intent is to help you evolve Spiri based on your own passions, objectives, and imagination. Spiri can be a courier, a rescuer, a spelunker, a cartographer, a playmate, a gardener, an inspector, a reporter, a teammate, a wanderer, anything.

1. Create and Develop

Spiri is set up to free developers and users from the need to control and correct flight, so that you can get on with programming what you really want Spiri to do. Our API and library of flight primitives and other basic commands allow developers to work on top of the main chip, which runs Ubuntu Linux with ROS (Robot Operating System). This is an open source platform supported by an active community of hobbyists, engineers and scientists. We are designing a simple script-calling environment for end use, as well as a native programming environment for app development. The Spiri Applications Platform, also under development, will give developers a way to get their apps out to the wider Spiri user base.

2. Tough yet Sensitive

Durability is a challenge for all quadrotors, but we are making it a priority. We have worked with all sorts of materials and geometries to construct a strong-but-light protective ribbon to encase our rotors. After testing, we decided to use reinforced carbon fiber. Nothing is indestructible, but this ribbon can take a lot of punishment. Your first crash won’t be the end of Spiri play time.

Carbon fiber ribbon before sanding and painting
Carbon fiber ribbon before sanding and painting

We designed Spiri to fall flat, and reinforced the bottom of the enclosure to protect its electronics. That being said, the parts that stand to face the most damage in a crash, such as the battery pack and the motor mounts, are easy to service and inexpensive to replace. Parts and instructions will be available through our website.

Spiri carries a lot of sensors. In addition to the usual array of accelerometers, gyroscope and magnetometer, Spiri has GPS, a downward-facing acoustic sensor, a downward-facing camera, a forward-facing camera and a forward-facing range finder. On top of Spiri is a USB connection for additional sensors or peripherals you may want to add. For the hardware makers out there, we will have a hardware API as well.

3. Autonomous and Social

Because Spiri is autonomous, you can let it fly without a remote control. Whatever program it is running will track its location, keep it aloft, bring it to specified points of interest, cause it to engage with its surroundings, and bring it back to you safely. When it is running low on battery life, it will return and land on its inductive perch to recharge. It can go out of wifi range, even out of sight, and return safely to you. That means that in some sketchy situations, Spiri will be able to take care of itself. Moreover, free from manning Spiri’s controls, you will be able to launch two at once—or five hundred. We are very excited about what people will do with a flock of Spiris. Imagine the possibilities for video mapping, search, or winning a game of capture the flag!

4. Community

Our vision of personalized robotics as a friendly and accessible phenomenon is what motivates us. Let's deliver on that long unfulfilled technological promise we’ve all seen expressed in more than a century of science fiction: the promise of a robot companion. We want developers to have an audience in the rest of the user base—we want to make it as easy as possible for you to share. Our choice of Ubuntu Linux with ROS is meant to place Spiri within an already active development context.

Some other ways we see a user community forming are through games, projects, performances and organized events. We also expect that people will share, Spiri-to-Spiri and via cloud support, in urban mapping, educational collaborations, learned flight optimization and more. There are so many possibilities. We don't pretend to know them all. We will continue to be in touch as you, the community, grow and evolve. We’re excited to see what you want to do—so tell us what you need.

Where We Are Now

The Aviary
The Aviary
Test flight setup at The Aviary
Test flight setup at The Aviary
Workstations at The Lab
Workstations at The Lab

Currently we are designing, tesing, fabricating and flying Spiri in The Lab, our development space and The Aviary, our flight testing location. 

In the past 13 months we have:

  • Tested and selected sensors, chips, and other electronics
  • Tested and selected motors, rotors, and other hardware
  • Designed circuit boards, system architecture, and internal communications systems
  • Designed and tested battery pack
  • Designed protective ribbon, primary casing, and battery pack casing
  • Added acoustic sensor, two cameras, and range-finding camera 
  • Tested materials and fabrication processes for protective ribbon and casings
  • Created theoretical framework for primary flight control
  • Implemented a simple closed control loop for hovering mode 
  • Set up a new 2,500 sq ft lab (the Aviary) to house a large flight testing arena
  • Developed the API and multi-language wrapper framework 
  • Designed a 10,000 sq ft assembly plant and manufacturing processes 
  • Selected and tentatively reserved a location for the assembly plant 

Production Plan

In the upcoming months our major goals are:

August

  • Extend API 
  • Refine closed control loop to include physical modelling and camera data 
September 

  • Order parts and complete plan to phase in assembly (after close of Kickstarter) 
  • Develop and test additional flight maneuver primitives 
  • Release API and development tools to selected researchers and backers 
  • Send research-only Spiri models to selected researchers and backers (If you are a researcher please contact us at info@pleiades.ca to see if you qualify for a research model)

October 

  • Set up the assembly plant and work stations
  • Increase parts inventory, begin light assembly, finalize assembly processes
  • Develop and test additional flight maneuver primitives 

November

  • Ramp up Spiri production
  • Develop and test additional flight maneuver primitives 

December

  • Continue Spiri production 
  • Develop and test additional flight maneuver primitives

January 

  • All Early Release Spiris shipped 
  • Spiri Development Platform beta release 
  • Continue Spiri production 
  • Bug fixes and feature enhancements to development tools  
  • Spiri Applications Platform beta release 
  • Develop and test additional flight maneuver primitives 

February 

  • Continue shipping Spiris to backers on first in first out basis 
  • Continue Spiri production
  • Bug fixes and feature enhancements 
  • Develop and test additional flight maneuver primitives 

March 

  • Full Spiri software version 1.0 
  • Spiri development platform 1.0 
  • Flight primitive library 1.0 
  • Continue shipping Spiris to backers on first in first out basis 
  • Continue Spiri production 
  • Bug fixes and feature enhancements 
  • Develop and test additional flight maneuver primitives 

April 

  • Full public launch 
  • All Spiri shipped 
  • Spiri Applications Platform released 

Rewards 

Spiri Poster by Gillian Goerz
Spiri Poster by Gillian Goerz

We have some great rewards for you (check out the right hand column!) and some really exciting stretch goals planned. 

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

Supplier Risks
This is a risk in any hardware project. We will use trusted component suppliers with whom we have established relationships and who have already delivered quality products to us on time. We will assemble Spiri in North America, at a facility located just a two hours’ drive from our Aviary in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This helps mitigate production risks, but also supplier risks in allowing us to reduce customs and shipping risks related to supplies.

Hardware Development Risks
We’ve spent the past 13 months systematically eliminating hardware risks and progressing through successive versions of the circuitry, sensors, motors, casing, ribbon, and other components, all well in advance of bringing this project to Kickstarter. Our lab models now are several steps past first prototype, and we are confident in being able to make Spiri’s hardware, as it is now, robust on a commercial scale.

Software Development Risks
Our Company has been a software developer for over a decade, and we understand all too well the risks and challenges of delivering quality applications on time and on budget. We will be sending early research-only models of Spiris to various research labs and hacker/programmer groups in late 2013 so that they are tested in a variety of contexts, and to verify the repeatability of our work. This will also inform our work on the Developer Kit and Spiri Applications Platform. Since our focus is on the programmability and versatility of Spiri, rather than on software features, we can be confident in meeting our primary objective of Spiri being ready for you to program when it ships.

Production Risks
Yes, we really are manufacturing Spiri in Canada. After analyzing costs and production risks we decided, given the size of our release batches and the complexities and risks inherent in outsourcing, that overseeing our own assembly and Q&A is the best choice for us. We are bringing an experienced production team on board to run the assembly facility, and it will be a short drive for anyone in our Halifax-based research team.

FAQ

  • Nope! If you can, the simplest work-around is to proceed with your order without the international shipping option. If that doesn't work for you, then follow these steps:

    (1) Select "no reward" but pledge the dollar amount corresponding to the reward you would like, e.g. $520 for a Spiri.

    (2) Send us a direct message on Kickstarter, or by email to info@pleiades.ca, explaining that you are in Canada, and specifying which reward you want. At the $575 level there are three options.

    We'll mark you down for the appropriate reward and send you a formal confirmation.

    We know this is a bit inconvenient. Sorry! We're based in Canada, too, and feel your frustration. The only other option for us would have been to duplicate each of the rewards in a Canadian version, and we felt that might introduce new confusions. We do very much appreciate all our Canadian backers!

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  • Spiri has a host of sensors to tell it where it is, and what is around it. First, the gyro and accelerometer keep Spiri level, the acoustic range finder and the pressure sensor tell Spiri how high off the ground it is. The downward facing camera is used to keep Spiri from drifting off course by watching the ground and making sure it is moving as expected. The range finding camera combined with the forward video camera is used to locate objects Spiri either needs to avoid, or interact with. In uncontrolled environments, programmers should always move Spiri forward so that the cameras can be used to identify obstacles in it's path.

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  • Spiri is designed to allow the programs you create to operate autonomously. We give you the sensors you need to create programs that are fully aware of their surroundings, and take care of the basics of flying so that you can concentrate how Spiri interacts with the world around it.

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  • Hardware wise, the Robotic brain is centered around the Freescale iMX6 DualLite application processor. In terms of processor power, it's comparable to the processor from an iPad 3.
    http://www.freescale.com/webapp/sps/site/prod_summary.jsp…

    Software wise. We are running a stripped down version of Ubuntu, basically we just removed anything GUI related. To this we added a library for user programs to communicate with the low level flight microcontroller, which controls the sensors and motors.

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  • Nothing. You can fly Spiri by giving it a sequence of intuitive commands, such as "fly forward ten meters" or "make a full left turn". There is a direct remote control mode, but Spiri is designed principally around being a programmable device so that its software can do the flying.

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  • You can use wifi or bluetooth to connect to Spiri. If your Spiri is in a different wifi network from you, you will be able to connect remotely. Spiri can fly outside of signal range, as it runs scripts from its on-board chip.

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  • We will sell replacement and extra parts through our website once we begin to ship Spiri. Certain parts which we can expect to break in a severe crash are designed to be as inexpensive and easy as possible to replace. We will provide detailed repair instructions online.

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  • Documentation about Spiri, its API, its library of flight commands, repairs, and other matters will be made available online. Documentation is an ongoing process.

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  • Spiri has a proprietary hardware design with a mix of closed and open source software. The lower level software, such as the stabilization control loop, is closed but much of the other software is open. We will provide a detailed API for programmers. We will make certain projects open and public through GitHub.

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  • You do not need a developer license to write software for Spiri. Before you can get access to our app distribution platform, however, you will need to agree to the developers' terms of service. There is no charge for you to program software for your Spiri.

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  • The libraries to access the sensors and other hardware are written in C++, but we have created wrappers in Java, Node.JS, and Python.

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  • Flight time will vary between ten to fifteen minutes depending on what you are doing. Flying against wind, or maneuvering aggressively will drain the battery faster than hovering indoors. We understand that flight times could limit applications and are happy to include an inductive charging perch with your Spiri (see below). We are actively working to increase flight times.

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  • The Perch allows for inductive charging. Spiri can land on it and recharge without anyone replacing the battery. That way, Spiri can continue to perform tasks with nobody around, and recharge between tasks. You could even have multiple perches placed strategically so Spiri can go longer distances by stopping and recharging along the way.

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  • Spiri's current maximum payload is approximately 100g.

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  • Spiri is not quiet—yet. This is an area of active research for us. Like other quadrotors the size of Spiri, it runs today at full throttle at about 85 dB. If you hold it next to your face, then the noise it will make is comparable to a domestic vacuum cleaner. If you let it fly overhead, then the noise that reaches you on the ground will be a little louder than typical background city noise. Indoors, Spiri is about as loud as street traffic heard from within a car.

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  • Spiri will not work underwater. For mist or light rain, Spiri is somewhat water resistant, and we are looking into making it more so. None of the sensors are exposed to rain and the motors would continue to work in rain. We haven't done enough durability testing to make big claims about performance in the rain, but similarly encased devices can survive short-term exposure to moisture or rain.

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    142 backers

    THANK YOU. You'll get updates on Spiri's progress and access to the development community.

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    TOTE BAG. Carry Spiri parts, a picnic lunch, or anything else in this tote bag. It is solid black in colour and features the lift equation.

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    MINIATURE SPIRI POSTER. If you like what you’ve seen. Shipping included for US and Canadian Backers.

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    T-SHIRT. Show the world your love for quadrotors with this solid black t-shirt featuring the lift equation.

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    FULL SIZED POSTER. If you want to support the project but aren’t ready to commit hundreds. Check out this awesome poster in the Project Description under Rewards! Shipping included for US and Canadian Backers.

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    SPIRI 1.0 If you want this to happen, not just because it’s a cool idea, but because you want your own Spiri, too. Shipping included for US and Canadian Backers.

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    SPIRI 1.0 + EDUCATOR KIT. If you want to use Spiri for formal or informal education, this reward includes five adjustable lesson plans to help a learner understand: (1) the basics of Spiri flight, (2) how to use the library of flight commands, (3) how to program a flight command, (4) how to gather and interpret sensor data, (5) how to integrate hardware.

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    SPIRI 1.0 + POSTER. If you definitely want Spiri to happen, but you aren’t a software developer—you just want to go above and beyond in supporting us. Shipping included for US and Canadian Backers.

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    SPIRI 1.0 + DEVELOPER KIT PREVIEW. If you want this to happen so you can get a Spiri, and you also want to suss out the development possibilities. You'll get access to the Spiri development environment throughout our development process and your Spiri will be one of the first ones shipped in the April batch. Shipping included for US and Canadian Backers.

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    EARLY RELEASE SPIRI. If you want to get your hands on Spiri and start hacking on it as soon as possible (in the February batch), and you don’t care whether it is polished and user friendly yet, or whether all the features work.

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    MINI DEVELOPER ADVANTAGE. You'll get a lab-model Spiri in January and our Aviary research staff will give your app an assessment review at the start (perhaps there is a small change or an item we can add to the library to make your project easier) and at the end.

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    DEVELOPER ADVANTAGE. You'll get a lab-model Spiri in January and direct assistance (discuss this with us based on your project and backing level) from our Aviary research staff on your app.

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Funding period

- (30 days)