Panoptes eBumper4: Obstacle Avoidance for Drones
Panoptes eBumper4: Obstacle Avoidance for Drones
Obstacle Avoidance and Precision Operation, Works Indoors & Outdoors. For Phantom 2 & Iris+ Drones. Explore with Confidence.
Obstacle Avoidance and Precision Operation, Works Indoors & Outdoors. For Phantom 2 & Iris+ Drones. Explore with Confidence. Read more
About this project
eBumper4 is the first commercially-available, sonar-based, small drone obstacle avoidance system for low-speed and indoor operations. Running into obstacles is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome for effective drone operation. eBumper4 helps solve this problem.
eBumper4 helps a pilot avoid obstacles. It also provides additional protection against erroneous control inputs and occasional light wind gusts.
- Fly - With eBumper4 installed, flight in open areas is unchanged. The pilot can switch to Precision Mode which scales back control inputs, allowing for more precise aircraft control.
- Detect - The eBumper4 continuously monitors its environment for obstacles. If one is detected, eBumper4 responds to reduce the likelihood of a collision.
- Correct - As the aircraft moves away from the obstacle, normal control is returned to the user, and operations can continue as before.
Four sonar sensors provide the drone with information about the physical environment to the front, right, left, and above it. When eBumper4 senses an obstacle in its field of view, it prevents the drone from getting too close to the obstacle. It “bumps” off the object, keeping the drone at a safe distance. You can then navigate the drone safely away from the obstruction.
Robust integration of the eBumper4 sonar sensors required a significant development and testing effort to understand the very noisy environment of a quadcopter. Our solution ultimately combines a mix of precise sensor placement and triggering, clever filtering, as well as smart physical integration.
Demo Video #1: eBumper for Iris - High Speed Flight Test at 100in/s - The most recent test flights for the eBumper on the 3DR Iris focused on eBumper performance at high speeds. eBumper performs all braking action. Maximum measured speed: 100in/s.
Demo Video #2: eBumper Ping Pong - We've probably spent too much time in the lab. Donnie gives the initial forward input from the remote and keeps the aircraft from flying out of the frame to the right. eBumper does the rest.
The eBumper4 ships with a set of base features, all of which you can configure:
- Precision and Performance Modes: From your remote, select one of two eBumper4 protection distances, which governs how far away the drone starts executing a bump avoidance maneuver. Choose Performance Mode for faster speeds in open areas, or choose Precision Mode for slower speeds in more cluttered environments.
- Auto-Takeoff: With the literal flip of a switch, your drone takes off to a hover about 6 feet off the ground. Thanks to the top sensor, there will be no more unfortunate encounters with your living room ceiling.
- Precision Control: Adjust the sensitivity of your aircraft to your control inputs, giving you the ability to more precisely control position and velocity. This is especially useful for indoor flight in tight spaces.
- Self-Centering: When obstacles are present to the left and right, the self-centering function centers the aircraft between them, equalizing the distance to the obstacle on either side.
- More to come (see "The Future of eBumper4" section)!
eBumper4 features can be configured via a graphical user interface available for Android and Windows PC, so you can tailor eBumper4 to best suit your individual needs. Don't have Android phone/tablet or Windows PC and want Mac or iPhone? Let us know, and we'll see what we can do!
eBumper4 comes with four sonar sensors and an electronics board pre-installed in an injection-molded ABS plastic housing, mounting hardware, installation manual, operations manual, some nifty Panoptes stickers, and a Panoptes lanyard for your remote control.
eBumper4 is designed as a retrofit kit that attaches to pre-existing interfaces on your drone, and installs in about 10-20 minutes. Below are the main installation steps for the eBumper4 on the DJI Phantom. The install for Iris+ will be similarly straightforward.
eBumper4 is designed with the future in mind. New capabilities will be available as software updates instead of costly hardware upgrades. The Panoptes team is busy developing additional features for the eBumper4:
- Tractor Beam: Smoothly approach an object of interest, giving a real-life zoom effect to your video.
- Relative Position Hold: Keep a constant position relative to an object of interest - whether it is moving or not.
- Obstacle Avoidance for Waypoint Flying: When on a waypoint following mission, autonomously avoid obstacles.
- Training Mode: Learning to fly a powerful drone like the Phantom and Iris+ can be an intimidating task. Training mode lets you gradually scale up your control inputs as you become more comfortable with flying.
- Do you have an idea for a new feature? Let us know here!
Once your drone really knows its surroundings, the possibilities of what it can do are limitless! An eBumper4 Software Development Kit (SDK) is available, and we are excited to see what incredible applications you create for your eBumper4. The SDK will provide libraries to access the data sensed by the eBumper4, as well as provide an interface to pass commands back to the aircraft. We are also creating an eBumper4 Developers Community, where you can share and discuss your work with fellow creators, and pose questions to the eBumper4 engineering team.
We have already done all the work necessary to get to a robust product. What now remains is getting that product mass produced and into the hands of our backers. Very simply, we need your help to obtain a critical mass of orders to have the necessary funds available before committing to full-scale manufacturing of the eBumper4. We need to make capital investments in molds and tooling, and purchase materials. Your support of our campaign and the eBumper4 is what will make this possible. And we can’t wait to see all the amazing things you will do with your eBumper4!
Note: Make sure you operate your aircraft within the manufacturer's limitations!
Running into obstacles is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome for effective drone operation. At Panoptes, we want to solve this problem by giving drones the ability to sense their environment. The eBumper4 is the first step towards achieving this goal.
In the course of developing eBumper4, we discovered that - in addition to not running into things - there is so much more you can do with information about your aircraft's environment. For example, you can use that same information to select and lock onto objects of interest, maintain a constant distance, or pull in or out from them. Ultimately, the possibilities of what you can do are much more numerous and rich than we had first anticipated.
It was at this point where we realized that for users to really make the most of their eBumper4, they had to be able to customize its settings and easily write apps for it. With the addition of that user customization capability, we felt our eBumper4 project was complete. We not only had an obstacle avoidance system, we had a sensing system the user could harness to do new things.
To make this vision a reality, we have assembled a team that combines degrees from top institutions such as MIT, Virginia Tech, and the University of Maryland with a passion for things that fly, a knack for making hard things look easy, and the discipline to make robust, high-quality products. This vision has become our single-minded focus and we couldn’t imagine doing anything else!
More information on the team can be found HERE!
The shipping cost quoted for all rewards do not include VAT or customs for non-US destinations!
Note: All of our Kickstarter backers will receive 12 months free access to any software and functionality upgrades for the eBumper4 product
We have made significant strides toward bringing eBumper4 to market:
- Designed, tested, and refined eBumper4 for DJI Phantom line of drones
- Released Beta version of Phantom eBumper4 for real world testing
- Initiated short-run production manufacturing on Phantom eBumper4
- Integrated eBumper4 onto 3DR Iris+ and developed functional prototype
A successful campaign will allow us to move forward with the following major steps:
- Finalize design and form factor of eBumper4 for the 3DR Iris+
- Conduct a verification and validation phase for the Iris+ eBumper4, to include beta testing
- Bring up full-rate production and manufacturing of eBumper4 for the 3DR Iris+ and DJI Phantom line of drones
- Upgrade and polish the user interface for the configuration of eBumper4 functions
We expect to finish these steps according to the following schedule:
Panoptes – Greek for “all-seeing” – was founded in 2014 as a spin-off from Aurora Flight Sciences and is focused on giving small drones "all-seeing" awareness of their environment. Panoptes comes out of a proud 25-year Aurora heritage of designing and building unmanned aircraft systems of all configurations and sizes. Drawing on that wealth of experience, Panoptes is well-positioned to successfully deliver the eBumper4 to its Kickstarter Backers on time.
Risks and challenges
The Panoptes team has worked diligently and relentlessly for a year to perfect the design of eBumper4. All of the technology, hardware, and software risks have been retired from the project. We are confident in delivering a low-speed obstacle avoidance system, and we know our technology works as described in the performance specs.
There are, however, inherent risks in any new technology product, even after the hardware and software has been finalized. While we have done everything we can to minimize these risks, there may be unforeseen production issues, shipping delays, material shortages, or even the possibility of regulatory restrictions.
We will use a contract manufacturer to produce the eBumper4, and there is always the possibility of delays due to things beyond our control at the manufacturer’s facility. There is also the possibility of schedule delay should we need to change suppliers or manufacturers for any reason. We will be sourcing materials and parts from domestic and international suppliers, and we will be doing subassembly and final assembly in the USA.
At this point, we feel that it’s not a matter of IF you get your eBumper4, it’s just a matter of when. And we are working hard to deliver the product on our promised schedule...so you can get out there and starting exploring with confidence!
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