Featured Tech Kickstarter: Spiri
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.
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!
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.
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
Check out the kickstarter campaign for Spiri!
By G+ Author: Jacquelyn Tanner.