The HoverGames Drone Kit is a modular and flexible NXP development platform for building autonomous vehicles from drones and rovers to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The idea was born in collaboration with the NXP HoverGames event: a coding challenge to optimize drones for various applications. With patience, creativity, and perseverance, coders, developers, and innovators can solve problems creatively. As part of the kit, participants receive a complete reference drone that includes a flight management unit (FMU).

Each NXP HoverGames hardware and simulation coding challenge takes several months. Participants must purchase the kit at a discounted price before having fun. Initially, HoverGames specialists will ask to familiarize themselves with drones through simple tutorial examples. Participants can then sign up for any virtual software challenges that are currently active (some qualifications required).

The development platform is the size of a typical credit card and is completely open to the development of robots, control algorithms, secure networks and communication protocols, and may include additional supporting components.

“We built the drone as a development kit, which is exactly what everyone who wants to use it intends to do. Then we thought, how can we help more people get involved in the software ecosystem? So we started from Started using the HoverGames program last year. We defined a social theme: – Putting out fires with flyers. It's a challenge to help first responders in any way, and a challenge to code the software. It's not a flying race", NXP Systems Innovation Drones Project leader Iain Galloway said.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) promise to bring new perspectives to the world around us and potentially go places that were once impossible. Technology has continued to evolve since the beginning of the last century, with extraordinary growth over the past decade. In the past, drones could only be used for military purposes; however, over the past decade, such devices have become readily available to ordinary people and companies of all kinds.

Drones are also increasingly used as part of first aid kits at the scene of an emergency or disaster. Drones are connected devices and, like any such device, they present data security risks. The main problem is that these tools existed long before cybercrime was considered a real threat.

NXP HoverGames Drone Development Kit

The development kit is based on a microprocessor with Linux and Open CV and various accompanying sensors for guided flight.

"For HoverGames 1, we have the KIT-HGDRONEK66, which includes the FMUK66 real-time MCU flight controller running the NUTTX RTOS and PX4 flight stack. It includes interfaces for creating the IMU (inertial measurement unit) and CAN, 2-wire automotive Ethernet and safety In Challenge 2, we will introduce a separate companion computer named 8MMNavQ (or NavQ). This Linux companion computer uses the NXP i.MX 8 M Mini system-on-chip, includes hardware accelerators for video encoding, and Linux is supported, including OpenCV machine vision, ROS, Python, MAVSDK and other required tools", says Iain Galloway.

The flight controller ensures that the drone remains stable. The board is available as open source and other external sensors can be plugged in to optimize operation based on functionality.

Lithium polymer batteries and country-specific telemetry radios must use one of the IoT connections. To get the full functionality of this kit, you need to choose which of the two available telemetry radios to buy. With telemetry, you can connect to the vehicle in real-time during flight and view the status of the drone, load and control autonomous waypoints, and make any necessary changes while in flight. Telemetry data is sent to the control station, but is also stored in the flight unit.


Figure 1: KIT-HGDRONEK66 Kit Block Diagram

Figure 2: Kit Components for KIT-HGDRONEK66

The RDDRONE-FMUK66 flight unit (FMU) is powered by the commercial friendly open source flight stack with BLDC motor control capability. PX4 is used in research and commercial drone platforms. Its permissive BSD license preserves the ability to include proprietary IP. This reference design gives you the freedom to develop your robotic vehicle. Additionally, the FMU is versatile enough to run other open source or proprietary flight stacks, including GPS and other positioning inputs for autonomous navigation to mission waypoints. The kit is also supported by the QGroundControl ground station software, which is available as a desktop program and a mobile app for Android and iPhone.

The RDDRONE-FMUK66 runs NuttX RTOS on NXP KineTIs K66 microcontroller with 180 MHz ARM Cortex-M4 core and 2 MB flash. It uses NXP sensors, automotive CAN bus transceivers, and new two-wire automotive 100BASE-T1 Ethernet transceivers, the TJA110x.

HoverGames Drone Development Kit Components also include DC-DC Power Module, GPS NEO-M8N Module with Stand, Safety Switch, Buzzer and Bright RGB Status LED, SEGGER J-Link EDU Mini / FTDI USB-TTL-3V3 Cable / Commissioning Breakout Board with Cable, BLDC Brushless Motor 2212 920 kV, ESC Motor Controller 40 A OPTO.

Figure 3: RDDRONE-FMUK66 Flight Unit – Top View

Figure 4: RDDRONE-FMUK66 Flight Unit – Bottom View

Once assembled, the kit provides additional space for other components, such as a fast IoT adapter or a supporting computer, such as the new NavQ i.MX 8M Mini, which acts as a vision processor for Linux, OpenCV and ROS.

"I think one of the most important parts of this solution is that it's completely open. So other drones and companies will give you drones, but they'll only give you API-based SDKs. You No control. You don't know what's going on under the hood. In our project, whether it's the flight controller or the external computer, it's open source hardware and software. So you can actually use this tool and eventually put it into a business or a product," Iain said.

The development kit costs $450 and offers developers various discounts on various hover game programs.

Many challenges with drones involve controlling or programming the drone. HoverGames hopes to encourage participants to write code to improve or activate new features in their vehicles, as well as fun software racing challenges. The PX4 Slack community, GitHub and GitBook platforms support sharing ideas as a community and get support from NXP.

Participants will have to design solutions to social problems or some of the biggest challenges facing society. These include, for example, simulating waste cleanups, or monitoring migration patterns of endangered animal species, or disaster management, health crises, environmental protection, wildlife conservation, and more.

Reviewing Editor Huang Haoyu

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