Linux-Powered Jetson Xavier Module Gains Third-Party Carriers

By Eric Brown

Connect Tech (CTI) has released two new developer options for Nvidia’s octa-core Jetson AGX Xavier computer-on-module, which is already supported by Nvidia’s innovative, $1,299 Jetson Xavier Developer Kit. Like the official dev kit, CTI’s 105 mm x 92 mm Rogue board is approximately the same size as the 105 mm x 87 mm x 16 mm Xavier, making it easier to use for robotics applications.


 
Rogue carrier with Xavier module (equipped with fan)
(click images to enlarge)
CTI also launched a Jetson AGX Xavier Mimic Adapter board that mediates between the Xavier and any CTI carrier for the Jetson TX1, TX2, and the latest industrial-focused version of the TX2 called the Jetson TX2i. These include the three TX2 boardsannounced in early 2017: the Cogswell carrier with GigE Vision, the Spacely carrier designed for cam-intensive Pixhawk drones, and the tiny, $99 Sprocket. CTI’s Jetson TX1 boards include the original Astro, as well as its later Orbitty and Elroy.

 
Jetson AGX Xavier Mimic Adapter with Xavier and Elroy carrier (left) and exploded view
(click images to enlarge)
The Jetson Xavier “enables a giant leap forward in capabilities for autonomous machines and edge devices,” says CTI. Nvidia claims the Xavier has greater than 10x the energy efficiency and more than 20x the performance of its predecessor, the Jetson TX2. The module — and the new CTI carriers — are available with a BSP with Nvidia’s Linux4Tegra stack. Nvidia also offers an AI-focused Isaac SDK.

The Xavier features 8x ARMv8.2 cores and a high-end, 512-core Nvidia Volta GPU with 64 tensor cores with 2x Nvidia Deep Learning Accelerator (DLA) — also called NVDLA — engines. The module is also equipped with a 7-way VLIW vision chip, as well as 16 GB 256-bit LPDDR4 RAM and 32GB eMMC 5.1.


Nvidia Drive AGX Xavier Developer Kit
(click image to enlarge)
Since the initial Xavier announcements, Nvidia has added AGX to the Jetson Xavier name. This is also applied to the automotive version, which was originally called the Drive PX Pegasus when it was announced in Nov. 2017. This Linux-driven development kit recently began shipping as part of the Nvidia Drive AGX Xavier Developer Kit, which supports a single Xavier module or else a Drive AGX Pegasus version with dual Xaviers and dual GPUs.

Rogue

CTI’s Rogue carrier board provides 2x GbE, 2x HDMI 1.4a, 3x USB 3.1, and a micro-USB OTG port. Other features include MIPI-CSI, deployable either as 6x x2 lanes or 4x x4 lanes, and expressed via a high-density camera connector breakout that mimics that of the official dev kit. CTI will offer a variety of rugged camera add-on expansion boards with options described as “up to 6x MIPI I-PEX, SerDes Inputs: GMSL or FPD-Link III, HDMI Inputs).”


 
Rogue, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

For storage, you get a microSD slot with UFS support, as well as 2x M.2 M-key slots that support NVMe modules. There’s also an M.2 E-key slot with PCIe and USB support that can load optional Wi-Fi/BT modules.

Other features include 2x CAN 2.0b ports, 2x UARTs, 4-bit level-shifted, 3.3 V GPIO, and single I2C and SPI headers. There’s a 9-19 V DC input that uses a positive locking Molex Mini-Fit Jr header. You also get an RTC with battery connector and power, reset, and recovery buttons and headers.

Mimic Adapter

The Jetson AGX Xavier Mimic Adapter has the same 105 x 92mm dimensions as the Rogue, but is a simpler adapter board that connects the Xavier to existing CTI Jetson carriers. It provides an Ethernet PHY and regulates and distributes power from the carrier to the Xavier.


 
Mimic Adapter, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The Mimic Adapter expresses a wide variety of interfaces detailed on the product page, including USB 3.0, PCIe x4, SATA, MIPI-CSI, HDMI/DP/eDP, CAN, and more. Unlike the Rogue, it’s listed with an operating range: an industrial -40 to 85°C.

Further information

The Rogue carrier and Mimic Adapter for the Nvidia AGX Xavier are available now with undisclosed pricing. More information may be found in Connect Tech’’s Xavier carrier announcement, as well as its Rogue and Mimic Adapter product pages.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on October 17.

Connect Tech | www.connecttech.com

Drones and The Wright Stuff

Input Voltage

–Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

JeffHeadShot

Commercial and consumer drones are among the most dynamic areas of embedded system design today. The industry that Circuit Cellar covers—and is a part of—is a vital enabler of these markets. Drone designs continue to leverage advances in processor/chip technologies, sensor innovations and power solutions that make up the heart of a drone’s electronics.

More than most areas of embedded system design, drones must be looked at within the broader perspective of issues beyond technology—in particular the many safety and regulatory issues surrounding them. After all, drones have to operate within the same air space as manned aircraft. And unlike the automobile industry, for example, the drone industry is relatively new with a regulatory landscape that’s still evolving and with many safety issues still to be resolved.

Acting FAA Administrator Daniel K. Elwell offered some insights on these subjects in his keynote address at this year’s InterDrone show early last month. He drew parallels to the high-level of safety that’s been achieved in commercial aviation to what the goal should be for drone safety. “Aviation is the gold standard,” said Elwell, “The safest form of transportation in the world. That’s not a position we’re about to take a step back on. I’ve heard this argument a few times: Back in Orville and Wilbur Wright’s era, people were willing to risk their lives for the birth of a new form of transportation. Now that we’re on the cusp of aviation’s next great era (drones), shouldn’t we be willing to accept some of the same risks in the name of progress? Folks, there’s a really simple answer to that question: No.”

“Manned aviation already learned those lessons. We paid that price. We’re not going to do it again. And the public wouldn’t let us, anyway.” Elwell made the point that with drones, you’re not starting from scratch like the Wright brothers. “The FAA has spent six decades working with airlines, manufacturers and countless others to get where we are now. And we’re ready to use everything we’ve learned so that the drone industry can reach its full potential as quickly as possible.”

Elwell went on to list some of the progress along these lines in the FAA and Department of Transportation. “We’re building flexible, responsive regulatory processes that can keep up with all your creativity while ensuring safety isn’t compromised,” he said, “We’ve automated how drone operators get permission to fly in controlled airspace. We’re laying the groundwork for a comprehensive Unmanned Traffic Management System. We’ve authorized low-risk small drone flights, and created a performance-based waiver and exemption process to allow more advanced operations.”

Another key effort is the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program launched last October by US Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. The initiative partners the FAA with local, state and tribal governments, which then partner with private sector participants to safely explore the further integration of drone operations. In May of this year, the USDOT selected 10 state, local and tribal governments as participants in the UAS Integration Pilot Program. Data gathered from these pilot projects will form the basis of a new regulatory framework to safely integrate drones into the national airspace.

According to the USDOT, the 10 final selectees will work with the FAA to refine their operational concepts. Over the next two and a half years, the selectees will collect drone data involving night operations, flights over people and beyond the pilot’s line of sight, package delivery, detect-and-avoid technologies and the reliability and security of data links between pilot and aircraft. The data collected from these operations will help the USDOT and FAA craft new enabling rules. These will include rules for complex low-altitude operations and improving communications and addressing security and privacy risks.

In Elwell’s keynote he cited a fun story about the pilot program’s first test that happened just recently in Blacksburg, Virginia. A Project Wing drone delivered a popsicle to a two-year-old boy, just six minutes after the order was placed. “It was historic—the first beyond visual line-of-sight residential drone delivery in the United States,” said Elwell, “It was the ‘Mr. Watson, I want to see you’ for the 21st century. But to little Jack, it was just cool. In his words: ‘Airplane brought me a Popsicle!’ These are important steps forward—steps that bring drones closer to just being a routine operator in our airspace.”

This appears in the October 339 issue of Circuit Cellar magazine

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Silicon APDs are Optimized for LIDAR Applications

The Series 9 from First Sensor offers a wide range of silicon avalanche photodiodes (APDs) with very high sensitivity in the near infrared (NIR) wavelength range, especially at 905 nm. With their internal gain mechanism, large dynamic range and fast rise time the APDs are ideal for LIDAR systems for optical distance measurement and object recognition according to the time of flight method. Application examples include driver assistance systems, drones, safety laser scanners, 3D-mapping and robotics.

The Series 9 offers detectors as single elements as well as linear and matrix arrays with multiple sensing elements. The package options include rugged TO housings or flat ceramic SMD packages. The slow increase of the gain of the Series 9 photodiodes with the applied reverse bias voltage allows for easy and precise adjustments of high gain factors. For particularly low light levels, hybrid solutions are also available that further enhance the APD signal with an internal transimpedance amplifier (TIA). The integrated amplifier is optimally matched to the photodiode and allows compact setups as well as very large signal-to-noise ratios.

Using its own semiconductor manufacturing facility and extensive development capabilities, First Sensor can adapt its silicon avalanche photodiodes to specific customer requirements, such as sensitivity, gain, rise time or design.

Important features of the Series 9 APDs:

  • Very high sensitivity at 905 nm
  • Large dynamic range and fast rise time
  • Single element photodiodes as well as linear and matrix arrays
  • Rugged TO housings or flat ceramic SMD packages
  • Hybrid solutions with integrated TIA

First Sensor | www.first-sensor.com

Barometric Pressure Sensor Serves Consumer Drone Needs

Bosch Sensortec has introduced a new high performance barometric pressure MEMS sensor: the BMP388 is ideally suited for altitude tracking in Consumer Electronics (CE) drones, wearables, smart homes and other applications. The BMP388 delivers outstanding altitude stabilization in drones, where accurate measurement of barometric pressure provides the essential altitude data for improving flight stability and landing accuracy. The new barometric pressure sensor is part of Bosch Sensortec’s comprehensive sensor solution for drones, which includes the BMI088 Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) for accurate steering and the BMM150 geomagnetic sensor for the provision of heading data.

The BMI088 is a 6-axis IMU, consisting of a triaxial 16-bit acceleration sensor with excellent performance and a triaxial automotive-proven 16-bit gyroscope. Drones can take full advantage of the IMU’s superior vibration suppression and robustness and unmatched stability in dynamic conditions such as sudden temperature fluctuations. The BMM150 is a low power and low noise triaxial digital geomagnetic sensor designed for compass applications. Due to its stable performance over a wide temperature range, this geomagnetic sensor is especially suited for determining accurate heading for drones.

In addition to drones, the BMP388 provides a very flexible, one-size-fits-all solution for increasing the accuracy of navigation and fitness applications in wearables and smart homes, for example by utilizing altitude data to improve GPS precision or to determine floor levels inside buildings. It can also improve the precision of calorie counting in wearables and mobile devices, for example by identifying if a person is walking uphill or downhill when using a step counter.

With an excellent temperature coefficient offset (TCO) of 0.75 Pa/K between -20°C to 65°C, the BMP388 further improves the accuracy of altitude measurement over a wide temperature range. The new sensor provides an attractive price-performance ratio coupled with low power consumption and a high level of design flexibility – combined in a compact LGA package measuring only 2.0 x 2.0 x 0.75 mm³.

FIFO and interrupt functionality provide simple access to data and storage. This enables power consumption to be reduced to only 2.7 µA at 1 Hz during full operation, while simultaneously making the sensor easier to use. Tests in real-life environments have proven a relative accuracy of +/-0.08 hPa (+/-0.66 m) over a temperature range from 25°C to 40°C. The absolute accuracy between 900 and 1100 hPa is +/- 0.40 hPa over a temperature range from 25°C to 40°C.

Bosch Sensortec | www.bosch-sensortec.com

Drones Tap a Variety of Video Solutions

Eyes in the Skies

In one way or another, much of today’s commercial drone development revolves around video. Technology options range from single-chip solutions to complex networked arrays.

By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

Commercial drones represent one of the most dynamic, fast-growing segments of embedded systems design today. And while all aspects of commercial drone technology are advancing, video is front and center. Because video is the main mission of the majority of commercial drones, video technology has become a center of gravity in today’s drone design decisions. But video covers a wide set of topics including single-chip video processing, 4k HD video capture, image stabilization, complex board-level video processing, drone-mounted cameras, hybrid IR/video camera and mesh-networks for integrated multiple drone camera streams.

Technology suppliers serving all of those areas are under pressure to deliver products to integrate into video processing, camera and communications electronics inside today’s commercial drones. Drone designers have to pack in an ambitious amount of functionality onto their platforms while keeping size, weight and power (SWaP) as low as possible. Feeding these needs, vendors at the chip, board and system-level continue to evolve their existing drone video technologies while also creating new innovative solutions.

Video Processing SOC

Exemplifying the cutting edge in single-chip video processing for drones, Ambarella in March introduced its CV2 camera SoC (Photo 1). It combines advanced computer vision, image processing, 4Kp60 video encoding and stereovision in a single chip. Targeting drone and related applications, the company says it delivers up to 20 times the deep neural network performance of Ambarella’s first generation CV1 chip. Fabricated in advanced 10nm process technology, CV2 offers extremely low power consumption.

Photo 1
The CV2 camera SoC combines advanced computer vision, image processing, 4Kp60 video encoding and stereovision in a single chip.

The CV2’s CVflow architecture provides computer vision processing up to 4K or 8-Megapixel resolution, to enable object recognition and perception over long distances and with high accuracy. Its stereovision processing provides the ability to detect generic objects without training. Advanced image processing with HDR (High Dynamic Range) processing delivers outstanding imaging even in low light and from high contrast scenes. Its highly efficient 4Kp60 AVC and HEVC video encoding supports the addition of video recording to drone platforms.

At the heart of the CV2 is a Quad-core 1.2 GHz ARM Cortex A53 with NEON DSP extensions and FPU. CV2 includes a full suite of advanced security features to prevent hacking, including secure boot, TrustZone and I/O virtualization. A complete set of tools is provided to help embedded systems developers easily port their own neural networks onto the CV2 SoC. This includes compiler, debugger and support for industry standard training tools including Caffe and TensorFlow, with extensive guidelines for CNN (Convolutional Neural Network) performance optimizations.

Board-Level Solutions

Moving up to the board-level, Sightline Applications specializes in onboard video processing for advanced camera systems. Its processor boards are designed to be integrated at the camera level to provide low-latency video processing on a variety of platforms including commercial drones. Sightline offers two low SWaP board products. Both products are supported by SLA’s Video Processing Software: a suite of video functions that are key in a wide variety of ISR applications. The processing software has two pricing tiers, SLE and SLA. SLE provides processing only and SLA processes the video and provides telemetry feedback. . …

Read the full article in the May 334 issue of Circuit Cellar

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Drones Ascend to New Heights: Bringing Unique Perspective to Broadening Markets

Fewer emerging technologies have captured the imagination as dramatically as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or as they are more commonly referred to, drones. The same technological innovations that have brought us smartphones, IoT and wearables have brought us an explosion of drones. See what expanding horizons of application development await.

Power Alternatives for Commercial Drones

330 Power Drones for Web

Solution Options Expand

The amount of power a commercial drone can draw on has a direct impact on how long it can stay flying as well as on what tasks it can perform. But each kind of power source has its tradeoff.

By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

Because extending flight times is a major priority for drone applications, drone system designers are constantly on the lookout for ways to improve the power performance of their products. For smaller, consumer “recreational” style drones, batteries are the obvious power source. But when you get into larger commercial drone designs, there’s a growing set of alternatives. Tethered drone power solutions, solar power technology, fuel cells and advanced battery chemistries are all power alternatives that are on the table for today’s commercial drones.

According to market research firm Drone Industry Insights, the majority of today’s commercial drones use batteries as a power source. As Lithium-polymer (LiPo) and Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries have become smaller with lower costs, they’ve been widely adopted for drone use. The advancements in LiPo and Li-ion battery technologies have been driven mainly by the mobile phone industry, according to Drone Industry Insights.

Batteries Still Leading

The market research firm points to infrastructure as the main advantage of batteries. They can be charged anywhere. While Li-Po and Li-Ion are the most common battery technologies for drones, other chemistries are emerging. Lithium Thionyl Chloride batteries (Li-SOCl2) promises a 2x higher energy density per kg compared to LiPo batteries. And Lithium-Air-batteries (Li-air) promise to be almost 7x higher. However, those options aren’t widely available and are expensive. Meanwhile, Lithium-Sulfur-batteries (Li-S) is a possible successor to Li-ion thanks to their higher energy density and the lower costs of using sulfur, according to Drone Industry Insights.

Photo 1 The Graphene Drone FPV Race series LiPo batteries provide lower internal resistance and less voltage sag under load than standard LiPo batteries. As a result, the battery packs stay cooler under extreme conditions

Photo 1
The Graphene Drone FPV Race series LiPo batteries provide lower internal resistance and less voltage sag under load than standard LiPo batteries. As a result, the battery packs stay cooler under extreme conditions

Meanwhile battery vendors continue to roll out new battery products to serve the growing consumer drone market. As an example, in June 2017 battery manufacturer Venom released its new Graphene Drone FPV Race series LiPo batteries. The batteries were engineered for the extreme demands of today’s first person view (FPV) drone racing pilots (Photo 1). The new batteries provide lower internal resistance and less voltage sag under load than standard LiPo batteries. As a result, the battery packs stay cooler under extreme conditions. The Graphene FPV Race series Li-ion batteries are 5C fast charge capable, allowing you to charge up to five times faster. All of the company’s Drone FPV Race packs include its patented UNI 2.0 plug system (Patent no. 8,491,341). The system uses a true Amass XT60 connector that attaches to the included Deans and EC3 adapter.

Chip vendors from the analog IC and microcontroller markets offer resources to help embedded system designers with their drone power systems. Texas Instruments (TI), for example, offers two circuit-based subsystem reference designs that help manufacturers add flight time and extend battery life to quadcopters and other non-military consumer and industrial drones.  …

Read the full article in the January 330 issue of Circuit Cellar

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January Circuit Cellar: Sneak Preview

The January issue of Circuit Cellar magazine is coming soon. And it’s got a robust selection of embedded electronics articles for you. Here’s a sneak peak.

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Here’s a sneak preview of January 2018 Circuit Cellar:

 

                                     IMPROVING EMBEDDED SYSTEM DESIGNS

Special Feature: Powering Commercial Drones
The amount of power a commercial drone can draw on has a direct effect on how long it can stay flying as well as on what tasks it can perform. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child examines solar cells, fuel cells and other technology options for powering commercial drones.

CC 330 CoverFPGA Design: A Fresh Take
Although FPGAs are well established technology, many embedded systems developers—particularly those used the microcontroller realm—have never used them before. In this article, Faiz Rahman takes a fresh look a FPGAs for those new to designing them into their embedded systems.

Product Focus: COM Express boards
COM Express boards provide a complete computing core that can be upgraded when needed, leaving the application-specific I/O on the baseboard. This brand new Product Focus section updates readers on this technology and provides a product album of representative COM Express products.

TESTING, TESTING, 1, 2, 3

LF Resonator Filter
In Ed Nisley’s November column he described how an Arduino-based tester automatically measures a resonator’s frequency response to produce data defining its electrical parameters. This time he examines the resultsand explains a tester modification to measure the resonator’s response with a variable series capacitance.

Technology Spotlight: 5G Technology and Testing
The technologies that are enabling 5G communications are creating new challenges for embedded system developers. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child explores the latest digital and analog ICs aimed at 5G and at the test equipment designed to work with 5G technology.

                                     MICROCONTROLLERS IN EVERYTHING

MCU-based Platform Stabilizer
Using an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), two 180-degree rotation servos and a Microchip PCI MCU, three Cornell students implemented a microcontroller-based platform stabilizer. Learn how they used a pre-programmed sensor fusion algorithm and I2C to get the most out of their design.

Designing a Home Cleaning Robot (Part 2)
Continuing on with this four-part article series about building a home cleaning robot, Nishant Mittal this time discusses the mechanical aspect of the design. The robot is based on Cypress Semiconductor’s PSoC microcontroller.

Massage Vest Uses PIC32 MCU
Microcontrollers are being used for all kinds of things these days. Learn how three Cornell graduates designed a low-cost massage vest that pairs seamlessly with a custom iOS app. Using the Microchip PIC32 for its brains, the massage vest has sixteen vibration motors that the user can control to create the best massage possible.

AND MORE FROM OUR EXPERT COLUMNISTS:

Five Fault Injection Attacks
Colin O’Flynn returns to the topic of fault injection security attacks. To kick off 2018, he summarizes information about five different fault injection attack stories from 2017—attacks you should be thinking about as an embedded designer.

Money Sorting Machines (Part 2)
In part 1, Jeff Bachiochi delved into the interesting world of money sort machines and their evolution. In part 2, he discusses more details about his coin sorting project. He then looks at a typical bill validator implementation used in vending systems.

Overstress Protection
Last month George Novacek reviewed the causes and results of electrical overstress (EOS). Picking up where that left off, in this article he looks at how to prevent EOS/ESD induced damage—starting with choosing properly rated components.

A Year in the Drone Age

Input Voltage

–Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

JeffHeadShot

When you’re trying to keep tabs on any young, fast-growing technology, it’s tempting to say “this is the big year” for that technology. Problem is that odds are the following year could be just as significant. Such is the case with commercial drones. Drone technology fascinates me partly because it represents one of the clearest examples of an application that wouldn’t exist without today’s level of chip integration driven by Moore’s law. That integration has enabled 4k HD video capture, image stabilization, new levels of autonomy and even highly compact supercomputing to fly aboard today’s commercial and consumer drones.

Beyond the technology side, drones make for a rich topic of discussion because of the many safety, privacy and regulatory issues surrounding them. And then there are the wide-open questions on what new applications will drones be used for?

For its part, the Federal Aviation Administration has had its hands full this year regarding drones. In the spring, for example, the FAA completed its fifth and final field evaluation of potential drone detection systems at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. The evaluation was the latest in a series of detection system evaluations that began in February 2016 at several airports. For the DFW test, the FAA teamed with Gryphon Sensors as its industry partner. The company’s drone detection technologies include radar, radio frequency and electro-optical systems. The FAA intends to use the information gathered during these kinds of evaluations to craft performance standards for any drone detection technology that may be deployed in or around U.S. airports.

In early summer, the FAA set up a new Aviation Rulemaking Committee tasked to help the agency create standards for remotely identifying and tracking unmanned aircraft during operations. The rulemaking committee will examine what technology is available or needs to be created to identify and track unmanned aircraft in flight.

This year as also saw vivid examples of the transformative role drones are playing. A perfect example was the role drones played in August during the flooding in Texas after Hurricane Harvey. In his keynote speech at this year’s InterDrone show, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta described how drones made an incredible impact. “After the floodwaters had inundated homes, businesses, roadways and industries, a wide variety of agencies sought FAA authorization to fly drones in airspace covered by Temporary Flight Restrictions,” said Huerta. “We recognized that we needed to move fast—faster than we have ever moved before. In most cases, we were able to approve individual operations within minutes of receiving a request.”

Huerta went on to described some of the ways drones were used. A railroad company used drones to survey damage to a rail line that cuts through Houston. Oil and energy companies flew drones to spot damage to their flooded infrastructure. Drones helped a fire department and county emergency management officials check for damage to roads, bridges, underpasses and water treatment plants that could require immediate repair. Meanwhile, cell tower companies flew them to assess damage to their towers and associated ground equipment and insurance companies began assessing damage to neighborhoods. In many of those situations, drones were able to conduct low-level operations more efficiently—and more safely—than could have been done with manned aircraft.

“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the hurricane response will be looked back upon as a landmark in the evolution of drone usage in this country,” said Huerta. “And I believe the drone industry itself deserves a lot of credit for enabling this to happen. That’s because the pace of innovation in the drone industry is like nothing we have seen before. If people can dream up a new use for drones, they’re transforming it into reality.”

Clearly, it’s been significant year for drone technology. And I’m excited for Circuit Cellar to go deeper with our drone embedded technology coverage in 2018. But I don’t think I’ll dare say that “this was the big year” for drones. I have a feeling it’s just one of many to come.

This appears in the December (329) issue of Circuit Cellar magazine

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FREE Sample Issue – Oct. 2017

 

We’ve made the October 2017 issue of Circuit Cellar available as a sample issue. In it, you’ll find a rich variety of the kinds of articles and information that exemplify a typical issue of the current magazine.

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Inside This Issue:
Emulating Legacy Interfaces
Do it with Microcontrollers
By Wolfgang Matthes

OctP18
Building a Retro TV Remote
PIC MCU-Based Design
By Dev Gualtieri
Building a Robot Hand
With Servos and Electromyography
By Michael Haidar, Jason Hwang and Srikrishnaa VadivelLogger Device Tracks Amp Hours (Part 1)
Measuring Home Electricity
By William Wachsmann

OctP38
Commercial Drone Design Solutions Take Flight

Chips, Boards and Platforms
By Jeff Child

Design for Manufacturing: Does It Have to be so Difficult?
An interview with Scott N. Miller and Thos Niles
By Wisse Hettinga

Signal Chain Tech Pushes Bandwidth Barriers
ADCs, FPGAs and DACs
By Jeff Child

Embedded in Thin Slices
Build an Embedded Systems Consulting Company (Part 6)
Trade-Offs of Fixed-Price Contracts
By Bob JapengaThe Consummate Engineer
In the Loop on Positive Feedback
New Value in an Old Concept
By George Novacek

OctP56

The Darker Side
Antenna Performance Measurement Made Easy
Covering the Basics
By Robert Lacoste
From the Bench
Gas Monitoring and Sensing (Part 1)
Fun with Fragrant Analysis
By Jeff BachiochiTECH THE FUTURE
The Future of PCB Design

Racing to Keep Pace With PCB Complexities
By Duane Benson

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Commercial Drone Design Solutions Take Flight

Chips, Boards and Platforms

The control, camera and communications electronics inside today’s commercial drones have to pack in an ambitious amount of functionality while keeping size, weight and power as low as possible.

By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

There aren’t many areas of embedded systems these days that are as dynamic and fast-growing as commercial drones. Drones represent a vivid example of a technology that wouldn’t have been possible if not for the ever-increasing levels of chip integration driven by Moore’s law. Drones are riding that wave, enabling an amazing rate of change so that 4k HD video capture, image stabilization, new levels of autonomy and even highly integrated supercomputing is now possible on drones.

 

The Intel Aero Ready to Fly Drone is a pre-assembled quadcopter built for professional drone application developers. The platform features a board running an Intel 2.56 GHz quad-core Intel Atom x7-Z8750 processor.

The Intel Aero Ready to Fly Drone is a pre-assembled quadcopter built for professional drone application developers. The platform features a board running an Intel 2.56 GHz quad-core Intel Atom x7-Z8750 processor.

To get a sense of the rapid growth of drone use, just consider drones from the point of view of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Integrating commercial drones into the FAA’s mission has been a huge effort over the past couple years. To paraphrase Michael P. Huerta, Administrator of the FAA, there are over 320,000 registered manned aircraft today and it took 100 years to reach that number. In contrast, only nine months after the FAA put its drone registration process in place, there were more than 550,000 registered users—comprised of both hobbyists and commercial drone users.

Electronics for Drones

Today’s commercial/civilian drone technologies are advancing faster than most people could have imagined only a couple years ago. And drone designs will continue to reap the benefits of advances in processor / chip technologies, sensor innovations and tools that make them easier to create. Feeding those needs, chip and board vendors of all sizes have been rolling out solutions to help drone system developers create new drone products and get to market quickly. Among these vendors are large players like Intel and Qualcomm–along with a whole host of specialized technology suppliers offering video ICs, single-chip cameras and a variety of sensor solutions all aimed at drone platforms. ….

We’ve made the October 2017 issue of Circuit Cellar available as a sample issue. In it, you’ll find a rich variety of the kinds of articles and information that exemplify a typical issue of the current magazine.
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Buck Converter Extends Battery Life of USB Type-C Gear

Maxim Integrated Products has announced the MAX77756, a 24 V, 500 mA, low quiescent current (IQ) buck converter. The product targets developers of multi-cell, USB Type-C products in need high current, dual inputs and I2C support. USB Type-C products must generate an always-on 3.3 V rail to detect USB insertions. Products utilizing the Power Delivery (PD) voltage range (5 V to 20 V) can generate an always-on (1.8 V /3.3 V /5.0 V) digital supply MAX77756_EVKit_imagerail for the port controller using the MAX77756 step-down converter. In addition, the MAX77756 has a 2 0 μA quiescent current that extends battery life by reducing idle power consumption. To simplify the system design, the MAX77756 has a dual input ideal diode ORing circuit that allows the chip to power from the external USB source if the battery is empty.

Multi-cell battery-operated devices—such as ultrabooks, laptops, tablets, drones and home automation appliances—can easily evolve to Type-C with PD using the flexible MAX77756 power supply. The MAX77756 has a unique combination of wide input voltage range, low quiescent current, higher current load, dual input, and I2C for flexibility and programmability. There is also a default power mode if customers do not want to use the I2C bus. The MAX77756 is a robust IC with short-circuit and thermal protection, 8ms internal soft-start to minimize inrush current, proven current-mode control architecture, and up to 26V input voltage standoff.

Key Advantages

  • Low quiescent current: 1.5 μA Buck and 20 μA MUX for always-on operation
  • High efficiency: Up to 92% with integrated power MUX
  • Small solution size: 2.33mm x 1.42mm 15-bump WLP; no external Schottky array needed
  • Wide input voltage: Operates on full VBUS range (5 V – 20 V) and VBATT (2S, 3S, 4S Li+)

MAX77756 is available from stock and priced at $0.65 (10,000+)..An evaluation board MAX77756EVKIT# (see photo) is available from stock and priced at $70

Maxim Integrated Products | www.maximintegrated.com

October Circuit Cellar: A Sneak Preview

The October issue of Circuit Cellar magazine is on the launch pad, ready to deliver a selection of excellent embedded electronics articles covering trends, technology and design.

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Here’s a sneak preview of October Circuit Cellar:

TECHNOLOGY FOR DRONES / ROBOTIC HAND

Commercial Drone Design Solutions Take Flight: Chips, Boards and Platforms
The control, camera and comms electronics inside today’s drones have to pack in an ambitious amount of functionality. Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child explores the latest Oct 327 Coverand greatest chip and module solutions serving today’s commercial and consumer drone designs.

Building a Robot Hand: With Servos and Electromyography
Learn how three Cornell University students developed a robotic hand. The system captures impulses generated by muscle contractions and then filters and feeds those signals to a microcontroller which controls finger movement.

 

CAN’T STOP THE SIGNAL

Signal Chain Tech Pushes Bandwidth Barriers: ADCs, FPGAs and DACs
FPGAs and D-A converters are key  technologies making up a signal chain. Here, Circuit Cellar Chief Editor Jeff Child steps through the state-of-the-art options available for crafting efficient, highly-integrated signal-centric systems.

Antenna Performance Measurement Made Easy: Covering the Basics
If you’re doing any kind of wireless communications design, chances are you’re including an antenna. Columnist Robert Lacoste shows how the task of measuring an antenna’s performance is less costly and exotic than you’d think.

MONITORING GEAR WITH MICROCONTROLLER BRAINS

Gas Monitoring and Sensing (Part 1): Fun with Fragrant Analysis
Columnist Jeff Bachiochi covers the background issues surrounding gas monitoring and sensing. Then he describes how he uses sensors, A/D conversion and Arduino technologies to do oxygen measurement.

Logger Device Tracks Amp Hours (Part 1): Measuring Home Electricity
Setting out to monitor and log electricity usage in his house, Bill Wachsmann built an amp-hour logger using a microcontroller and a clamp on ammeter.

KEEPING THE LEGACY ALIVE

Emulating Legacy Interfaces: Do it with Microcontrollers
There’s a number of important legacy interface technologies—like ISA and PCI—that are no longer supported by the mainstream computing industry. In his article Wolfgang Matthes examines ways to use microcontrollers  to emulate the bus signals of legacy interconnect schemes.

Building a Retro TV Remote : PIC MCU-Based Design
Dev Gualtieri embarks on building a retro-style TV remote, based on a Microchip PIC microcontroller. He outlines the phototransistor, battery and software designs he made along the way.

AND MORE FROM OUR EXPERT COLUMNISTS:

Get in the Loop on Positive Feedback: New Value in an Old Concept
Positive feedback loops are an important element of modern circuitry such as crystal oscillators, PLLs and other devices. Here, George Novacek goes deep into the math and circuit analysis of positive feedback and how it’s used in electronics.

Build an Embedded Systems Consulting Company (Part 6): Trade-Offs of Fixed-Price Contracts
Continuing his “Building an Embedded Systems Consulting Company” article series, this month Bob Japenga explores the nature of contracts and how fixed price contracts can be an effective, albeit dangerous tool in marketing.

The Most Technical

Input Voltage

–Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

JeffHeadShotIt is truly a thrill and an honor for me to be joining the Circuit Cellar team as the magazine’s new Editor-in-Chief. And in this—my first editorial in my new role—I want to seize the opportunity to talk about Circuit Cellar. A lot of factors attracted me to this publication. But in a nutshell its position in the marketplace is compelling. It intersects with two converging trends happening in technology today.

First, there’s the phenomenon of the rich set of tools, chips, and information resources available today. They put more power into the hands of makers and electronics DIY experts than ever before. You’ve got hardware such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi. Open source software ranging from Linux to Eclipse make integrating and developing software easier than ever. And porting back and forth between open source software and commercial embedded software is no longer prohibitive now that commercial software vendors are in a “join them, not beat them” phase of their thinking. Easy access has even reached processors thanks to the emergence of RISC-V for example (click here for more). Meanwhile, powerful FPGA chips enable developers to use one chip where an entire board or box was previously required.

The second big trend is how system-level chip technologies—like SoC-style processors and the FPGAs I just mentioned—are enabling some of the most game-changing applications driving today’s markets: including commercial drones, driverless cars, Internet-of-Things (IoT), robotics, mobile devices and more. This means that exciting and interesting new markets are attracting not just big corporations looking for high volume play, but also small start-up vendors looking to find their own niche within those market areas. And there are a lot of compelling opportunities in those spaces. Ideas that start as small embedded systems projects can—and are—blossoming into lucrative new enterprises.

What’s so exciting is that Circuit Cellar readers are at the center of both those two trends. There’s a particular character this magazine has that separates it from other technology magazines. There are a variety of long-established publications that cover electronics and whose stated missions are to serve engineers. I’ve worked for some of them, and they all have their strengths. But you can tell just by looking at the features and columns of Circuit Cellar that we don’t hold back or curtail our stories when it comes to technical depth. We get right down to the bits and bytes and lines code. Our readers are engineers and academics who want to know not only the rich details of a microcontroller’s on-board peripherals, but also how other like-minded geeks applied that technology to their DIY or commercial project. They want to know if the DC-DC converter they are considering has a wide enough input voltage to serve their needs.

Another cool thing for me about Circuit Cellar is the magazine’s origin story. Back when I was in high school and in my early days studying Computer Science in college, Steve Ciarcia had a popular column called Circuit Cellar in BYTE magazine. I was a huge fan of BYTE. I would take my issue and bring it to a coffee shop and read it intently. (Mind you this was pre-Internet. Coffee shops didn’t have Wi-Fi.) What I appreciated most about BYTE was that it had far more technical depth than the likes of PC World and PC Computing. I felt like it was aimed at a person with a technical bent like myself. When Steve later went on to found this magazine—nearly 30 years ago—he gave it the Circuit Cellar name but he also maintained that unique level of technical depth that entices engineers.

With all that in mind, I plan to uphold the stature and legacy in the electronics industry that I and all of you have long admired about Circuit Cellar. We will work to continue being the Most Technical information resource for professional engineers, academics, and other electronics specialists world-wide. Meanwhile, you can look forward to expanded coverage of those exciting market-spaces I discussed earlier. Those new applications really exemplify how embedded computing technology is changing the world. Let’s have some fun.