Software and Hardware Update

Tom Rondeau


The DARPA Hackfest team got together last week to that we received. We are extremely pleased with the quality of the submissions and are faced with hard decisions about which teams to select at the Hackfest. Even so, we are on track to make these decisions by the middle of August.

At our gathering last week, we also reviewed the state of technology for the SDR-enabled UAV. We are making good progress. The technology team developing the hardware and software demonstrated the concepts of sending MAVLink flight commands over the GNU Radio-based SDR link. The intent of our effort here is to make sure that, come November, we have working hardware and a simple communications link that allows teams to immediately get started. As shown on the software page, the concept is to wrap MAVLink packets into our own physical and data link layer in GNU Radio, where even the code to manage the MAVLink packets is done using open source software tools developed by PyMavlink and DroneKit. The software that DARPA is providing to kick off the Hackfest technical work will be released publically in September during GRCon17. This code will be mostly the GNU Radio-based application that ties all of the pieces together to create a link between the ground station and UAV. Our intent with the code is to give the Mission teams two months to get familiar with the code and basic concepts if they are planning on using this in their solutions. We also hope that other people (especially those coming to the Hackfest’s Hacker Space in November) interested in the concept of UAV control over SDR start looking at this solution and developing techniques and tools beyond the basics capabilities we are providing.

Finally, last week we made a very important decision. Until now, we have been planning on using the TurboAce Matrix-S quadcopter. After having witnessed the size and power of this device in an indoor setting, we have decided to go with a significantly smaller drone. We will be switching our focus to the 3DR Solo as a more practical device for the needs of the Hackfest Missions. This means that all teams will be using an SDR-enabled Solo drone for the Missions. However, since we already have two of the Matrix-S versions on hand, teams who think they might need a larger platform for added carrying capacity can work with us to use these.