This post will be short, because it is just re-implementing the functionality I had in my turrets version 1and 2, but this time using the raspberry pi as the master controller and two moteus controllers on each gimbal axis.
I have the raspberry pi running the primary control loop at 400Hz. At each time step it reads the IMU from the pi3 hat, and reads the current state of each servo (although it doesn’t actually use the servo state at the moment). It then runs a simple PID control loop on each axis, aiming to achieve a desired position and rate, which results in a torque command that is sent to each servo. Here’s the video proof!
Another of the tasks I’ve set for myself with regards to future Mech Warfare competitions is redesigning the turret. The previous turret I built had some novel technical features, such as active inertial gimbal stabilization and automatic optical target tracking, however it had some problems too. The biggest one for my purposes now, was that it still used the old RS485 based protocol and not the new CAN-FD based one. Second, the turret had some dynamic stability and rigidity issues. The magazine consisted of an aluminum tube sticking out of the top which made the entire thing very top heavy. The 3d printed fork is the same I one I had made at Shapeways 5 years ago. It is amazingly flexible in the lateral direction, which results in a lot of undesired oscillation if the base platform isn’t perfectly stable. I’ve learned a lot about 3d printing and mechanical design in the meantime (but of course still have a seemingly infinite amount more to learn!) and think I can do better. Finally, cable management between the top and bottom was always challenging. You want to have a large range of motion, but keeping power and data flowing between the two rotating sections was never easy.
My concept with this redesign is twofold, first make the turret be basically an entirely separate robot with no wires connecting it to the main robot and second, try to use as many of the components from the quad A1 as I could to demonstrate their, well, flexibility. Thus, this turret will have a separate battery, power distribution board, raspberry pi, pi3 hat, and a moteus controller for each axis of motion. These are certainly overkill, but hey, the quad A1 can carry a lot of weight.
The unique bits will be a standalone FPV camera, another camera attached to the raspberry PI for target tracking, a targeting laser, and the AEG mechanism, including a new board to manage the firing and loading functions.
Now that the IMU is functioning, my next step is to use that to produce an attitude estimate. Here, I dusted off my unscented Kalman filter based estimator from long ago, and adapted it slightly to run on an STM32. As before, I used a UKF instead of the more traditional EKF not because of its superior filtering performance, but because of the flexibility it allows with the process and measurement functions. Unlike the EKF, the UKF is purely numerical, so no derivation of Jacobians is necessary. It turns out that even an STM32 has plenty of processing power to do this for things like a 7 state attitude filter.
One problem I encountered, was by default I have been building everything for the STM32 with the “-Os” optimization level. Unfortunately, with Eigen linear algebra routines, that is roughly 4x slower than “-O3”. Doubly unfortunate, just using copts at the rule level or --copts on the command line didn’t work. bazel doesn’t let you control the order of command line arguments very well, and the -Os always ended up *after* any of the additional arguments I tried to use to override. To get it to work, I had to navigate some bazel toolchain mysteries in rules_mbed in order to allow build rules to specify if they optionally want the higher optimization instead of optimizing for size. I’m pretty sure this is not exactly what the with_features mechanism in toolchain’s feature rule is for, but it let me create a feature called speedopt which turns on -O3 and turns off -Os. The final result is at rules_mbed/530fae6d8
To date, I’ve only done some very zeroth order performance optimization. I spent 15 minutes parameter tuning, making sure that the covariances updated to approximately the correct levels and I added a simple filter to reject accelerometer updates during dynamic motion. I did just enough runtime performance to get an update down to around 300us, which is just fine for a filter intended to run at 1kHz. More will remain as future work.
Here’s a plot from a quick sanity check, where I manually rolled the device in alternating directions, then pitched it in alternating directions. (When pitching, it was on a somewhat springy surface, thus the ringing).
The pitch and roll are plenty smooth, although they look to perhaps not returning exactly to their original position. At some point, I will do a more detailed qualification to dial in the performance.
The next peripheral to get working on the quad’s raspberry pi interface board is the IMU. When operating, the IMU will primarily be used to determine attitude and angular pitch and roll rates. Secondarily, it will determine yaw rate, although there is no provision within the IMU to determine absolute yaw.
To accomplish this, the board has a BMI088 6 axis accelerometer and gyroscope attached via SPI to the auxiliary STM32G4 along with discrete connections for interrupts. This chip has 16 bit resolution for both sensors, decent claimed noise characteristics, and supposedly the ability to better reject high frequency vibrations as seen in robotic applications. I am currently running the gyroscope at 1kHz, and the accelerometer at 800Hz. The IMU is driven off the gyroscope, with the accelerometer sampled whenever the gyroscope has new data available.
My first step was just to read out the 6 axis values at full rate to measure the static performance characteristics. After doing that overnight, I got the following Allan Variance plot.
That gives the angular random walk at around 0.016 dps / sqrt(Hz) with a bias stability of around 6.5 deg/hr. The angular random walk is about what is specified in the datasheet, and the bias is not specified at all, but this seems really good for a MEMS sensor. In fact, it is good enough I could probably just barely gyrocompass, measuring the earth’s rotation, with a little patience. The accelerometer values are shown there too, and seem fine, but aren’t all that critical.
Next up is turning this data into an attitude and rate estimate.
Well, that took longer than I expected! I last showed some progress on a gimbal stabilized turret for Mech Warfare competitions more than six months ago. Due to some unexpected technical difficulties, it took much longer to complete than I had hoped, but the (close to) end result is here!
Here’s a quick feature list:
2 axis control: Yaw and pitch are independently actuated.
Brushless: Each axis is driven by a brushless gimbal motor for high bandwidth no-backlash stabilization.
Absolute encoders: Each axis has an absolute magnetic encoder so that accurate force control can be applied to each gimbal, even at zero speed.
Fire control: High current outputs for driving an AEG motor, an agitator motor, and a low current output for a targetting laser are present.
7v-12V input: Supports 2S-3S lipo power sources.
12V boost: When running from 2S lipo, it can boost the gimbal drive up to 12V for additional stabilization authority.
HerkuleX protocol: The primary control interface uses a native Dongbu HerkuleX protocol; support for other UART based protocols which will work at 3.3V CMOS levels should be easy.
USB debugging support: A USB port is present to return high rate debugging information and allow configuration and diagnostics to be performed.
BMI160: This IMU is used as the primary source of inertial compensation data. The board hardware supports a second IMU, to be placed on the main robot, but the firmware does not yet support that configuration.
This gimbal design contains three custom boards, a breakout board for the BMI160 IMU, a breakout board for the AS5048B magnetic encoder sensor, and the primary board which contains the rest of the logic.
BMI 160 Breakout
The first board is simple; it is a basically just a breakout board for the BMI160 inertial sensor. It provides the BMI160 itself, some decoupling capacitors, and a 0.1 inch 4 pin connector for the I2C bus.
I had these prototypes made at MacroFab which I highly recommend as a great provider of low-cost turnkey PCB assembly.
This, like the BMI160 breakout board, just has decoupling capacitors, the chip itself, and connectors. It additionally has mounting holes designed to fit onto the 3508 gimbal motor. This was printed at OSH Park and hand-assembled.
Gimbal control board
The primary gimbal control board contains most of the system functionality. It is designed to mechanically mount directly above the yaw gimbal motor, as the yaw absolute magnetic encoder is in the center on the underside of the board.
This prototype was also built at MacroFab, who did an excellent job with this much more complex assembly.
The connectors and features are as follows:
Power and Data: A 4 pin JST-XH connector in the upper right brings in power and data from the main robot.
Debug USB: A debugging protocol is available on this micro-USB port.
Camera USB: Two 4 pin JST-PH connectors provide a convenience path for the camera USB. The turret’s camera connects to the top connector, and the main robot connects to the side facing connector.
I2C peripherals: 3, 4 pin JST-ZH connectors have identical pinout and connect to external I2C peripherals. These are used for the primary IMU, the pitch absolute magnetic encoder, and the optional secondary IMU.
Arming switch: This switch is connected directly to the enable pin on the MC33926, and is also connected to an input on the STM32F411.
Programming connector: The 6 pin JST-PH connector has the same pinout as Benjamin Vedder’s VESC board, and can program and debug the STM32F411.
Weapon connector: A 2×4 0.1 inch pin header has power lines for the AEG drive, the agitator drive and the laser. It has an extra row of pins so that a blank can be used for indexing.
Gimbal connectors: 2, 3 pin 0.1 inch connectors power the yaw and pitch gimbal brushless motors.
The firmware was an experiment in writing modern C++11 code for the bare-metal STM32 platform. Each module interacts with others through std::function like callbacks, and the entire system is compiled both for the target, and the host so that unit tests are run. Dynamic memory allocation is this close to being disabled, but it was necessary for newlib’s floating point number formatting routines, which just allocate a chunk of memory the first time you use them. Otherwise, there is no dynamic memory used at all.
It relies on a CubeMX project template for this board. Most of the libraries CubeMX provides have too little flexilibity to be used for this application, so much of the bit twiddling is re-implemented in the gimbal firmware. CubeMX is great for configuring the clock tree and pin alternate functions however, especially in a complex project like this.
Both configuration and telemetry rely on a templated C++ visitor pattern to perform compile time reflection over mostly arbitrary C++ structures. Any module can register a structure to be used for persistent configuration. Those structures can be changed through the debugging protocol, and can be written to and read from flash at runtime. Each module can also register as many telemetry structures as necessary. These can be emitted over the debugging protocol either at fixed intervals, or whenever they update.
There are three possible modes, the first of which is what I call “open-loop”, and is based on the same principles as the BruGi brushless gimbal, where no absolute motor feedback is available. In that mode, a PID controller operates with the axis error as the input, and the output is the actual phase position of the BLDC controller. In this mode, the integral term does most of the work in stabilization, so the overall performance isn’t great.
The second mode still uses a PID controller, but now the output is an offset to the BLDC phase necessary to hold the current position as measured by the absolute encoders. This effectively makes the output a direct mapping to force applied to the motor, although of course a non-linear mapping. This mode results in much better overall performance and is easier to tune.
Finally, there is a third debugging mode that lets you just hard command specific BLDC phases. This is useful for calibrating the mapping between BLDC phase and absolute encoder phase.
The debugging protocol is partially human readable, but telemetry data is encoded in the same binary format as used elsewhere in the mjmech codebase. tview is the debugging application we use to read that data, as well as configure and control the overall system.
The bottom pane just has a serial console, where you can send arbitrary things over the virtual serial port. tview directly supports relatively few commands from the debugging protocol, and for instance has no UI to operate the stabilizer or fire control, so for now these are done by hand in that window.
The left pane has two tabs, one with a configuration tree and the other with a telemetry tree. The configuration tree shows all structures which were registered as configurable, and allows you to change them in the live system. The telemetry tree shows all structures registered as telemetry structures, and reports their values live as the system is operating.
The right pane has a live plot window where any of the values in the telemetry tree can be plotted versus time. It is just an embedded matplotlib plot, so all the normal plot interaction tools are available, plus some from mjmech’s tplot, like the ability to pan and zoom the left and right axes independently.
And last but not least, here is a short video demonstrating the turret stabilizing a camera and firing some blanks at a target as our mech walks around.