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Linux mini-drones jump, flip, climb, and fly

Jun 12, 2014 — by Eric Brown 6,737 views

Parrot is prepping two Linux-based mini-drones: a $160 “Jumping Sumo” wheeled robot and a $100 “Rolling Spider” quadrocopter that can fly, roll, or climb.

Parrot, which last month announced a Bebop successor to its popular AR.Drone 2.0 quadrocopter, has released new information on two smaller, cheaper mini-drones that were originally unveiled back at CES in January. The Jumping Sumo and Rolling Spider will launch in August for $160 and $100, respectively.

Rolling Spider (left) and Jumping Sumo
(click image to enlarge)

Like their larger Parrot siblings, the mini-drones run on embedded Linux operating systems and can be controlled via mobile apps, and an open source SDK. (No processor details have yet been revealed.)

Both devices are wirelessly controlled by the same “Freeflight 3.0″ mobile app used by the AR.Drone and Bebop. The app is available on Android or iOS devices, with Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 versions coming in September. The devices are also supported by the same Parrot Cloud services available to Parrot’s other drone customers. Here you can share video on YouTube or Facebook, or compare stats and routes with other users in the 150,000-strong Pilot Academy.

Freeflight 3.0 app controlling Jumping Sumo
(click image to enlarge)

The new mini-drones are more clearly aimed at entertainment than the more multifaceted AR.Drones, with a focus on performing tricks and driving your family members crazy. Still, with the combination of cameras, movement, and wireless radios, we imagine coders will come up with some interesting applications for the lightweight bots.


Jumping Sumo

At first glance, the Jumping Sumo looks much like any other wheeled mini-bot, but as the name suggests, it has some special powers. The Jumping Sumo can leap up to 80 centimeters in height or length (about 2.5 feet), and features a built-in gyroscope that helps it land on its wheels.

Jumping Sumo
(click images to enlarge)

The robot can move at up to 2 m/s, and turn 90° or 180° in under a second, claims Parrot. You can also retract the wheels so the bot can maneuver in tighter spots, reducing the 7.28 x 5.90 x 4.33-inch dimensions to 5.63 x 5.90 x 4.33 inches.

Jumping Sumo cutaway view (left) and covered
(click images to enlarge)

The 6.35-ounce mini-drone can be controlled via WiFi (2.4GHz or 5GHz) at a distance of up to 50 meters. The Li-Po battery lasts for up to 20 minutes per charge, with one-hour recharging via a micro-USB connected charging cradle, says Parrot. A wide-angle, front-facing camera provides immersive views, with 640 x 480 video at 15 frames per second. A speaker and LEDs are also included.

Jumping Sumo video


Rolling Spider

The Rolling Spider can be used as a four-propeller mini-copter, or as a more or less grounded bot — a lighter, less jumpy version of the Jumping Sumo. The plastic-constructed device weighs only 55 grams and measures 55mm wide without the removable wheels, which add another 10 grams and extend the width to 140mm.

Rolling Spider
(click images to enlarge)

In the air, the quadrocopter can flip, 90°, 180°, or 360°, including forward, backward, and sideways flips. With the wheels on, it can climb walls, and with the help of the propellers, not to mention the built-in 3-axis accelerometer and gyroscope, it can even travel upside down for a bit across ceilings before dropping into a freefall takeoff. Speed is listed at 18 km/hr (11 Mph), apparently either flying or rolling. However, the device lasts only 8 minutes in flight, or 6 minutes on the ground.

Rolling Spider in flight (left) and climbing walls and ceiling with free-fall take-off
(click images to enlarge)

The Rolling Spider lacks the Jumping Sumo’s WiFi radio, and is instead controlled via Bluetooth 4.0 BLE, at up to 20 meters. A vertical camera, which can also be used to take snapshots, helps determine speed by comparing images snapped every 16 milliseconds. An ultrasound sensor analyzes altitude at up to four meters, above which a pressure sensor determines altitude.

Rolling Spider video

Further information

The Jumping Sumo and Rolling Spider will launch in August for $160 and $100, respectively, at Apple, Best Buy, Sprint, and Verizon. More information may be found at Parrot’s Jumping Sumo and Rolling Spider product pages.

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2 responses to “Linux mini-drones jump, flip, climb, and fly”

  1. Ive Loreen says:

    Hi, I published a reverse engineered and non-official SDK for the Sumo.

    In case someone want to try it on a PC:

  2. Robert says:

    Does anyone have any ideas how much weight the spider can lift reasonably? Just wondering if this could be converted into a solar powered drone… Small, has a camera, and is quite capable. Get a power source (ie. Powerfilm or similar) as a recharging system, and it would be even better. the short battery life kinda hurts it a little bit.

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