Monday, February 1, 2010

Italian made Arduino - almost like an affordable Ferrari

I received my Arduino today, surprised to see Italy stamped all over it. A little flag on top, a little map at the back and proudly stenciled "Made in Italy". Almost made me feel like a performance car owner, not that I am into such stuff. The IDE is simplified but effective, after much pains with the AVR Butterfly el-cheapo TTL-RS232 converter which made it impossible to put it in programming mode - the ease of the Arduino was a breath of fresh air. Atmel should take a leaf and make some decent dev boards and installers which run on hampered systems such as Vista ( could not get AVRStudio to install).

The 1st thing to do on microcontrollers is obviously to make a blinking LED, so I went ahead and made a 50Hz PWM timer interrupt based one - using the nifty millis() function. I believe our quadcopter will not run for 50 days and it is perfectly safe to use. On the other hand it gives us only around 1/20 resolution in ESC based motor control, if this is found to be too coarse other solutions using proper PWM will need to be sought.

For production I also got an Arduino Mini for use in production. Needs some soldering and off-board FTDI USB-Serial, but it is super small in all SMD. Finally I did some waving around of the blinking LED to demonstrate the 50% or so duty cycle. Works well since there is a power LED in the background providing constancy. Now have to make 4 of these and an I2C instruction parser to set the duty cycle on each channel.
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