Criteria for hardware component recommendations for Aerial Robotic Landscape

I had some thoughts about potential aspects we need to consider while documenting parts recommendations like FC/ESC/Motor/Prop/Battery to allow people to build “ROS compatible” custom drones to extend this list:

I want to open up a discussion to talk about how:

a) We should probably have some categorization based on thrust to weight ratios/at least common weight classes/application use cases. The battery/frame/ESCs/motors/props for an agricultural spraying drone will be very different from a mapping/research platform for basic autonomy.

b) Realistically do we need to also account for availability/supply chain aspects in some way before making recommendations? This could be extremely hard across geographies/production volumes of even the major players in the market of specific part numbers.

c) What should we recommend for Flight Controllers? Only those that support PX4 autopilot to have support for uORB/PX4-RTPS/ROS2 going forward or also include FCs that could potentially run other firmwares like Ardupilot and we use Mavlink via the companion computer?


My past experience in attempting ROS autonomy has been trying to use Parrot’s Bebop 2 in 2016 (which didn’t turn out as nicely as other platforms like the ARDrone 2.0 probably) which didn’t work out due to lack of flexibility in configuring the networking stack on the quad. I was trying to use a Turtlebot + a Bebop via a bridged repeater config with the drone as a STA instead of using the drone as an AP.

Additionally I have experience primarily with custom FPV cinematic/acrobatic drone builds, 1 cinewhoop (<250g) and this year a 5 inch quad.

My sub-250g is a bind and fly I upgraded motors etc. for:

My 5" is a custom build (750g AUW and a 10:1 thrust to weight at 50% throttle)

Frame: Apex DC v5 clone
FC + 4in1 ESC: SpeedyBee F405 50A
Motors: Tacticool 2306 1750 KV BLDC
Sensors: Accel+gyro+baro on the FC, GPS Ublox m80 - no compass
Props: HQProp Ethix 5.1x3x3 inch
Battery: Tattu RLine 6S 1050mah 130C, SpeedyPizza 6s 1500mah 100C

RC link: TBS crossfire
VTX: TBS Crossfire Sixty9
FPV camera: Caddx Ant analog NTSC camera

Current firmware: Betaflight 4.6 but the board is supported for iNav, Ardupilot

Since the FC board is not natively recommended for PX4 autopilot, I wanted to see if I can try to port it somehow. My other option is using a CubeOrange I have which until now I have not built a quad with.

Since I have such a high thrust to weight ratio on my acrobatic build, I wanted to sacrifice agility and try to put a companion computer and get started with ROS on my drone to start trying out autonomy outdoors.

I started looking for commonly available frames/clones and have stumbled upon a good candidate reference design for outdoor use cases at least.

I looked into the most common clones out there other than the DJI F450 and it seems like at least in India, the second most popular frame with a landing gear etc for a good autonomy stack is the Holybro S500. The good thing about this frame is that Holybro also specifies recommended motors+ESC, battery, prop specifications for this frame size i.e.

ESC: BLHeli S 20A
Motor: 2216 920KV BLDCs
Propellers: 1045 (10" length, 4.5" pitch)
Battery: 4S 5000mAh Lipo

I think the S500 v2 kit can serve as a good reference design for custom builds.

Other useful specs from their page:

Recommended FCs: Pixhawk [6C, 6X, 5x, 4, 4mini], Durandal, Pix32 v5
GPS: DroneCAN/Holybro M8N/M9N, H-RTK M8P/F9P

With a max payload of 1kg at 70% throttle on the above mentioned battery, we can consider a companion computer and a basic camera/sensor suite accordingly.

Should we actually build this out before raising a PR on the hardware page @KimMcG @mrpollo or is it sufficient that the X500 is on our list already anyway and essentially I’ll just add a breakdown of all components needed with individual example vendors for the parts?

Thanks for this discussion! I think another helpful high level categorisation would be the specific intended application (eg. inspection, agriculture, indoor mapping)

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Ardupilot supports ROS 2, and actually uses standard ROS messages like TransformStamped:

Hi! the hardware page as I said in the meeting, was just a breakdown of what I saw during ICRA 2023, so absolutely, you can add to that as it wasn’t as finished as it supposed to.

So I’m all in for adding the breakdown of the x500 v2 :slight_smile: always good to know.

In terms of categories, it would be perhaps a bit too much to do it all applications wise although per platform it would perhaps be nice to mention which fields they are used to indicate their in-the-field worthyness :). But as a global categorization, let’s not reinvent the wheel too much and look at the wikipedia’s categorization of UAVs. Weight based categoriestation seems to be good? Liked Nanoquad, MAV, SUAV. And then ofcourse distinguish between outdoor and indoor positioning.

In terms of which autopilot we want to recommend, I think it would be better have a list of autopilot boards and show which autopilot firmware they support, instead of recommending one for now. Many labs work with different systems so it is probably handier if they can stick to the firmware they are used too.

In terms of sensors like the intel realsense and such, that would be great to add too to the hardware list. Depended on the application of those that build these or have bought a full kit, it would be great to add these in a modular way to tailor in most applications. Some aircrafts need a 360 deg camera, or some need a good lidar, or need optical flow based positioning or something else. So it is better to show the options than to show recommendations as that is very difficult to do.

The idea of the hardware list, is show which options are out there and for what they are used, to make it (hopefully) easier for anyone to see the landscape of it all. So more information about these hardware and components, presented in perhaps a bit more structured way than it now is :sweat_smile:… would already be a very valuable contribution to the page!

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I’ve added a breakdown of the Holybro S500V2 in this PR :smile:

The intent is to show a breakdown of the bill of materials of a popular platform to enable developers to swap in equivalent parts/build their own drone with similar flight and payload characteristics and base feature set built around the Pixhawk 6C/X etc. family.

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