Six-legged, Ubuntu-powered spider drone is coming

The Erle Spider will support 3rd party apps

erle spider 1
Credit: Erle Robotics

Erle Robotics, a Spanish company that makes robots, mainly drones, has started an Indiegogo campaign for their spider drone, called Erle Spider. This is the first legged drone powered by Canonical’s Snappy Ubuntu Core.

Erle Robotics is trying to raise $50,000 through the campaign in 45 days through different packages or perks. The best package for those enthusiasts who like ‘do-it-yourself’ is for $399. It will get you one spider kit for assembly; the kit comes with all needed parts. Those who are not into DIY can pledge $569 and a fully assembled, ready to crawl spider will be delivered to their doorsteps. The most expensive tier of the campaign is the $11,600 university pack, which buys 30 Erle Spider DIY Kits and comes with full tech support.

[ Related: Are you ready for Ubuntu's drone invasion? ]

The minimum package is for $149, which gives you the processor that powers the spider’s brain. It’s a 900MHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 chip that can be used to create your own Linux hexapod drone. “The brain includes a 8GB microSD card with Snappy Ubuntu Core preinstalled and all the ROS packages used within our Erle-Spider deployed,” said the perk page.

Spider’s exoskeleton: the hardware

The Spider will be powered by a 900MHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 processor and will have 1GB of RAM. It will come with many ports for connectivity including USB, Ethernet, I2C, UART, HDMI and more. Spiders are known for good sensory organs and this spider is no exception: It comes with gravity sensor, gyroscope, digital compass, pressure sensor and temperature sensor.

The spider will be powered by Snappy Ubuntu Core and runs robotic operating system ROS Indigo.

Spider stretching its legs

There are some stretch goals if the campaign exceeds the $50,000 mark. At the $100,000 mark the company will offer a free Android app that can be used to control the spider (spider comes with a gamepad controller); at the $150K mark the spider will get a 5 megapixel eye (camera); at the $200K mark, Erle will give users the ability to customize the drone; and at $250K users will be able to program their spiders with the Scratch programming language.

A spider with apps?

This spider doesn’t need to weave a web to catch prey; instead it uses apps. The company said on the campaign page that “Erle-Brain 2 will have support for ROS, APM and several other frameworks for robot and drone applications development.” Developers can easily create apps for the drone and sell it through the Erle Robotics App Store.

This is not the first drone by the company to support apps, earlier this year Earle announced their Snappy Ubuntu powered Erle-Copter, which supported apps.

What is Ubuntu Snappy Core?

Snappy Ubuntu Core is Canonical’s answer to keeping IoT devices transactionally updated. Snappy Ubuntu Core uses an image based approach to operating system updates instead of the traditional ‘download, extract & install packages’ model (read my interview with Dustin Kirkland of Canonical where he explains the difference between the two). Snappy Ubuntu Core will also make it easier for vendors of devices like routers, where there is no incentive to update the firmware on devices, to keep these devices updated all the time.

In closing

Erle is bringing those fantastical robots that we see from companies like Boston Dynamics closer to us, at affordable prices. The most important factor of this announcement is that most of what Erle is doing is open source – from Ubuntu Snappy core to ROS Indigo to Erle's own App Store for robots and drones. They are also starting a new trend where the functionality of such devices can be expanded through third-party apps.

After reaching for the sky with Erle Copter, they are now trying to cover every inch of the ground with Spider.

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