Surveyor Robotics Journal


Surveyor Corporation


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Tue, 28 Apr 2009

A really small system for SRV-1/SVS code development ...

For an upcoming trip, I wanted to create a very compact SRV-1/SVS code development environment, so I picked up an Eee PC 901 netbook and a DLink DWL-G370AP wifi access point.

It doesn't get much smaller than this. In the photo, behind the robot with SVS is a little black rectangle that is the wireless access point - it is powered by the computer's USB. There is a full size Mac keyboard further in the background that gives some sense of scale. The Eee keyboard is cramped, but certainly functional.

The Eee came with the Xandros Linux distribution, but I replaced it with Ubuntu's Eee version (called "easy peasy" for unknown reasons), and had little difficulty installing the Blackfin gcc toolchain, Java SDK, and SDL libraries. Still on the list is to add the Google Android SDK. Other than the normal set of hassles with migrating to a new system, the setup was relatively painless. Thus far, perhaps 4GB of the available 20GB solid state disk has been used.

Posted Tue, 28 Apr 2009 20:04 | HTML Link | see additional stories ...

Tue, 21 Apr 2009

New expansion board for SRV-1 Blackfin supports 20 servos, 16 analog in, 16 gpio and micro-SD

We have a couple of expansion cards in the works. One which we will discuss in a few days is intended for robot GPS navigation, while another, called the RCM, is designed to greatly expand the capabilities of the SRV-1 Blackfin Camera for robot control.

The RCM, short for "robot control module", creates a fully functional augmented microcontroller (video, audio and data streaming and control, wifi, comm. ports, multiple I/O and servo controllers) geared toward education and hobby robots that could replace embedded PC104 and mini-ITX computers. Inspiration for this project came from multiple years of participation in robotic competitions, the most recent (and most demanding) being the RoboCup Rescue Robot League.

Developers of the RCM wanted to create a system that fit well into the learning goals of a high school engineering program from LEGO; through the SHARP IRs, and R/C servo motors; on up to IFI Victor and Dimension Engineering Sabertooth motor controllers, and Hokuyo laser scanners. The result is an expansion board for the SRV-1 Blackfin that supports 20 servos, 16 12-bit analog input channels, 16 GPIO signals, additional I2C and SPI expansion channels, and a micro-SD memory card slot. Voltage level converters provide support for 5V devices, and an external 5V supply can be added to drive large numbers of servos.

The schematic for the RCM can be found here. The RCM is expected to be priced at $150 ($135 to education customers), and production volumes should be available in 4-6 weeks. For further information, please contact

Posted Tue, 21 Apr 2009 01:46 | HTML Link | see additional stories ...

Sun, 19 Apr 2009

Just how large are the SRV-1 Blackfin Camera and SRV-1 Blackfin Robot ?

We often hear the comment from our users that the SRV-1 Blackfin Camera and SRV-1 Blackfin Robot are a lot smaller than expected. Although we publish dimensions in millimeters and inches for our various products, sometimes the numbers don't register. So here are a couple of photos that might help with perspective.

The hand holding the camera boards and robot is normal size (medium-large male glove), if that helps with calibration.

Posted Sun, 19 Apr 2009 16:43 | HTML Link | see additional stories ...

Sat, 11 Apr 2009

New C interpreter for SRV-1 / SVS

After numerous experiments over the past 3-4 years with various scripting languages (including C, Basic, Lua, Lisp and Scheme) for autonomous operation of the SRV-1, we finally found a good solution. Latest versions of SRV-1 Blackfin firmware have incorporated a powerful new open source C interpreter called picoC.

picoC is quite compact, but it supports a substantial subset of the full C language syntax, and we've extended the language with a large collection of robot-specific functions for actuator and sensor interface, image processing and data manipulation. Thus far, we have added 43 robot functions, and the list will continue to grow.

A description of the core language and robot extensions is found at

An introduction to the new C interpreter is found here on the Surveyor Robotics Forum

Posted Sat, 11 Apr 2009 11:19 | HTML Link | see additional stories ...

Thu, 09 Apr 2009

ICEbear Light JTAG Adapter available to order

We just received a small batch of the ICEbear Light JTAG Adapter. ICEbear is a JTAG adapter that has been optimized for use with Blackfin processors. We mainly use the ICEbear for programming the onboard flash memory of the SRV-1 Blackfin Camera, and it has been a big timesaver for this purpose.

ICEbear Light can be ordered from our online store or directly from

Posted Thu, 09 Apr 2009 12:02 | HTML Link | see additional stories ...

Sat, 04 Apr 2009

New signal breakout board for SRV-1

Adding new sensors and actuators to the SRV-1 Blackfin camera and robot just got a lot easier. Our first batch of signal breakout boards has arrived.

We are selling the bare breakout board for $6, board with 32-pin header for $16, and board with 32-pin header + battery header + 3.3V 1A regulator for $32. You can order the boards with headers from the Surveyor online store, and bare boards direct from Surveyor.

The middle board with just the header and no voltage regulator is ideal for the SRV-1 Blackfin Robot, as it stacks between the Blackfin processor card and radio/motor card (after a little surgery on the robot faceplate), as shown below:

More details on the Surveyor Robotics Forum.

Posted Sat, 04 Apr 2009 15:09 | HTML Link | see additional stories ...

Soccer robot using SRV-1 Blackfin Camera

Our partner Netspectrum has developed a very interesting set of soccer robot controls using the SRV-1 Blackfin Camera and a biped robot. More information is found on the Surveyor Robotics Forum

Posted Sat, 04 Apr 2009 11:35 | HTML Link | see additional stories ...