In this update, I'm going to talk about the work we've been doing over the past few months, and the choices we’ve made in order to begin shipping. Three points I want to make before getting down to details are:
Anyone who supported us at the Spiri or more level will get one of the first 1,000 Spiris we make;
No matter what tier of support you provided, Spiri is a better robot than you can buy today for the same amount;
We will be available for end user support and we will continue to develop features and patches for download. We have also designed Spiri with repairability and ease of hardware upgrade in mind.
Today, I want to tell you about (1) our plan for shipping Spiri, and (2) what will be in your Spiri. I also want to let you know that from here on, we will post weekly updates on specific topics, howtos, and retrospectives on the project in general. We will be ramping up our communications, and eventually transitioning to a blog on our website.
We are going to do a staged release of Spiri, starting with a dozen close research partners, original equipment manufacturers and high tier Kickstarter backers. This will help us populate our support pages and catch bugs in the software, vision systems, communications, control, or web tools before hundreds of people experience them. It will also give these researchers and us a chance to port work from other projects or from previous versions of Spiri onto this release version, so that everyone else will have those features, too.
Once that phase is finished, we intend to accept and fulfil new orders while simultaneously fulfilling Kickstarter rewards and pre-orders. We intend to maintain roughly a 1-to-1 ratio of new orders to pre-orders and rewards. This is the best compromise I can make between maintaining your priority in line and satisfying the conditions of the company’s financial backers.
We went through two prior iterations of Spiri during this project. The first had too little computational power and the second had too much bulk. We believe the release version is just right. The primary equipment we selected is as follows:
PixRacer flight controller with additional GPS, compass, and Terabee rangefinder
Nvidia TX1 (or TX2 upgrade) mounted on a ConnectTech carrier board
Two Leopard Imaging M021C cameras with stereo vision enabled
Since the project began, we have made many improvements to Spiri but we have also traded off some of the features we originally wanted. I want to compare and contrast the original version of Spiri we announced on Kickstarter to the release version.
Flight time has gone from 10 minutes to 22 minutes
Typical GPS satellite locks outdoors has gone from 8-12 to 12-16
Rangefinder now points down instead of forward
Rangefinder limit has gone from 2m to 5m
Stereo cameras now global shutter, improved low light, double the throughput
Flight control sensors doubled
Switched from basic filters to PX4-based controller
Added MAVLink support in ROS
Doubled number and strength of Wi-Fi antennas
Upgraded USB output to USB3
Added I2C ports, PCIE slot
Factor of four improvement in CPU, memory, and storage
Factor of eight improvement in GPU
About 500g heavier (from about 1,000g to about 1,500g)
Excluded the propeller guards
Excluded the wireless autonomous recharging perch
Target retail price has increased significantly from $600 to $2,500
We plan to revisit the propeller guards and wireless recharging. For now, as we see, it, you've waited long enough. The retail price is higher than any of the Kickstarter tiers where a Spiri was the primary reward.
I know some of you are wondering why we’ve been so quiet for the past few months. I will write a more detailed project retrospective in 2-3 weeks. Briefly, our release was stalled because of an issue with the camera driver boards, and because of a delay in the government contribution to our funding. Week by week, I didn’t feel like I had signficant new news to share. We were making progress in other ways, finalizing/upgrading parts, working the assembly process, but I couldn’t make a shipping announcement until the funding and hardware issues were settled, which always seemed just around the corner. I will get back to this in the project retrospective in a couple of weeks, I just wanted to acknowledge it today.
In next week’s update, I am going to talk about the software on board Spiri, and the many different user interfaces that are available to you.
Thank you again for your support and patience.