Parrot turns enabler with S.L.A.M.dunk kit for drone developers

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S.L.A.M.dunk can be latched onto a Linux-based drone and connected by 3.5 mm jack and/or USB

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Parrot has done its fair share of envelope-pushing when it comes to drones, and now the French company is looking to spark some inspiration in others as a means of taking the technology forward. Its newly announced S.L.A.M.dunk development kit for drones is equipped with hardware that suggests a particular focus on obstacle avoidance and navigation, but doubles as a desktop computer as well.

The device runs the Robot Operating System on Ubuntu 14.04, and packs an Nvidia Tegra K1 processor along with a bunch of preloaded algorithms and sensors. These include an inertial-measurement unit (IMU), ultrasound, magnetometer and barometer, along with a fish-eye stereo camera that shoots 1,500 x 1,500 resolution at 60 fps.

This, Parrot hopes, comes as a package ready-made to capture the imaginations of developers and researchers who can take the 140 g (5 oz) carbon fiber drone attachment and promptly get to work. It can be latched onto a Linux-based drone and connected by 3.5 mm jack and/or USB, allowing it to draw power and send and receive commands.

The unit's Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping algorithm (S.L.A.M.) allows the host drone to map its environment in 3D, which Parrot believes will accelerate the development of drones capable of autonomous navigation and obstacle avoidance. It says the ultrasound sensor can detect objects up to 50 feet (15.2 m) away.

While drones seem to be the main focus here, the system can also be attached to ground rovers and even articulated arms. And because it also sports HDMI, USB 2 and 3 ports, it can be hooked up to a monitor and used as an Ubuntu 14.04 desktop computer.

There is no word yet on pricing, but Parrot says S.L.A.M.dunk will be available in the fourth quarter of 2016.

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