Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Portable Data Acquisition Solution with High Performance

For most computer peripherals, USB connection has become the standard. Quanser's engineering team is taking this technology a step further, with a novel data acquisition solution that allow users to interface to hardware through a USB connection, while maintaining a high performance levels.

Slated for release in spring 2010 are two new data acquisition systems - the 8 channel high performance Q8-US
B with 16-bit ADC and DAC resolutions, hardware encoder velocities and external trigerring, and the economical 2-channel high performance Q2-USB with 12-bit ADC and DAC resolutions, as an alternative where the full functionality of Q8-USB is not required.

In development - computer rendering of the Q2-USB

With closed-loop sample rates of 1 kHz and higher, +/-10V analog input and output range, and
plug-and-play functionality, these systems represent a portable solution suitable for various teaching and research applications.

Stay tuned for more details.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Qball-X4 and Qbot: Follow the leader!

The Unmanned Vehicle Systems Laboratory is one of the latest additions to the wide range of Quanser experiments. We set up a simple demo that shows just one of the many ways the UVS lab, consisting of Qbot unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), Qball-X4 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), Quanser's real-time control software QUARC, and a localization system using OptiTrack(TM) cameras can be used.

In this demo we took one Qball-X4 and one Qbot and got them to cooperatively run a mission. We chose to do a simple leader-follower mission where the Qbot acts as the leader and the Qball is the follower. Both vehicles operate fully autonomously with no human controller whatsoever. The localization system tracks the vehicles' positions and sends this information to the vehicles. The vehicles can also communicate wirelessly with each other.
The mission planner first selected a few waypoints for the leader (Qbot). Once the vehicles were launched, the Qbot navigated autonomously to each waypoint. The Qball received the leader's current position 200 times each second and tried to follow the leader by flying above. Once the mission was done the Qball landed itself. Everything in the mission controller from inter-vehicle communication to flight stabilization and sensor measurements was programmed using Simulink tools and QUARC blocksets.

This mission is just one example of what can be accomplished using the open-architecture Quanser UVS Laboratory. We are looking forward to seeing what everyone else can do with the system. We will continue to develop new and exciting experiments and we hope to see others doing the same!


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

QUARC: Hard-Real-Time Performance with QNX Neutrino

QUARC supports a continually increasing number of targets. A "target" is a combination of operating system and processor for which QUARC can generate code from a Simulink diagram. The target is also where the QUARC-generated code runs. Targets constitute one of QUARC’s four pillars as described in one of the previous post. The best deterministic hard-real-time performance with QUARC is currently achieved when running the model on a QNX Neutrino target, taking advantage of the QNX Real-Time Operating System (RTOS) industry-proven technology.

The upcoming QUARC 2.1 now supports the latest QNX Neutrino, version 6.4.1. This updated support has actually been demonstrated by QNX Software Systems (QSS) themselves at the QNX booth at the Embedded World 2010 Exhibition & Conference show in Nuremberg, Germany, at the beginning of March 2010. The QNX demonstration used QUARC to run Quanser’s SRV02-based Rotary Self-Erecting Inverted Pendulum experiment equipped with a slipring in order to allow for unlimited and unhindered (due to the elimination of cables) base rotation.

The corresponding QUARC controller robustly runs in hard-real-time under QNX at a 1-kHz sample rate (i.e., 1-ms sampling interval) while communicating to a custom Flash/OpenGL-based user interface (GUI) using the Quanser Stream API (to get the updated sensor data in realtime). More information about our Stream API can be found in the QUARC: Communication Capabilities and Framework article. In addition, the Quanser Target API is also used to start/stop the QUARC control model from the QNX custom demo application. The hardware platform used for this demonstration consists of a x86 system configured by QSS to run with both Windows and QNX by means of using RTS Hypervisor. The QUARC-based controller used the RTOS system timer and has proven itself to be very stable during the 3-day Embedded World conference.

Additionally the Quanser 3D Viewer can be launched in Windows to offer a virtual 3D realistic representation of the actual system being run by QUARC.

This results in a 3D animation depicting the actual system, running in parallel, and mirroring in real-time the exact behavior of the real system. More information about this QUARC feature can be found in the QUARC: Virtual Plant Demo - SRV02 Self-Erecting Inverted Pendulum blog post.

Based on this success, Quanser is currently actively investigating supporting additional QUARC targets such as QNX PowerPC (PPC) systems as well as other possible embedded architectures.