After the ridiculously busy first semester I can finally get back to research. I managed to work on a couple of interesting projects meanwhile. In my ML project, which I might build on later this year, we investigate a hybrid reinforcement learning approach to non linear control For the Manipulation project, we devised a ranking SVM approach to learn the preferability of performing actions given a cluttered scene to clear it autonomously using a robotic (Barett!) arm as closely as a human operator would (Paper).

Back on BIRD, I’m trying to fuse visual odometry and accelerometer data to get reasonably accurate state information for tracking the quadrotor outdoors. The folks out at Zurich have done a pretty neat job doing just that and I set about trying to reimplement that. For visual odometry they use a modified version of PTAM that uses a fixed number of maximum keyframes that are used to generate a local map. Whenever the camera moves out of the currently fully defined map enough to warrant the inclusion of an additional keyframe the oldest keyframe is popped. This gives a very nice trade-off between robust pose estimation and fast execution on board. They have also released an EKF implementation that uses the pose estimate provided by PTAM as an external update to the filter.

As is always the case, for the life of me I haven’t been able to replicate their results with our 3DM GX3 IMU. Turns out that their coordinate frames are inverted (Gravity supposedly points up) and may be left handed (:?) Net result being that although PTAM seems to give sensible updates, the state drifts away very quickly. However, since PTAM performs so admirably (it’s the first purely vision based system in my experience that works SO well), I decided to test out tracking using only PTAM in VICON just to see how good it is quantitatively. But getting it to run on the Pandaboard led me (as usual) to a whole host of issues, the highlight being a bug in ROS’ serialization library for ARM based processors X(

Anyway, on to the tips!
– Set the use_ros_time to be true for camera1394 drone to avoid Time is out of dual 32-bit range errors.
– For bus fault error code -7 use the patch from
– To automatically set up the ROS_MASTER_URI to point to the pandaboard and ROS_HOSTNAME to point to the IP address assigned to the laptop whenever the laptop connects to the pandaboard’s WiFi hotspot, add this nifty little bash script to the end of the ~/.bashrc
[Update 7/18 : Made this more robust, and takes into account connecting to flyingpanda using a directional antenna]

#Check if we're connected to the flyingpanda SSID
#Check if we're connected to the flyingpanda SSID
SSID=$(iwconfig wlan0|grep "ESSID:" | sed "s/.*ESSID:\"\(.*\)\".*/\1/") 2>/dev/null
case "$SSID" in
export ROS_HOSTNAME=$(ip addr show dev wlan0 | sed -e's/^.*inet \([^ ]*\)\/.*$/\1/;t;d') #
PANDA=$(echo $ROS_HOSTNAME | sed 's/\.[0-9]*$/.1/')
export ROS_MASTER_URI=http://$PANDA:11311
echo "Detected connection to $SSID, setting ROS_HOSTNAME to $ROS_HOSTNAME and master to $ROS_MASTER_URI" ;;
#For visibility of nodes run from this system when I use an external ros server
export ROS_HOSTNAME=$(ip addr show dev eth0 | sed -e's/^.*inet \([^ ]*\)\/.*$/\1/;t;d')
if [[ $ROS_HOSTNAME == "" ]]
base_ip=`echo $ROS_HOSTNAME | cut -d"." -f1-3`
if [[ $base_ip == "192.168.2" ]]
export ROS_MASTER_URI=http://$ROS_HOSTNAME:11311
echo "Setting ROS_HOSTNAME to $ROS_HOSTNAME and master to $ROS_MASTER_URI"

Essentially, I first check to see if I’m connected to the flyingpanda SSID, and then extract the IP address assigned to my laptop, and then export the required variables. Fun stuff. There is a lot to be said about sed. I found this page pretty helpful –