I’ve just posted the latest code to GitHub, and I think it’s nigh on perfect (IMHO) – there’s now nothing on my mental ‘niggle’ list that could make it better.

However (and it’s a very big however), it requires nigh on perfect accelerometer calibration.  To give you an idea, if the accelerometer reads gravity as 1.001g rather 1.0g (0.1% accuracy), then you’ve get drift at roughly 1cm/s2 and that builds up to significant drift beyond a few seconds of flight.  Yet the sensors alone are only rated at ±2% accuracy, or 20cm/s2. The 0.1% accuracy error I mention represents a twenty fold improvement over the base 2% level of calibration and is my current best effort but it still limits the flights to tens of seconds rather than minutes in length.

So here in detail is what I do:

  • find two locations with a broad and stable temperature differential – in my case a beer fridge, and the warmest room in the house – in my case, my home office as it has way too many computers in it!
  • Separate the Raspberry Pi from the quad frame and stick it to the inside of a 5 sided perspex cube aligned closely with one edge of the cube.
  • Within both environments, ensure the platform for the cube is flat and horizontal – I have a 10mm thick perspex square with wing-nut bolts at each core and a 0.5° accuracy spirit level to get the best horizontal possible: I sit the beer fridge on this, or just the cube on this depending on the required temperature environment.
  • Within each of the two temperature environments, I then rotate the cube on each of the six sides, reading sensors (sudo python ./ -c) each time until I have a sample for each that is within half of a degree (celsius / centigrade)  of each other according to the sensor output – that’s about as good as I’ve achieved so far because the sensor warms up the more samples you take!
  • From the sensor readings of 1g over the six sides of the cube at a given temperature, you can calculate the offset and gains of those axes such that each reads ±1g at that temperature.
  • With those offsets and gains at two diverse temperature points, you can then calculate a linear mapping between and beyond those temperature points to allow calculation of offsets and gains at any operating temperature.  The sensor output is reportedly linear across temperature at ±2% also and that should be good enough – 2% error in gain / offset at a given temperature is much better than 2% error in absolute readings.

Here’s the data I’ve obtained and sorted.  The leftmost column is raw temperature readings.  The rightmost 4 columns are gravity measured over 3 axes, in both directions at two temperature ranges.  Column 2 is temperature in celsius / centrigrade – I don’t use this in the calibration, but it makes it easier to spot a small range of temperature values.  The accelerometer scale is set to ±2g so the values of ±16384 are whats expected, and are the targets of the calibration calculation.

-3393, 26.550588, 16537.84, -294.84, -842.44
-3383, 26.58, -16404.88, -14.1, -1062.72
-3390, 26.559412, 179.44, 16369.72, -953.2
-3391, 26.556471, -59.44, -16662.18, -974.54
-3383, 26.58, 45.62, -176.4, 15436.18
-3386, 26.571176, 75.52, -94.92, -17342.8
-6517, 17.362353, 16505.3, -275.08, -531.38
-6543, 17.285882, -16426.64, 1.22, -846.94
-6484, 17.459412, 185.44, 16368.36, -695.24
-6462, 17.524118, -55.6, -16649.48, -707.32
-6552, 17.259412, -38.96, -177.82, 15697
-6552, 17.259412, 96.96, -75.92, -17063.76


2 thoughts on “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

  1. Hey Hove,

    great seeing the new changes. I tried running the new code and have changed the my_name to include my pi’s name and keep getting stuck while trying to calibrate. i run the command:

    sudo python ./ -c

    and the response I get is that “Must specify one of -f or -g or –tc”. This happens even if I do a combination of -f -c too. The thing is that I’m able to execute “ -c ” in the old code (last updated September). When I Ctrl+C the program, it seems to be stuck in line 1427: mpu6050.readSensors. So, I’ve also tried to just “fly” it with USB, “ -f” but it’s still stuck and the code just waits as well.

    More specifically, when I debug that class, it seems that it’s getting stuck in line 431: RPIO.edge_detect_wait(RPIO_DATA_READY_INTERRUPT).

    I’ve never had this problem before with the old code, so was wondering what might be causing this issue.

    If it makes a difference, I’m just doing a dry run of the code without the big temperature difference (i.e just in room and not beer fridge) as I want to run the code first before doing too much to remove my pi etc. My temp_now has been printed out (I added it) as 36C before and it still waits at the same place mentioned above (RPIO…) any idea what’s wrong?

    Also, have you considered adding another barometric pressure sensor into the whole mix as opposed to just a complimentary filter? This would give you another sensor to do sensor fusion with and seems to be a standard approach that hobbyists do and get good results with. Since sensor fusion is at the heart of this endeavor, Kalman filters are probably the best bet for a linear system with linear measurement models (or linear approximations). Regarding your look into Kalman filters, check this out:!/c-cs373/l-48723604/m-48683660 explains succintly how to do it in Python and the theory behind it and it’s free!



    • The latest code uses -g (for calibrate gravity) rather the -c (for calibrate).

      For the edge_detect_wait(), worth checking that the sensor interrupt pin is wired to the GPIO pin shown in the code RPIO_DATA_READY_INTERRUPT.

      I plan to use a barometer and compass, but neither will have any effect on horizontal drift / movement – barometer is altitude and compass gives direction not speed or distance. I think compass can be used for orientation too, but that still doesn’t meet what I want.

      If you keep up with the blog, you’ll see you don’t need a beer fridge and warm place – the code now uses a resistor thermally glued to the sensor to warm it up to 40 degrees and it keeps it there in flight. Works much better for calibrating anf flying at the same fixed temperature.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.