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Spiderlike bot’s controller runs Snappy Ubuntu on Raspberry Pi 2

Sep 8, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 2,249 views

Erle Robotics has launched a six-legged Erle-Spider robot on Indiegogo, with an Erle-Brain 2 controller that runs Ubuntu Snappy and ROS on a Raspberry Pi 2.

Spain’s Erle Robotics was the first company to create an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) using the Linux version of 3DR’s typically Arduino-based APM (ArduPilot Mega) drone autopilot platform. The company started with the Erle-Copter Ubuntu Edition quadrotor, and then shipped its almost identical Ubuntu Snappy based Erle-Copter Ubuntu Core Special Edition. Now, Erle Robotics has gone to Indiegogo to launch a six-legged “Erle-Spider” robot that similarly runs on Snappy Ubuntu Core and the Robot Operating System (ROS) open source robotics platform.


The open source Erle-Spider is available in early bird packages for $399 for a DIY kit or $569 for the assembled version, both due to ship in December. Standard packages of $439 and $639, respectively, ship in March 2016. A $499 Developers Kit version of the DIY kit ships in November of this year,and includes more comprehensive documentation, ROS technical support, and early access to ROS 2.0 packages.

Brain 2 controller

For $149 you can invest in the the Erle-Spider’s Erle-Brain computer by itself. This second-gen revision of the original Erle-Brain, which drives the Erle-Copter, as well as other bots and drones including the Erle-Plane, Erle-Hexacopter, and Erle-Rover, switches from a BeagleBone Black mainboard to the Raspberry Pi 2, which can also run Ubuntu Snappy. The $149 Erle-Brain 2, which ships in December, will be available with an 8GB microSD card loaded with the lightweight Snappy Ubuntu Core version of Ubuntu Core OS.

Snappy Ubuntu is a lightweight, IoT-oriented embedded Linux OS with snap-in apps support
(click image to enlarge)

The switch from the Beaglebone Black to the Raspberry Pi 2 appears to have been recent, as the Erle Robotics website still lists the Erle-Spider as having the same quad-core, 1GHz Cortex-A8 SoC — the TI Sitara AM3358BZCZ100 — of the BeagleBone Black. On the Indiegogo page, however, this is changed to a quad-core, 900MHz Cortex-A7, in other words, the Broadcom BCM2836 SoC found inside the Pi 2. The Erle-Brain 2’s ports also match those of the Raspberry Pi 2, the presence of which in the Erle-Spider was confirmed in an email from Erle Robotics.

Erle-Spider hardware features
(click image to enlarge)

Erle Robotics makes no claims for Pi compatibility, and in fact does not even mention the Pi 2 on the Indiegogo page. The Erle-Brain 2 offers UART, I2C, and what appears to be ADC, connections in addition to the Ethernet port, four USB ports, micro-USB, HDMI, and A/V port. However, there’s no mention of any general expansion interface that might support Raspberry Pi add-ons. Clearly, there’s some synergy here, however, which should make it easier for Pi developers to create new robots and robot apps.

Erle-Spider hardware/software stack
(click image to enlarge)

Ubuntu Snappy provides the Erle-Spider with secure, transactional updates, as well as an open source app development platform and an app store. A few apps have been developed to date, including face recognition, obstacle avoidance, music, and SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) apps. The campaign’s most ambitious stretch goal of five times the initial $50,000 goal would finance the integration of Scratch, providing an easier programming environment. A $100K stretch goal aims to fund an Android control app as an alternative to the basic Bluetooth controller pad that ships with the robot, and 150K would add a 5-megapixel camera. The current versions gets by on sensors alone.

Erle-Spider prototype
(click image to enlarge)

All sources, components, and designs for the Erle-Spider will be opened under a GPLv3 license. For now, however, the details are somewhat sketchy. The Erle-Spider, which looks and acts like a spider even though it’s missing two legs, has 18 servos for 18 degrees of freedom, as well as a 45 minute battery, says Erle Robotics. The servos for the six legs, which have slip shoes, deliver over 12.5 kg/cm of torque per axis, according to the website’s specs. However, this may be tied to the earlier BeagleBone Black based prototype, which also lists features (such as WiFi) that are not listed on the Indiegogo page.

Erle Robotics developers with Erle-Spider prototypes
(click image to enlarge)

Erle-Spider specs

Preliminary specifications listed for the Erle-Spider include:

  • Computing subsystem (Erle-Brain 2/Raspberry Pi 2):
    • Processor — quad-core, 900MHz Cortex-A7
    • Memory — 1GB RAM; microSD slot
    • Wireless — Bluetooth
    • Networking — 10/100 Ethernet port
    • Other I/O:
      • 4x USB ports
      • Micro-USB port
      • HDMI port
      • Composite video port
      • UART port
      • I2C port
      • ADC port?
      • Sensors — Gravity, gyroscope, digital compass, pressure, temperature
      • Operating sytem — Ubuntu Snappy Core with ROS Indigo (soon with ROS 2)
  • Robot subsystem:
    • Bluetooth controller pad
    • 6x legs driven by 18 servos for 18 degrees of freedom
    • Power — 45 minute battery
    • Dimensions — 34 x 24 x 15cm
    • Weight — 2.1 k

The Erle-Spider’s Indiegogo campaign video appears below.

Erle-Spider Indiegogo campaign video

Further Information

The Erle-Spider is available in a variety of Indiegogo funding packages starting at $399, with shipments starting as early as December (see farther above for details). More information may be found at Earle-Spider Indiegogo campaign page, and somewhat dated info can be found on the Erle Robotics Erle-Spider website.

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3 responses to “Spiderlike bot’s controller runs Snappy Ubuntu on Raspberry Pi 2”

  1. Carlos says:

    Great piece!! Followed from our founders team of Erle Robotics!

    Keep going!

    Carlos Uraga – CEO Erle Robotcs

  2. Andy says:

    Interesting to see how the Robot Application market place will develop. For phones it is huge. For Robot behaviours it will be multiples of this.
    Has Erle and Canonical just launched the standard platform for this?

    • Carlos says:

      Indeed. All the products of Erle Robotics are powered by Erle-Brain which means stay connected to the app store backed by both Canonical and Erle Robotics, this was created at the beginning of the year and has already more than 60 apps!

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