Working with a LED strip

Documentation for the image versions, starting with 0.20. For older versions refer to documentation for version 0.19.

Clover drone kits contain addressable LED strips based on ws281x drivers. Each LED may be set to any one of 16 million possible colors (each color is encoded by a 24-bit number). This allows making the Clover flight more spectacular, as well as show flight modes, display stages of current user program, and notify the pilot of other events.

Our Raspberry Pi image contains preinstalled modules for interfacing with the LED strip. They allow the user to:

  • manage LED strip effects and animations (high-level control);
  • control individual LED colors (low-level control);
  • configure the strip to display flight events.

LED strip can consume a lot of power! Powering it from a Raspyerry Pi may overload the computer's power circuitry. Consider using a separate BEC as a power source.

High-level control

  1. Connect the +5v and GND leads of your LED to a power source and the DIN (data in) lead to GPIO21. Consult the assembly instructions for details.
  2. Enable LED strip support in ~/catkin_ws/src/clover/clover/launch/clover.launch:

     <arg name="led" default="true"/>
  3. Configure the ws281x parameters in ~/catkin_ws/src/clover/clover/launch/led.launch. Change the number of addressable LEDs and the GPIO pin used for control to match your configuration:

     <param name="led_count" value="30"/>  <!-- Number of LEDs in the strip -->
     <param name="gpio_pin" value="21"/>   <!-- GPIO data pin -->

High-level interface allows changing current effect (or animation) on the strip. It is exposed as the /led/set_effect service. It has the following arguments:

  • effect is the name of requested effect.
  • r, g, b are RGB components of effect color. Each component is an integer in a 0 to 255 range.

Currently available effects are:

  • fill (or an empty string) fills the whole strip with the requested color;
  • blink turns the strip on and off, setting it to the requested color;
  • blink_fast is the same, but faster;
  • fade fades smoothly to the requested color;
  • wipe fills the strip with the requested color one LED at a time;
  • flash blinks twice and returns to the previous effect;
  • rainbow creates a rainbow-like shifting effect;
  • rainbow_fill cycles the strip through rainbow colors, filling the whole strip with the same color.

Python example:

import rospy
from clover.srv import SetLEDEffect


set_effect = rospy.ServiceProxy('led/set_effect', SetLEDEffect)  # define proxy to ROS-service

set_effect(r=255, g=0, b=0)  # fill strip with red color

set_effect(r=0, g=100, b=0)  # fill strip with green color

set_effect(effect='fade', r=0, g=0, b=255)  # fade to blue color

set_effect(effect='flash', r=255, g=0, b=0)  # flash twice with red color

set_effect(effect='blink', r=255, g=255, b=255)  # blink with white color

set_effect(effect='rainbow')  # show rainbow

You can also set colors from your Bash shell:

rosservice call /led/set_effect "{effect: 'fade', r: 0, g: 0, b: 255}"
rosservice call /led/set_effect "{effect: 'rainbow'}"

Configuring event visualizations

It is possible to display current flight controller status and notify the user about some events with the LED strip. This is configured in the ~/catkin_ws/src/clover/clover/launch/led.launch file in the events effects table section. Here is a sample configuration:

startup: { r: 255, g: 255, b: 255 }
connected: { effect: rainbow }
disconnected: { effect: blink, r: 255, g: 50, b: 50 }
<!-- ... -->

The left part is one of the possible events that the strip reacts to. The right part contains the effect description that you want to execute for this event. Here is the list of supported events:

  • startup – Clover system startup;
  • connected – successful connection to the flight controller;
  • disconnected – connection to the flight controller lost;
  • armed – flight controller transitioned to armed state;
  • disarmed – flight controller transitioned to disarmed state;
  • stabilized, acro, rattitude, altctl, posctl, offboard, mission, rtl, land – transition to said flight mode;
  • error – an error occured in one of ROS nodes or in the flight controller (ERROR message in /rosout);
  • low_battery – low battery (threshold is set in the threshold parameter).

You need to calibrate the power sensor for the low_battery event to work properly.

In order to disable LED strip notifications set led_notify argument in ~/catkin_ws/src/clover/clover/launch/led.launch to false:

<arg name="led_notify" default="false"/>

Low-level control

You can use the /led/set_leds ROS service to control individual LEDs. It accepts an array of LED indices and desired colors.

Python example:

import rospy
from led_msgs.srv import SetLEDs
from led_msgs.msg import LEDStateArray, LEDState


set_leds = rospy.ServiceProxy('led/set_leds', SetLEDs)  # define proxy to ROS service

# switch LEDs number 0, 1 and 2 to red, green and blue color:
set_leds([LEDState(0, 255, 0, 0), LEDState(1, 0, 255, 0), LEDState(2, 0, 0, 255)])

You can also use this service from the your Bash shell:

rosservice call /led/set_leds "leds:
- index: 0
  r: 50
  g: 100
  b: 200"

Current LED strip state is published in the /led/state ROS topic. You can view the contents of this topic from your Bash shell:

rostopic echo /led/state

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