Not only does DJI design and manufacture high quality camera drones, they also specialise in many other high tech areas, including action cameras, camera gimbals, and even propulsion and flight control systems.
To complement their drone range, DJI has also designed an educational robot, aptly named RoboMaster. DJI claim that RoboMaster is an unrivaled educational tool for students and educators. To satisfy our curiosity, we wanted to get hold of one to find out for ourselves if it lives up to these claims.
Thanks to our friends at Pakronics, we soon had a RoboMaster on our workbench to assemble and put to the test.
Considering that the robot is designed for the education market, we enlisted 14-year old, Wyatt, to put it together for a student’s perspective.
Robomaster s1 Vs. Robomaster EP
Before we get into our hands-on review, let’s go into more detail about the robot and its ecosystem. The RoboMaster EP that we are reviewing is based on the original RoboMaster S1 (shown below). You will notice that it sports a blaster that fires gel beads instead of the gripper arm on the EP model.
RoboMaster D1 with gel bead blaster
Even though the gel projectiles were non-toxic, and had limited range and angle, some states in Australia were not able to sell this model. Thus, the Expansion Set Core (EP Core) was designed with its robotic arm and gripper instead.
- High resolution camera for a first person view (FPV)
- AI image recognition
- Gripper to grab and pickup objects
- Built-in speaker
- Meccanum wheels
WHAT’S IN THE BOX
The RoboMaster EP is supplied in a huge 375x350x320mm box. Inside the box are five thick foam boards, individually customised to hold all of the parts safely in place. There is also an envelope that contains a quick start guide and coloured vision marker cards.
The quick start guide has 54-pages with multiple languages and hundreds of line-drawn illustrations (shown here).
The first few pages of the guide point you to the RoboMaster App on Google Play or the Apple App store, along with links to tutorial videos.
The guide then goes into clearly identifying all of the components supplied, and which foam layer they can be located, which suggests that we should leave all of the parts in place until we need them during assembly.
A quick count of the illustrated parts adds up to 150 pieces. This includes two storage containers that contain over 200 screws and associated tools. These are clearly labelled in the guide, so don’t mix up the screws before assembly.
The guide then shows you an exploded view of the parts, how to prepare the included battery, and then finally the 93-steps to assemble the robot.
Intelligent BATTery and Charger
The package includes a high-capacity LiPo battery and charger.
Four rectangular LEDs on the battery indicate how much power is remaining, and the round button serves as the master on/off button.
It’s worth getting the battery on charge while you do the build.
You can choose to just use the printed or digital quick guide to assemble the robot, or alternatively, you can watch the tutorials via the various Apps or YouTube channel.
We'll cover a few of the most notable parts of the build.
Assembling the wheels takes the most amount of effort. There's four wheels to construct, and 12 rollers in each. Grease needs to be applied to each roller as you go, so you will need a lot of time and patience for this part.
Most of the wiring is made to this motion controller. Note that it has keyed sockets to avoid any reverse polarity.
There are four HIT Detectors that mount on each side behind plastic armor plates. These detect impacts or infrared beam strikes from a RoboMaster S1.
The M3508I brushless motors do feel high quality. These feature closed-loop electronic speed control (ESC) and an array of protection features.
The arm is made from several strong metal parts.
Be sure to pay attention to the numbers printed on the sides of the arm connecting rods for the correct assembly.
High Performance SERVOS
The 12V servo provides plenty of power for the robot arm. We didn't experience any jitter during our tests.
The speaker sits underneath the robotic arm to provide sound effects.
Colour coded wires with keyed connectors makes wiring straightforward.
The camera attaches to the top of the arm and serves a few purposes.
Firstly, it provides a first person view to operate the robot and gripper when out of sight. It can identify objects, vision cards, faces or human physical gestures with the robot's AI.
The camera has a 120° field of view and provides up to 1080 FHD video res and 2560x1440 JPEGs. It also has a microphone built-in.
The gripper is fully assembled and has a high performance servo built in.
The gripper can open to around 100mm, and has a significant gripping force to hold large or oddly shaped objects.
The intelligent controller enables you to connect locally to a smart device or to a router.
Its systems include a video transmission system, game system, and Scratch programming system.
The USB-C port connects to the camera. The 3.5mm socket connects to the speaker. The Autonomous Program Button runs Scratch programs written by the user for atonomous operation.
USB port for computer connectivity, and a CAN Bus port that connects to the motion controller.
Thoughts on the ASSEMBLY
The build took Wyatt several hours in total. It was fiddly and repetitive work at times due to the amount of screws, so Wyatt's patience was tested from time to time.
Wyatt also found that the video tutorial glossed over some of the steps so he needed to refer to the printed quick start guide for clarification.
You will be left with some spare parts at the end of the build, which are intended for optional sensors and modules.
The magnetic screwdriver comes in very handy when fixing the tiny screws, and no other tools are required.
TIP: Leave the screws in their case until you need them as their specific container is referenced during the build.
The RoboMaster App
The RoboMaster App is available for Android & iOS mobile devices or Windows or Mac computers. Initially, you will need to set up an account, and jump through a few hoops such as accepting T&Cs, etc.
You can connect to the RoboMaster directly via Wi-Fi or via a Router.
The robot is identified as RMEP-XXXXXX and the password is 12341234
The drive mode is intuitive with onscreen joysticks when using a tablet or Smartphone. For computers, you can use keys on the keyboard for easy control.
By pressing the gripper icon on the right, you are shown three slide controllers to operate the gripper.
The camera gives you a view of the gripper in action.
In this image, you can see a similar view from a computer. Note the letters that indicate what keys on the keyboard to press.
A neat feature we discovered was the ability to playback audio that you record and save on the controller. For instance, you can record up to 10 voice messages and play them back when the robot gets to a certain location on your obstacle course.
There is some fun games to play, however, these are mostly intended for the S1 with its gel bead blaster.
However, we did have fun with the Target Practice game where you identify the supplied vision cards on an obstacle course with checkpoints.
CODING for beginners and advanced users
Just like many other robot brands on the market, such as Sphero, you can easily code the RoboMaster using drag-and-drop Scratch 3.0 programming. For more savvy users, they can use Python 3.6 for more advanced programming, including the ability to communicate with other RoboMaster robots in real time.
For advanced users, they can take advantage of the open DJI SDK (software development kits) for much more control and AI applications.
BEYOND THE BUILD
Impressively, there is also support for open-source hardware such as Arduino, Raspberry Pi and micro:bit.
Third party sensors can also be connected to the four supplied sensor adaptors.
This provides endless possibilities for sensory data to support your application.
For AI applications, there is also the ability to perform model training and scene recognition through AI platforms such as NVIDIA Jetson Nano and the official DJI SDK.
ROBOMASTER FOR EDUCATION
Going by the DJI website (www.dji.com/au/robomaster-ep), DJI has put a lot of effort into providing tools and resources for teachers, and interesting competitions for students and schools to participate in.
To assist educators, DJI provide lecture slides and lesson plans, along with worksheets and handouts for students, which are tailored to different ages and grade levels.
Students in schools and universities can also team up with more than one DJI robot (or DJI drone) and collaborate or compete in fun missions, including the following:
Search & Rescue Complete mock search and rescue tasks by picking up, transferring and transporting relief materials on a 6x5m competition area.
Air-to-Ground Cooperation Combine a DJI RoboMaster and DJI Drone to do aerial reconnaissance of a mock power plant leak, and use the unmanned vehicle to transfer waste and repair the 4x4m power plant competition area.
Intelligent Warehouse Use a Robomaster to complete warehousing tasks by identifying signs and planning routes, and transferring goods on the 2x4m competition area.
There also appears to be university championships to help cultivate future engineers and to showcase technical innovations around the world:
Hardware wise, we found the RoboMaster to be an impressive build. It certainly doesn't feel like a toy, but instead, a professional well designed and durable robot.
Being able to expand the robot with a microcontroller and additional third-party sensors provides much more added value and longevity. Its ability to perform AI tasks and communicate with other DJI robots and drones expands its appeal for a classroom environment. Of course, the classroom will require a WiFi enabled tablet, smartphone or computer for each RoboMaster.
For the budding enthusiast at home, the RoboMaster is sure to inspire them on their journey to become the next generation of engineers, however, the high price tag might put this out of reach for many.
390(L) x 340(H) x 250(W)mm, 3.4kg
12.6V 2,400mAh LiPo 3S, 25.92Wh
iOS 10.0.2+ or Android 5.0+
MacOS 10.13+ or Windows 7 64bit+
DIYODE readers get 10% off at checkout
RoboMaster EP Core is available at Pakronics www.pakronics.com.au
- PAKR-A0309 $1582.90