[FRC Blog] Control System Update (2022 and Beyond)

Control System Update

Written by Kate Pilotte, Senior Kit of Parts Manager, FIRST Robotics Competition.

We let the community know in this blog that the current control system hardware (National Instruments’ roboRIO, Cross the Road Electronics’ PDP, VRM, & PCM, and Open Mesh/Datto’s radio) will be in play through the 2021 season. This system has served and continues to serve FIRST and FIRST Robotics Competition teams well; we’re grateful to these Suppliers for their support in making the control system versatile, robust, and well-supported.

2022 is rapidly approaching, so we wanted to provide an update on progress toward the next chapter for the FRC control system.

FIRST distributed a Request for Proposal last year and is excited to announce that the 2022 system Suppliers have been selected. We received cooperative proposals from National Instruments and REV Robotics that complement FIRST’s technical needs and mission, and we’re happy to announce that the 2022-2026 system will consist of a revised roboRIO from National Instruments (increased RAM and flash memory, improved low-voltage protection, and a higher-speed grade Zynq processor) and support boards being developed by REV Robotics. Additionally, the WPILib Control System Team has committed to continue to support and evolve WPILib. The next system is being planned to maintain compatibility with current devices, and decisions about legality of existing devices will be made and communicated once details on pricing, availability, technical ramifications, etc. are finalized.

One the wireless side, we continue to work towards a radio solution for 2022 and beyond and will share more details in the future.

We are so grateful to NI, REV, and WPI for the past, continued, and future support. These organizations have demonstrated their commitment to inspiring students in science and technology, are collaborative and engaging partners, and care deeply about the team experience.

This blog is meant to be just a general update; there will be more information shared as details are finalized re: feature set, pricing, alpha & beta testing plans, distribution expectations, etc. Stay tuned, and good luck this season!

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Excited to see what’s inside!

Hope that past Rio’s are still compatible for 2022 onwards.

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Disappointed to see that CTRE is no longer developing the control system.

CTRE’s contribution to the FRC ecosystem has been invaluable.
Hopefully this does not impact their willingness to continue to develop great products for the FRC ecosystem as a whole.

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Note that CTRE’s contributions there are the PDP, PCM and VRM. Presumably their motor controllers will still be legal (and that the new control system still uses CAN).

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My guess is this will be like the cRIO FRC-II where the old one was still perfectly legal and compatible with all the software. I’m guessing we’ll see a reveal of some kind at NI Week based on the timing of the RoboRIO announcement.

Also, I’m excited to hear about the Rev control boards! I assume these are successors to the PDP, VRM, and PCM? CTRE’s have been good (though a bit expensive) and I hope they’re still legal for the sake of competition so one supplier doesn’t have a monopoly over the control system, but the PDP is definitely something that could use a refresh.

Keep in mind that they’re a key contributer to the Talon SRX and Victor SPX and their primary business is within FRC. I don’t think they’ll be leaving us any time soon.

Edit: One last note, a new radio in 2022 is something I really hope they can get ahead of schedule on. Everyone’s figured out the OpenMesh routers by now and how to keep them stable, but one of the ports just not working half the time is kind of unacceptable for a required control system component.

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Does it say that somewhere? This is what I see re the existing control system:

I really like CTRE’s stuff… Hopefully they still develop stuff. I think if you compare REV and CTRE, you’ll find that CTRE has more features and seems more refined. That’s just my opinion though

I do like REV’s focus on lower prices. I remember they lowered the price of the Spark DC motor controller because it cost them less. This won a few points in my book.

It will be interesting to see what the future holds for sure

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Those features you’re talking about are not related to the PDP, VRM, or the PCM.

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True, but they are all still visible in the Phoenix lifeboat software which is really convenient to have when all your stuff is CTRE and shows up. Right now we use the REV Spark Max Client and the Lifeboat software. I’d like to just have 1 solution.

I think when your stuff becomes REV based, they should all show up in the REV Client as well.

I appreciate REV’s lower pricing, but I will sorely miss the reliability of CTRE parts. Not to say that they’re perfect, but for how expensive each match is I’ll pay a few extra dollars for my control system.

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I hope all teams get to play in an open vendor ecosystem and I’m excited to see what new features will be coming out.

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Don’t forget. The Falcon is the last motor you will need. It isn’t going anywhere.

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I hope the new REV electronics will have mounting holes.

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I really hope that REV gives teams the option to not exclusively ziptie down their new PDP…

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I hope that the Rev PDP doesnt catch on fire

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VHB tape and hot glue are your friend. We haven’t screwed or zip-tied our electronics down for years. Just double sided sticky tape all day.

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This is key. Especially in the post-bag era, having legacy parts which are compatible with the legal parts, even if not legal themselves, will go a long way towards enabling low-to-mid resource teams to build, iterate, and/or drive a practice/development robot without breaking the competition one.

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Well your answer is technically correct, I like bolting my electronics down for reasons.

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