Interview with Victor Mayoral Vilches, co-founder of Erle Robotics

David and VIctor from Erle Robotics

Victor Mayoral Vilches has agreed to an interview exclusively for us. For those of you who don't know him yet, which I hope there are few, Victor and his brother David are the founders of the successful and pioneering startup Erle Robotics. Something to be very proud of seeing what they have achieved in such a short time.

Erle Robotics was created in Álava And since their inception, at the end of 2012, they have dedicated themselves to innovating and creating next-generation robots and drones, pioneering their inventions and getting people to talk about them in select Silicon Valley and with partners like Canonical working to create products. quality and focused on usability. And if you want to know more about her, I encourage you to read the full interview ...

LinuxAdictos: How did Erle Robotics come about and where does the name come from?

Victor Mayoral: Erle robotics It began at the end of 2012 with David and Víctor Mayoral Vilches, two brothers passionate about robotics. David specialized in the business aspect, finishing his studies in some of the most prestigious business schools in Europe (IE Business School, ICADE) while Victor finished his engineering studies and began to work for the Italian government as a researcher in the MicroBiorobotics Center of the Italian Institute of Technology (
We started by financing the first prototypes through grants, loans and our own salaries. We worked most of the time remotely. Even with different time zones. In recent months, Erle has surrounded himself with a talented and passionate team that seeks to push the next technological revolution: robotics.
Erle means “bee” in Basque and the name comes from the fact that our first drones emitted a sound similar to that of bees.

THE:You work for a company dedicated to robots and drones. People may think that like so many others, but what sets Erle Robotics apart from the rest?

VM:Erle Robotics develops artificial brains for robots and drones. We are today one of the few manufacturers in the world that creates embedded Linux-based computers that include the sensing and algorithm (Erle-Brain) necessary to create different types of robots (Erle-Copter, Erle-Plane or Erle-Rover ). We are ultimately defining the future of robotics through open hardware and software platforms.
Additionally, I would highlight the fact that most of us are committed engineers with previous experience in the field of robotics at an international level.
For example, Irati brings all of our ideas to life by solving mechanical and design problems. Alex, in addition to being an expert in computer vision, has worked for years with autonomous terrestrial robots. Iñigo has experience in several foreign companies and universities designing hardware. Carlos is a researcher with international experience in industrial aspects and in the management of technological projects, etc.

THE:What operating system and software do you use to develop your products?

VM:Erle Robotics uses Linux-based operating systems. We modify the kernel ourselves to have a real-time response to the needs of each of our robots. Today we have versions with Debian and Ubuntu.
We make active use of ROS, APM, mavlink, and many other open stacks.

THE:From our blog we have echoed some of your achievements. As the first App Store for drones that you have got together with Canonical, the first automatic pilot for drones and the first drone with Ubuntu Core (Erle-Copter). Jerry Sanders, the co-founder of AMD used to say that to fight against the giant Intel there was no choice but to innovate. Is that your philosophy?

VM:Undoubtedly! We compete in the market with incredible dynamism and where there are companies that spend millions of € solely on advertising.

Our philosophy aligns a lot with some of the Alan Kay quotes “the best way to predict the future is to invent it”. (Although I also stick with that of "people who are serious about software should make their own hardware").

THE:Canonical is a great technology partner. It has managed to position Ubuntu as one of the most important and most used Linux distributions. What benefits does such a powerful partner in the field of robotics and drones bring you?

VM:It certainly is. Robotics has advanced slowly for many years. ROS unified contributions allowing development to grow much faster. Canonical provides an answer to another need in this area, a market for applications and behaviors that encourages the next generation of male and female engineers to bring their code to robots around the world.

THE:Well, I think the benefit is mutual. Erle Robotics also helps Ubuntu Core grow and you contribute code, don't you?

VM:From Erle Robotics we support Canonical's work with Ubuntu Core and we share the free philosophy that the company has been transmitting for years.

THE:What can you tell me about the IoT? It seems very "fashionable" lately. From Erle Robotics, are you also studying this new market beyond robots and drones?

VM:We make intelligent artificial brains. We do not rule out that they can be used in conventional use devices.

THE:You want to transform Erle Robotics into a great company, a world benchmark in robotics. It is still a very young company, almost a newborn, with 9 employees (if I'm not mistaken) and despite this there is a lot of talk about you, you are in the Top 30 of the most promising startups in the world ... For us, Erle Robotics is already one of the greats. Do not you think?

VM:The robotics market is still in its infancy and Erle Robotics has a long way to go. We need to grow much more and among our objectives in the next few months is to hire more than 10 linux addicts.

THE:From our blog we always defend open source, the Linux kernel and of course there is room for free hardware, such as Arduino. For you it also represents a powerful weapon. For example, you have used ArduPilot Mega as the basis for Erle-Brain, you have chosen Ubuntu Core for Erle-Copter, you use ROS, etc. Many attack free or open source projects and claim that they are made by amateurs, that they are of poor quality, more insecure, etc. A whole legion of excuses to defend closed products. What would you say to these people?

VM:The last 20 years of software development have proven that closed technology is left behind while open projects become standards and endure. Let's not forget also that many of these “open source” projects are led by some of the brightest minds on the planet.

Take for example the Linux kernel. The most relevant companies in the world of computing They have been supporting the kernel and the Linux Foundation for years and have in mind that the smart thing to do is to diversify the development and complexity of the kernel (17 million lines of code).
Something similar happens with APM and its 700.000 lines of code that make it possible to create autonomous unmanned vehicles. 700.000 lines audited, reviewed and questioned by hundreds of developers and thousands of users worldwide. Erle Robotics engineers are among the main contributors APM and lead the transition to new platforms (post on transition to Linux). Personally I consider that the criticisms of a closed technology towards an open one have little relevance. The lack of contrast is obvious. In fact, a few days ago I offered one of the leaders in the European closed technology market to benchmark against our APM-based technology but I would be surprised if they agreed.
In robotics the situation is even more obvious. ROS, the robots operating system is an indispensable framework for developing applications with robots (something like an SDK for robotics).
During the last semester of 2014 I had the pleasure of working in Mountain View, California with the Open Source Robotics Foundation focused on developing ROS 2.0, the next generation of the framework and I can assure you that ROS 2.0 will lay the foundations of robotics for at least the last few years. next decade.

THE:All open source projects are vital to education. Tell us something about DronEDU.

VM:We often share that the future of robotics is not going to be in humanoids worth thousands of euros but in Linux-based robots, low cost and above all in the creativity and passion of the next generation of engineers and engineers.
DronEDU is an initiative that seeks to bring drones to everyone who is interested. We offer discounts, we are actively involved in chatting and we support the organization of robotics and drones events.

THE:Now there is a battle and ethical debates about the danger of robots and AI in the future, the dangers of the misuse of this type of technology, etc. Are you afraid that one of your creations will wait for you at the exit? Hahaha, not really. What opinion does this topic deserve from an expert?

VM:We do not consider ourselves experts at all. Robotics has a long way to go yet, but technological advances do not scare us. On the contrary, we are excited to be able to lead them and be part of this new technological wave.
Artificial intelligence that allows us to achieve technological uniqueness It is still a long way off, but in Erle, our artificial brains and robots are already beginning to include deep learning algorithms that allow us to obtain quasi-human capabilities in key tasks.

I hope this interview of our series has entertained you and remember that more will come. If you have suggestions from someone you would like us to interview, leave your comments and who knows…

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