New Beaglebone Blue board designed for robotics

There's much to like in the new Beaglebone Blue board. Along with the usual Beaglebone processing power and Linux support, it has built-in IMU sensors, good WiFi, proper connectors and (for rovers) motor drivers and wheel encoders. It's also just $79, and supports ArduPilot out of the box!

But before you toss your RasperryPi 3/Navio 2 combo (which is awesome but costs more than twice as much), here are a few things to keep in mind. 

  • No built-in GPS (not a big deal, since outboard GPS is the standard)
  • Not really designed for video. There's no HDMI in or out, and no GPU. You connect a USB camera but it's not as well supported as video is on the RaspberryPi 3
  • Community support for Beaglebone is not as strong as RaspberryPi

That said, for ground rovers I think it's a very interesting choice because of the built-in motor driver and encoders. I'm going to give one a shot. 

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Comment by Patrick Poirier on March 16, 2017 at 4:16pm

BeagleBone Blue is a fully functional Linux Based  Autopilot that has already been demonstrated flying with Ardupilot.... Stay tuned for an announcement soon :-)

Concerning a built-in GPS, anyone knows that in order to get a good GPS signal , it is preferable that the GPS receiver must be located as far as possible to Electromagnetic interference ,like processors clock and motor controllers. Same logic applies to Magnetometer.

As for the video, I am flying a BeagleBone Black BBBMINI with a Logitech C920 camera using GSTREAMER no problem. As for the GPU, unless I am missing something new, Broadcom GPU on RPI2 & 3 are still experimental and please don't compare a BeagleBone with a Nvidia TX2.

As for community support on the BeagleBone, most of the RPI ARM stuff works pretty well on BBB, and for flying take a look at the BBBMINI community right here on this site, or on discuss.ardupilot.org


3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on March 16, 2017 at 4:27pm

Yes, the RPi 3 GPU is not well supported in OpenCV and really only adds to performance using WebGL.  Fingers crossed about better support going forward -- at least the GPU hardware is there -- but it's hard to predict.  But the built-in camera support on RPi is pretty great, and that's led to a lot of video optimization on that platform.

I think the biggest difference is just the size of the RPi community and all the tutorials and libraries that have been written and/or tested on that.  To select anything other than a RPi, the alternative has to be MUCH better to compensate. After I get the BBBlue, I'll be able to answer whether it passes that test. 

Comment by Gary McCray on March 16, 2017 at 4:41pm

An interesting option for sure.

As for video / vision / LIDAR, surprise, the best solution is a separate navigation computer like say "TX2".

That is really true for assorted RPI flavors as well.

This is a great central autopilot, your nav information can flow into it from elsewhere.

We have really already gotten to a 2 layer approach, the Solo, Mavic and most of the more advanced multis already use two function separate controllers, one for the flying and basic sensing the other for processing externally acquired navigation information.

This is actually a very good format for experimentation and development because you can mostly adopt the basic features of the core system and then just work on the interesting part externally.

If you want to use a cheaper external processor, get a TK1, but the price / performance difference between the TX1 and TX2 is not enough to justify getting a TX1 anymore.

Looking forward to the announcement soon Patrick, hoping for full Ardupilot integration of BBBlue with all hookup info, soon as you have it, I'll get one.

The built in 5ghz extended range WiFi is interesting too.

Be looking forward to your comparative response too Chris, for sure RPI does have better community support.

Best regards,

Gary


3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on March 16, 2017 at 8:39pm

Sadly, everybody who orders this has to fill out an export control form, and in many case they will not ship outside the US. That's a shame, and it suggest that the team behind it didn't go through the usual process of getting an EIN designation that does not require this (it's a hassle, but it's the right thing to do). That will hurt popularity for sure. 

Comment by JB on March 17, 2017 at 12:23am

It does have 2x PRU and a Core M3 MCU as well, so maybe it's time to port APM to one of them to free up the A8 CPU for imaging/video?

Gary for more APM info have a look here and foolow the links to Mirko's Git: http://discuss.ardupilot.org/t/beaglebone-blue-released-linux-enabl...

The main shortcoming for using it as a educational tool is the removal of a HDMI output.

Otherwise the price, the included 2S lipo charger, 4A UBEC, built in DC motor controller (just add some coreless motors, frame and a battery to fly!) and wifi mesh (802.11s) makes it excellent money for value all-in-one drone kit.

Comment by Patrick Poirier on March 17, 2017 at 3:46am
Yes Mirko did the BeagleBone Blue integration with Ardupilot and it is now available for download. As JB pointed out,details are on Ardupilot discuss, Mirko will publish here pretty soon. As a side note JB , the PRU are used for PPM and PWM signal encode-decode and other precision timing usage.
Comment by Alex Wright on March 17, 2017 at 7:59am

Is ardupilot able to use brushed motors? Has this been used to make a brushed quadcopter as well? I see them using the motor drivers for mip etc but did not see an example of a brushed quadctoper made with this.


Developer
Comment by John Arne Birkeland on March 17, 2017 at 9:20am

The problem with all most all ARM boards I know of, is that the GPU and dedicated video HW parts are still black boxed with abysmal or even nonexistent software support. And using the CPU part only for computer vision / computer learning etc. is a dead end.

The only ones I know of with decent software support is the Nvidia Jetson and Ti chipsets. Still black boxed, but they at least come with working drivers and HW support for the popular frameworks like GStreamer, OpenCV etc.

Comment by JB on March 22, 2017 at 9:37am

One other thing I just realized that it lacks is a camera CSI input. It's will be USB camera only.

Comment by Patrick Poirier on March 22, 2017 at 3:28pm

Chris,  Mirko has tried a few times to get the BeagleBoneBlue Ardupilot based autopilot publisged on DIYDRONES, but never got it approved.. Are you aware of that ?

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