BeagleBone Blue released, Linux-enabled autopilot for $80 has released the BeagleBone Blue some days ago, a Linux-enabled computer for robotic applications.

The BeagleBone Blue is an open hardware platform that include a large array of sensors and IO; IMU, Baro, PPM for RC input, 8 channels PWM output to Servos, DC motor driver, analog input, PRU, GPIO, LEDs, buttons, serial, CAN, I2C, SPI, USB, WiFi, Bluethooth, 2-cell LiPo charger and wide input voltage range.

Jason Kridner has designed the BeagleBone Blue and he contacted me to implement the ArduPilot Flight Controller Software on BeagleBone Blue and make it a full blown Linux-enabled autopilot. Based on my previous experience with a similar project called the BBBmini, a BeagleBone Black or Green coupled with a sensor cape of my own, that has been successfully built and flown by numerous DIYers around the world, the BeagleBone Blue is natural extension of my design with the benefit of having a single board solution.

Experimenters can now have their copter, plane, rover, submarine being controlled with ArduPilot software powered by a versatile Linux platform with enough power to add cameras, additional sensors and use a large array of available robotic language like ROS, dronekit-python and Mission Control suites for just 80$.

I am not related to TI or BBBmini and BeagleBone Blue ArduPilot support are both pure hobby projects.

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Comment by Gary McCray on March 26, 2017 at 1:08pm

Great job Mirko!

Comment by Patrick Poirier on March 26, 2017 at 1:10pm

Great Project Mirko !!

I had the chance to follow the work in this one and there was some tricky parts to resolve within the code.

This BBBlue is a real bargain compared to NAVIO or Intel Aero for anyone interested trying a Linux based FC.

Comment by S1CAR1US on March 26, 2017 at 4:51pm
Have you seen the PXF Mini? It is I believe 68 dollars, and basically everything you could want in an autopilot. It is designed to be stacked on top of a raspberry pi zero($5), which is much cheaper than a BBB... But is also compatible with Raspberry Pi 2, 3, and b+ variants. I put mine on top of a RPi3 b+. It is complety open source and is basically the same thing as a pixhawk, or more accurately the pixhawk fire cape. Seems like for the points your making about what you like about the bbb, this is a much better option. Hope this info is useful to someone.
Comment by Patrick Poirier on March 26, 2017 at 5:28pm

S1CAR1US I know it so much that I build mine from scratch at half the price last year.

Thanks to Mirko for his help in this project :-)

Unlike the RPI , the BBB makes all the timing process internally (PPM-in and PWM-out) using the PRU : A programmable realtime unit within the SOC. On RPI we need external components to do it.

Comment by Andrew Tridgell on March 26, 2017 at 6:33pm

great work Mirko!

I like the docs you've done. Could we get those in the ArduPilot wiki too? Or at least a link?

If you don't have write permission to the wiki repo then please let know.

Comment by S1CAR1US on March 26, 2017 at 8:43pm

What are the advantages of the ppm to pwm conversions being done internally on the bbb? I am curious to know if there are any real advantages to this system. I'm not advocating for one or the other, just trying to learn as much as possible. Also, when you say built for half the price, were you meaning that you built the pxf mini from the schematics which are provided in .pdf form by Erle Robtcs? That would be really cool because I was thinking about doing the same thing but didn't know enough about sourcing a PCB manufacturer, or the rules, both legally and morally, about making an open source hardware chip like this. I mean i would think that it would be just fine to do but was suprised at how little info i could find when searching online. I found places said they would print a board for student as low as 20 dollars... So any open source chip i can go get made by them or is it frowned on or down right illegal in a case like this where only one company makes it?
Comment by Patrick Poirier on March 27, 2017 at 4:06am


There is no real difference if we look at the signals, but with the BBB its all done internally with no additional components. The BBB has been designed as a general purpose ARM based system with lots of IO. The configuration can be modified using the Device Tree structure (equivalent to Bios) were the IO are profiled and defined.

Getting back to the MiniZee, if you follow the blog, you will see that someone made a pc board that you can order from OSH Park. It is opened hardware, so you can to copy and modify. If you have other questions about this project, feel free to ask on the MiniZee Blogpost. Lets keep the BBBlue topic going on here ;-)

Soby  using the BBBlue, you can build a balancing robot one day, and build a Flight Controller the next just by uploading software and rewiring IO. 

Comment by JB on March 27, 2017 at 5:17am

Patrick...but but but I want a quadcopter,  self balancing  on two wheels I can drive up walls and across ceilings! ;-) 

Comment by Ravi on March 27, 2017 at 8:31am

it's very challenging to design a flight controller hardware unlike a rover hardware or a ground based machine. whosoever designs a flight controller hardware or software is a genius. BBB is a natural improvement since it incorporates more sensors than other boards making it more versatile.

Comment by Mirko Denecke on March 27, 2017 at 12:00pm


I think the unique think of the BeagleBone Blue is that it is single board solution for this small price. Technically the advantage of using the firmware I have written for the PRUs of the BeagleBone (internal PWM generation) is, that you can set the update frequency for each of the up to 12 PWM channels. I.E. if you are flying a quadcopter the update frequency of the ESCs will be 400Hz, if there are some servos connected too, you can set the update frequency for the servos to the standard value of 50Hz. A lot of servos can not handle 400Hz. When using a PXFmini you only can set a global update frequency for all PWM outputs. So you may have to choose, lower the ESC update frequency to 50Hz or keep the 400Hz and the servos may not work.

The BeagleBone Blue offers 4 (and a half) serial connection which may be useful to connect external sensors, also the CAN interface seems to be more important in the future.

But each type of flight controllers has it advantages and disadvantages, it depends on your requirements which one you choose.



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