DIY Linux autopilot - cool for cats... and geeks

I want to share with you the tremendous fun I'm having with the BBBmini DIY ArduPilot project, which I discovered during the summer. Hopefully, I can demonstrate what a sexy DIY Linux Autopilot for around 100 bucks looks like and convince you why Linux autopilots are cooler than a cat playing the piano.
 
For some background, Mirko Denecke, who designed the BBBmini, wrote an introductory blog post on his DIY ArduPilot Cape here, and about further enhancements here.
 
Since Mirko released rev1.4 into the wild as Open Hardware, there's been a BBBmini usergroup down at DIY Drones, so that's a good place to see what's happening with the technology.
 
Rekindled enthusiasm
 
Being a Linux autopilot enthusiast, I naturally had a BeagleBone Black lying around and so was immediately attracted to this project. While building and getting the BBBmini into the air, I quickly realized that it was just the right kind of project I needed to rekindle my enthusiasm.
 
DIY Linux autopilots: What's the attraction?
 
I really love the idea of flying Linux autopilots and must admit I've been hooked since I saw the first talks Andrew Tridgell and others gave on the topic, the early rumors about PXF, and the first boards like NavIO and  Erlebrain and so forth. I can see a bright future in this field, with the kind of  collaborative community effort such as that down at DIY Drones - which drives the technology forward.
 
After finally joining the Linux autopilot club, I had a kind of epiphany about how it opens a huge door to the opportunity of getting new ideas integrated much more easily thanks to the power of open innovation. The underlying Linux offers a sense of comfort and massive gains in usability.
 
Getting more out of your Autopilot
 
For example, I recently decided to configure my quad to log into different folders each day and rsync my log files to my NAS running samba at startup. That way I can archive them for later use as well and delete old logs when the SD cards becomes full. So, I should be find logs more easily and create a permanent archive, which was the initial reason for the set-up. This was all done with a few very basic modifications and open source tools / software made available by developers for public use.
 
Build your own DIY Linux autopilot
 
So, if you too like getting hands-on and want to make your own DIY Linux autopilot, now is the time to get your feet wet.
 
We're all keen to see what you'll come up with. For example, Mirko did a self-balancing robot based on the BBBmini and ArduPilot software, and I have something in the pipeline to fill the long winter nights.
 
We are working on improving the BBBmini experience and since Mirko recently added dual-MPU9250 support we are now flying with two MPU9250's. We also have a few ideas for extra add-ons.
 
I have put together a BBBmini DIY Kit to simplify the process of getting started, and if you are interested in buying a kit or just a PCB please send me a PM or go here.
 
Here is a short video of me flying the bbbmini just for fun.
 

 
The full project is available on GitHub and we invite interested users to contribute to the further development of the project.
 
Happy flying.
 
Cheers,
Linus
 

Views: 1862


Moderator
Comment by Gary Mortimer on November 20, 2015 at 8:18am

I'm sorry but you are wrong about the cat (in the world of the interwebs, I can't stand cats!)


Admin
Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on November 20, 2015 at 9:19am

@Linus,

Nice work!!

Regards,

Tom C AVD


Developer
Comment by Linus on November 21, 2015 at 8:20am

@Gary hehe let me guess, you're a cat owner :)

Thanks Tom for the kudos!

For those of you who ordered a Kit, I have sent them out today.

Cheers
Linus

Comment by Samuel Mi on November 21, 2015 at 9:05am

Nice work, Linus.

I really would like to the cape (BBBmini) you design for BBB. However, I prefer to integrate BBBmini with BBB as a single PCB, instead of with two independent PCBs out there. So, for the idea, what about your opinion?

Comment by Patrick Poirier on November 21, 2015 at 12:41pm

Hello Linus

Just ordered my kit , could'nt resist at such a good price !!

@Samuel, the cape is the best way to expand the BeagleBone I/O  while keeping the footprint (stacked Boards) at minimum. At this price, my opinion is that, there is no real advantage to design a custom board considering the development, test, debug, gerber , pcb production, pick-and place and reflow for a low volume production and on a chip that is getting near its end of life. Seeedstudio , just completed this cycle with the BBB Green, taylored to their line of peripherals- Grove Family -  that are mainly  I2C stuff, and they retail it at 39$. I am currently flying with a ErleBrain and a BBB and the cape has never caused me any issuees.  Hope that helps.


Developer
Comment by Linus on November 21, 2015 at 3:04pm

Hi Samuel,

there are no plans (that i am aware of) to incorporate the IMU breakout boards or components into the BBBmini PCB.

It is intentionally a DIY solution and the ability to swap sensors is one benefit from this.

@Patrick, thanks for joining in!

Cheers
Linus

Comment by Samuel Mi on November 21, 2015 at 11:42pm

@patrick

Thank you for your explanation on disadvantages of integrating BBBmini into BBB as a single PCB.

And also, you have already been playing around with ErleBrain combining BBB with PXF. But, ErleBrain 2 has an integrated solution which integrates IMU breakout baord (PXF) into linux based board (similar to Raspberry Pi 2 Model B) as a single PCB [1].

[1] http://erlerobotics.com/blog/erle-brain-2/

@ Linus

After BBB, do you have any plans on porting BBBmini to odroid series boards like odroid-xu3 [2]?

[2] http://www.hardkernel.com/main/products/prdt_info.php?g_code=G14044...

Comment by Enrico on November 22, 2015 at 12:34am

Hi Linus,

I'm an happy flyer of a BBBMINI !!

Would you please add some more details about dual-MPU9250 support and how you connect two of them?

I've already experienced the  "Compass not healthy" situation and would like to avoid it for the future...

What about a Battery Monitor for the future?

Thanks for all, I'm having a lot of fun !

Ciao, Enrico.


Developer
Comment by Linus on November 22, 2015 at 2:45am

Hi Enrico,

glad you like it and have fun with the BBBmini Kit!

Regarding the dualIMU it is a WIP but we already did a few flights with two IMU's in the last days.
The dualIMU branch lives in Mirkos repository here https://github.com/mirkix/ardupilot/tree/master_dual_mpu9250_ak8963 .

You would need to hook the second MPU9250 to the SPI0 connector, for connections you can look at the how the first MPU9250 is wired. FSYNC needs to go to ground.

I have mounted the first MPU-9250 (GY-9250) on the PCB bottom side and mounted the second MPU9250 to the top with the hex spacers connected with short cables.

Mirko has a Battery Monitor in the making but its not ready for the masses yet.


Cheers
Linus


Developer
Comment by Linus on November 22, 2015 at 2:52am

@Samuel

its tempting to always use newest more capeable plattform but for now the bbb is the target.

There are Rumours about a BeagleBoneEnhanced coming and i'm keen what enhancements it will bring.

Cheers

Linus

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