Gumstix releases new APM/PX4-based Linux autopilot board

From Linuxgizmos:

Gumstix announced a gen-2 micro-areal vehicle (MAV) controller based on its tiny gumstick-sized Overo COMs, and customizable via a free online design tool.

The AeroCore 2 is an update to the original AeroCore controllerintroduced last Spring. Like some other hacker-oriented UAV autopilots, such as the Erie autopilot, both of Gumstix’s AeroCore models run Nuttx RTOS for real-time control tasks, along with Linux for higher level functions.

AeroCore 2 baseboard with unpopulated Gumstix COM socket
(click image to enlarge)

The AeroCore 2’s real-time-task-oriented microcontroller is an ST Microelectronics STM32F427 MCU, based on a single ARM Cortex-A7 core clocked at 180MHz. As in the case of the original AeroCore, the AeroCore 2’s MCU supports low-level machine controls and sensors, while high-level Linux programs running on a piggybacked Gumstix Overo COM manages mission intelligence, including visuals.

AeroCore 2 baseboard front (left) and rear
(click images to enlarge)

Gumstix says its AeroCore MAV controllers support integration with open-source projects like Robot Operating System (ROS), APM-based PX4, and PX4-compatible projects such as QGroundControl and MAVLink. This software ecosystem is said to enable the incorporation of firmware like optical-flow analysis program and target acquisition algorithms.

In contrast to the original AeroCore, which uses the company’s dual-core, ARM Cortex-A9-based “DuoVero” COMs ($170-$200), the AeroCore 2 pairs with the lower-cost, ARM Cortex-A8-based “Overo” COMs ($99-$179), based on ARM Cortex-A8 processors. The new board obtains its GPS functionality from a GPS module that plugs into an industry-standard connector, “thus enhancing functional modularity and choice while reducing cost,” says Gumstix.

Other than mentioning that the AeroCore 2 MAV controller includes CAM, Spektrum RC, and GPS interfaces, neither the the company’s press release nor the AeroCore 2 product pagecurrently offer detailed specifications, block diagrams, or other documentation. However, The original AeroCore MAV controller provides multiple control options for up to eight motors, and integrates a 6-axis accelerometer with magnetometer, as well as a 3-axis gyroscope and barometer. Additionally, various expansion headers offer interfaces such as SPI, I2C, UART, and GPIO.

Gumstix Overo COMs

Gumstix now provides 14 versions of the Overo COM series, based on different versions of TI’s OMAP35x family, as well as on enhancements like wireless modules and extended temperature support. Overo models, such as Sand, Fire, Tide, and Water, are also offered in memory- or processor-enhanced versions with the STORM suffix.

Overo TidalSTORM COM, front and back
(click image to enlarge)

Gumstix has long supported its Overo COMs with Yocto Linux.

Designed, and customizable, with Geppetto 2.0

Gumstix announced the AeroCore 2 in conjunction with the public unveiling of version 2.0 of its web-based “Geppetto” design tool, with which it designed the board. Because AeroCore 2’s design was implemented using Geppetto, developers can quickly and easily modify it to satisfy custom requirements, says the company.

Typical Geppetto design models

Once the Geppetto-based modifications are complete and pass the tool’s verification tests, prototypes can be ordered for a setup fee of $1,999, plus component costs, for delivery in approximately 15 business days (average for “verified designs”), says Gumstix. In addition to providing a simple, web-based board design and modification process, Geppetto 2.0 is said to offer crowd-funding features that let a community of developers collaborate on a board’s design or modification, and then share in funding its prototype builds.

“Anyone from electrical engineers and industrial designers to educators and hobbyists can create devices with Geppetto’s intuitive drag and drop approach to connect USB plugs, network connectors, LEDs, or even whole computer-on-modules to meet custom specifications without the cost of conventional electrical engineering, layout and manufacturing,” states the Gumstix Geppetto page.

Gumstix MAV legacy


The AeroCore 2 controller is the latest in a decade of Gumstix support for micro-helicopter projects. TheUltraSwarm helicopter, demonstrated by the University of Essex ‘s Gridswarm project in 2005, ran on an early Gumstix module that was powered by an ARM-based Intel PXA255 XScale processor running at 200MHz or 400MHz.

Further information

The AeroCore 2 sells for $149, which does not include the cost of the user’s desired Overo COM. Sales and technical information may be found at the AeroCore 2 product page and in the AeroCore 2 and Geppetto 2.0 press release. Pricing and technical information regarding the AeroCore 2-compatible COMs are available on Gumstix’s Overo COMs product page. 

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Comment by Alejandro Martin Pirola on January 1, 2015 at 8:22pm

I need some help. Correct me if I'm wrong, AeroCore 2 is just another Pixhawk like piece of hardware (able to run APM or PX4 stack) and Overo COM (able to run ROS or another linux based OS) interacts with AeroCore 2 through UART and SPI ports, which means there is not a real fully integrated linux UAV FC. Seems more like an Pixhawk/APM connected to a Beaglebone Black through serial port scenario.

In the other hand Firecape/BeaglePilot is truly a linux based FC.
Don't get wrong I'm not saying which one is the best, I think each one will have its benefits.

Comment by Dan Murray on January 2, 2015 at 8:07am

Alejandro, that is my impression as well. It appears that the AeroCore 2 can run all by itself, it just has the ability to interface directly with one of the Overo COMs if placed onboard.

Comment by Kabir on January 2, 2015 at 9:06am

Indeed Alejandro. The Aerocore is basically a Pixhawk board + companion computer. The STM32 runs independently. 

It isn't fully supported in PX4 mainstream yet, due to its PWM driver (not present on normal Pixhawks) being incomplete at this time.

Comment by James Cotton on January 2, 2015 at 3:05pm

I made something like this a few years back: . It has been extremely useful for some projects to have the linux computer on board (mainly for development tasks), although I can't see it being useful for most people who just want to fly.

it is nice to see the latest version of AeroCore supports the Overo series as opposed to the Duovero series. They have the camera port natively which has a lot of potential.

Comment by James Cotton on January 2, 2015 at 3:07pm

@Alejandro Forgot to mention when it is connected via SPI instead of serial keep in mind now you have extremely high bandwidth access to the FC which is really useful. Also I think a model where you keep the main MCU based flight controller that works reliably for the basic "stay in the sky" stuff isn't really bad. Leave the augmentation to the linux computer.

Comment by Uthra Krishnan on January 6, 2015 at 1:32pm

@James, @ Kabir, @ Dan, Thank you for clarifying 

The Aerocore 2 is very similar to a Pixhawk board with a few distinctions: (1) the ability to add a Gumstix COM directly with no additional wiring, (2) the number of pin outs, (3) the availability of a 2.0 USB host when connected to a Gumstix COM which allows for the plug-and-play use of cameras, sensors, and modems.

A user-guide is now available on the Aerocore 2 page. 

Comment by Dan Murray on January 6, 2015 at 1:35pm

Thanks Uthra. Any chance of an "install and configure" guide for getting ArduPilot up and running in a basic configuration? Specifically, flashing and installing?

Comment by Uthra Krishnan on January 6, 2015 at 3:32pm

@Dan, ArduPilot support is currently in development. 


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