Raspberry Pi is a superpowerful and popular new computer board, like Arduino but with a much faster processor and built-in video. It's not really designed for "physical computing" with lots of I/O like Arduino, and it's not open hardware so you can't make a version optimized for any particular task, so it's not a natural candidate for an autopilot. (It also runs Linux, which isn't a real-time operating system). Nevertheless, Matthew Watson hacked together a PCB to work with the Raspberry Pi board and got a quadcopter to fly.
It was bound to happen sooner or later, but that doesn’t diminish the awesomeness of [Matthew]‘s Raspberry Pi-powered quadcopter.
[Matthew]‘s quadcopter is similar to all the other flying drones we’ve seen before with one important difference – all the processing, from reading the gyroscopes to computing exactly how much power to give each motor – is handled by a Raspberry Pi. This task is usually the domain of a microcontroller, as these calculations need to happen in real-time. The Linux distro [Matt] is running on his Pi has a lot more overhead than a simple AVR or ARM microcontroller, so doing everything that needs to be done in real-time isn’t guaranteed. With a bit of clever programming, [Matthew] managed to make sure all the necessary tasks were taken care of in time. It’s still not a real-time operating system, but for this project at least, it’s good enough.
Since the Raspberry Pi in [Matthew]‘s quadcopter is much more powerful than a microcontroller, there’s plenty of head room to SSH into the ‘copter while it’s flying. There may even be enough processing power to stream video to a web server; we honestly can’t wait to see what [Matthew] does with his flying Linux computer in the future.