Open-source drone developer kit

I am a part of the engineering team of a startup company called Zeius.

We are currently in development of a drone with gaming capabilities. As we’ve made progress on our internal developer tools we thought the drone community could benefit from these tools as well. We are developing a completely open-source super compact single board computer designed specifically for drones (think of a Raspberry Pi specifically made for drones).

In short, we’re looking to reach out to the drone community to see if the tools we are working with would interest anyone else.

The key functionalities that we are proud to support are:

Single circuit board for entire functionality

Completely open-source software based on Debian Linux

Fully compatible with ROS and other software platforms for custom flight controllers, computer vision, mapping, etc.

Modular design for adding extra peripherals via UART, I2C, and USB

All Under $100

I would love to hear some thoughts on this from the community! We’ve never really reached out like this before. Please feel free to ask any questions but also filling out this poll we just made will help immensely.

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Replies

  • Hi Max,

    It's great the software is Debian-based & is ROS compatibile.

    What exactly will be integrated into the board?

    I understand you may not have locked everything in but what are the potential specs of the board? No need for specific SoC/chipset names just general stuff.

    Will there be a secondary MCU with open source autopilot software like Ardupilot for running low-level tasks?

    The closest device that comes to mind is the EMLID EDGE and that cost nearly as much as a MAVIC AIR.

    My wish list includes HDMI-IN for external cameras and on-board RTK GPS, some enthusiasts have had some success with the ublox NEO-8T & rtklib. (Disclaimer: Not my area of expertise) That last feature will likely push the cost over $100 but I'd definitely get a board which integrates RTK on-board for around $100.

    If these features are baked in for less than or around $100 I’ll be ordering one from your first production batch.
    • Thanks for your interest!

      We're currently using a quad-core Cortex-A7 ARM CPU running around 1.2GHz with 512 MB of RAM. We are looking to have USB, CSI, UART, I2C, and PWM easily accessible on the board. Currently we have I2C, PWM, CSI for camera, and an onboard IMU which met the needs for our application.

      Our application was primarily image processing onboard the drone itself. So far we've been successful at this and are looking to expand the functionality for the drone community.

      We've gotten a lot of questions about a dedicated MCU for basic flight control. Instead we've opted for keeping this running on the SoC using Python. This isn't the best solution for real-time but we want every piece of software exposed to allow for modifications from the users. For example, we would love the community to experiment with our platform, modify the PID control and maybe implement other control functions. Even adding a position control loop would be a breeze considering all the software is open and can communicate easily considering it's all on the same processor. We are currently investigating a real-time microkernel to make this solution even better.

      To clarify, we are considering the board itself without extra peripherals to be less than $100. The kit itself with extra bonus items will be approximately $100 maybe a little more.

      We hope that including the extra interfaces allows for users to expand the platform to utilize GPS, USB cameras, and other features. We would like to keep the platform as slim as possible to keep it cost effective and low weight for micro drone applications. Any added extra devices or hardware can change the weight considerably on such a small board.

      Once again, thank you for your interest! Please feel free to pass around the poll to anyone else you know in the community. We're using the statistics from the poll to improve our chances of receiving investment to bring this product to market before the end of the year! Feel free to ask any more questions if you're interested. We'll try to keep everyone updated as we approach our launch date.
      • Running both low level and high tasks on the SoC is an interesting way to go about it. I don't think that's been done before. It could make adding more functionality a bit more straightforward. I'm assuming CV will be implemented using python as well.

        Do you have a website?

        Are you planning on a launch date this year?

        Thanks
        • CV is possible through Python as well as ROS using OpenCV. ROS has been the best method for quick testing functionality.

          We do have a website but it is not launched yet:

          www.zeius.io

          We are planning to launch the website in either September or October and we will launch the development kit around the end of the year (December 2020) or early next year.
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