Why are we starting to use companion computers?

So I've been looking into companion computers now for a while, and haven't really been able to find what all the hype is.

I just watched a video where you need an intel edison to read code to start, take off, fly somewhere, land then stop the aircraft. Excuse me if im wrong, but can't a pixhawk do all that on it's own anyway?

I know there are other bits of code that can let you find a red baloon, but what's that for?

Im not trying to discount the work anybody is putting into these applications, but I am just lost as to how I can use them.

I've built a number of quads, small and large, so I want to try something new and I know this is where it's all going, Im just trying to figure out why?

Here's a link to a previous post I made looking for guidance on hardware and firmware.

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  • Philip said:

    The Pixhawk 2 can be ordered to fit an Edison in the case with no additional hardware.

    But for video, the NVIDIA TX1 is an amazing device, or the iMX6 (grab out of a solo ready to go!)
    They both seem very advanced. Im only just starting to get into this part of the hobby, so something a little more widely used would be the best.
    I think I'll pick up an ODroid XU4 and have a play with FlytOS and/or DroneKit, then APSync when it's ready.
    FlytOS looks the best to me because it looks the easiest to get going.
    Saying that though, Dronesmith is enticing as it seems easy to make my own apps.
    I just really wish there was a drone app store, to upload, download, rate, buy, all the created apps.
  • Developer
    The Pixhawk 2 can be ordered to fit an Edison in the case with no additional hardware.

    But for video, the NVIDIA TX1 is an amazing device, or the iMX6 (grab out of a solo ready to go!)
  • Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy building and figuring these things out, I actually prefer designing and building over flying.

    I get my satisfaction when I have a completely flying and tuned aircraft that does what I set out for it to do. For that reason I'd never buy a DJI. I like to tinker.

    I really just want ideas on what I can do with the companion computer, and how to do it. It seems there's lots of information out there, and different eco systems (Drone-Kit, Emlid, FlytOS, APSync, Dronesmith), It just makes it hard to know where to start and what to choose. I like the look of the Dronesmith board with it's slim form factor and onboard Edison, but (AFIK) edison can't do computer vision stuff.

    Really for now, I'd like to be able to build my aircraft, install the flight firmware, install the platform on the companion computer and just load the pre-made apps for that particular firmware. Maybe that's where we are headed? Will each of these eco-systems have an "app store" so you can do that pre-programmed "function".

    I also wonder about the connectivity of all this. Some of the eco systems are pushing 4G connection, some are pushing WIFI, and some are saying use a telemetry module. I mainly use RFD900s on my aircraft for 2-way telemetry (on a windows tablet) in tandem with an RC transmitter for manual flight. Do I need to change my gear to get these companion computers to work?

    I've seen some layouts where the telemetry unit is plugged into the pixhawk which is then plugged into the RPi, with no direct link between ground and the RPi. If I understand it correctly, this kind of set up would be for something like obstacle avoidance?

    What kind of equipment layout would I need if I wanted to do something like track "me" (or some other arbitrary thing) that I click on from the live video feed from my aircraft shown on my windows tablet? I know what the mavic can do, which is track the person/vehicle, plus avoid obstacles at the same time. Is that kind of thing achievable with an Edison or Odroid XU4, or something like that? My assumption is I'd have to ditch the RFD900, and use a WIFI link to send and receive data+video. Whats doing the computation then? Is it the tablet or the companion computer? What range are we getting with a WIFI module? I find it hard to find them any more than 100mW, so we ain't going too far on that, considering all the other 2.4GHz stuff around.

    I can already do follow me mode cos I have GPS in my windows tablet, but being able to do it by using computer vision would be cool. Having obstacle avoidance would be even cooler. Then I can stick it to my buddies that own phantoms and mavics and think they are awesome cos they can press buttons.

    Having all the other features like orbit and cable cam I guess would be trivial in comparison, and be done all on the same hardware layout?

  • I am one of the guys chasing red balloons.

    The goal is to experiment with robotics, using different  tools, programming languages and framework like ROS.

    But if you still question the meaning of spending hudreds of dollars and having to ftd for endless hours to get a marginally working concept flying, I suggest that you buy a MAVIC. Personaly , the mean IS the end, so working with Vision, Lidar and other sensors and getting all these component optimally implemented within a flying platform is a challenge that I really enjoy.

    Most of the discussions are now on discuss.ardupilot.org  and the related gitter channels.

  • Developer
    There are things the flight controller should do... like, keep the aircraft in the air...etc..

    And others it shouldn't do, like manage synchronising logs to cloud servers, vision, camera management, slam...

    Complex path planning like follow me or multipoint cablecam... a companion computer can do really well.

    Depending on what you need, you are correct, Ardupilot can do much of this without stress.

    However, another thing to think about... you can run Ardupilot on Pixhawk2, and script behaviour on the companion computer without having to compile a line of Ardupilot code... giving you confidence in the entire system.
  • Nicholas,

     Pixhawk or any other autopilot hardware is your navigation controller, as you know this provides the basic functionality of stabilizing your system andGPS/altitude/sonar based waypoint navigation.

     This is great but you can do a lot more with companion computers or any other add ons.

     For example you mentioned the red balloon navigation. This is a simple implementation and demonstration of computer vision based navigation and drones. Something more complicated and more useful would be for example to look for people using a camera and identify their position. This could be used for search and rescue operations where the drone does not need to relay any info to ground station but operates the mission in "full" autonomy.

     Obstacle avoidance is another application where companion computers can use computer vision. Other examples exist. The point is the autopilot do stabilization of the flying system, for anything more [use your imagination] you need more processing power and more kit.


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