Erle-brain, an open hardware Linux autopilot


Hi everyone,

Some of you might have heard about the work we did with BeaglePilot porting APM to Linux both in the hardware and software side. Work we presented at LibreCon 2014 last month. 

I am happy today to announce that after several months of improvements, flight tests and pre-series with manufacturers we are launching a commercial Linux hardware autopilot based on this work: Erle-brain.

Erle-brain is sold at 269 € and puts together a BeagleBone Black (rev. C) and the PixHawk Fire Cape in a single package that weights about 110 grams and includes 25+ sensors. The hardware designs are open to anyone that wishes to improve them.


The autopilot has a 4 GB eMMC flash memory that comes pre-flashed and provides:

  • Linux 3.8 kernel compiled with the PREEMPT option (best results we measured)
  • Debian Wheezy file system
  • ROS Hydromedusa
  • mavros ROS package
  • APM running natively in Linux (and linked with ROS through mavros)
  • preconfigured daemons for launching everything automatically, WiFi dongles support


Erle-brain has been successfully tested in copters, planes and rovers. Thanks to the contribution of many there're drivers for most of the sensor and we keep working hard to provide support for even more accessories. Here are some of the ones we've been playing with:


Expect more to come :).

Besides doing some hardware hacking we've also been putting time in documenting everything. The APM wiki is great and we love it but we wanted to do it our way so we've spent quite a bit of time creating GitBooks that should provide a walkthrough no matter which is your technical level:



We expect to come up with more material in the next months. Thanks everyone for your support and contributions. We will keep working hard to create amazing Linux autopilots.

Best regards,


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  • Felicitaciones Victor, genial que sea un desarrollo en linux y que de la posibilidad de que aficionados con algo de conocimiento podamos hacer nuevas funcionalidade. muy bien 

  • Moderator

    @uavfans we are already start the process two years ago with VR Neuron some internal prototype are under development , the main problem is to define the strategy my personal opinion is that could be good to have a ST32 processor for fly could be good the ST32F7 instead of ST32F4 and a good processor like quadcore cpu for advanced processing like computer vision , anti collision ecc ... Now are working to a technology preview that will be available at the begin of next year with a lot of exiting functionality ... I like to share with Victor my work ... we already speak about it this summer in one of my visit in silicon valley :) I think that the work doing on APM porting to Linux board is fantastic and My thanks to all the team involved on this task ... Best Roberto 

  • @uavfans Thanks for your comments. Having ROS onboard has indeed probed to be useful. Developing robot applications once you are familiar with the framework becomes a much simpler task.

  • @Graham thanks for your pointer. We see Erle-brain as the next step in the APM2.0/.5/.6/Pixhawk line of products wearing APM. It is (to the best of my knowledge) the first commercial product running APM in Linux thereby it's fair to say that it replaces previous autopilots.

    Erle-brain is expected to be used as the autopilot for a different set of drones: copter, planes and rovers supported for now but we are looking into more vehicles.

  • @Adrien,

    With Erle-brain It's not "needed" to Download sketches to the board. Since it's a whole featured computer you can directly ssh and modify or recompile APM directly. If what you wish is to use an IDE, you might like to check some examples we did with Codiad, a web-based IDE running directly in Erle-brain.

    With Codiad installed, you only need to connect your computer and the autopilot to the same network (Ethernet-over-USB, WiFi, Ethernet, ...) and  type an address in the browser. Furthermore Codiad can be easily extended with plugins that offer capabilities such as Collaborative editing, git hooks, etc.

  • @ Roberto Navoni your VR brain should also move to linux and ros 

  • oh,great ,with ROS the Erle-brain is great brain and AI is comming,there are a lot things to do in drones.

  • Moderator

    I think the average consumer would be very keen to know if this is a drop-in replacement for their APM2.0/.5/.6/Pixhawk or if not a drop-in then what would be required to make it work?

  • Hi,

    It's a very interesting project, firstable because such processor is more powerful than Atmega 2560.
    You said that it's possible to download sketch to produce our own board, I didn't find the link on your website ?

    Thanks a lot

  • @uavfans of course it's open source. It uses APM and we are truly compromised with the license. Here is our branch, we are trying to contribute back as much as possible.

    Regarding usability It's a Linux computer with Debian. Pretty much everything you can do with your Desktop through the command line should be equally easy in Erle-brain. Personally i find it easier to use than an STM32F4 microcontroller running NuttX (it's a personal opinion though ;)). 

    As i pointed out we will keep bringing out new content/GitBooks. We are pretty open to suggestions so feel free to look through the already available material and suggest changes. A good place to start looking is here.

    @Damouav thanks for your comments :)! Philip and I have been putting time into the PXF however i know nothing of  whether they plan to fund more batches. In any case, more people manufacturing this board means more support and greater user experience. I'd love to see that.

    Cheers and thanks everyone for your comments.

    APM Plane, APM Copter, APM Rover source. Contribute to erlerobot/ardupilot development by creating an account on GitHub.
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