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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  • Moderator

    Victor, thanks for clarifying this, I think most will agree the APM firmware is very good and it just keeps getting better and better so having more hardware options is really a great idea (as long as one doesn't have to pay too much or fight too hard to get the alternative working).

  • @Graham and @Marc, apologies if I wasn't clear before with my answers.

    could this then be used as is and without much tinkering as a drop-in replacement for a Pixhawk to fly a copter using the APM:Copter firmware?

    The answer is yes. Erle-brain is a fully featured autopilot in a Linux computer, not a companion computer (you could use an additional one though). Erle-brain comes fully configured so that you only need to connect the servos, radio [optionally external sensors, telemetry, buzzer, etc], power it up and go fly your drone. And yes it uses APM in the flavor of the vehicle you need (we generally ship it with copter). Hope i clarified it

    @Marc, yes it is a replacement for the PixHawk. And personally i feel much more comfortable with Linux.  I am probably biased but let me point out that I spent the last 6 months working with NuttX and providing support for ROS 2 (the next generation of the Robot Operative System) and I would choose the Linux one every single time. Specially for developing robotic applications.

    This repository isn't actively being worked on. If you would like to take over maintainership please open a ticket on -…
  • Victor - the question above by Graham Dyer has been asked before. Could you answer it. Can this be used as a drop-in replacement for a Pixhawk? Do you need to be comfortable with Linux to use this. This seems an obvious thing to clarify for people less immersed in the operating environment of flight controllers.

  • Moderator

    Hi Victor, let's assume I don't know what Linux is or how to use/configure it, could this then be used as is and without much tinkering as a drop-in replacement for a Pixhawk to fly a copter using the APM:Copter firmware?

  • MR60

    Thx for the documentation links fixes.

  • It seems lik a good time to remind, that this extensively promoted autopilot does not use real-time operating system and for that reason its usage is intrinsically unsafe
  • congrats. very interesting.

  • Ali, my bad. I double checked and the we right weight is of the autopilot is 110 grams (~ 75 grams was the weight of PXF + BBB).

  • Great!

    Just one question: Here you have told that it weights about 75 but on the website store it is written that it is 110gr. Which one is actual weight?

  • 6 seconds seems good, i build a mini kernel image (Yocto) it takes 4 seconds with ssh server.

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