3D Robotics


At a developer conference in China last week, Intel gave a sneak peak of its forthcoming drone and robotics development boards. The drone board, called Aero, is designed to compete with Qualcomm's Snapdragon Flight board (Intel, like Qualcomm, is a member of Dronecode and the Intel team has ported to the APM code to their X86-based platforms). 

From PC World:

A major element of the developer boards is the RealSense 3D camera, which will ship with the kits and help the robots and drones navigate and avoid obstacles. The depth-sensing camera can recognize items and determine the size, shape and contours of objects. For robots, the camera provides computer vision, which is analogous to eyes in humans.

The Robotic Development Kit will be priced at $249 and will ship later this quarter. It has a credit-card-sized board from Aaeon, which is equipped with an Intel Atom x5 Z8350 CPU, an internal Intel HD 400 graphics processor, 4GB of DDR3 RAM and 32GB of storage. Other features include an HDMI slot, Gigabit ethernet, two USB 2.0 ports, a USB 3.0 port, a camera interface and an eDP (embedded DisplayPort) slot to connect a display. It also has a 40-pin GPIO (general purpose input-output) slot to hook up add-on boards that may have sensors or other components.

The kit will ship with Ubuntu Linux but will also support Windows 10 and other versions of Windows.

The Aero Platform is a “ready-to-fly developer platform,” an Intel spokesman said in an email. It has an Intel Atom x7-Z8700 processor, DDR3L RAM and flash storage, and it will run a version of embedded Linux. Full details and price aren’t yet available, but it will ship in the second half of this year.

The hardware is part of Intel’s effort to diversify outside PCs into new areas. It’s also an effort to provide do-it-yourselfers with the resources to develop a wide range of gadgets, appliances, and smart home and industrial equipment.


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  • Anyway, "RealSense" will provides nice obstacle avoidance for indoor application.

    The point is that there is standard sensing device that kind will not provide for Pixhawk. 

  • Developer
    The R200 reference design is actually a hybrid system. It's not just structured light like a Kinect. The dual cameras work like a normal stereo pair outdoors, albeit with a rather small baseline. The ASIC on the R200 does all the processing, so there is no computational load on the main processing system.
    The noise performance in pure stereo mode is rather unimpressive though, with my self designed stereo system outperforming it by quite a bit.
  • 250$ for a complete x86 based flight controller with camera and hd link in a tiny package, sounds like the Pixhawks will be outdated very soon?

  • Developer

    I'm very much looking forward to these two Linux flight controllers!  We can be pretty much 100% sure that they will support ArduPilot right out of the box and will cost about $250!  We're long overdue on the move to Linux flight controller so I have high hopes.  Getting onto Linux will provide all kinds of benefits including better dev tools and easier integration into the cloud.

    The QC snapdragon (a competitor to these boards) is also a promising board but it hasn't been widely adopted because it's far too expensive and the developer experience so far is that it's very hard to work with.  I don't like to be negative about any board, it's just what I've seen so far.

    Archived: Qualcomm Snapdragon Flight Kit — Copter documentation
  • Hi Guy,

    Actually as I understand it Real Sense doesn't use (just) intensity, it projects a full coverage IR light through a holographic filter which sends is transmitted as a field of twisted short line (blob) segments and depending on the distance, the lines are angled more or less.

    And these are viewed by dual IR cameras. Distance information is provided both by the angles of the line segments and by the stereo separation of the 2 IR cameras.

    As far as it goes it works pretty well, but even Microsoft abandoned it for the true time of flight camera they used for the Kinect for the XBOX 1.

    The XBOX 1 Kinect has much better range, resolution, speed and accuracy than the original XBOX 360 Kinect.

    I also works much better outdoors, but it still has severe limitations on range in direct sunlight.

    Too bad it was such a bomb the way it was (wasn't) integrated into appropriate video games.

    A much better device for our purposes would be to get one of the developer editions of the Kinect 1, too bad Microsoft also abandoned its Robot Developer Suite project.

    True stereo 3D vision (using 2 or more cameras) is mechanically the easiest way to do it and computationally the hardest.

    That said, the new Nvidia boards like the TK1 and the even better TX1 certainly have the raw power necessary.

    Too bad those programs don't just write themselves.

    Best regards,


  • Hi Guy, I thought I said that, not only IR illumination, but Holographically twisted "lines", which on the Kinect at least performed abysmally outdoors.

    But the real problem is that the main information link from Intel seems to indicate that the R200 camera only has a maximum range of 20 inches. Although that is in conflict with other information also on the Intel site that claims it is usable as far as 4 meters.

    Basically from what I can glean it's indoor and outdoor range limitations would make it useless for multicopter use and really marginal at best even for ground based robots. (Maybe for simple imminent collision detection.)

    @ Vorney, from what I can see, there is no reason to ever want to mount one of these on a drone, but if you did, forward looking, perhaps with an added down angle.

    Basically this system won't work (my thought) and I am going back to developing my Nvidia TK1 board and my cone scanned laser rangefinder, unfortunately I have several other pressing projects and my experience in parallel GPU programming is massively out of date, so this will not be a fast process.

  • @Lucas

    Very nice! Thanks. 

  • Shawn:  up-board actually IS the robotics kit. The picture in the post is the Aero Platform, the robotics kit is the UP board + realsense + probably-something-more (but I don't know what they will bundle in there).

  • @vorney: for software you probably want to use librealsense: https://github.com/IntelRealSense/librealsense

    Intel® RealSense™ SDK. Contribute to IntelRealSense/librealsense development by creating an account on GitHub.
  • Sergey, yes... MinnowBoard Turbot is the public board we use for developing ardupilot. I did a recent video and demontration at ELC.

    Slides: http://events.linuxfoundation.org/sites/events/files/slides/2016-EL...

    Videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWbPX82I6VI and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHbJtMbgjH8

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