Parallella, the ultimate flight controller brain?

In october I helped fund the parallella one board computer. There are many of those around right now, the raspberry pi, the udoo, beagleboard black, but this one is different, because it mates a super-powerful Xilinx Zynq 7020 application processor, which is a 1 ghz dual core Arm A9 (same as in ipad 2) with a FPGA fabric the size of a medium fpga chip. This makes it a highly flexible processor, one that in itself could surpass most of the ARM based flight controllers on the market right now. The fpga fabric in itself is something that could prove very useful, since it can perform signal processing with a breeze, it comes extremely natural to fpga to do filtering, pid and such real-time processes, with minimal latency.

But what's really exciting about the parallella is its epiphany 16-core or 64-core (there are two models) parallell arm processor. edit: RISC processor. This thing is perfect for computer vision, optical flow, processing point clouds for 3D scanning and on the fly GIS processing. With its super low power requirements it's perfect for battery powered robotics.



But the best part is the price, at only $99 it's something that you can loose in a crash without loosing to much sleep over it!

On the back of the board there are connectors for 48 fpga pins, uarts and more. We now need to make a daughter board with sensor and connectors for servos and ESCs, rx and all the other stuff we need, but I want everyone to chime in and voice their needs for their specific applications, what sensors do you think are the best? I've started a discussion at the parallella forums, with a community effort we can make this something really great!

Join our discussion at the parallella forum!

Views: 8206

Comment by Jesper Andersen on May 1, 2013 at 4:09am

Definitely very interesting - big question is - when can we expect delivery?

Comment by CrashingDutchman on May 1, 2013 at 4:34am

I funded this one too.

@Jesper: I think they are delivering this June/July.

Comment by Hugo Vincent on May 1, 2013 at 4:55am

"But what's really exciting about the parallella is its epiphany 16-core or 64-core (there are two models) parallell arm processor."  

FYI, the Epiphany is not an ARM processor. The Parallella (I'm also a Kickstarter backer) has 2 ARM Cortex A9 cores in the Zynq chip, and 16 or 64 small, proprietary Epiphany cores more similar to DSP or MCU cores than to ARMs. The memory configuration of these Epiphany cores, their interconnects, and the lack of MMUs means you can't run Linux or really any existing software directly on the Epiphany cores, so it's best to think of the Epiphany more like a GPU - if you optimise your code for it using special tools and techniques (like OpenCL), it'll be fast, but it won't magically make anything faster. 

Comment by Göran Sandström on May 1, 2013 at 8:29am

Great to see that there are other backers here!

@Hugo Vincent: Sorry, I fixed that! Yes, I'm also thinking about it more as a GPU or rather, a special form of coprocessor. But what I think makes it interesting for robotics is that it is highly suited for computer vision processing.

Comment by Gary McCray on May 1, 2013 at 10:39am

Love it, might be just what I'm looking for.

Will definitely be checking it out.

Comment by on May 1, 2013 at 12:43pm

It is something that is defiantly very cool, actually purchased on on the kickstarter a couple months ago!

Comment by John Arne Birkeland on May 1, 2013 at 1:10pm

UnmannedTechShop, not to nitpick but you did not purchase anything but pledged for the possibility of receiving the product if the concept works out. This is a very important thing to understand about kickstarter. But since most people fail to understand this concept, the kickstarter site had to severely limit the type of projects that are allowed on the site. As a result most project are now 99% done before they even turn up on kickstarter,. And it has become more about sponsoring mass production of more or less finished products, then actual exploration of new ideas. Sorry didn't mean to jump you specifically, but the issue has been bugging me for some time.. :)

And back on topic, the Parallella is of course on my pledge list. Very exiting stuff that will fit nicely together with the Ocolus Rift and future projects. :)

Comment by Sergiu on May 1, 2013 at 2:19pm

I simply don't understand. Next year for sure, somebody will give us a link to

one another possible autopilot: 256 processors, 128GB RAM, 12GHZ speed. All in one chip.

Theoretically, one super autopilot  like this will be able to work with 10 video cameras ,etc,etc,etc.

But who will really make the software to keep occupied one such powerful autopilot? How long it will take?

And after a while when some firmware will be ready, already another super autopilot with 512 processors will be


Let's be honest: look at the mikrokopter - one atmega and one ARM for navigation, Autoquad- only one STM32 at "only" 168Mhz, DJY Wookong, etc.

For STM32F4, software is currently under development for many folks here and is far from bringing him at "100% load".



Comment by James Cotton on May 1, 2013 at 2:41pm

That is really cool.  I've wanted an FPGA on the FC for a few years.  You don't mention anything about sensors though.  It would be ideal to pipe the sensors to the FPGA directly to let the lower level stabilization algorithms run there and directly control the PWM output.  IO might start to get a bit tight for the daughter board then.

Comment by Göran Sandström on May 1, 2013 at 2:53pm

Sergiu, I see what you're getting at but if you look at the stm32 processors, you can't really expect them to handle something like the point cloud library on real time depth data. To create multirotors that can be around people and not hurt them, by autonomously avoiding them, something like the new primesense capri sensor (kinect the size of a smartphone camera sensor) with a fast enough processor is needed. This will also be very useful for real-time 3d scanning, neural network based maneuvering etc

And hopefully, a lot of work that goes into the arm developments can be reused on this platform. The epiphany processor can be used as a special coprocessor. Personally, I'm not too excited about the stm32 stuff, I think it's really the bare minimum. 

I think it comes down to, do we need to keep moving forward? I think the answer always will have to be yes. I'm not satisfied until I can ask my flying robot to go pick up some groceries for me, feed the cat while I'm away, etc.

Here's the capri:

And of course there is this: which runs on a 1.6ghz intel atom, shows what could be possible. 


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