3D Robotics

Sneak preview of ArduPilot Mega board development

Jordi spent the holiday well, laying out the physical ArduPilot Mega board. The last bit of this process is the routing of the traces, which will ultimately determine the size of the board. In the picture above, you can see the progression as the board gets smaller and smaller through each revision, finally ending up with the release candidate ("RC"), shown next to the current ArduPilot. It's surprisingly small, despite us using a much larger core processor with twice as many pins as the current Atmega328. The main chips you can see in the board printot are the Atmega1280 (main processor), an Atmega168 for the PPM conversion/failsafe, and a multiplexer chip (failsafe). You may not have realized it, but you've been watching much of the ArduPilot Mega development already: The IMU, which is modular and will plug on to the top of this board, is functionally the same as the current ArduIMU+ and will use the same code. If you already have an ArduIMU, we will release an adapter board that will allow you to use it so you don't have to buy another one. But the custom ArduPilot Mega IMU will also have a differential pressure sensor (airspeed) and an onboard FTDI chip and USB port so ArduPilot Mega will have native USB support (hurray!). If you're not using the custom IMU board, you'll be able to program ArduPilot Mega through the usual FTDI cable, like regular ArduPilot. The core ArduPilot Mega code will be built on the current ArduPilot 2.5, but with extensions for the new functionality that comes with 2-way communications, more memory and eight channel control. We'll also be adding more powerful mission scripting and event triggers, now that we have so many spare I/O pins and channels. The PPM/failsafe circuit is based on our current 8ch PPM board. The result of all this parallel development is that ArduPilot Mega will move pretty quickly now that we have a release candidate board, since so much of the tricky stuff like the IMU is already done, tested and mature. I'd predict a release in March or April. FYI, the board is also build for expansion, and one of the four serial ports will be available to expansion boards, as will several I2C/SPI pins. So, for example, adding magnetometer, absolute pressure sensors (altitude), or ultrasonic sensors could be an option.
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  • Developer
    What i don't like about ardupilot V1 is the position of the servo connectors. The first i did in ardupilot mega is put the servos inputs/outputs in a way that can be easily accessed.
  • Developer
    the best way to connect the receiver to it is using the rare right angle pin headers (i will offer a 16 position one) and this super short servo jumpers (if is small is better to void the cable mess. The servos input/outputs are located in the right edge of the board (see the picture).
  • Moderator
    @Morli, the ArduPilot only had the female cables if YOU soldered them that way!

    Personally I soldered female headers to my second board even though Chris/Jordi suggested not to.

    I seem to remember that Jordi went the cable method to prevent stress to the board connections, but again, its up to you to assemble it the way you need it
  • Developer
    Hehe, it will have 8 servo outputs, and if you need you can have 12 servo outputs. I hope that would be enough for everybody.
  • Can we have at least 4 servo outputs - Aileron, Elevator, Rudder, and Throttle by default?
  • Admin
    That Is good enough Jordi, I know it would not be easy , thank you for doing it, it will be perfect. Looking forward to see this baby soon. One more thing Jordi if kept in mind is to use female header(even if available as option) for servo inputs so as to avoid female to female servo leads to connect the RC RX to ardu mega. This has been done in Oilpan and makes good point.
  • 3D Robotics
    Jack, the whole point of ArduPilot is to leverage the strength of the Arduino community and tools, which has paid off fantastically for us. What ARM gets you is Paparazzi, for better or worse.
  • Developer
    Yes that means you can forward all the signals to a " custom shield" like this one:
  • Jordi just to confirm, all the holes on the board are breadboard compatible ?

    Just wanted to say that I am so glad that you guys are getting community input before reaching a final design. This is a great step forward.
  • Developer
    Patrick, if the boards were perfect it would take around 15 days to produce enough of them to sell them. But before that we have to order one, wait for 15 days then check it, if theres an error, we correct it, send it again wait another 15 days (while loop here), then if the boards are ok we mass produce them.
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