At $35 the Raspberry PI is a DIY Droner's dream: a 700Mhz ARM processor with Floating Point Unit, 512M of on board RAM, nearly limitless SD Card solid state disk storage, embedded Linux, small, lightweight, and consuming only around 1W of power.

It clearly is a fantastic computing engine, but actually of little use because the board has practically no user I/O ports.

Enters RIO (for Raspberry IO), a smart IO card that stacks on top of the Raspberry and that opens a world of possibilities, with a special focus on Robotics and Autonomous Navigation.


RIO is a project that was posted on April 25 on kickstarter. You can view the card's full specifications and a demo at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/95547492/smart-io-expansion-card-for-raspberry-pi

A few features will stand out to the DIY enthusiast:

- On-board AHRS, complete with 3 axis magnetometer, gyro, accelerometers and fusion software

- RC inputs to capture and convert signal from RC receiver

- RC servo driving capability. This is actually not shown in the kickstarter page but most of the digital inputs are capable of generating the 1.0-1.5-2.0ms pulse needed by servos

- Serial port and 5V output for connecting to GPS modules

- Direct interface to Ping ultrasound distance sensor

- Onboard 32-bit ARM Cortex MCU, that can be user programmed to handle all critical tasks that require quick real-time response.

RIO needs your support to become real. So please spread the word and make your pledge on kickstarter.






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  • @gary Little late but something interesting. A ROS based framework for drone applications.

    check out http://diydrones.com/profiles/blogs/start-building-high-level-drone...

    This is supposed to run on a companion computer which supports px4 firmware and has plans to support APM shortly.

  • It took a little longer than planned but RIO is now shipping. The card is still the most capable expansion board for the Raspberry PI available to date.

    We are very happy with the way it works and how it integrates with Linux. The AHRS is also performing quite well.

    Pls take a look at the datasheet at http://www.roboteq.com/index.php/docman/rio-documents-and-files/rio...

    The card is made and sold by www.roboteq.com

  • I am please to report that the project reached its funding goal today. 


    DIYDrones has been a great source of backers and the version with the AHRS has been the most popular one.

    Speaking of which, we are redesigning the AHRS part so that the board now uses a more powerful STM32F4, to do the IO processing and the fusion algorithm. The separate module for AHRS is no more. Instead we'll have the MPU6050 gyro/accelerometer, HCM5883 magnetometer, and MS5611 altimeter. We'll provide a TTL serial port and 5V supply for GPS, as well as the supply and analog input for a differential pressure sensor. We are writing the AHRS code as well.

    The new design should be as good (hopefully better) as any other top autopilot board. Combined with the raspberry, we hear our backers say that it will be a hell of a navigation computer.

    There are still a few hours left to back the project and get in line for receiving the board in a couple of months. Pls come to www.kickstarter.com/projects/95547492/smart-io-expansion-card-for-r...



  • Here is a quick update: The commercial AHRS module we were planning to offer as an option on the board looks like it will not be available before october, and it will be quite a bit more expensive that we had planed.

    So we are now looking instead of fitting a more powerful MCU on the RIO board - most likey an STM32F4 - with discrete gyro, magnetometer, accelerometer, barometer IC's and roll our own AHRS code. The software will be open source. We will be conducting a few prototyping test over the next few days.

    Please check the project and pledge your support. With only 15 days left, the project is not quite on track to meet the funding goal at the moment. 



  • göran,

    the fpga is nice - and i wanna have one in the future.

    i think of using an i.m6x sl - that is 350 mw at full speed.

    more in the usefull range with regards to power consumption.

  • Parallella is a much better option at only 5 watts for a dual cortex A9, zynq 7020 fpga fabric and a 16-core arm epiphany processor.

  • Isn't this what UDOO (Raspberry + Arduino) is doing?

  • I Agree Roberto, ROS support is essential.

    The real key to advanced applications is going to be integrating ROS.

  • Moderator

    Hi Gary,

    also VRBRAIN support ArduPilot firmware :) Wihtout OS is better less problem with kernel ... so as you told the problem is not the hardware but the firmware .

    About the features in your list i agree with you that we need a powerfull board that support ROS . Light and powerfull so we can add a lot of advanced features at our drone.


    Roberto ... 

  • The fact of the matter is that there are a bunch of development and open source SBC's out there and what we need is a common interface board that can work with any of them and which can communicate with the chosen SBC by some sort of high speed interface.

    And which has its own on board control processor and memory in addition to all the various general sensors we might need, Accels, Gyros, Compass, Baro, GPS socket, etc. 

    For a lot of uses I am sure one of the I2C or SPI or USART interfaces that are omnipresent on the SBC's would be an adequate communication interface.

    In fact, that is sort of what I thought the PX4FMU / PX4IO might do connected to one of the Quad core ARM SBCs or Win 8 SBCs for serious depth image analysis, localization, mapping and path finding using Kinect, laser scanner, etc.

    The PX4FMU / IO cost about the same as the solution proposed here, has working firmware and a lot of appropriate interface solutions.

    The ArduPilot firmware that runs on it already has all the normal sense and control firmware running on it while leaving 80 to 90 percent of its bandwidth and memory unused.

    Add on a high performance task dedicated SBC and you can concentrate on the application and the much simpler job of just interfacing it to the ArduPilot firmware running on the PX4 system.

    Just a thought.

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