Micro-UAS controller features open, modifiable design

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Gumstix announced a gen-2 micro-areal vehicle (MAV) controller based on its tiny gumstick-sized Overo COMs, and customizable via a free online design tool.

The AeroCore 2 is an update to the original AeroCore controllerintroduced last Spring. Like some other hacker-oriented UAV autopilots, such as the Erie autopilot, both of Gumstix’s AeroCore models run Nuttx RTOS for real-time control tasks, along with Linux for higher level functions.

The AeroCore 2’s real-time-task-oriented microcontroller is an ST Microelectronics STM32F427 MCU, based on a single ARM Cortex-A7 core clocked at 180MHz. As in the case of the original AeroCore, the AeroCore 2’s MCU supports low-level machine controls and sensors, while high-level Linux programs running on a piggybacked Gumstix Overo COM manages mission intelligence, including visuals.

Gumstix says its AeroCore MAV controllers support integration with open-source projects like Robot Operating System (ROS), APM-based PX4, and PX4-compatible projects such asQGroundControl and MAVLink. This software ecosystem is said to enable the incorporation of firmware like optical-flow analysis program and target acquisition algorithms.

In contrast to the original AeroCore, which uses the company’s dual-core, ARM Cortex-A9-based “DuoVero” COMs ($170-$200), the AeroCore 2 pairs with the lower-cost, ARM Cortex-A8-based “Overo” COMs ($99-$179), based on ARM Cortex-A8 processors. The new board obtains its GPS functionality from a GPS module that plugs into an industry-standard connector, “thus enhancing functional modularity and choice while reducing cost,” says Gumstix.

Other than mentioning that the AeroCore 2 MAV controller includes CAM, Spektrum RC, and GPS interfaces, neither the the company’s press release nor the AeroCore 2 product pagecurrently offer detailed specifications, block diagrams, or other documentation. However, The original AeroCore MAV controller provides multiple control options for up to eight motors, and integrates a 6-axis accelerometer with magnetometer, as well as a 3-axis gyroscope and barometer. Additionally, various expansion headers offer interfaces such as SPI, I2C, UART, and GPIO.