Showing posts with label 96boards. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 96boards. Show all posts

Friday, March 16, 2018

Aerocore 2CD for Dragonboard 410C Camera and Display Demo

Today was the 96Boards Open Hours demo for the next Aerocore 2 MAV board.  I set up a test rig, hooked up 2 OV5640 CSI-2 cameras and a DSI OLED display and showed the 96Boards community what the Aerocore 2CD for Dragonboard 410C can do.

If you tuned in, thanks for watching.  If not, I'll add a link to the YouTube video as soon as it's up.  Either way, I promised to make all of the resources I used to get this demo up and running so that you can do it too.

I first demonstrated the Aerocore 2 for Dragonboard 410C on a quadrocopter drone last year, and wrote a how-to post about setting it up. This time, there was no drone, but instead there were 2 5.0MP cameras and a 5.5" OLED display.

So this is how I got my Dragonboard 410C to do all kinds of cool video tricks:

Getting Ready

Before I dive into the setup procedure, let's just talk about what we're really doing.  The Dragonboard 410C is really an exceptional SBC with lots of neat features, including high-speed and low-speed mezzanine connectors.  The inclusion of the high-speed header on the Dragonboard, and incidentally as part of the 96Boards CE spec, means that hardware developers can create expansion boards that have high speed features like SATA, PCI-express, or USB3.0.

The new Aerocore 2CD takes advantage of this high-speed connector to provide 3 high-speed LVDS interfaces: 2x 2-lane CSI-2 camera connectors and 1x DSI display connector.  In order to demonstrate these new features, I am going to connect 2 KLT-OV5640 camera modules, and an OSD055A AMOLED display to the Dragonboard, and using only GStreamer commands in some simple BASH scripts, I will stream camera 1, camera 2, or both cameras concurrently, over UDP to my desktop PC.

Then I will stream the same camera output to the XFCE interface on the connected OLED display.


the bits


It's not a bad idea to make some mounting brackets for the cameras and display to make it a more manageable rig.  For my demo I designed something in FreeCAD and printed it off on my personal 3D printer.  Also there are simple brackets you can make that will hold the cameras' connectors in place.


In addition to the hardware above I used the following files:

On my desktop I'm running Ubuntu 16.4.

Assembly and Setup

Bracket1 and Bracket2 have spaces in which the cameras sit.  The forward camera fits sung, but the rear bracket's camera mount was a little too thin on one side so it doesn't hold it still on its own.  That's okay though because I was already planning on taping them down for the demo.  At this point I also attached the display's ribbon cable to the Aerocore (pads up).

The standoffs connect to the topside of the Areocore board with 2.2mm screws but, due to some scaling issues with my 3D printer, the diameter of the screw holes was just a bit too big so I found two risers with slightly wider threads, which worked nicely.

Almost done...
Next, I attached these brackets to the display panel's frame.  I'd tried mounting the panel inside the frame but they're very delicate and I broke my first one.  That's going to take a redesign.

I connected the DSI ribbon (pads down) to the back of the display and taped the display down inside the frame's bevel.  Carefully.  Finally, I attached the Dragonboard to the underside of the Aerocore.

Down-facing camera peeks out past SD card
I copied the SD card image to a 16GB SD with dd card and expaneded the root filesystem's partition with gparted (the disk image's rootfs partition is only 2GB to reduce download and dd time). With the card in the Dragonboard's SD card reader, it was time to fire it up.

I plugged it in, lights began to flash, bootlog messages came up on the console, and then... nothing...  The OLED display stayed dark.  Why?

Well the Dragonboard's HDMI interface has a little secret:  It's really HDMI over DSI!  The video output to the HDMI device is muxed with the DSI lines on the HS header.  You select one or the other with one of the S6 dipswitches on the Dragonboard's backside.  So once I toggled that to off and powered up my board again, up came my XFCE desktop!  Cool!

XFCE up and running!
I installed the GStreamer plugins on both my desktop PC and on the Dragonboard 410C.  Gumstix's Yocto images use the Smart package tool:

# smart update
# smart install gstreamer1.0 gstreamer1.0-plugins-good  \

I copied to the dragonboard and tested out the video feed to the DSI display.  The script is set up so that you can do that, or stream it over TCP/UDP for any or all cameras.

To stream it to your PC, type this at the Dragonboard's command prompt:

# -i <host-ip-address> -c N

where <host-ip-address> is your PC's address and N is '1' for the downward-facing camera, '2' for the front camera, and '3' for both together.

To stream it to the display, just omit  ' -i <host-ip-address>'.

Okay, Next!

That's it.  That's all I had to do. I hope I get the chance to put this stuff on a drone or robot and do some OpenCV work.

Meanwhile, I think I'll write up a quickstart guide for the storefront, a little more formally.  I'm still trying to get my LoRa gateway outside and I've got some bugs in the backlog, but I'm sure I'll get back to Aerocore, MAVs or robotics-type projects soon.

Hey, if you have any ideas for new projects, let me know! Follow me on Twitter @gstixguru or drop me an email at

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Updates: Intel Joule, LoRa, Arduino and Protocase

Blog Break

It has been a while since I posted a blog entry.  I have been knee-deep in a challenging internal project and haven't had much time to come up for air.  Today, I've got a chance to reflect on some of the things that have been happening here at Gumstix and share my perspective with you.

First, there's the EOL announcement from Intel that blindsided the x86-focused IoT community:
 the Joule, Edison, and Curie modules are soon to be no more than a footnote in the history of embedded computing.

Also, Just recently, hardware support for LoRaWAN was added to the Geppetto module library and 3 LoRa boards were released.  I got to play with that quite a bit.  It also brought with it an ATmega32U4 Geppetto module, supplanting the Curie module as our primary Arduino-compatible MCU.

Finally, I've been talking a lot with Protocase.  These guys are cool.  They provide design and production services for custom small-run enclosures, rackmounts, brackets, and consolets. I'm very excited to see what they're making for me.

Intel EOL Announcements and Me

I'll admit it, I took the Intel Joule news harder than maybe I should have.  I spent a lot of time working with it and it's carrier boards.  I was looking forward to putting the GadgetDrone in the air with the AeroCore 2 for Joule, the Caspa HD and one of the RealSense point cloud cameras we have at the office.  I liked the idea of setting up my Workstation board in a 3D-printed enclosure as a Yocto build slave.  Oh and I still hope to test the Caspa 4K's "tone-mapping (Er, I mean HDR) Video" mode.

I was also sad to see the Curie go.  Working with our Radium 96Boards IE board is a lot of fun.  It had been a while since I'd worked at the MCU level.  Bare-wire programming on an 8051 and using a dual-Arduino Uno plus ZigBee robot controller were highlights of my academic career, but I haven't done anything of the sort since.  The Radium's nice and small, IE compliant and has all the cool features of the Curie, like Bluetooth, 6-axis IMU and Neuron pattern recognition nodes.

For whatever reason, Intel decided to terminate their IoT-targeted endeavors.  Maybe it was the slow - and sometimes negative - response from the community.  It's also possible that the challenges in providing software support for their hardware were more monolithic than anticipated.  Either way, the Joule, Curie and Edison are gone.

For all of you who jumped on board with Intel's IoT hardware just over a year ago, I empathize with your plight.


If you're into IoT, you may have heard of LoRa, LoRaWAN and the LoRa Alliance.  It's a communication protocol for sub-GHz long range LPWANs, and it's sweeping Europe and North America's IIoT industry.  It works like this:  

You set up a Gateway. This is the equivalent of a WiFi router in your home, but the difference is these things can have a range of up to 15 km, depending on the quality of your antenna.

You deploy nodes.  These are your data acquisition points - temperature, presence detection, air quality, etc.  Whatever you need to know.  Put them where they need to be and hook them up to a battery, solar panel or hamster wheel (No hamsters were harmed in the writing of this blog post).  The idea is that they require very little power to run and can last anywhere from a week to several months on a single charge, or indefinitely with solar.  These tend to have a range of 2-5 km.

You monitor the data and use it as you see fit.

Gumstix released a gateway/concentrator and a transciever module in Geppetto, as well as a gateway dev board for both the Overo and the Raspberry Pi Compute Modules (Overo Conduit and Gumstix Pi Conduit boards), and a weather station sensor board (Strata Node).  They're in the store and available in both North American and European frequency bands.

Once I had my Gumstix Overo Conduit gateway and an RHF0M301 gateway/concentrator module in hand, I was impressed with how quick and easy it was to set up on  The Strata node I recieved was pre-release and hadn't had the bootloader flashed yet (they come pre-flashed now), so it took a little longer, but writing a sketch and setting up a project on TTN and went super-smoothly.  It just so happens that I made a bit of a quick-start video:

Arduino Stuff

Arduino is a great thing.  For artists, makers, inventors, amateur developers, and teachers, it's a great way to avoid the challenges of bare-wire programming and get physical objects doing what you want them to do.  For professionals, it's a good prototyping tool, delivering your proof of concept to the project manager in hours or days instead of weeks (or worse).

Adding the ATmega32U4 to the Geppetto library means I'll get a lot more time to play with Arduino hardware, projects, board support, and the IDE.  It also means that there will likely be more Arduino boards coming to the store and hardware modules coming to the Geppetto library.

I'm also going to have to find a quick and easy way to set up my 'arduino_pins.h' file.

Discovering Protocase

If you've seen my previous posts, chances are you've seen my low-tech enclosures, mounting brackets and test environments.  My indoor quadcopter test flight had a paracord tether tied to the rafters so that I didn't give my co-workers a hair cut.  I like to think of it as ISRU (In Situ Resource Utilization).  However, in some cases, a solid, well-made case is more than just a good idea.  When I went shopping for enclosures for my Overo Conduit board so that I could deploy it outside, my boss pointed me to  I think he just wanted me to stop asking for a 3D printer for the office.

These guys are awesome.  They're working on something for me and I can't wait to show it off.  They have a huge variety of custom products: L-shape, U-shape 5-sided, milled aluminum, and more!  They'll build from your CAD drawings and have free templates to help get started.  They even have their own design software for you to use.  If all else fails, they will work with you and design a fully customized enclosure for your device.

If you've got a prototype, an invention or a first-run for a kickstarter campaign, Protocase might be for you.  Just check out their page and see for yourself.

To Summarize:

I've been busy.  From grinding away at that internal project to working on LoRa and Arduino board support to designing enclosures to recovering from the Intel IoT fallout, I've hardly had enough time to catch my breath.  Now that things are settling down a bit, I am looking forward to spending more time telling you all about the cool stuff I'm working on.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

There is Nodana...


For those of you who don't know about the 96Boards open-specification hardware platform, it's a design spec for single-board computers (SBCs) that enables SoC vendors to provide their hardware in a standard form factor for increased compatibility.  It's also an engaged community working together to develop applications, software, and mezzanine cards for this ecosystem.

96Boards now has 3 different specifications for 3 classes of application.  There's Consumer Edition (CE), with standardized breakouts for both high-speed and low-speed signals, USB ports, HDMI, and so on.  There's also the Enterprise Edition (EE), which is more for server and networking applications.  It's a larger and more free-form design, with a low-speed header, USB and Ethernet, minimum 1 GB DRAM or expandable SODIMM slots, and optional 1 - 16 x PICe.  Finally there's the brand new IoT Edition (IE) spec.  It's designed to be tiny in order to fit anywhere.

All of these specifications have variants that allow hardware developers to add extra bits to their boards, making this a very flexible way of standardizing the important parts of SBCs.

The big benefit is that you can unite developer communities accross platforms.  The mezzanine card or maker project developed for board A will be compatible with board B, and vice versa.  With support from Linaro, providing a common Linux ecosystem for these boards, not even software compatibility should get in your way.

My honest opinion is that this open specification is very cool.

Gumstix is a 96Boards Partner

Yep, we're in cahoots with the folks at 96Boards and Linaro to bring you compliant hardware.  The release of the AeroCore 2 for Dragonboard 410C was only the start.  At the same time, we added the 96Boards Mezzanine Connector module to Geppetto D2O's library so that users can design their own mezzos for other applications.  If you don't know what Geppetto is, you can learn more by going to the Meet Geppetto page, read my earlier posts, or go straight to and give it a try.

I did a demo for 96Boards OpenHours, hosted by Mr. Robert Wolff (@sdrobertw) and actually flew my MAV, using a Dragonboard and the AeroCore 2 live in my office -- complete with a visit from the "demo demon".  The whole thing's on YouTube.

...Only Joule

So for those of you who don't know, a little compute module was released last year with quite a lot of juice hidden under its heat dissipator. The Intel® Joule™ module delivers unprecedented compute power in a tiny package.  From its two 100-pin Hirose connectors pour USB 3.0, MIPI LVDS,  PCI Express, HDMI, and a lot of what you already expect from COMs and SoCs.  It also houses its own WiFi and Bluetooth hardware.  All with the power of a quad-core processor akin to the Core-I7s you find in your desktop PCs.

Surprise, surprise, Geppetto's got that too!  You can go in and build your own host board using the Intel module and harness most of what it has to offer.

So a Square Peg and a Round Hole Walk Into a Bar...

On one hand you have this fantastic open spec hardware platform [round hole].  In the other, this epic compute module [square peg].  "those will never fit together," you might say (in fact, one 96Boards community member did).  Well, we gumstixians are very resourceful.  And the spec doesn't restrict the SoC's architecture to ARM, that's just the expectation.  So what did we do?  We took all of the components that make the 96Boards Consumer Edition spec great, we wired it up to the Joule connectors, (tested it), gave it a name, and unleashed it on the unsuspecting masses.

And that is how the Nodana 96Boards Consumer Edition (96BCE) for the Intel Joule module came to be.  Here it is:

Gumstix Nodana Features

The Black Sheep

That's right, all you doubters.  Now you can test your 96Boards projects on a powerful 64-bit multi-core Intel chip.  It's the first of its kind -- the first non-ARM 96Boards device.  Take it for a spin and tell me about what you do with it.  You can order it at

x86 IoT Fun

Psst!  We are also taking the IE spec to this dimension.  Our Radium 96BIE board complies with the 96Boards IoT Edition specification and runs the Intel® Curie™ module.  A 32-bit Quark processor  in bed with an ARCv2 MCU, a 6-axis internal measurement unit (IMU) and an independently programmable Bluetooth controller. Check it out at

Friday, November 4, 2016

How I Got My Dragonboard 410C Airborne

I was recently a guest on 96Boards OpenHours to demonstrate how the Aerocore 2 for Dragonboard 410C can be used to quickly and easily build a working quadcopter.   I even powered it up and tested it out indoors live.

If you want to see what happened, check out the YouTube video. The test flight happens at around the 40-minute mark.

Drones are awesome and not that hard to set up.  You can follow along with me if you're building your own.  Once you've got your rig put together, then you can start adding software to the Dragonboard -- or Any 96Boards CE SBC -- to turn it into a self-piloting, obstacle-avoiding, object-following marvel of automation... or whatever it is you plan to do with it.

To find out more about the Aerocore 2 for Dragonboard 410C, you can read my previous post or watch this promo video

The Parts

 The first step in building your quadcopter is to make sure you have all of the hardware you'll need.  Here's what I had on-hand:

You know you work somewhere cool when you can assemble a drone from hardware lying around the office.

The Prep

To keep this post brief, I'm going to glaze over the following steps.  They're fairly straightforward and unrelated and ubiquitous in MAV deployment so there are plenty of instructions available on the web.

  1. Assemble your drone kit.
    • Do not attach the rotor blades yet. You really don’t want your drone unexpectedly taking flight in the middle of your office/house/garage.
  2. The 12V battery connector and regulator on the Aerocore can handle the main battery’s output but there is no built-in connector on the drone or the battery.  
  3. solder-highlight.png
    • You can solder some jumper wires onto one of the motor power terminals on the base plate of your drone (circled in green here)
  4. Make sure you’ve flashed your Dragonboard with Linux. Linaro’s Debian 16.09 was used for this demo.
  5. Build QGroundControl.
  6. On your dragonboard 410C install the necessary packages
    • $ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install python-wxgtk3.0 python-pip python-numpy python-dev libxml2-dev libxslt-dev gstreamer1.0-tools
    • $ sudo pip install pymalink
    • $ sudo pip install mavproxy
  7. Bind your satelite DSM receiver with your radio

(UPDATE:  Since the original project was completed, something about the pymavlink pip package has changed and will no longer install dependencies correctly.  therefore, add python-lxml to your apt-get command before installing pymavlink and mavproxy)

Put It All Together

Now the fun stuff can begin!  It's time to get everything hooked up and ready to fly.

Step 1: Attach your boards

With this thing going up in the air, you won't want your hardware sliding around at all so it's good to put some thought into how your boards are mounted.  The chassis I'm using doesn't have what I'd call a universal mounting system, so I made my own.  The box for an Intel Edison turned out to be just the right size and very sturdy.  I've already been using one on the rover in my RTK project to house a Beaglebone Black.

Some zip ties, screws and risers quickly transformed the cardboard box into a mounting bracket for my Dragonboard.  A touch of shameless self-promotion and it's ready.

Board goes on brackets, Aerocore on board.  I used a bit of electrical tape to hold the receiver in place and was ready to wire it up.


MAVs tend to have alarm buzzers, used to indicate low battery and signal loss.  This is very important when in flight, but when you're setting everything up it can be really annoying.  Thankfully, the buzzer on the Aerocore 2 has a bypass circuit. After soldering a 2-pin header on the underside of the Aerocore, directly underneath the buzzer, you can use a jumper to deactivate the alarm.  For obvious reasons, I don't recommend hard-wiring the alarm bypass.  The picture to the right should help you find the two vias to connect.

  Step 2: Connect Wiring

One benefit of using a box as a mounting bracket is that it has proved to be the ideal place to hide excess wiring.  I cut a small opening in the bottom of the box and fed all of my wires in and through.  I got my hands on a webcam and managed to squeeze its base and cable in there too.  I labeled the following image so you can see where the various connections are.

Not having previous experience with MAVs, I had no idea what order to hook the electronic speed control PWMs in.  It took me a while, but I figured it out.  I put together an infographic for the rest of the amateur MAVers so that you don't have to struggle like I did.

Step 3: Software

The final pre-flight step is to configure your software.  There are three steps:
  1. Flash PX4 firmware to the MCU
  2. Start data pipeline on the Dragonboard
  3. Calibrate on-board sensors

QGroundControl makes programming and configuring your drone a snap.  Open up the program and go to the setup tab (Selection_065.png).  Along the left-hand side will be a button labeled “Firmware”. When you click on this button and then connect the Areocore 2 MCU’s “stm console” via USB, QGC will guide you through the flash process.

The rest of the pre-flight work can be done over WiFi on the Dragonboard. Going wire-free will also make calibration a little easier.

Disconnect the USB cable from your Aerocore and connect the battery. Once the MCU and Dragonboard boot, SSH into the Dragonboard and enter the following command: --master=/dev/ttyMSM1 --baudrate 115200 --out --aircraft MyCopter
Where is the IP address of your PC.

Once the MAVlink command interface comes up on the Dragonboard, QGC should be able to connect to your drone. If it does not connect correctly, you may have to add a UDP connection to QGC’s settings.  The setup screen should look simmilar to the following screenshot:


If this is the first time your Aerocore has been configured, the cicles that appear green in this shot will be red and you will not be able to deploy your drone until they all appear green.

Configuring your drone and calibrating the sensors is very straightforward thanks to the self-explanatory interface in QGC.  Click on each item along the left-hand side in turn -- apart from “Firmware”, which you have already done -- and follow the on-screen instructions.  Once all the lights are green, you’re ready to fly.

The final, and completely optional steps are getting the camera feed from the Dragonboard to QGC, and attaching a Pre-GO GPS module.  

Adding a GPS module is very easy.  Once it’s connected, it will work right away.  Connect it to the 5-pin molex connector next to the DSM satellite receiver connector.  Power down your drone and plug the module in using the included cable, and it's ready.  I added mine last thing right before the live test flight and it worked with no set-up required.

The video streamer, like the MAVlink proxy, is a single command on the Dragonboard:

gst-launch-1.0 uvch264src initial-bitrate=1000000 average-bitrate=1000000 iframe-period=1000 \
   device=/dev/video0 name=src auto-start=true src.vidsrc ! video/x-h264,width=1920,height=1080, \
   framerate=24/1 ! h264parse ! rtph264pay ! udpsink port=5600

With both the proxy and the video feed running on the Dragonboard, your flight screen will look something like this:


If you have added a Pre-GO GPS module, your drone’s location will appear in the navigation map seen here in the inset. You can switch the primary view between the video stream and the navigation map by clicking on the inset in the bottom left-hand corner.


And There You Have It...

You now have yourself a working drone.