[Aerotenna] recently announced the first successful flight of an unmanned air vehicle (UAV) powered by a Xilinx Zynq processor running ArduPilot. The Zynq is a dual ARM processor with an onboard FPGA that can offload the processor or provide custom I/O devices. They plan to release their code to their OcPoC (Octagonal Pilot on a Chip) project, an open source initiative that partners with Dronecode, an open source UAV platform.
The [Aerotenna] team used a DJI F550 airframe and plans to test on more hardware, soon. There wasn’t much technical detail in their post, but a post on Xilinx’s Xcell Blog had a bit more detail. In that article, one of the founders of [Aerotenna] says that the FPGA part of the Zynq allows them to do real time processing more efficiently and handle computationally intensive tasks. Flight dynamics and multiple video feeds are mentioned.
The Zynq board runs Linux and the ArduPilot flight control software (which is, of course, open source also). The Zynq is overkill for a lot of projects, but flying a serious UAV is probably a good fit for that much horsepower. We’ve seen a few neat Zynq boards available recently including a hack to turn one into a Parallax Propeller, which–oddly enough–doesn’t have anything to do with flying.
We were surprised that [Aerotenna] didn’t post any video of their flight. However, you might be interested in this year’s keynote for the Embedded Linux Conference where Dronecode’s [Andrew Tridgell] talks about the architecture of the Ardupilot.