The Autopilot Shield For The Raspberry Pi


In the world of drones, quadcopters, and unmanned aerial vehicles, the community has pretty much settled on AVR microcontrollers for the low end, and ARM for the high performance boards. If the FAA doesn’t screw things up, there will soon be another market that requires even more computational power, and Navio, the autopilot shield for the Pi, is just the thing for it.

Where high end multicopter and autopilot boards like the OpenPilot Revolution use ARM micros, there’s a small but demanding segment of the hobby that needs even more processing power. Think of something like the Outback Challenge, where fixed-wing drones search the desert for a lost mannequin autonomously. You’re going to need OpenCV for that, and that means Linux.

Navio is a shield for the Raspberry Pi, complete with a barometric pressure sensor, gyros, accelerometer, and compass, and GPS. It’s designed to run a more real-time version of Linux, and has the ability to do some interesting telemetry configurations – putting a 3G modem on the Navio isn’t much of a problem, and since it’s a Raspi, doing image processing of a downward facing camera is just a matter of writing the code.

The Navio team is currently running an Indiegogo campaign, with the baseline version available for $145. That’s pretty close to the price of the OpenPilot Revolution. There’s also a version upgraded with the U-blox NEO-6T that allows for on-board processing of raw GPS data.

Sailing With An Autopilot


After seeing an autopilot for a kayak a few days ago, [Mike] thought he should send in his version of a water-borne autopilot. Compared to something that fits in a one-man kayak, [Mike]’s creation is a monstrous device, able to keep a largeish sailboat on a constant heading.

To keep track of the ship’s bearing, [Mike] is using a very cool digital compass that uses LEDs to keep a steady heading. Also included is an amazingly professional and very expensive 6 axis IMU. To actually steer the ship, [Mike] is using a linear actuator attached to the tiller powered by a huge 60 Amp motor controller. The actuator only draws about 750 mA, but if [Mike] ever needs an autopilot for a container ship or super tanker, the power is right there.

For control, [Mike] ended up using an Arduino, 16-button keypad, and an LCD display. With this, he can put his autopilot into idle, calibration, and run modes, as well as changing the ship’s heading by 1, 10, and 100 degrees port or starboard.

From a day of sailing, [Mike] can safely say his autopilot works very well. It’s able to keep a constant heading going downwind, and even has enough smarts to tack upwind.

Videos below.

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Compass Guided Kayak Autopilot


Last July, [Louis] bought a kayak off of Craigslist. It was a pedal-powered device with a hand-operated rudder, and he ended up enjoying his time on the water. [Louis] fishes, though, and it was a bit of a challenge to manage hands free fishing while maintaining a steady course. His solution was an Arduino-powered autopilot that allows him to troll for salmon and Arduino haters with just the push of a button.

In [Louis]’ system, a motor is attached to the steering lever along with a few limit switches. This motor is powered by an Arduino controlled with an LSM303 compass module from Sparkfun.

When the autopilot module is started up, it first checks to see if the compass module is enabled. If not, the system relies on two tact switches to change the position of the rudder. Enabling the compass requires a short calibration of spinning the kayak around in a circle, but after that the steering is dead on.

There are a few things [Louis] would like to add such as a heading display and a bluetooth module for remote control. This setup already landed him a 13 lb salmon, so we’re going to say it’s good enough to catch some dinner.

737 autopilot, courtesy of an Arduino


To start this off, no, we’re not looking at a piece of actual flight hardware. This is [Andrea Giudici]’s project to tie real-world hardware into Flight Simulator X. It’s an autopilot for simulated aircraft, so those of you looking at flying a 737 sometime in the near future need not worry about computers flying your plane. Airbus passengers, though…

[Andrea] didn’t want to dig around with the clunky point-and-click interface in FSX, so he created a virtual autopilot with a 2×16 LCD display and an Arduino to interact and set the most common autopilot settings such as altitude, speed, heading, and engagement. The physical interface is just three tact switches and a pot, while the interface to FSX is a custom driver that turns the USB out of the Arduino into actual flight commands.

It’s not a 737 cockpit in a garage, but it’s still a wonderful alternative to poking around in a completely computer-bound interface.

Video of the ‘duino in action after the break.

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Quadcopter stabilization system using Wii Motion Plus

If you’re contemplating a quadcopter build here’s a way to add stabilization hardware without breaking the bank. The BaronPilot project uses an Arduino and a Wii Motion Plus module to ensure an even keel for your flying projects. The hardware inside of the Motion Plus includes two gyroscopes, which the BaronPilot monitors for changes in your flying rig’s orientation. The project serves as a co-pilot by differentiating between movements caused by the remote control, and changes due to wind or other outside factors (like hitting the quadcopter with a stick as seen in the video after the break). It should all translate to less chance of crashing due to operator error.

You can pick up a Motion Plus for less than twenty dollars, a deal when compared to the IMU boards that we usually see in quadcopter builds which usually run more than twice that amount. It’s an I2C device which makes it easy to hook up to just about anything. This project has native support for Teensy, Arduino Nano, and Arduino clones using an ATmega328 chip. But the portability of the Arduino platform should make it easy to tweak the code for use with just about any microprocessor.

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Tri-rotor helicopter with full autopilot

Quadcopters stand aside, here’s a three-rotor helicopter we think you’re going to love. The body is made out of plywood and carbon fiber rods, keeping it light enough to be easily lifted by just 3 motors while making sure the force doesn’t tear the aircraft apart. Three gyroscopes, two accelerometers, three magnetometers, and a GPS module are all used in conjunction for an autopilot system. There’s a lot of great pictures and videos but our favorite, embedded after the break, shows the tricopter writing messages in the sky using light and camera exposure tricks similar to this ground-based trike.

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ArduPilot Pro autonomous drone

We wrote about [Chris Anderson] before when he released the Arduino based autopilot. He has since crashed his first Predator UAV, due to an underpowered motor and poor control of the v-tail only steering. He has since released a pro version of the autopilot controller, and is modifying this UAV Predator drone kit to work with it. One ATMega168 processor handles flying and the other handles GPS navigation, but because they work together, it results in a fully autonomous drone. He also has a BlimpDuino version we have covered before.