Phenox: Wherein Quadcopters Get FPGAs


The computing power inside a quadcopter is enough to read a few gyros and accelerometers, do some math, and figure out how much power to send to the motors. What if a quadcopter had immensely more computing power, and enough peripherals to do something cool? That’s what Phenox has done with a micro quad that is able to run Linux.

Phenox looks like any other micro quad, but under the hood things get a lot more interesting. Instead of the usual microcontroller-based control system, the Phenox features a ZINQ-7000 System on Chip, featuring an ARM core with an FPGA and a little bit of DDR3 memory. This allows the quad to run Linux, made even more interesting by the addition of two cameras (one forward facing, one down facing), a microphone, an IMU, and a range sensor. Basically, if you want a robotic pet that can hover, you wouldn’t do bad by starting with a Phenox.

The folks behind Phenox are putting up a Kickstarter tomorrow. No word on how much a base Phenox will run you, but it’ll probably be a little bit more than the cheap quads you can pick up from the usual Chinese retailers.

Videos below.

23 thoughts on “Phenox: Wherein Quadcopters Get FPGAs

    1. I accidentally reported your comment, sorry about that!

      What I actually wanted to do is to ask you – do you understand that any opensource project could be made so that it would be near impossible to use any part of it by anyone except the author?
      Openscource is nice but denying everything purely because it’s not opensource is a little bit strange.

      1. Serge, im sorry but you are way off.. Opensource is where its at. I think you have it way wrong…!!! With opensource you can change things on your own, communities can customize it, and even companies can have mini startups that could push customized versions…
        Opensource is the way to go for any kind of customization. Get with the times.

        Sorry, just bugs me when ppl speak without at least learning a little about what they are talking about..

        This is awesome. So many things this could do.

        1. “you are way off”
          “you have it way wrong…!!!”
          “Get with the times.”
          “ppl speak without at least learning a little”

          Please don’t be so condescending. Everyone is aware that open source is the way to go for hacker projects, but even a closed source project can be interesting.

          This one is very interesting to me. I really hope they will open it up.

  1. What would you want it to do besides advanced imagery and accurate navigation?

    An algorithm to recover from overturn and excessive wind drift dynamically would be pretty much it for navigation.. Imagery you’d just use a image sensor with IR capabilities with a custom optic setup.. This is actually better than what the US gov. currently has, but hasn’t been made yet, except for the optics for satcom..

    Some things for air polution statistics or live condition feeds too..

    All this can be done with a single POP package processor and a secondary image bus. FPGA would actually be more expensive..

  2. Isn’t this about the same as the AR Parrot 2.0? Running Linux, down cam, front cam, IMU, (ultrasonic?) range sensor….. Ok, they have added a microphone.

    I haven’t read the TFA yet so the state of OpenSource for this project is unknown to me as is. The Parrot at least have a decent API.

  3. Well they’ve launched it on Kickstarter, but the funding options are weird. There are some odds and sods up to $60 (a battery, a motor, a printed frame), then nothing until a limited number of prototypes for $750 each.

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