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Linux drone controller has HDMI input and long-range WiFi

Sep 15, 2017 — by Eric Brown 2,624 views

The ArduPilot based “Emlid Edge” drone controller runs Linux on a quad -A53 SoC, and offers an HDMI input, long-range 5.8GHz WiFi, and a UAVCAN GNSS module.

Emlid, which has previously launched the Raspberry Pi based Navio and HAT-ready Navio2 drone controllers, has now opened $699 pre-sales on a much more advanced Emlid Edge controller, due in November. The kit is notable for offering an HDMI input to capture video from an HD camera such as the GoPro. There’s also an optimized, long-range 5.8GHz WiFi links that streams pre-compressed HD video and telemetry data at up to 2 km to Emlid’s QGroundControl Ground Control Station (GCS) software running on a laptop equipped with the same 5.8GHz link.

Emlid Edge drone controller (left) and mounted on a drone with UAVCAN GNSS module in upper right
(click images to enlarge)

The Emlid Edge kit provides a separate external UAVCAN GNSS module — the disc-like gizmo in the picture above — which also includes a temperature controlled dual IMU and barometer sensor subsystem. The UAVCAN protocol is superior to the “primitive busses” found on some drone controllers for importing data from external sensors, says Emlid.

A power module equipped with a current sensing Hall sensor is also available. The module supports batteries up to 12S and current sensing up to 200A. A second module can be added for redundancy.

Emlid Edge components in the box (left) and separate, including 5.8GHz WiFi antennas
(click images to enlarge)

The Debian-based codebase for both the controller and the GCS are open source, and includes support for the MAVLink protocol, “sophisticated” flight control algorithms, and various flight modes, says Emlid. The GCS software includes waypoint navigation, flight status monitoring, automatic return based on triggers, and payload control for devices like cameras, retractable landing gear, parachute, or crop spraying equipment.


The hardware does not appear to be open, however. In fact, Emlid has yet to identify the controller’s quad-core, Cortex-A53 SoC or Cortex-M3 co-processor, or list RAM and storage details. The Cortex-M3 runs real-time tasks such as PWM output for motor control and RC signal decoding.

Emlid Edge detail view
(click image to enlarge)

The sleek, 97 x 46 x 15mm controller device includes dual USB ports in addition to the HDMI input. Other interfaces include dual UARTs, dual CAN ports, 12x PWM, a PPM/SBUS input, and an SBUS output. A firmware update port and threaded mounting holes are also available. The WiFi link allows use of standard RC 2.4GHz ground control equipment without interference, says Emlid.

Emlid’s QGroundControl Ground Control (QGC) software
(click image to enlarge)

In addition to its drone products, Emlid also offers a $799 Reach RS RTK GNSS receiver for surveying, mapping and data collection with centimeter accuracy. The device includes WiFi, Bluetooth, LoRa, GNSS, 2GB storage, and a 30-hour battery.

Further information

The Emlid Edge drone controller kit is available for pre-order for $699 and will ship in early November. More information may be found on Emlid’s Emlid Edge product page.

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