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Drone controller board runs Linux on Zynq UltraScale+

Feb 8, 2022 — by Eric Brown 990 views

Topic’s “UAV & Robotics Platform” controller board runs Linux, ROS, and PX4 on a Zynq UltraScale+ and supplies WiFi/BT, GPS, multiple sensors, 4x motor I/Os, and 2x MIPI-CSI. A dev kit adds cameras, PS, debug, and more.

Last week, Netherlands-based Topic Embedded Systems announced that it had renewed its Xilinx Partnership status for 2022. The announcement linked to its latest Xilinx collaboration, a UAV & Robotics Platform (URP) drone controller based on the Xilinx Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoC, which Topic used on last year’s Miami MPSoC Plus module and Florida Plus dev kit.

The URP datasheet is still listed as preliminary, and we saw no press release or other mention for the board aside from a brief Jun. 2021 notice in InVision news that Aries Embedded was distributing it. Aries, which also distributes the Miami and Florida Plus in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, has has an URP product page, and so does Xilinx. One of the block diagrams below refers to the board as the Xilinx Drone Platform (XDP).

UAV & Robotics Platform board (left) and full dev kit
(click images to enlarge)

The UAV & Robotics Platform is designed primarily for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), better known as drones, but can also be used in autonomous terrestrial robotics applications. The 135 x 68.4 x 10mm board is designed for direct deployment as a drone controller and integrates a 9-16VDC input, a -40 to 85°C operating range, and EMC/EMI compliances.


There is also a dev kit version that expands the mostly Samtec-based I/Os with various adapter boards and other options. The URP board also offers expansion connections to additional URP boards, a Miami-driven board, and Rincon’s Raptor SDR board, each of which has its own Linux-driven UltraScale+ to drive auxiliary systems (see farther below).

The URP board offers the Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoC in ZU7 and ZU5 EV flavors, delivering 504 or 256 logic cells, 461 and 234 flipflops, and 1728 and 1248 DSP slices, respectively. (Aries also mentions ZU4 support.) In addition to this FPGA processing fabric, the Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoC provides 4x Cortex-A53 cores at 1.33GHz, a Mali-400 MP2 GPU, and 2x Cortex-A5 real-time cores at 533MHz.

The GitHub-hosted Topic Linux 4.x BSP, based on Xilinx PetaLinux, includes a bootloader and embedded drivers. The BSP also includes a license for Topic’s Dyplo (Dynamic Process Loader) OS for the FPGA, as well as QDesys Motor Control IP licenses. The BSP includes software-based algorithm development flows for DSP, ML, and AI, and supports Robot Operating System (ROS) and PX4. Topic includes a white paper on running PX4 Autopilot on the URP.

URP block diagrams
(click images to enlarge)

The URP board ships with 4GB DDR4 with ECC, 64MB QSPI, and 8GB eMMC. A Murata LBEE5KL 1DX module supplies 2.4GHz 802.11n and Bluetooth 5.1. There is a uBlox ZOE-M8B-0 GPS chip, as well as Bosch sensors for 3-axis accelerometer/gyro, magneto, and environmental sensing (see block diagram below).

The URP is equipped with 4x Wurth motor interfaces for DC, servo motor, and stepper motors, which would require a separate power supply. These “efficient high-RPM drivers” support a power stage for BLDC motors up to 30V@15A. Optional motors include the Trenz TEP0002. Other features include a micro-USB 3.0 port and dual 30-pin MIPI-CSI I-PEX connectors.

URP PL I/O block diagram with motor driver and sensor links (left) and expansion block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

Samtec QSH-060 expansion connectors drive high-speed I/Os linked to the FPGA. These include support for PS interfaces including PCIe Gen2 x2, SATA 3.1, USB 3.0, 2x “tri-mode” GbE, and DisplayPort for up to 4Kp60 with H.265/264. The PL-linked I/Os include PCIe Gen3 x4, MIPI, HDMI, 4-lane Aurora, and 10/40/50GbE. The Xilinx page notes that the PCIe Gen3 interface supports NVMe.

Additional Samtec connectors are available for the Raptor board or for hooking up multiple URP boards working in parallel or a separate Miami-driven board. The URP is further equipped with an RTC, PS clock, 4x LEDs, reset buttons, multiple configuration and boot switches, and an SMBus/I2C driven battery management interface.

The board is available with a la carte options such as a camera pack with dual Leopard LI-IMX274-MIPI cameras with Sony 1/2.5″ CMOS digital image sensors for up to 3864 x 2196 resolution. Other options include a motor driver and pack, desktop extension pack, and the Raptor SDR board.

You can also order a dev kit SKU with a 12V power supply and antennas. The key addition here is a debug extension board with serial console and JTAG debug and a bootable SD slot. The image farther above also shows a couple of Leopard cameras and a fan. Presumably, Topic or Aries can load the kit up with a custom set of options. Topic also offers consulting services.

Rincon Raptor detail view and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

The optional Rincon Raptor software defined radio board runs Linux on its own Zynq UltraScale+ plus 4GB RAM. The Raptor includes an Analog Devices AD9361 2×2 MIMO RF transceiver, as well as USB ports, antennas, expansion connectors, and more.

Further information

No pricing or availability information was provided for the UAV & Robotics Platform. More information may be found on Topic Embedded’s Xilinx Partnership announcement and URP product page and datasheet.

Aries has its own URP product page, along with a more detailed Aries URP datasheet (PDF). There is also a Xilinx URP page.

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