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Embedded Linux Conference hijacked by drones

Jan 27, 2015 — by Eric Brown 2,889 views

The Embedded Linux Conference + Android Builders Summit on Mar. 23-25 in San Jose is about “Drones, Things, and Automobiles,” but drones get the most love.

Maybe it’s just our imagination, but the Linux Foundation’s Embedded Linux Conference seems to be getting more interesting than ever. The program increasingly reflects new opportunities for Linux in areas such as drones, robots, automotive computers, IoT gizmos, 3D sensing, modular phones, and much more. For those of you worried that ELC North America is skimping on the basics as it explores the more colorful sides of Linux, rest your mind at ease. There are still plenty of sessions on booting, trace analysis, NAND support, PHY frameworks, power management, defragmenting, systemd, device tree, and toolchain. Geeks still rule!

Like last year’s ELC North America, the 2015 Embedded Linux Conference and collocated Android Builders Summit has a strong focus on Internet of Things technology. This year, that expands to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and automotive computers with the theme of “Drones, Things, and Automobiles.”

Project Ara’s Paul Eremenko and Panasonic’s Bryant Eastham

The Linux Foundation’s leading embedded conference, which will be held Mar. 23-25 in San Jose, Calif., starts off on Monday with a keynote from Mark Skarpness, Director of Systems Engineering at Intel, speaking on “Driving standards and open source to grow the Internet of Things.” Here, Skarpness will survey the current IoT standards, with a special focus on Intel’s own Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC).


The Skarpness keynote will be followed by a joint keynote from two of Google’s lead developers for Project Ara: Paul Eremenko and Marti Bolivar. The keynote will provide the latest updates on Google’s ambitious modular phone project. Wednesday’s keynotes include a talk from Jaguar Land Rover’s Matt Jones on “Embedding openness in the connected car,” followed by Linaro’s Deepak Saxena on “Community involvement: looking forward and looking back.”

Also getting keynote billing is an IoT panel on Tuesday hosted by Sony Mobile’s Tim Bird (“Mr. Embedded Linux Conference”) featuring Intel’s Dominig Ar Foll on Tizen, the AllSeen Alliance’s Greg Burns, Samsung’s Guy Martin on OIC, and Panasonic’s Bryant Eastham. (Eastham may be discussing Panasonic’s integration of Firefox OS into its smart TVs.)

Watch out! Drones above!

No topic at ELC will receive more attention than UAVs. Andrew “Tridge” Tridgell will offer a keynote on the Linux Foundation’s Dronecode project, which encompasses 3DRobotics’s APM and related PX4 projects for open source UAV autopilots. Tridgell will focus on the first autopilots to run APM directly on Linux, a task that was recently accomplished by Erle Robotics in its Erle-brain and Erle-Copter.

Drone dealers Andrew Tridgell and Gregoire Gentil

Other UAV-related talks include an “Open source drones on Linux” session from Lorenz Meier, who oversees the PX4 project. In addition, Tridgell and Meier will host a BoF session on the Dronecode project. Other sessions include Intel’s Mark Brown and Joel Rosenzweig talking about “Using Intel Edison to fuse embedded Linux with existing drone flight controllers.” (The Linux-ready Edison module is being integrated as an optical companion computer into 3DRobotics’s new APM-based IRIS+ drone.)

Other drone-related talks include developer Clay McClure speaking on “Flying penguins: Embedded Linux applications for autonomous UAVs.” McClure will show how to integrate the PX4 autopilot and Robot Operating System (ROS) with a Linux computer. Meanwhile, Always Innovating’s Gregoire Gentil will focus on sensor arrays and 3D positioning in his discussion of “Autonomous Navigation for an OMAP4 Nano-Drone,” which will likely discuss the company’s Linux-based MeCam follow-me drone.

Still haven’t had enough drones? Fortunately for you, 3DRobotics’s Paul Riseborough will talk about fusing UAV sensor inputs in “Application of data fusion to aerial robotics.” From the same company comes Kevin Hester who will discuss the Dronecode project’s DroneAPI in “DroneAPI: A tutorial on drone control.” In addition, Qualcomm’s Mark Charlebois will similarly get down into the techno-weeds to talk about “Heterogeneous multi-core architecture support for Dronecode.”

Finally, if you thought drones were only for hunting terrorist suspects, spying on celebrities, or drunk divebombing the White House, Mark Jacobsen of the U.S. Air Force will give a talk on “Syrian Airlift Project: Open-sourcing humanitarian airlift.” The project plans to teach Syrian refugees how to build and operate 3DRobotics drones to ferry aid to Syrians stuck in the war zone.

IoT and automotive

In case you were wondering if the world’s embedded Linux engineers had all given up their day jobs to build drones, worry not. Other sessions cover a wide range of applications and technologies, including a fair amount on IoT and automotive topics. The latter principally involves the Linux Foundation’s Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) project. One interesting topic that received not one, but two sessions is the role of Linux, typically uClinux, in controlling low-end microcontrollers.

The gearheads of both the robotic and car-talk variety have pushed out some other topics that have received more attention in recent years, such as mobile Linux operating systems. The only session we saw was one panel on the Linux Foundation hosted Tizen. Not a peep about anything related to Firefox OS or Ubuntu Touch. We imagine there will be some discussion in the hallways, however, about Canonical’s new IoT focused Snappy version of Ubuntu.

Khasim Syed Mohammed, Balwinder Kaur, and Jim Huang


Here are some other highlights of the ELC + Android Builders Summit, in addition to the keynotes and drone-related sessions noted above:

  • Generalizing Android for low-cost 64-bit ARM-based community boards — Khasim Syed Mohammed, Linaro
  • Solving global illiteracy with Android and XPRIZE — Jono Bacon, XPRIZE
  • Bluetooth 4.2 — new features for Linux and Iot — Marcel Holtmann, Intel
  • Android’s new stream-based camera architecture — Balwinder Kaur, ON Semiconductor, Aptina Imaging
  • Customizing AOSP for my device — Rafael Coutinho, Phi Innovations
  • Optimize uClinux for ARM Cortex-M4 — Jim Huang, South Star Xelerator, ITRI
  • Linux for microcontrollers: From marginal to mainstream — Vitaly Wool, Softprise Consulting OU
  • Creating open hardware tools — Dave Anders, Intel
  • Automotive Linux — Assembling the puzzle — Kevron Rees, Intel

Further information

Registration for the Embedded Linux Conference + Android Builders Summit 2015, Mar. 23-25, at the San Jose Marriott, is available for $500 through Jan. 30, then $650 through Mar. 5 and $750 thereafter. Students and “hobbyists” get in for $150. More information may be found here. The full schedule may be found here.

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