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Linux-friendly drone controller flies on Intel Joule power

Jan 19, 2017 — by Eric Brown 1,700 views

Gumstix launched a customizable version of its LTE-enabled, PX4-compatible AeroCore 2 MAV controller board that works with the Intel Joule.

Gumstix announced the AeroCore 2 Expansion Board for Intel Joule expansion board in August along with five other expansion boards designed for the Intel Joule, a follow-on to the Intel Edison computer-on-module with a much faster Atom SoC. Now available for $179 without the soon-to-ship Joule module, the AeroCore 2 for Intel Joule is a variation on the AeroCore 2 controller board. The new model similarly runs NuttX on a Cortex-M4 MCU, supports the PX4 drone controller standard, and targets micro-aerial vehicle (MAV) and other UAVs and robots.

AeroCore 2 Expansion Board for Intel Joule (left) and working with the board in Geppetto DSO
(click images to enlarge)

Like all new Gumstix carrier boards, including the AeroCore 2, as well as the AeroCore 2 Expansion Board for DragonBoard 410C and the Joule-based, 96Boards compatible Nodana 96BCE, the AeroCore 2 for Intel Joule was designed with the Gumstix Geppetto Design-to-Order (DSO) online development platform. Customers can use Geppetto DSO to customize the board using a library of hundreds of modules. Gumstix engineers will then test and validate the board design, and manufacture and ship the production ready board in 15 days.

The AeroCore 2 for Intel Joule is the most powerful AeroCore 2 board yet. The original AeroCore 2 runs Linux on Gumstix’s own Cortex-A8 based Overo and Cortex-A9-based (TI OMAP4430) DuoVero modules. The AeroCore 2 for DragonBoard 410C runs Linux or Android on Arrow’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 SBC, which has four 1.2GHz Cortex-A53 cores and an Adreno 306 GPU.


The Intel Joule module’s Atom SoC is a modest upgrade from the Snapdragon 410. The Joule offers a choice of 14nm-fabricated, quad-core Intel Atom T5700 (1.7GHz) or Atom T5500 (1.5GHz) SoCs featuring Intel HD Graphics with 4K video capture and display. The module is also compatible with Intel’s RealSense depth-sensing camera, which Intel is aggressively targeting at the drone market.

Intel Joule detail views
(click image to enlarge)

The 48 x 24 x 3.5mm Intel Joule is further equipped with 4GB RAM, 16GB eMMC, WiFi, Bluetooth, and support for interfaces including MIPI CSI/DSI, GPIO, and multiple USB and serial ports. Intel supports the Joule module with an open source carrier board and a Yocto Project-based Ostro Linux distribution, as well as Windows 10 IoT. Both of these platforms are supported by the AeroCore 2 for Intel Joule board, which offers dual connectors and space for the Joule to plug in.

Although both AeroCore 2 boards share a standard feature set, each has somewhat different configurations and ports. Since the August announcement, Gumstix has redesigned the AeroCore 2 for Intel Joule prototype to add micro-HDMI, USB 3.0 host, and USB OTG ports. The USB 3.0 expands support to newer peripherals like spherical imaging systems or Intel’s RealSense camera. This is the first AeroCore 2 to include USB 3.0 and micro-HDMI ports, and the first to support RealSense,

AeroCore 2 for Intel Joule detail view
(click image to enlarge)

Like the DragonBoard version, the Joule board integrates a NimbeLink Skywire LTE modem, enabling drones with 4G texting and data streaming capabilities. It also similarly features a 9-axis internal measurement unit (IMU), along with an altimeter, monitored by the open source Nuttx RTOS in real time using the Cortex-M4 MCU. Combined with optional geopositioning from the built-in GPS connector, the IMU provides accurate positional feedback. Gumstix doesn’t say what MCU it’s using, but the DragonBoard version used an ST Microelectronics STM32F427.

The AeroCore 2 board is further equipped with a 40-pin GPIO connector, as well as Octal PWM and DSM-2 remote connectors. There are also headers for CAN, SPI, 4x UART, 2x I2C, and ADC. Other features include a barometer, battery connector, and a buzzer.

Many of these features can be moved around or removed using the online Geppetto D2O environment. Geppetto is free to use, letting developers try out different ideas, compare alternatives for features and costs, create multiple projects, and share ideas across a design team, says Gumstix.

You can move straight from a Geppetto design to an order in one session. The $1,999 manufacturing service (plus appropriate BOM costs) provides your custom board in 15 days, complete with custom BSPs and documentation. Gumstix engineers verify all Geppetto-manufactured devices before shipping. There are reduced rates for quantity discounts and repeat board spins.

Further information

The AeroCore 2 Expansion Board for Intel Joule module expansion is shipping for $179. The separately available Intel Joule module should be available “soon,” says Gumstix. More information may be found at the Gumstix AeroCore 2 for Intel Joule product and shopping page.

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One response to “Linux-friendly drone controller flies on Intel Joule power”

  1. Grumpy Old Coot says:

    Anyone know if this board has a port of Ardupilot or DroneCode?

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