All News | Boards | Chips | Devices | Software | Archive | About | Contact | Subscribe
Follow LinuxGizmos:
Twitter Facebook Pinterest RSS feed
*   get email updates   *

Robotics kit runs Linux on new DragonBoard 845c 96Boards SBC

Feb 25, 2019 — by Eric Brown 5,726 views

Qualcomm and Thundercomm have launched a “Robotics RB3 Platform” that runs Linux and ROS on an octa-core Snapdragon 845 via a new “DragonBoard 845c” 96Boards SBC. The $449 kit includes 4K and tracking cameras.

Qualcomm subsidiary Qualcomm Technologies, which in December released a Qualcomm Flight Pro for drones, has returned with another Snapdragon based robotics kit featuring Linux, this time targeting terrestrial robotics. The new Qualcomm Robotics RB3 Platform runs Linux with Robot Operating System (ROS) on an octa-core Qualcomm SDA/SDM845, which you may know better as the Snapdragon 845.

Qualcomm Robotics RB3 Platform in Basic (left) and Full configurations
(click images to enlarge)

The Qualcomm Robotics RB3 Platform is built around a new 96Boards CE form factor DragonBoard 845c developed in collaboration with Thundercomm. The RB3 kit, which is available now for $449, also includes a Qualcomm Robotics navigation mezzanine board that supports time-of-flight, tracking, active stereo, and 4K-ready main cameras.

The platform is designed for developing “smart, power-efficient and cost-effective robots, ranging from large industrial and enterprise robots to small battery-operated ones with challenging power and thermal dissipation requirements,” says Qualcomm. The kit was developed as a collaboration with Thundercomm, which previously worked with Qualcomm on the Snapdragon 625 IP Camera. The DragonBoard 845c, which follows Arrow’s Qualcomm-backed, Snapdragon 820-based DragonBoard 820c 96Boards SBC, is said to be “purpose built” for robotics, so it’s unclear when or if it will be available on its own without the mezzanine and other kit components.


Although Qualcomm’s posted information doesn’t say the kit is applicable to drone designs, during our pre-briefing with the company we asked about that. Qualcomm clarified this point saying the kit can be used to build any autonomous system, including drones.

The RB3 supports the Qualcomm Neural Processing SDK “for advanced on-device AI,” as well as the Qualcomm Computer Vision Suite, the Qualcomm Hexagon DSP SDK, and Amazon AWS Robomaker. Ubuntu support is planned “in the near future.”

Both Qualcomm and Thundercomm mention that the Qualcomm Robotics RB3 Platform is also available in a computer-on-module version in addition to the DragonBoard 845c SBC. This would suggest that the DragonBoard 845c might be a sandwich-style COM-and-carrier offering. Thundercomm sells a 60 x 37mm, Snapdragon 845-based TurboX D845 SOM with core specs that appear to match those of the DragonBoard 845c.

TurboX D845 SOM (left) and TurboX D845 Development Kit
(click images to enlarge)

The TurboX D845 SOM also drives the sandwich-style TurboX D845 Development Kit, which has a much larger footprint than the 85 x 54mm DragonBoard 845c. This Android 8.1 supported board also has more extensive features, including 2x HDMI, DP, 3x MIPI-CSI, 2x Ethernet, mini-PCIe, CAN, and more.

Thundercomm AI Kit (left) and detail view
(click images to enlarge)

Thundercomm also offers a Thundercomm AI Kit embedded computer that runs Android Oreo on the Snapdragon 845. The 12V “edge device” is equipped with 8GB RAM, 64GB UFS, microSD, micro-HDMI, and an 8-megapixel camera. It also provides GbE, micro-USB, and 4x USB 3.0 ports. An IMU and audio I/O are also available.

Inside the Snapdragon 845

Like the Snapdragon 835, the Snapdragon 845 features “Kryo” cores fabricated with a 10nm FinFET process. However, it’s a more efficient 10LPP (vs. 10LPE) process that’s said to enable improved performance along with reduced power consumption.

The Snapdragon 845’s eight Kryo 835 cores are evenly split between cores that approximate Arm’s latest Cortex-A75 and lower-end Cortex-A55 architectures. The 845’s cores clock to 2.8GHz and 1.8GHz, respectively, and are boosted by a larger 3MB system cache.

The integrated Adreno 630 GPU is claimed to offer 30 percent faster graphics and 30 percent less power than the Snapdragon 835’s Adreno 540, while offering 2.5 times higher throughput. It has also been enhanced with “eXtended Reality” (XR) technology that can generate dual 2400 x 2400 @ 120Hz displays on VR headsets. The Adreno 630 subsystem adds support for room-scale 6DoF with SLAM and Adreno Foveation technology.

There’s’s also a Hexagon 685 DSP with a third-gen Neural Processing Engine (NPE) for AI applications, as well as a dual-core Spectra 280 ISP that boosts 4K video capture to 60fps. The RB3 kit also includes the Qualcomm Secure Processing Unit. (For more details on the Snapdragon 845 see the spec list below and our earlier coverage of Intrinsyc’s Open-Q 845 development kit.

DragonBoard 845c and RB3 kit

The Qualcomm Robotics RB3 Platform’s DragonBoard 845c carrier board is referred to simply as a 96Boards SBC. Its 85 x 54mm dimensions match the 96Boards CE standard spec, but it offers expansion capabilities beyond even the larger CE Extended boards. Instead of the usual 60-pin high- and 40-pin low-speed connectors, you get two of each, as well as a 20-pin low-speed interface.

The SBC provides 4GB LPDDR4x, 64GB UFS, and a microSD slot. You also get 2x USB 3.0 host ports, a USB 3.0 Type-C OTG, and a micro-USB debug port.

A GbE port is available along with wireless features like dual-band WiFi-ac, Bluetooth 5.0, and GNSS. The CB3 kit adds an optional, $249 Qualcomm Robotics cellular mezzanine add-on that connects to one of the high-speed connectors. The mezzanine supports 4G/LTE, including CBRS-band-48 support for private LTE networks. 5G is said to be coming in late 2019.

The DragonBoard 845c is further equipped with an HDMI 1.4 port and 2x MIPI-DSI interfaces. The CB3 kit adds the Qualcomm Robotics Navigation Mezzanine board, which presumably includes multiple MIPI-CSI camera connections.

The $449 CBR “Basic” kit price is said to include a main OV8856 camera with 4K@60fps capture, as well as a tracking camera, which Qualcomm says provides path planning and obstacle avoidance via visual simultaneous localization and mapping (vSLAM) algorithms. The unpriced “Full” kit adds the $65 Time-of-Flight (ToF) camera for “for people, gesture and object detection even in low light conditions,” according to Qualcomm. This VGA-resolution depth camera features Panasonic’s ToF sensor and offers a 90 x 70-degree FOV. The Full kit also appears to include the optional, $35 stereo SLM camera with a “KaraA2” Altek 3D sensing module.

ToF camera (left) and Stereo SLM camera
(click images to enlarge)

The platform includes support for sensors, but it’s not clear what’s standard or optional. Thundercomm lists a 6-axis IMU and proximity sensor as part of the DragonBoard 845c. Qualcomm also mentions a capacitive barometric pressure sensor and multi-mode digital microphones, both of which appear to be optional. In addition, Qualcomm notes “additional ports for supplementary sensors from TDK-InvenSense,” as well as “support for multiple sensors and 3rd party algorithms via Sensor Software Framework.

Specifications listed for the DragonBoard 845c and Qualcomm Robotics RB3 Platform include:

  • Processor — Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (SDA/SDM845):
    • 8x 10nm Kryo 835 cores (4x @ 2.8GHz, 4x @ 1.8GHz)
    • Adreno 630 GPU with VPU (Open GL ES 3.2 and Open CL 2.0)
    • Hexagon 685 DSP DSP with Hexagon Vector Extensions (HVX)
    • 2x 14-bit Spectra 280 ISPs
    • Qualcomm AI Engine (CPU, GPU, DSP) for up to 3-TOPS
    • Qualcomm Secure Processing Unit (SPU) with secure boot, crypto accelerators, Qualcomm Trusted Execution Environment (QTEE), and camera security
  • Memory/storage:
    • 4GB LPDDR4x SDRAM @ 1866MHz
    • 64GB UFS 2.1 flash
    • MicroSD slot
  • Wireless:
    • 802.11ac 2×2 with MU-MIMO Tri-band WiFi (2.4GHz/5GHz with Dual Band Simultaneous).
    • Bluetooth 5.0 (Qualcomm TrueWireless)
    • GNSS (GPS, Glonass, BeiDou, Galileo, QZSS, SBAS)
    • Optional Qualcomm Robotics cellular mezzanine for 4G/LTE including CBRS-band-48 support
  • Networking — Gigabit Ethernet port
  • Media I/O:
    • HDMI 1.4 port for up to 4K HDR @ 60fps
    • 2x 4-lane MIPI-DSI
    • Audio I/O with MP3, aacPlus, eAAC, WMA 9/Pro (probably via expansion connectors)
    • Multi-mic interface (RB3 kit, possibly optional)
    • At least 2x MIPI-CSI for 16MP HFR @ 60fps, 2x 16MP ZSL @ 30fps, or 32MP ZSL @ 30fps
    • RB3 cameras: main and tracking (Basic kit); ToF and stereo SLM (Full kit)
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 3.0 Type-C OTG port
    • 2x USB 3.0 host ports
    • Micro-USB 2.0 debug port
  • Expansion I/O (96Boards compatible):
    • 2x 60-pin high-speed
    • 2x 40-pin low-speed
    • 20-pin low-speed
  • Other features — accelerometer/gyro IMU (RB3); proximity sensor (RB3); 7x LEDs; buttons for power, volume up/down, force USB boot, DIP switch
  • Power — [email protected] DC input; adapter in Basic RB3 kit
  • Dimensions — 85 x 54mm (96Boards)
  • Operating system — Linux with ROS

Naver Labs
Ambidex at CES 2019

The Qualcomm press release includes testimonial quotes from AWS Robotics. Brain Corp.,, TDK-InvenSense, and OrionStar. According to Qualcomm, Naver Labs and LG will “evaluate the Qualcomm Robotics RB3 Platform in 2019, and LG plans showcase select exemplary robotics products based on the platform at CES 2020. Qualcomm also sent us a link to a YouTube video showing a CES 2019 demo of Naver Labs industrial robot called Ambidex that appears to be built around the CB3. Additional early users are expected to include Sony, Misty Robotics, and Anki.

Further information

The Qualcomm Robotics RB3 Platform is available for order starting at $449 (see farther above for pricing.) Commercial products based on the RB3 are expected to be available later this year. More information may be found in Qualcomm’s RB3 product page and Thundercomm’s much more comprehensive RB3 and DragonBoard 845c product page. As noted, it’s unclear if the DragonBoard 845c will be separately available.


(advertise here)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Please comment here...