Intel Aero overview(Intel Aero compute board and Intel Aero RTF kit)

For the past few months I have been working on Intel Aero and Intel Aero RTF kit and after the sales started I got all the time the same questions from colleagues so I decided to revive this blog and write a small overview about.

Intel has 2 products under Intel Aero name focused in unmanned aerial vehicles:

  • Intel Aero Compute board

    Intel Aero Compute board
    It is a development board with most of components that drones needs:

    • Intel Atom CherryTrail with 4 cores running at 2.4GHz
    • 4GB of DDR3 RAM
    • 32 GB eMMC + microSD slot
    • WiFi(802.11ac)
    • Sensors:
      • BMI160 (gyroscope and accelerometer)
      • BMM150 (compass)
      • MS5611 (barometer)
    • Max 10 Altera/Intel FPGA with 8K logic blocks
    • MIPI connectors
    • USB 3.0
    • Linux 4.4

    So with this board alone is possible to have a flying drone, we have ported Ardupilot to it so you only will need to build a breakout board to the 80pin connector to export the PWM signals to the ESCs and gather all the drone components(frame, ESCs, motors, propellers…).
    Or you can grab a flight controller like Pixhawk to actually fly and connect it to Intel Compute board so it can do the heavy processing like computational vision and order tasks to flight controller.

  • Intel Aero RTF kit
    Intel Aero RTF kit

    It is the ready to fly kit, you just need to connect a 3S/4S Lipo battery to fly.

    On this kit you have:

    • Intel Aero Compute board(with everything above)
    • Intel Aero Flight controller
    • Intel Aero Vision accessory kit(Intel Real Sense R2000, 8MP RGB camera and down-faced VGA camera)
    • Carbon fiber frame
    • ESCs, motors and propellers
    • Remote controller and radio receiver
    • External compass
    • GPS
    • Power distribution board

    The Intel Aero Flight controller is another board that connects to Intel Aero Compute board and it is responsible to fly, so the Intel Atom is 100% free to do another tasks like video processing.
    The brain of Aero Flight controller is a STM32 micro-controller and it has another set of all the sensors needed to fly, we have ported 2 flight stacks to it: PX4 Pro that comes out of the box and Ardupilot.

    Flight controller and Compute board is connected by a high speed UART, this way applications running on Intel Atom can get information about the flight and order tasks/commands to the Flight controller, for example you can write a follow me application that will use the Intel Real Sense data process it in Intel Atom and send commands to the flight controller to actually follow the person or object.

    To the whole kit to work it needs a FPGA RTL firmware loaded to router some signals between Flight Controller, Compute board and breakout board but it still has more than 50% of logic ports to be used by software developers.

    So this kit is aimed to software developers that have brilliant idea of a drone application and don’t want/have time to gather all the hardware and software to build a drone and then start to focus on the application, saving a huge time to market.

This blog post was just a small overview there is a lot of specific information Intel Aero Github wiki page but if you still have some question please ask on the comments bellow.

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