The 3DR Solo looks fantastic from a technical point of view, but under the covers it appears the days of minimal CPU based autopilots are over. The message I see here is we need something like an embedded PC on both the on-board autopilot and require (not just optional) a ground controller of similar or higher spec.
Does anyone know already if the “Pixhawk 2” in the new “Linux based” 3DR Solo drone is:
- Going to be available separately.
- An open hardware specification so we might find cheaper clones.
I think we are at a junction point, because 3DR appear to be chasing the DJI business model. A lot more money is now being made with premium full featured drones going mainstream thanks to the futuristic DJI Inspire 1 design and successful mass-marketing. It’s just like when Apple took over the phone market, nobody really knew or wanted smart phones before then.
Unfortunately most companies who make this switch-up in gear tend to get greedy and block the non-commercial product lines. I hope it doesn’t mean they stop supporting open hardware, because then I’d prefer to see APM support continuing more along the standard OS route.
Looking at my setup, I don’t really need most of the hardware on the Pixhawk because all devices communicate of some sort over simple serial UART or I2C connection. With that in mind a standard embedded PC like Raspberry Pi 2 could run the whole system and connect to all devices with just a few bits of interface cabling/electronics.
So maybe we’re better off focusing on Linux support in APM, and hopefully somebody comes out with a standard mini-UART/S-Bus/I2C adapter to make it easy for the mainstream. That’s all we really need, the ability to turn any standard mini/embedded PC board into a flight controller (or full “computer” as they now call it).
It’s so compelling I think it’s worth the effort to have a go at it myself. The possibilities with a full PC OS are endless. We could also do live Full HD video compression (with hardware support on some boards) and downlink it over a standard USB wifi adapter, eliminating the RC and FPV radio. This is just what DJI and 3DR have done, but they charge a premium price for their “special” Full HD FPV technology (really just a standard WLAN link).
Anyone have more information/thoughts/limitations on this?