Rpanion-Server is an Open Source software package for a companion computer (such as the Raspberry Pi) on autonomous vehicle. It provides a web-based interface for configuring the network, telemetry (MAVLink) routing and logging from a connected flight controller.
Also included is a low-latency video streaming server.
I recently ran a survey to determine how and where companion computers were being used by the ArduPilot community.
This was done as part of research into a successor to my Pi-Connect board, but the results are also of interest to the community.
I would caution that I did not get as many responses as I had anticipated (53 respondents). The results presented below should not be taken as precise numbers. They should be interpreted as general trends instead.
Results and Observations
Most ArduPilot users do use (or plan to) companion computers. I would point out that this being a “companion computer survey”, many people who do not use them may have elected not to complete the survey.
There is a generally equal split between hobbyist, commercial and R&D work; but with a slight bias towards hobbyists. Respondents could select multiple answers here if they wanted.
No clear winner here. This shows how varied and flexible companion computer usage is. Respondents could select multiple answers here if they wanted.
It is very clear here that the Raspberry Pi and Nvidia Jetson are by far the popular companion computers. Respondents could select multiple answers here if they wanted.
Over a third of users are creating their own software using libraries such as pymavlink, dronekit or MAVSDK.
There’s a lot of development going in here, with 73% of respondents doing some level of bespoke development.
Respondents could select multiple answers here if they wanted.
Looking at the top desired features here, it links back to why the Raspberry Pi and Nvidia Jetson are so popular. Respondents typically want something small with a powerful CPU, plenty of existing software libraries and good community support – which the Pi and Jetson excel at.
For ArduPilot users, most companion computer usage is centred on the Raspberry Pi and Nvidia Jetson. C/C++ and Python development of bespoke applications is typical on the software side, creating a wide variety of applications.
I’m running a small survey of the usage of companion computers in the ArduPilot community.
It’ll take less than 10 minutes to complete.
Even if you don’t use a companion computer, please respond (it’ll take less than 5 seconds) so we have an idea of what proportion of users are or are not using companion computers.
The results of sections 1 and 2 of the survey will be published online so developers in our community can focus their efforts accordingly. Sections 3-4 I’ll be using to narrow down options for a successor to my Pi-Connect board.
Due to COVID-19, there have been some delays in getting the latest batch of boards back in stock. The Pi-Connect Lite board and associated cables have now arrived and can be found on the right sidebar or the “store” link above.
If you have any issues with purchasing or shipping, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll sort it out.
To assist users in getting up and running with their Pi-Connect boards, I’ve built a customised build of the APSync software. APSync is a web-based interface for managing an Ardupilot-based flight controller. It also includes low-latency videostreaming and a Wifi hotspot. It has been customised to include the Pi-Connect specific configuration for the Raspberry Pi (although it can be run without the Pi-Connect attached).
It’s easy to install – just go to the software page and download the APSync disk image. Load the image onto an SD card using an image writer and you’ll be good to go. No extra configuration required!