BeagleBone Black Flight Computer

A UAV platform that doesn't cost millions of dollars

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Turn a typical RC aircraft (plane, multirotor, heli, etc) into a flying electronics platform capable of being outfitted for any number complex tasks. Imagine being able to strap a camera to a $50 model airplane and tell it to fly along gas pipelines looking for leaks. The ability to automate airborne jobs has been reserved for those with enormous financial resources, even for small tasks. This project will help bring a capable UAV platform to the rest of us for less than $100!

The project will be done in two phases:
Phase 1 - Build the plane, and design software infrastructure for the craft.
Phase 2 - Optimize and tune the software. Maximize CPU efficiency with PRUs and create easy to use and finely tune-able control systems for flight control.

This project currently uses the AltIMU-10 from Pololu and the BeagleBone Black. I also have a GPS module and real-time clock that will be added to the system. The aiplane design is a modified Versa Wing from the awesome guys at FliteTest ( who release model aircraft designs for free. This project will probably never be complete in my eyes, but I will meet some critical checkpoints for TI Intern Design Competition submission. I will also continue to work on this project long after the competition is over!

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  • Project put on hold.

    John Boyd06/17/2015 at 05:05 0 comments

    Unfortunately, the plane was tail heavy and underpowered for a hand launch. I have been too busy to build a better platform for this project. Until then, this project will be put on hold.

  • I finished the plane and I have a working demo!

    John Boyd08/01/2014 at 03:27 0 comments

    I finished up the hardware and wrote a demo program. The demo program just stabilizes and auto-levels the aircraft, really just demonstrating what could be done with this project. The airplane gave me several challenges. I asked my fiance to paint the plane with acrylic paint, but that seemed to reduce the strength of the foamboard. Fortunately after adding LOTS of packing tape, it feels pretty sturdy.  

    Here is the demo video I made for the TI Intern Design Challenge. Sorry for the poor video quality.

  • Software infrastructure is complete!

    John Boyd07/28/2014 at 20:05 1 comment

    I have written and tested all of the code necessary for reading from the sensors, determining the aircraft's orientation and controlling the throttle and control surfaces. The airplane is mostly complete, but I still need to finish the beaglebone cape and wire it into the plane (videos will come!).

    Currently the orientation code I am using is using Euler methods to calculate orientation from the accelerometer and gyro. This works for now, but in later versions, I plan to migrate to a more advanced magwick filter for quaternion based IMU implementation. This will help reduce sensor noise and eliminate gymbal lock. (You may see in the github that I have already put a lot of work into this)

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  • 1
    Step 1

    More to come, but the build is pretty well documented by FliteTest here: and here:

    I went to my local printer store and had them print out the build plans for this plan at 150% scale and built the larger version out of cheap foam board. I also made the vertical stabilizers taller to improve low speed vertical stability.

  • 2
    Step 2

    Install motor, ESC & receiver as instructed on FliteTest

  • 3
    Step 3

    On the battery harness, add two way parallel splitter (

    to connect two batteries. Since this plane is larger than the original, two batteries can actually fit in either wing, giving twice the flight time and improving the weight distribution.

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