Erle Robot - BeagleBone based drone

Dear all,

For the last year I’ve working in a project to make a palm-size drone. I wanted to come up with a robot that included a general purpose OS, enough processing power to run some basic CV algorithms and making it as low cost as possible. I initially started using the OMAP-L138 but soon after that i got in touch with the BeagleBone and its incredible capabilities. This together with the availability of the hardware documentation made me change my mind and start over again. The experience has been amazing and after a year working with the BeagleBone i can just say thanks to the BeagleBoard guys and to the community as well. I believe something outstanding has been built around this little board. Something that definitely can provide us, new engineers the chance to create a new world of devices.

This journey brought me to Erle Robotics, a startup launched with the aim of putting this little robot out there in the market. Our latest revision includes 17 sensors (GPS, altimeters, range-finders,…), capabilities of using different wireless technologies (Bluetooth, WiFi). Furthermore the device has already been interfaced with cameras and microphones. Much progress has been done however we still believe there’s much to do thereby i would like to ask you to share with me any thoughts you might have regarding this project.

You can read more about us at

I will be looking forward to get your feedback.
Best wishes,



did you use the BeagleBone itself or redesigned it to fit the form-factor?


I took the BeagleBone as a starting point and extended the layout to add the sensors and actuators needed so we used the BeagleBone itself.

There’s an additional boost converter from the LiPo battery to 5V which powers the USB Host line. This allows to use the USB Host when powered from a battery.


I ask because the BBW runs only 600 or 720MHz processor, but you write 1HGz which is used only at BBB.

any photos and video at your site would be nice to see

You’re right about it. That should be changed.

We are working on the videos and photos. Hopefully we will soon fix that.


What kind of flight time, etc. are you getting with this? How good is the wifi? Can you do Xbee? How similar to the BBB is your device? Depending on the answers to these questions your device might be a good candidate to run The Deck, my penetration testing distribution. Your drone might be a good supplement to my existing drone based on the quadshot.

Hi Philip,

A 300 mAh battery is giving us about 10 minutes flight time. We are thinking about increasing the capacity of the battery. Personally i would like to reach 30 minutes of flight time. We are evaluating different brushless combinations of brushless motors/propellers/batteries.

For now wireless communication is through the USB Host port. We’re using this adapter but there’re other choices. We haven’t tried interfacing it with Xbee but if there’s a USB adapter it should be pretty straighforward.

Regarding how similar is with the BBB, well as much as the BB to the BBB i guess. Our design is BB-based.

You suggestion with The Deck seems really interesting.

You can do Xbee via a USB adapter, but I prefer to put it on a cape to make things lighter, simpler, and cheaper. For my purposes I like the Alfa wireless adapters because they support monitor mode and packet injection. For hacking the small adapters tend to have bad performance since they are low power with small antennas, but if you can get close enough it might not be an issue. Using the Xbee Pro adapters gives me 1 mile range with decent power usage.

How much wind can your drone handle? It is the wind and limited flight time that pushed me away from a quadcopter and to the Quadshot.

I second the Alfa adapter recommendation

We haven’t tested it outside yet.

I like your suggestions. We will explore this path but creating a cape is not our priority for now.

This sounds like a great project. Can't wait to get my hands on one.

Love it!
I have one based on OpenPilot. I/ve signed up for updates.


We are currently exploring differerent choices for autopilots. I’ve coded a simple PID controller but using other projects such as OpenPilot or ArduPilot seem highly interesting. Furthermore, together with some other students we’re exploring the BeaglePilot option.

Would you mind sharing your experience with OpenPilot? Do you have any pointers to try it out on the BB?.