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Raspberry Pi-Based Flight Controller & OS for ROVs and Robotics

The Navigator can be used for a wide range of robotics applications and includes a variety of sensors and I/O By Mike Ball / 13 Jun 2022
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Blue Robotics Navigator flight controllerBlue Robotics has launched the new Navigator Flight Controller and BlueOS operating system software, designed for ROV (remotely operated vehicle) and robotics applications and compatible with Raspberry Pi 4.

The Navigator is an ROV and robotics flight controller for the Raspberry Pi 4, and includes an onboard IMU, compass, barometer, and ADC sensors as well as 16 PWM outputs and numerous serial and I2C expansion ports. The Navigator will soon be used on the BlueROV2 in conjunction with the BlueOS software, but can also be used for a wide range of robotics applications.

The Navigator is essentially a Raspberry Pi “hat” that plugs into the Pi’s expansion header and provides a plethora of sensors, inputs, and outputs needed for ROVs and general robotics applications. It runs the same ArduSub (or any ArduPilot) software that the Pixhawk currently runs on the ROV, but now that software runs directly on the Raspberry Pi in Linux rather than on a separate microcontroller. This brings everything into one place, providing a cohesive user and developer experience.

It has plenty of room for expansion and its connectors follow the Blue Robotics Connector Standard, making them compatible with many off-the-shelf devices such as GPS, radios, rangefinders, and more. It comes with a heatsink that keeps the Raspberry Pi cool even when used in enclosed environments like on an ROV, as well as expansion cables to make it easy to connect to your device. A slot in the board allows developers to still use the Raspberry Pi’s camera connector.

Blue Robotics designed the Navigator and BlueOS primarily for the BlueROV2, but keeping in mind general flexibility for lots of other applications. As well as ROVs, the Navigator is well suited to use on ground robots, drones, surface vessels, remote sensing, and more. It is compatible with the ArduPilot flight control software, but can also be used with direct access to the onboard sensors and outputs. Blue Robotics hopes to provide libraries to make this easy in the future, but for now, the company is sharing its open-source schematic for reference for any advanced users.

More technical information and details are available on the product page here, and you can also watch the video below.

BlueOS is Blue Robotics’ new core operating software that runs on the Raspberry Pi and provides a host of tools and services. It replaces the “companion” software that has always run on the Raspberry Pi computer on the ROV. BlueOS is not a true operating system like Linux or Windows, but rather a collection of software that runs alongside Linux. It provides tools such as system monitoring, process management, software updates, network configuration, user interface, and user defined extensions, and has a browser-based user interface that brings everything related to the ROV into one place.

BlueOS works with the Navigator, but can also be used with other flight controllers like the Pixhawk. Any ROV, no matter when it was purchased, can be upgraded to BlueOS.

BlueOS will be an ongoing project and will continue to evolve with new features. The first release is available now and ships with the Navigator, and users can also download and install it on a Raspberry Pi SD Card. Find out more about BlueOS in this forum post.

To learn more, contact Blue Robotics: Visit Website Send Message View Supplier Profile
Posted by Mike Ball Mike Ball is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passion for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years. Connect & Contact