heavy and consume a lot of space, so optimizing the requirements of the UAV’s core systems to the requirements of any
onboard computer is critical.
ARM-based architectures have come to dominate in electronics where power conservation is of the utmost importance (95
percent of the world’s smartphones, for example, run on ARM-based processors). For this reason, ARM-based systems are ideal
for UAVs, with the capability to run familiar operating systems
(e.g., Linux) and software development environments (e.g., C++
or Java environments) while needing far less power than x86-de-
Many ARM-based systems are available today, with sin-gle-board computers (SBCs) and computers-on-module (COMs)
being popular in UAV applications due to their low cost, small
footprint (some as small as a stick of gum), and modularity.
Designing an autopilot with COM connectivity offers users the
capability to swap in different COMs with different features to
achieve a particular set of requirements. The ability to customize available computing features on the UAV while consuming
only a few watts of power and taking up a small amount of space
make COMs a simple choice in deploying advanced applications
As the demand for new and interesting autonomous applications on UAVs grows, so too will the demand for smarter, more
capable vehicles. The field of UAVs is rapidly evolving, and with
more of them in the sky and soon-to-be released regulations from
the FAA, the need for smarter vehicle controllers is only set to
grow. Small, power efficient, and capable onboard computers running a familiar development environment will continue to open
an even wider array of innovative applications for UAVs, with
developers able to safely deploy any idea with the best software
solutions they can dream up.
Compatible with Overo COMs, the AeroCore 2 gives UAV developers
greater selection and enhanced flexibility in finding a computing solution tailored to their needs. (Photo credit: Gumstix)
The new commericial drone industry
By Jason Lomberg, Digital Editor
The ruling states that unmanned aerial vehicles
are, in fact, aircraft, which places them within the
purview of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
and opens the door for massive regulation. The FAA
could, for example, fine drone operators for flying
their UAVs in a manner deemed reckless or careless.
Or impose arbitrary restrictions on airspace, operat-
ing hours, or any regulations in the “public interest.”
According to the FAA, an “aircraft” is any “device ... used for flight
in the air” ... including “manned or unmanned, large or small.” This
includes anything from large, commercial drones to (presumably)
small, hobbyist devices.
Because the FAA’s definition
is so broad, the ruling has
created a quagmire of uncertainty and, by any definition,
uncertainty is always bad for
business. According to CBS
news, the fledgling drone
industry could be worth more
than $13 billion and generate more than 70,000 jobs.
Now that’s on hold until businesses can sort through the impending regulatory framework. Let’s face it, no one wants a swarm of
reckless aircraft — manned or unmanned — clogging our skies and
putting bystanders and property in danger. But placing a commercial
sector entirely under the thumb of the FAA gives the federal agency
nearly unlimited clout in a budding industry.
Most of us probably see the need for a federal agency to oversee
American civil aviation (lest we forget the mid-air collisions of the
‘50s that spurred the creation of the FAA). But unmanned aviation?
What imminent danger does pizza-delivering quadcopters or packages
weighing < 5 pounds pose to public safety?
And the ones clamoring the loudest for regulation? Strangely, the
“It’s important to have regulatory structure in place to allow for
the utilization of this technology. “People say ‘well the technology has
outpaced the regulatory,’” said Michael Toscano, president and CEO of
the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. “That’s
true with any revolutionary type technology … we need to have rules
in place. This is one of the few industries that wants to be regulated.”