Auterion Launches NVIDIA Jetson Xavier NX-Powered AI Node for Drone, Robot On-Device AI

Packing up to 21 TOPS of compute performance, the AI Node is a "supercomputer" for the Skynode ecosystem.

Autonomous drone expert Auterion, known for its Skynode drone controller platform, has launched a high-performance AI Node "supercomputer" — built atop the NVIDIA Jetson Xavier NX platform, and designed for edge AI in drone and robotics applications.

"As enterprises leverage more powerful cameras and sensors on drones, the huge amount of data being created will overload any current data link, including 5G," explains Markus Achtelik, Auterion's vice-president of engineering, of the thinking behind the launch.

"It's much more efficient to process raw data onboard via supercomputer," Achtelik continues, "so that the operator or even the software itself can engage in real-time decision-making. AI Node delivers the horsepower to run modern neural networks in parallel and distill data from multiple high-resolution sensors — which translates into faster innovation for enterprises and other organizations."

Auterion has confirmed that the AI Node is powered by an NVIDIA Jetson Xavier NX system-on-module — which means six TFLOPS of compute performance at FP16 precision or 21 TOPS at INT8 in an up-to-15W power envelope. The module includes a six-core NVIDIA Carmel CPU and 384-core Volta GPU with 48 Tensor Cores plus two Deep Learning Accelerators (NVLDAs), alongside 8GB of RAM.

To this the company has added a 512GB SSD with 1.5GB/s write and 2GB/s read performance, two USB Type-C connectors, two MIPI-CSI ports with six lanes total, an HDMI input, two gigabit Ethernet ports, SD Card storage expansion, and two UART buses alongside I2C, SPI, CAN, and eight general-purpose input/output (GPIO) pins.

The AI Node isn't designed as a standalone device, either: It's built to integrate into the company's existing Skynode platform as a companion computer, which is itself available as an off-the-shelf device or a reference design for customization. On the software side, the company claims the device is ideal for everything from ground risk estimation in drones to autonomous asset inspection with centimeter-level geolocalization — and ships the units running ROS 2.0 Foxy as standard.

The company has already started sampling the device to customers, with computer vision specialist Spleenlab having ported its own software to the platform. "With AI Node, drone manufacturers and integrators can deploy Spleenlab’s compute-heavy VISIONAIRY software and advanced AI algorithms directly onboard drones," explains Spleenlab chief executive Stefan Milz.

"This allows them to increase the safety of systems by executing tasks like ground-risk estimations. Working with Auterion’s AI Node is a win-win for us as providers and users of their software. We especially appreciate how easy it is to connect and collaborate with other manufacturers within their ecosystem."

Interested parties can register to pre-order the AI Node on the Auterion website now, though the company has not yet disclosed pricing.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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