Olimex Shows Off an Open-Hardware Linux-Based Autonomous Drone Swarm

Lightweight fixed-wing drones, designed for mapping and more, are driven by onboard OLinuXino single-board computers.

Bulgarian open-hardware specialist Olimex has shown off an ongoing project, involving pan-European collaboration, to create an autonomous drone swarm powered by an Olimex single-board computer — complete with video of a successful flight test.

"This week, we tested a project that we have been working on for a while with an international EU team," Olimex founder Tsvetan Usunov says of his recent work. "Edge computing with drones made by C-Astral Slovenia, OLinuXino open source hardware with EU SOC [System-on-Chip] inside from Olimex Bulgaria, TSN [Time-Sensitive Networking] Linux support from Linutronix Germany, and edge computing algorithms implemented by Nexedi France."

The Olimex OLinuXino open-hardware single-board computer family drives this autonomous drone swarm, the company founder has revealed. (📹: Tsvetan Usunov)

In a video accompanying the announcement, Usunov shows lightweight fixed-wing drones flying in a swarm and changing their roles as required. "These small drones weigh less than 2kg [around 4.4lbs], can fly up to 40 minutes with a speed of 20m/s, and can go up to 40km (around 25 miles) away," Usunov claims. "They can communicate with each other and form a swarm, which can perform missions even if there is no connection to the base control center."

Usunov suggests the autonomous drone swarm could be put to use for aerial mapping, search, wildfire and flood monitoring, livestock or other animal census, and more, delivering a claimed coverage of 60km² per drone per day. Full technical details of the drones and their payloads, though, have not yet been released.

Usunov's full write-up is available on the Olimex blog.

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