Pixhawk v6 offers a robust, feature rich set of standards designed to support innovation through interoperability – and help manufacturers get new aircraft to market.
The Dronecode Foundation (DF) is the organization behind the Pixhawk FMU (Flight Management Units) Open Standards, with contributions and participation from the Pixhawk Special Interest Group, open to all members of the Dronecode Foundation.
What is Pixhawk?
Pixhawk isn’t a particular product; it is a set of open standards endorsed by major semiconductor manufacturers, software companies, and drone engineering companies. These standards cover requirements for many aspects of hardware and electronics design in drones. The Pixhawk Special Interest Group is in charge of developing the latest standards through recurring public meetings hosted by the Dronecode Foundation.
Dronecode estimates that there are more than a million Pixhawk-based devices in the field right now, as the Open Standards are implemented by manufacturers, many of which are DF members, such as Auterion, ARK Electronics, Holybro, ModalAI, CUAV, 96Boards, and NXP Semiconductor.
“The beauty of open standards, in particular, is that the community has settled on a consistent way hardware and software integrates together so that components from different companies can consistently work together,” says Dronecode. “This interoperability through collaboration builds everyone up and drives the innovation we see in drones and uncrewed vehicles.”
Open source gives new manufacturers access to mature and proven tools and feature sets, and a growing ecosystem of hardware options. By using these standards, manufacturers can focus more resources on their innovative features and use cases – and add to the knowledge base, supporting new developments in the industry.
Now, the Pixhawk v6 set of open standards is available – with new features including ethernet and more processing power. Alex Klimaj, Founder of ARKElectronics and one of the hardware manufacturers utilizing the Pixhawk v6 standards, explains that the new features mean that users building their own drones can run a lot more sensors – things like distance sensors, GPS, telemetry streams – opening up new potential for projects and use cases.
Most importantly, Klimaj says, is the continued development of the open source goal: interoperability. “The drone industry is a lot like the early computer industry,” he says. “We’re really just moving beyond the stage of everyone building their own system. But with open source standards, we’re working towards the idea that developers can purchase over the counter components from different vendors and put them together, knowing that they’ ll work together. That really fosters innovation – and enables aircraft manufacturers to get to market faster.”
Right now, four companies are manufacturing hardware utilizing the Pixhawk 6 standards:
In addition, says Dronecode: “…some companies are creating new baseboards with companion computers, such as Raspberry Pis, and NVidia Jetson’s that run Linux, allowing you to use an API instead of modifying the PX4 Flightcontroller code. This increases the availability of options and showcases how innovation can build on top of open-source technology.”
FMUv6X & FMUv6C—6th Generation Pixhawks
Now, the 6th generation of Pixhawk FMU’s is available in two versions:
- FMUv6X: the high-end version made for performance and reliability
- FMUv6C: made for the cost-conscious end of the market. Reliable and cost effective
Every version of Pixhawk ships with the latest supported version of the PX4 Flight Controller by default.
Manufacturers can utilize Pixhawk either by building using the Open Standards, or by partnering with a verified Pixhawk manufacturer. (These include: Auterion; ARKElectronics; Holybro; and, CUAV, all of whom help work to maintain the standards.) The best way to learn more about Pixhawk and participate is by joining Dronecode.
Pixhawk v6 features
The FMUv6X generation brings the proven features from FMUv5X to a hardened form factor. It includes:
- High-performance STM32H753 processor
- Modular flight controller: separated IMU, FMU, and Base system.
- Ethernet interface for high-speed mission computer integration
- Three redundancy domains: Completely isolated sensor domains with separate buses and separate power supplies.
- Redundant sensors on separate buses, allowing continuous operation while losing a complete redundancy domain.
- Bosch BMI088 (TBC) (vibration isolated)
- TDK Invensense ICM-42688-P (TBC) (vibration isolated)
- TDK Invensense ICM-20649 (TBC)
- Bosch BMM150 compass
- Bosch BMP388 pressure sensor
- GPS external mag + baro #1
- GPS external mag + baro #2
- High accuracy barbed baro
- Calibration EEPROM for baseboard sensors
- On-IMU calibration EEPROM memory for high-accuracy sensors
- Automated sensor calibration eliminating varying signals and temperature
- Operating temperature -40 to +85°C
- FRAM memory for configuration data (SPI2)
- Extensive power monitoring
- Two smart batteries on SMBus or more on UAVCAN
- 5V rail monitoring
- 3V rail monitoring for CPU
- 3V rail monitoring for each sensor domain
- External sensor bus (SPI5)
- Redundant power supply: The autopilot can be powered from up to three power sources and every sensor set is powered by an independent LDO with independent power control
- Battery-backed real-time clock for running security applications without GPS coverage
- Support for external NFC on I2C that provides an additional GPIO line along with the 5V to supply for the external NFC reader.
- Cost effective SM32H743 processor
- Low-profile form factor with cost-conscious all-in-one design
- Newly designed vibration isolation system
- Temperature-controlled IMUs
- sensors available:
- IO Processor: STM32F103
- TDK InvenSense ICM-42688-P Accel/Gyro
- Bosch BMI055
- Isentek IST8310 Magnetometor
- TE Connectivity MS5611 Barometer
Delta Pixhawk 6X & 6C
The standard is now available for everyone to download:
About the Dronecode Foundation
The Dronecode Foundation (DF) hosts open-source and open-standard projects and their communities, forming an ecosystem of critical components to the drone industry. DF is a vendor-neutral foundation for open drone projects and is part of the Linux Foundation. We work with developers, end users, and adopting vendors worldwide. DF provides a neutral space for collaboration in the development of open standards between engineers and organizations members of the drone community, nurturing an open ecosystem providing open alternatives of hardware and software components key to the development of uncrewed vehicles. www.dronecode.org
About the Pixhawk
The Pixhawk project has provided readily available open standards for drones and open hardware for more than a decade. The Pixhawk SIG was formed to tackle the lack of specifications and guidelines for drone systems development and is supported by Dronecode Foundation members who support Open Standards. Pixhawk is a registered trademark of the Dronecode Foundation. pixhawk.org
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.
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