New TBT-AV1 300Mhz SAME70/V71 (ARM M7 core) Flight/Robotics

The TBT-AV1 from Thomas Butler Technology, Rockford, Illinois, USA is a clean-sheet design 300Mhz flight/robotics controller using the Atmel/Microchip SAM E70/V71 (ARM M7 core with hardware AES256 encryption and FPU) automotive grade micro-controller. The I/O is compatible with PX4/Pixhawk/Dronecode and the controller is designed to support PX4/ArduPilot/Cleanflight firmware.

A preliminary version of this design was posted back in October 2016 to gather feedback. Two more years of R&D has produced a solid design. The preliminary design posted back in 2016 was indeed VERY preliminary. The design has been completed, and it is almost ready for fabrication. The preliminary design was open-hardware for academic use as a reference design for the SAM E70/V71. This version is NOT open-hardware. The reason the design is closed is we want to be able to modify and improve the design with no outside constraints. All of the I/O is documented and public. This is one of the very few controllers that really can claim to be “MADE IN USA” and designed in USA; Rockford, Illinois, USA and not imported.

The controller is 50x50mm and has a standard +5V DroneCode power input connector. The controller will fit into many existing airframes. The pinout of connectors conforms to DroneCode specifications. Some of the design features include easy access to connectors from the sides, “ideal diode” power multiplexing. ESD protection, reverse voltage, and overload protection using load switches (rather than polyfuses which degenerate) where appropriate. Unlike imported controllers which completely forgo protections to reduce costs at the expense of failure risk.

The current trend is to include OSD, this board does not. This allows the integrator the decision of what OSD to use.

TBT-AV1 front

The board uses higher reliability automotive grade components where possible to include the automotive qualified Atmel/Microchip SAM V71 MCU. The board has a 16MByte (256Mbit) flash for logging in addition to an uSD socket. An additional battery backed real-time clock chip, external from the MCU, for reliable date/time logging.

Latching JST GH connectors are used throughout. A bank of easy to use .1 pins for 8 PWM servos connections and expansion is provided.  The board has a full suite of on-board sensors. Including redundant ICM-20602 gyro/accel and redundant magnetometers/compasses. The sensors have their own filtered and dedicated voltage regulator. The gyro/accels are interfaced through SPI which allows full speed data transfer from the sensors. The stacking expansion bus includes a high speed interface for a companion computer.  Additionally, the expansion bus allows for an external isolated and dampened IMU to be used in high vibration environments. In addition to stacked add-on boards. Both +5V and +3.3V is available on the expansion bus.

TBT-AV1 back

Software development; one of the great advantages in using the Atmel/Microchip SAM E70/V70 series is that the free development environment is Atmel Studio 7 which is a derivative of MS-VisualStudio 2015. The only additional hardware needed is a USB cable. The IDE allows for single stepping code, breakpoints, etc.; all the real neat stuff you cannot find in other IDEs like Arduino. With the addition of VisualGDB add-on to MS-VisualStudio (about $100), the latest and greatest MS-VisualStudio 2019 can be used for software development.

Note that the board’s micro-controller, the SAM E70/V71, has on-board hardware floating point and hardware AES256 encryption which can be used to create encrypted data/control links, encrypted logs, or whatever.

More complete documentation and a comprehensive list of features can be found here.

Please do NOT ask if the controller has been built or when they will be available. The controller will be for sale when they are operational and not before. The target for release is Q1 2020.

However, please do make any suggestions about the design or features you would like implemented. There is still time for minor changes!

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