Do I need a Flight Controller?

The title kinda says it all. Now that I am retired I have several life goal projects I want to ring to life that all revolve around autonomous vehicles. However, non of these will be flight capable and more rover/security type drones.

I know I will need what is commonly referred to as a companion computer, a Raspberry Pi as major decisions will need to be made based on sensor input, which the sensors I need will have to be added and will be more than is commonly used by the basic flight controller.

Given the fact that I will be using large servos, motors, ect I am going to be using voltage outside the range of most flight controllers (I assume) and will need to trigger relays and external ESC’s. So I will be using ESP32, Arduino’s and picos where they are needed there and hopefully even controlled/trigger through the main Raspberry pi.

So before I dig into PX4 code and not finding a conclusive answer through searches I figured I would ask.

So basically can I use the Raspberry pi with PX4, eliminating the default controllers or simply simulating the input into the Pi. And without using Navio2 or PiPilot.

And after working 32 years I will answer the questions I know I am already going to get, such as why do you want to do this? What are you doing? Well, honestly the question is simple, why or what it is for is irrelevant :)…

EDIT: And if so, which build is best to start with?

Hi @Randy_Hearn, nice to see that when people retire there are still sparks to do projects like this. I hope to have the same motivation once in the future.

Regarding your question, if PX4 is possible to run at RPi? If you have a look at the supported boards you will see that Raspberry pico is on the list.

I personally never used PX4 on RPi but I don’t see why it shouldn’t work.
Here are a couple of cons that are on top of my mind:

  • it will be a bit less real-time since Linux with a monolithic kernel is not meant to work as RTOS but it should not bother you too much since you will not fly with it
  • you will maybe have an issue with sensors. Not sure how they will all be connected and if all protocols are supported (for sure ESC protocol DShot will not work)

If I were you I would select one of the flight controllers to do all vehicle control and I would use RPi for communication and for camera, but that is mostly because I already worked a lot with them,

If one of your goals is to learn more about PX4 then give a shot to RPi first.

Man, you just made my day!!! I have been busy reading the documentation and the Pico is not listed, but I had considered using the Pico and in fact already bought one to try out. I did not think about checking the github for updates.

So yes, when I said running it on Pi, I was actually thinking I would have to do a custom main board or something. Although I have Beagle Bone Blues as well I am not impressed with them for what I need.

I had to take early retirement, 32+ years on the computer took its toll, and I was in Mechanical Design/Standards for Boeing Defense.

Now that I have my answer, the Why or what is to build a Security Rover but I have some additional ideas I want to implement involving Sound tracking and other things. The other project is a simple autonomous mower no biggie there but want to reduce the cost on electronics and spend more on the actual mowing portion.

But thanks, already starting to look into the Pico.