Building ArduPilot for BeagleBone Black on Linux

Get your BeagleBone running Debian

BBB tiltle picture
BBB tiltle picture

You will need a microSD card of 4GB or greater and a 5VDC power supply of 1A or higher. You can also use a powered USB hub. It is highly recommended that you not use the USB port on a laptop, which has current limitations.

Go to the BeagleBoard website and get the latest image. You may find multiple images on the page. For ArduPilot on BeagleBone Black you have to download the Debian (BeagleBone Black – 2GB eMMC) image. You can find it under BeagleBone Black (eMMC flasher) header.

For example, the current image is BBB-eMMC-flasher-debian-7.5-2014-05-14-2gb. The date (in this case 2014-05-14) and the version number (in this case 7.5) may change. Make sure you download the latest image.

On Ubuntu/Mac OS X

Verify Image with:

md5sum BBB-eMMC-flasher-debian-7.5-2014-05-14-2gb.img.xz
74615fb680af8f252c034d3807c9b4ae  BBB-eMMC-flasher-debian-7.5-2014-05-14-2gb.img.xz

before plugging your SD card into your computer, type

 df -h

this will list the current mounted drives.

Now plug in your SD card and type

df -h

and see what the drive that was added is called.

In my case it was /dev/sdd1

in which case in the command below, the it is writtern dd of=/dev/sdd  replace this with the correct address for your SD card.


then xzcat it to your SD card in your Ubuntu/Mac OS X machine

xzcat BBB-eMMC-flasher-debian-7.1-2013-10-08.img.xz | dd of=/dev/sdd bs=1M

when this is finished, remove the SD Card and place it into your BBB.

On Windows

Download Win32 disk imager from here. Insert your SD card, then start the application that you downloaded.

Select the image that you downloaded and then press Write.

when this is finished, remove the SD Card and place it into your BBB.

Flashing the image to the eMMC

Place the SD card in your BBB. Make sure you have removed Ethernet and all other USB devices from your BBB. Connect it to a wall adapter (5VDC 1A) or a powered USB hub.

Press the boot button, and hold it down while booting, until all four blue lights are solid.

Let go, and wait. It will take around 15 mins.

The lights will flicker a lot at this stage, you will know it is complete when the four lights return to solid Blue (no flickering). Power down the BBB and remove the SD card.

Connect the BeagleBone Black to your machine using the USB cord that’s provided with it. Depending on your OS, install the required drivers.

Now ssh into the BeagleBone Black by typing

 ssh root@

There is no password for the root user on the Debian image

You could also connect the BBB to your local network over Ethernet and ssh to it.

The PixHawk Fire Cape

In order to run APM in the BeagleBone black you’ll need to use the right set of sensors. Most of these sensors are included in the PixHawk Fire cape (PXF), an open hardware board available from Erle Robotics store.

Making the rt kernel

(taken from

modified for the RT version, and to simplify.

Compiling the BeagleBone Black Kernel

The following contains instructions for building the BeagleBone Black kernel on your PC with Ubuntu 13.04 O.S.

to make it simple, run

sudo su

you may need to put in your password here…

if you do not have this already, make the following directory

mkdir /home/YOUR_USERNAME/export

mkdir /home/YOUR_USERNAME/export/rootfs


ARM Cross Compiler

To compile the linux kernel for the BeagleBone Black, you must first have an ARM cross compiler installed on your linux box. I use gcc-4.7-arm-linux-gnueabi-base that comes with Ubuntu 13.04. To install the compiler run:

apt-get install gcc-arm-linux-gnueabi


The Beaglebone patches and build scripts are stored in a git repository. Install git:

apt-get install git

And configure with your identity.

git config --global ""

lzop Compression

The kernel is compressed using lzo. Install the lzop parallel file compressor:

apt-get install lzop

uBoot mkimage

The bootloader used on the BeagleBone black is u-boot. u-boot has a special image format called uImage. It includes parameters such as descriptions, the machine/architecture type, compression type, load address, checksums etc. To make these images, you need to have a mkimage tool that comes part of the u-Boot distribution. Download u-boot, make and install the u-boot tools:

tar -xjf u-boot-latest.tar.bz2
cd u-boot-2013.10   (look to see what this is called, it may have changed)
make tools  (don't work with last revision of u-boot need a revision)
install tools/mkimage /usr/local/bin

Compiling the BeagleBone Black Kernel

Here we compile the BeagleBone Black Kernel, and generate an uImage file with the DTB blob appended to the kernel for ease of use.

git clone git://
cd kernel
git checkout 3.8-rt
cp configs/beaglebone kernel/arch/arm/configs/beaglebone_defconfig
wget\;a=blob_plain\;f=bin/am335x-pm-firmware.bin\;hb=HEAD -O kernel/firmware/am335x-pm-firmware.bin
cd kernel
make ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabi- beaglebone_defconfig -j4
make ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabi- uImage dtbs -j4
make ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabi- uImage-dtb.am335x-boneblack -j4

Now we build any kernel modules:

make ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabi- modules -j4

And if you have your rootfs ready, you can install them:

make ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabi- INSTALL_MOD_PATH=/home/YOUR_USERNAME/export/rootfs modules_install

 Installing the RT kernel

After you have made the Linux kernel…

ensure you have Debian installed on the beaglebone and ssh into the Beaglebone from Linux….

ssh root@

(my ip address, adjust for your beaglebone)

Go to folder /boot/uboot/

cd /boot/uboot/

make sure there is a backup folder there. If not:

mkdir backup

then backup your zImage

cp zImage uInitrd backup/


ls /lib/modules

it should show 3.8.13-bone28 or similar.

Now we need to go to our Ubuntu computers terminal. Ggo to your export folder that you made:

cd /home/YOUR_USER_NAME/export/rootfs/lib/modules

and run

rsync -avz 3* root@

then run

rsync /home/proficnc/u-boot-2013.10/kernel/kernel/arch/arm/boot/zImage :/boot/uboot/

back on your Beaglebone run the following

 ls /lib/modules

you should now have both the old file and the new rt folder.

Now type:


Some useful tips

Hooking up the sensors

When hooking up your Sensor board it connects as follows (using SHORT wires)

i2c connection
i2c connection

I2c Debug

To detect if the i2c is working, you can use the following command

     i2cdetect -r 1
i2c check
i2c check

The numbers:  1e, 53, 69, 77 are the MAG, Gyro, Accel, and Baro.(not in that order)

Hooking up your GPS

To be added

Hooking up your Receiver

To be added

Hooking up your servos

To be added

Hooking up your Airspeed sensor

To be added

Devices tested so far

Responded with the Who Am I request on SPI
1. MPU6000
2. MPU9250 (may have compass issues due to soldering of jumper wire)
3. MS5611 (SPI)

Not responding on SPI
1 LSM9DS0 ( soldering issue, no connection to I/O

Responded to I2C detect
1. CapeID EEPROM 0x54h AT24CS32
2. CapeID COA_OTP 0x5Ch AT24CS32
3. Crypto 0x64h ATSHA204
4. Airspeed 0x28h MS4525DO-DS3AIXXXDS
5. Compass Ext 0x1eh HMC5883L
6. Power management 0x24 TPS65217C
7. on-board EEProm 0x50h unknown
8. HDMI core…. unused, do not enable 0x34

Not responded to I2C test
1. MS5611 (I2C) 0x76h
2. RGB LED Driver 0x55h TCA62724 (is conflicting with non existent Cape eeprom)

Adjusting the BBB clock

cpufreq-info shows your current frequency

clock check
clock check

Edit /etc/default/cpufrequtils (you might need to create it if it doesn’t exist). Specify the governor with the GOVERNOR variable:

nano /etc/default/cpufrequtils

add the following……

# valid values: userspace conservative powersave ondemand performance
# get them from cat /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/cpufreq/scaling_available_governors

CTRL-X to exit

Y to save

Reboot, and check to see that it has worked

Installing and Making ArduPilot on BBB

install git, make, gawk, g++, arduino-core on your BBB

apt-get install git make gawk g++ arduino-core
git clone git://

then open

cd ardupilot/ArduPlane


 cd ardupilot/ArduCopter


 cd ardupilot/APMRover2


 cd ardupilot/AntennaTracker


make linux

from this directory, run the tmp/Plane.elf (or Copter, or Rover)


Connecting to GCS

To be added……………


The following table sumarizes the driver development status:

Milestone Status
ArduPilot running in the BBB (I2C connected sensors) Ok
Device Tree for the PXF WIP
MPU6000 SPI userspace driver Ok
MPU9150 I2C userspace driver Ok
LSM9DS0 SPI userspace driver Coded
MPU9250 SPI userspace driver Coded
MS5611 I2C/SPI userspace driver Coded
GPIO userspace driver WIP
I2CDriver multi-bus aware WIP
AP_InertialSensor_Linux ToDo
PRU PWM driver  Ok (issue with the PREEMPT_RT kernel)
MPU6000 SPI kernel driver WIP
MPU9150 I2C kernel driver ToDo
LSM9DS0 SPI kernel driver ToDo
MPU9250 SPI kernel driver ToDo
MS5611 I2C/SPI kernel driver ToDo

Status: OkCoded (needs test), WIP (work in progress), IssueToDo

Questions, issues, and suggestions about this page can be raised on the APM Forum. Issues and suggestions may be posted on the forums or the Github Issue Tracker.