Overview

BlueOS is a modular, robust, and efficient platform for managing a vehicle or robot from its onboard computer.

A bit of context...

The original Companion Software project (started in 2015) was originally created with the simple intent to route an underwater vehicle's video stream and communications to the surface computer, and provide some basic configuration of those features and the vehicle firmware. The simple scope was great to get things started, but also meant that new and complex features weren't designed in from the start, so maintenance and developing functionality became increasingly challenging.

With lessons learned on useful features and software architecture requirements, BlueOS was designed and created from the ground up to fit the requirements of the onboard computer system we want to have - with room to grow into a true operating system for the vehicle. BlueOS is modular to the heart, which makes it portable, robust to update, and extensible.

We're super excited about our future with BlueOS, and we can't wait for you to join us and try it out! 😄

BlueOS principles and goals

As the core development team we've tried to envision the future of the onboard computer, and the features that will require. Our initial ideas have been distilled into the following core concepts, many of which are already built in to the BlueOS of today:

  • An interface that is simple by default but powerful when needed - the user has the power to change anything they desire and customize the full experience
  • Designed to focus on what matters, improving user access to information and controls with a human-friendly UI and UX
  • Make complex tasks simpler and improve ease of use by reusing design patterns from other applications (based on the material UI guidelines)
  • Advanced error handling and detection, making any problems clear to the user and developers, along with how to fix them
  • Simplify development, providing full access to our services API and modular development model
  • Encourage contributions, the project is open source!
  • Portable and flexible, you should be able to run on a Raspberry Pi 3/4 or any SBC with Linux operating system, contributions are welcomed
  • Highly functional with low CPU usage, the entire system is built to run efficiently
  • Developed on solid foundations, critical parts or intensive workforce services are designed using the most advanced languages and features available for stability

Some of these principles will only be evident in future releases, but the underlying software architecture and organization have been designed from the ground up to support and enable them.

What's New in BlueOS-1.1?

This covers a summary of the major changes and new features in BlueOS-1.1. Where applicable relevant features are also included in the feature comparison table. For detailed coverage of every change, please see the full release notes.

Extensions (NEW! - beta)

  • Independently installed and run software components, that work together with BlueOS
  • Users can download extensions for the integrations and features they want to use
  • Developers can create extensions, and share them with others

Page improvements

  • Vehicle Setup (NEW!)
    • A page providing an overview of the configured vehicle and its connected peripherals
    • Allows testing motors, configuring servo outputs, and setting default autopilot parameters
  • Ping Sonar Devices (NEW!)
    • A page to detect connected Ping family devices (including Ping360s connected via an ethernet switch)
    • Adds MAVLink toggle for Ping Sonar devices
      • Allows sending distance estimate to Control Station Software (e.g. QGroundControl)
  • Extensions Manager (NEW!)
    • Allows installing and managing BlueOS Extensions
  • Autopilot Parameters (NEW!)
    • Allows reading and editing parameters from a connected MAVLink autopilot
    • Includes saving to and loading from a file
  • Autopilot Firmware (MERGED "Firmware" and "General")
    • Extra information about the currently running firmware was added
    • Improved firmware update robustness
    • Serial autopilots in bootloader mode can now be detected and flashed
      • Allows recovering from failed Pixhawk updates
    • Can now choose which autopilot to flash, if multiple are connected
  • Video Streams (REPLACES "Video")
    • Camera manager now supports Raspberry Pi cameras, and a fake source for testing
    • Camera previews are now available when a stream is configured
    • RTSP output support added for MJPG and YUYV encoded streams
    • MAVLink support improved
      • Allows Control Station Software (e.g. QGroundControl) to configure camera settings and switch between multiple video streams
      • Disabling MAVLink advertising of a video stream is now possible
  • MAVLink Endpoints (REPLACES "Endpoints")
    • IP address interface now indicates the endpoint type
    • Endpoints are now editable
  • Serial Bridges (REPLACES "Bridges")
    • Significant interface and robustness updates
  • NMEA Injector
    • Settings are now persistent across boots
  • BlueOS Version (REPLACES "Version Chooser")
    • New progress bar while downloading and extracting new images
    • Now allows updating the bootstrap image
  • System Information
    • New "Firmware" tab, with information about the computer's firmware and bootloader
  • Network Test
    • New tab for internet connection testing
    • New graph to track upload and download performance during a local network test
  • File Browser
    • New shortcuts to useful parts of the file-system
  • Bag Editor (NEW!)
    • Allows modifying the database that controls frontend interface changes
  • New vehicle selection and setup wizard
  • New header widgets
  • Interface updated to be mobile friendly, and more aesthetic
  • Various sidebar improvements
    • Now open by default when the window is wide enough
    • Pages are now ordered alphabetically, without ambiguous sections
    • There's now a configurable vehicle icon, name, mDNS address, and logo
    • It's now possible to download the latest BlueOS system logs, and reset settings
  • Pirate mode is now toggled via the happy-robot/pirate icon in the header
  • Network, ethernet, and wifi configuration are improved
    • A hotspot network is now created for devices to connect to if a normal connection does not occur on boot
    • Raspberry Pi 4s can now connect via USB OTG ethernet
    • Network interface priority ordering is now possible
    • DNS name server configuration is now available

Accessibility and Styling

Device/Hardware Support

  • Added basic detection and management support for:
    • the Cube Orange flight controller
    • the Pixhawk 6X flight controller
    • non-Navigator Linux boards
  • New amd64 Docker images, for running BlueOS on development machines

Feature Comparison

BlueOS has almost all features from the old Companion, and several hotly-requested new ones too!

FeatureBlueOS 1.1BlueOS 1.0Companion
Onboard Computer
+ Other Linux-based SBCs images to come
+ Raspberry Pi 3B / 3B+ / 4B supported
+ You can install from scratch using the installation script in any Linux computer. (Modifications may be necessary for your hardware configuration)
Raspberry Pi 3B required
Flight Controller
+ Cube Orange
+ Pixhawk 6X

+ Navigator
+ Pixhawk 4
Pixhawk
Video Streams
+ MPEG and YUYV encodings

+ Supports Raspberry Pi cameras
+ Easily manage multiple streams

+ UDP and RTSP outputs

- Audio streaming
not yet supported (#990)
Select a single camera to stream over UDP
+ Supports Raspberry Pi cameras (except HQ Camera)
+ Supports a single audio stream over UDP
WIFI Manager
+ Vehicle provides local hotspot

+ Connect to and manage multiple networks, like a cellphone or computer WIFI manager
Connect to a single network
+ Visible and hidden networks supported
Ethernet ManagerMultiple static IPs and DHCP configurationSingle DHCP (client or server) or static network
Notification systemNotifications about issues, new releases, and the status of your system.-
File Browser
+ Edit files from the browser
Download and upload files
Log BrowserDownload and manage logs from the browser
+ Visualise and analyse logs from the built in viewer
Ssh/terminal only
MAVLink inspector
+ MAVLink2REST "watcher" option for individual message types
See and inspect MAVLink messages in real time from the browserSee latest MAVLink messages via MAVLink2REST
Network test
+ Graph during speed tests

+ Check real time latency
Check upload and download speed from the Control Station Computer to the vehicle's Onboard Computer
System informationProvides all the necessary information about the hardware, operating system, running processes, CPU, memory, disk, network usage and statusBasic usage statistics, list of connected devices
Web Terminal
+ Uses a tmux session
Access Linux terminal from the browser
Autopilot Firmware
+ General ArduPilot downloads;
+ select vehicle to update
stable, beta, and devel releases, custom uploads, and restore default parameters;
ArduSub-only downloads
Autopilot ParametersView, search, and edit vehicle parameters--
Version Chooser+ Easily update/downgrade between BlueOS versions, including locally stored
+ Includes stable, beta, and master releases*
+ Available even if main site failing
Update Companion to latest stable only
MAVLink EndpointsCreate and manage UDP, TCP, and serial MAVLink endpoints
NMEA supportConveys GPS positions to the vehicle
Ping Sonar Devices
+ Detects Ping360 in ethernet configuration
+ Ping Sonar distance estimates can be sent via MAVLink

+ Devices can be hot-plugged

- No MAVLink pipeline
Ping Sonar and Ping360 can connect with Ping Viewer
+ Ping Sonar distance estimates can be sent via MAVLink
Serial BridgesCreate and manage bridges between serial and UDP/TCP endpoints
Water LinkedDVL-A50 and UGPS extensions available through Extensions ManagerDVL-A50 package availableSupports UGPS and DVL-A50
ExtensionsCustom extensions available through Extensions ManagerCustom functionality requires forking the codebase

Release Types

BlueOS has multiple release types, to allow choosing your preferred balance between access to the latest fixes and improvements, and stability of the software. The three release types are:

  • Stable: Officially tested and validated
    • Stable versions with long term support
    • Recommended for most users
  • Beta: Quick-passed rolling releases with new features, bug fixes and general improvements
    • Versions that will be released after an internal test
    • A taste of what's to come
  • Master: Rapidly-passed bleeding edge development releases 🔥
    • The very latest features, that may not have been tested yet
    • Highly volatile, generally not recommended
    • For those who want to live in the future

When BlueOS is connected to the internet, a notification appears if a newer version of the same release or a stabler type is available. E.g: When using a Stable version, only new Stable versions will trigger a notification. If using a Beta release, newer Beta and Stable releases will trigger a notification. When running Master, any release type newer than the active one will trigger a new update notification. This helps to ensure that any updates will be as or more stable than your current version, unless you intentionally change to a less stable release type.

It's worth noting that the Version Chooser in general offers several major robustness and versatility improvements over the previous 'latest update only' approach, which should benefit both users and developers.

  1. Documentation
  2. Source code
  3. Releases, changelogs, files

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