Header Overview

The AscTec Mastermind gives you tremendous computation power at a reasonable size and weight. It has been designed according to our customers need for much more computation power. At the beginning of any research project, regarding flying or non-flying robots, you often need to try out as many sensors as possible. Moreover you do not want to spend your time optimizing your algorithms before the proof of concept. Therefore the AscTec Mastermind offers a huge variety of standard interfaces. Simultaneously receive the data of FireWire-, GigE-, USB 2.0-, USB 3.0-devices, store it on mSATA-, SATA-, microSD-, CFast-cards, process all information with the high performance of an Intel Core i7 processor, and share your results via a serial or WiFi connection.

With the AscTec Mastermind you can start right away, without being concerned that there could be a limit given by the board. More features like the additional power connector, the VGA-slot, the status display and the preinstalled Ubuntu Linux with all necessary drivers for your AscTec accessories make this board the first choice for your research application.



The AscTec Mastermind is an onboard processor board, which can be carried by the AscTec Pelican and the AscTec Firefly. It basically can be used like a ground PC, but it is mounted on the flight system. The user can connect his VGA monitor, USB-keyboard and USB-mouse for interaction. In comparison to its weight and size, it offers an extremely high processing power, high data rates and a great variety of standard PC interfaces to connect several kind of hardware devices.

The AscTec Mastermind was especially designed to fit mechanically and electronically into the AscTec Pelican and also the AscTec Firefly. It can be divided into two basic parts, the AscTec Mastermind board and the AscTec Mastermind CPU-option.

The AscTec Mastermind Board is identical for each AscTec Mastermind and can hold one CPU-option. It contains all jacks and slots for the diverse interfaces, a display for status information, a power connector for a bridge battery and the power button. A small battery is attached, that powers the system clock. For more details about the interfaces go to AscTec Mastermind Board.

There are several CPU-options available with different performances. Depending on your needs you can balance between processor power and weight. All are equipped with a specially designed cooler system for the processor. For more information go to AscTec Mastermind CPU-options.

Safety Indication

This hardware is designed for research purposes only. Ascending Technologies may make changes to specifications and product descriptions at any time, without notice. Please be aware that all experiments done using the AscTec Mastermind can not be controlled by Ascending Technologies. Although all our products are produced in all conscience and are intensively tested, it is your own responsibility to carefully check all systems and to take all necessary safety precautions. Unless otherwise agreed in writing by Ascending Technologies, the Ascending Technologies products are not designed nor intended for any application in which the failure of the Ascending Technologies product could create a situation where personal injury or death may occur! All legal requirements of the country where you use our products have to be fulfilled.

The products described in this document may contain design defects or errors known as errata which may cause the product to deviate from published specifications. Current characterized errata are available on request.

  • Be aware that parts of the AscTec Mastermind can get hot.
  • Always keep the fan of the processor board clear and clean to provide proper cooling.
  • Only utilize the AscTec Mastermind within the temperature specifications (0°C to 60°C).
  • The AscTec Mastermind is not waterproof.
  • Protect the AscTec Mastermind from frictional electricity.
  • Other hardware might be affected or even damaged by the AscTec Mastermind. Do not connect any defect or not compatible devices to the AscTec Mastermind.
  • Only power the AscTec Mastermind via the 11.1V batteries from Ascending Technologies.

On this page:


The integration manual for the Mastermind on the AscTec Pelican can be found here: Integration

Getting Started

Please read the next steps before switching on your new AscTec Mastermind the first time!

Pre start

Before you switch on the AscTec Mastermind make sure to follow the next steps:

  1. Connect a VGA-monitor via the AscTec VGA-Adapter (picture, position on Mastermind)
  2. Connect a keyboard and mouse via USB-hub or USB-to-go adapter. Please note that USB_0 is shared: do NOT use both (mini-USB and USB) at the same time!
  3. Connect your fully charged battery from Ascending Technologies to the green battery connector of the AscTec Mastermind or the AscTec UAV.

    If you power the AscTec Mastermind via the AscTec UAV, the UAV needs to be turned on. It's okay to attach batteries on both battery connectors at the same time. This will help you to exchange the battery of the AscTec UAV, without shutting down the AscTec Mastermind.
  4. Push the ON/OFF button on the breakout-board to boot up the Mastermind.

    While the system boots up, the LCD lights up blue. When the system is booted, the display turns green. If the voltage of your power supply drops below 10.0V, the display will light up red. If the voltage drops below 9.0V the Mastermind will shut down automatically.

The system boots to a graphical desktop environment (lxde) by default. For that, an example user was added:

User: asctec

Password: asctec


The LCD on the AscTec Mastermind shows your IP, if you are connected to a network. That helps e.g. if you are working with several AscTec Masterminds in one network. Go to LCD for more information.


To set the system wide keyboard configuration:

Pre installed software

The AscTec Mastermind comes with a preinstalled Ubuntu Linux on the mSATA SSD. For more information about the preinstalled software go to AscTec Mastermind Ubuntu Linux.

Please note, that the installed operating system and preinstalled software is not to be considered as part of the product. The installation also contains highly experimental software, like the ROS drivers, which might not work as expected. Feel free to base your work on the included open source software or install your own software on the processor board.

You will find license information for each installed package in /usr/share/doc/<packagename>.

If no license agreement is stated, paragraph 15 of GPLv3.0 is applicable:



All interfaces of the AscTec Mastermind are hotplugable, except for the RAM and CPU-module. For detailed information go to AscTec Mastermind Board.


To start the graphical interface enter:

If you don't need the GUI (e.g. during flight) it is recommended to disable it. To disable the autostart of the XWindow do the following:

Create the file "/etc/init/lightdm.overrride" containing the word "manual" by entering the following command in the console window. Enter the password "asctec" if asked.

To enable the autostart of the GUI enter:

Shut down

To shut down the AscTec Mastermind, push the ON/OFF button. To force the switch-off of the AscTec Mastermind without shutting it down, push the ON/OFF button for approx. 5 seconds.


The AscTec Mastermind Board comes with the following interfaces:

1 x VGA display port, CRT up to QXGA (2048x1536)

  • Connect VGA monitor via AscTec VGA-Adapter

5 x USB 2.0; max. current of each USB 2.0 port is 1.0A

  • USB_0:
    Bottom: USB-A socket
    Top: USB-to-Go socket
    Only one of the two sockets may be used!
  • USB_1: USB-to-Go socket
  • USB_2: USB-to-Go socket
  • USB_3: USB-to-Go socket
  • USB_5: USB-to-Go socket

1 x SD-card reader with USB client port:

  • Connect to PC to access SD-Card
  • Unmount SD-Card before

6 x Serial port

  • Serial interfaces: UART 5V voltage levels
 Linux Wine Interface 
 UART_A/dev/ttyS0 COM4 
 UART_B/dev/ttyS1 COM5 
 UART_C/dev/ttyS2 COM6 HLP-AutoPilot
 UART_D/dev/ttyS3 COM7 LLP-AutoPilot

1 x MDI-X Ethernet: 10/100/1000 Mbit

1 x GPIO

  • LPT: parallel port (printer port)

3 x FireWire (IEEE 1394): 800 Mbit/s

  • Firewire_0
  • Firewire_1
  • Firewire_2

1 x CFast card slot

1 x Micro-SD card slot: Micro-SD cards up to 32 GB

1 x SerialATA 300 slot (AHCI; RAID 0, 1)

1 x Mini-PCI-Express slot

  • If the optional WLAN-module was purchased, it is plugged into this slot in delivery condition.

1 x mSATA slot or Mini-PCI-Express slot (shared)

  • Used for mSATA SSD in delivery condition

Power supply

Input voltage range: 10V - 15V
Maximum current: 4.5A (+external USB devices)

The AscTec Mastermind is powered via the 11.1V batteries from Ascending Technologies. The power is automatically pulled either from the battery connected to the AscTec UAV or from the battery directly connected to the green MPX-connector on the AscTec Mastermind Board. That helps to exchange the battery of the flight system, without switching off the AscTec Mastermind.

To avoid a deep discharge of the batteries, there are two safety mechanisms implemented:

In the pre-installed Ubuntu OS the LCD is modified to signal a low battery: If the voltage of the power supply drops below 10.0V, the LCD lights up red.

Also an automatic shut down function is implemented:

If the voltage of the power supply drops below 9.0V, the AscTec Mastermind is automatically shut down via ACPI. For more information about the limits see "SMBus_register.h".

Since the AscTec Mastermind is still powered by the battery of the AscTec UAV while the UAV is switched off, please don´t forget to shut down the AscTec Mastermind after finishing your work. You have also the possibility to put the AscTec Mastermind in a standby mode. If the battery voltage drops below 10.0V during standby, the AscTec Mastermind wakes up.


The small LCD on the AscTec Mastermind can be used to show the system status. You can individually program the behavior of the display with the lcdproc client or via the System Message Bus (SMBus). The preinstalled Ubuntu has a modified lcdproc client. To enable the display functionalities, two Kernel drivers need to be loaded: "i2c_smbus" and "i2c_dev".

  • In default, the LCD shows the IP addresses of the two network connections (LAN and WLAN). All sources are found in /usr/src/lcdproc-driver and /etc/lcdprocmm.conf
  • During the system boot and the system shut down, the LCD is ligthing up blue.
  • In the standby mode (ACPI S3 / suspend to RAM), the LCD is blinking blue every 3 seconds and shows: "suspend S3". Push the power button to restart.
  • When you push the power button, the LCD lights up orange.
  • If the voltage of the power supply drops below 10.0V, the LCD lights up red.
  • If the voltage of the power supply drops below 9.0V, the AscTec Mastermind is automatically shut down. For more information about the limits see "SMBus_register.h".

AscTec Mastermind Ubuntu Linux

Pre-installed Ubuntu

The system is based on 14.04 with long term support.

Pre-installed software on the AscTec Mastermind

Console shortcut: "SHIFT + ESC"

GUI-Remote access with xpra/winswitch

GUI programs can be accessed from remote machine using winswitch/xpra. Client software for Mac/Linux/Windows can be downloaded here: [ org/].


User: asctec
Password: asctec

AscTec AutoPilot Control software

A desktop link can be used to start the windows software utilizing wine.

Make sure to connect a serial port to the Autopilot's low level serial port 0.

UART_D (/dev/ttyS3) is mapped to COM7.

At start some access violations are to be ignored (click OK).

IDS uEye Camera

You can find a desktop icon for the uEye-Camera-Manager.

if you do not have a uEye remove the startup file of the ueye camera manager: 

Matrix Vision BlueFox Camera

Current version of the BlueFox userspace utilities ("drivers") are installed in /opt/bluefox.


To show the system's IP-addresses on the onboard LCD there is a modified lcdproc client and driver installed.

Sources can be found under /usr/src/lcdproc-driver.

To modify LCD screen layout, low voltage shutdown or read voltages, take a look at "/etc/lcdprocmm.conf"

man lcdproc

ROS (Robot Operating System)

ROS is a very useful operating system to develop applications for robots. There are already some drivers for our flying robots available. To help you getting started with ROS, we already pre-installed some ROS drivers on the AscTec Mastermind. This was done by referring to the respective tutorials. Please know, that the ROS drivers for the AscTec UAVs are not programmed by Ascending Technologies, hence can not officially be supported or debugged by us.

Basic installation for the user "asctec" as described here: http://www.ros.org/wiki/fuerte/Installation/Ubuntu

including ROS-nodes for uEye camera, BlueFox cameras, Hokuyo laser scanner and asctec_drivers.

There are four basic samples accessible via desktop starters based on ROS.org tutorials http://www.ros.org/wiki/ROS/Tutorials

  • ROS demo - autopilot_sensor_plot
    Demonstrates the usage of the AscTec AutoPilot by plotting some sensor data from the low level processor (LLP).
    ROS stack documentation: http://ros.org/wiki/asctec_autopilot
  • ROS demo - laserscanner
    Demonstrates the usage of the ROS drivers for Hokuyo laser scanners. Note: The display software RViz is not very stable and therefore in auto respawn mode.
    ROS stack documentation: http://www.ros.org/wiki/hokuyo_node

AscTec Mastermind accessories

  • AscTec VGA-Adapter
  • External power supply cable : the cable can be used to power your AscTec Mastermind via the Graupner Ultra Duo Plus 60. It needs to be connected to the "output 3". Do not connect it to "output 1" or "output 2" ! Do not try to use the cable to power the AscTec AutoPilot!