We have detected your current browser version is not the latest one. Xilinx.com uses the latest web technologies to bring you the best online experience possible. Please upgrade to a Xilinx.com supported browser:Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer 11, Safari. Thank you!

Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

Adam Taylor’s MicroZed Chronicles, Part 203: Quick IR vision for Zynq—Getting the FLIR Lepton up and running

Xilinx Employee
Xilinx Employee
0 0 44.2K


By Adam Taylor


We have looked at embedded vision several times throughout this series, however it has always been within the visible portion of the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum. Infra-Red is another popular imaging section of the EM spectrum that allows us to see thermal emissions from objects in the world around us. For this reason, IR is very popular if we want to see in low-light conditions or at night and in a range of other very exciting applications from wildfire detection to defense applications.


Therefore, over the next two blogs we are going to look at getting the FLIR Lepton IR camera up and running with the Zynq-based Arty Z7 dev board from Digilent. I selected Digilent’s Arty Z7 because it has an HDMI output port so we can output the image from the Lepton IR camera to a display. The Arty Z7 board also has the Arduino/chipKIT Shield connector, which we can use to connect directly to the Lepton camera itself.





Digilent’s Arty Z7 dev board with the Lepton IR camera plugged into the board’s Arduino/chipKIT Shield connector




The Lepton IR camera from FLIR is an 80x60-pixel  (Lepton 2) or 160x120-pixel (Lepton 3) long-wave infra-red (LWIR) camera module. As a microbolometer-based thermal sensor, it operates without the need for cryogenic cooling, unlike HgCdTe-based sensors. Instead, a microbolometer works by each pixel changing resistance when IR radiation strikes it. This resistance change defines the temperatures in the scene. Typically, microbolometer-based thermal imagers have much-reduced resolution when compared to a cooled imager. They do however make thermal-imaging systems simpler to create.


To get the Lepton camera up and running with the Arty Z7 board, we need a breakout board for mounting the Lepton camera module. This breakout board simplifies the power connection, breaks out the camera’s control and video interfaces, and allows us to connect directly into the Arty Z7’s Shield connector.


The Lepton is controlled using a 2-wire interface, which is remarkably similar to I2C. This similarity allows us to use the Zynq I2C controller over EMIO to issue commands to the camera. The camera supplies 14-bit video output using Video over SPI (VoSPI). This video interface uses the SCLK, CS, and MISO signals. The camera module is assumed to be the slave. However, as we need to receive 16 bits of data for each pixel in the VoSPI transaction, we cannot use the SPI peripheral in the Zynq SoC’s PS (processing system), which only works with 8-bit data.


Instead, we will use an AXI QSPI IP block instantiated in the Zynq SoC’s PL (programmable logic), correctly configured to work with standard SPI. This is a simple example of why Zynq SoCs are so handy for I/O-centric embedded designs. You can accommodate just about any I/O requirement you encounter with a configurable IP block or a little HDL code.


Implementing the above will enable us to control the camera module on the breakout board and receive the video into the PS memory space. To display the received image, we need to be able to create a video pipeline that reads the image from the PS DDR SDRAM and outputs it over HDMI.


The simplest way to do this is to update the HDMI output reference design, which is available on the Digilent GitHub:









To update date this design we are going to do the following:


  1. Add an AXI QSPI configured for 16-bit standard SPI
  2. Enable the PS I2C routing, the signal via the EMIO
  3. Map both the I2C and the SPI I/O to the Arty Z7 board’s Shield connector



We can then update the software running on the Zynq processor core to control the camera module, receive the VoSPI, and configure the HDMI output channel.


For this example, I have plugged the Breakout board with the camera module so that the SDA and SCL pins on the Shield connector and breakout board align. This means we can use the Shield connector’s IO10 to IO13 pins for the VoSPI. We do not use IO11, which would be the SPI interface’s MOSI, because that signal is unused in this application.


However, if we use this approach we must also provide an additional power signal to the Breakout board and camera module as the Shield connector on the Arty Z7 is not able to supply the 5V required on the A pin. Instead, it’s connected to a Zynq I/O pin. Therefore, I used a wire from the Shield connector’s 5V pin on the opposite side to supply power to the Lepton breakout board’s 5V power input.


With the hardware, up and running and the Vivado design rebuilt we can then open SDK and update the software as required to display the image. We will look at that next time.




Code is available on Github as always.


If you want E book or hardback versions of previous MicroZed chronicle blogs, you can get them below.




  • First Year E Book here
  • First Year Hardback here.



MicroZed Chronicles hardcopy.jpg 



  • Second Year E Book here
  • Second Year Hardback here



MicroZed Chronicles Second Year.jpg 





Tags (2)