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Posted by on Nov 6, 2016

ArduPilot Acknowledgement & Integration

A dirty little secret in the drone industry: many (non-DJI) drone companies are using ArduPilot as the brain in their aircrafts, and they’re not always holding up their end on the bargain. ArduPilot is a GPLv3 open-source project which allows it to be used on commercial products for free. Companies that use ArduPilot are required to acknowledge its use to the end user, and provide source code when shipping product (along with a few other stipulations).

To ensure proper integration, drone companies typically hire one of the freelance devs who contribute to ArduPilot or they have an in-house guy who interfaces with the ArduPilot team. In many cases this is all well and good and everybody is happy with the arrangement, but there are always a few that have to screw it up.

One of the ArduPilot rock stars tells me they are aware of quite a long list of companies who are failing to meet the stipulations required of GPLv3. In some cases they’re not acknowledging ArduPilot use and / or not providing the source code when shipping. In the worst cases drone companies are plucking 12+ month old versions out of ArduPilot history (which weren’t stable even when released), strapping it to an aircraft and shipping away.

Now I’m not a dev, but you don’t have to be technical to understand this is at minimum not cool, and more likely flat out egregious behavior.

It appears the ArduPilot community that has dedicated a lot of blood, sweat and tears to developing the most commonly used (non-DJI) autopilot may need to have a serious discussion with the drone companies…perhaps even call a few of the drone companies on the carpet about this. I imagine a B2B consultancy could address this dynamic and likely benefit as the enterprise continues to adopt UAS.

Disclaimer: This is the landscape as I understand it, but I am far from an expert and still have much to learn. If I’m off base on the information presented please let me know in the comments below.