Dave Perry from UNAV
writes in with some news:
"UNAV has been working with the US Commerce Dept. for the past six months to re-classify our PICOPILOT-RTL
(Return To Launch) product.
We claimed that since the -RTL could not be programmed with user waypoints, it should be classified separately.
Friday, we finally received the classification; 7A994. This classification requires the -RTL to have an export license only for AT ( terrorism sponsoring ) countries.
This ruling is significant because it means the US government recognizes the difference between "programmable" and "return to launch" autopilots.Now we can export the PICOPILOT-RTL to almost any country without an export license.
Of course, any autopilot that can be programmed with user waypoints remains classified as 9A012, requiring an export license to all countries except CANADA. I might point out that the regulations make no distinction between hobby and commercial autopilots, so the export of amateur (DIY) autopilots must comply with the US export regulations and have an export license. "
[Chris here: I think it's going to be interesting to see how the regulators consider open source hardware, autopilot kits and autopilot components. I note that the Autopilot/IMU "development board" that SparkFun sells, which is fully programmable and much more capable than the RTL, is not export controlled. Neither is the impressive pre-made Paparazzi autopilot. An oversight? Or are such "development boards" not considered autopilots?
And since each of these are just the combination of an IMU, a embedded processor and GPS, all of which aren't export controlled, what if you just buy the three bits and put them together yourself, downloading open source code from a site like ours to make it all work together? Obviously there's little the regulators can do about that, and the point of sites like DIY Drones is to make that very process of doing-it-yourself as simple as possible. In a world where many of the components of an autopilot, from accelerometers to GPS, can be found in any cell phone, is it really possible to regulate the sale of autopilots like weapons anymore?
No one's come after us for selling an autopilot PCB (nor should they). When we sell it with the components pre-soldered, like the SparkFun or Paparazzi boards, can we just call it a "development board" and similarly escape regulation? Does it matter if the software is pre-loaded or not? Does the fact that none of us--the creators of the Sparkfun, Paparazzi or ArduPilot autopilots--are companies (we're just amateurs, mostly working in the open source realm) make a difference? Even if it did, what about the companies that are actually making and selling the boards for us, such as SparkFun or BatchPCB? Are they responsible for knowing what these boards do and all the regulations concerned? Lots of question....]