How to contribute to the ArduPilot/ArduCopter project

Now that the DIY Drones community is more than 20,000 people, we're getting a lot of requests to participate in our various projects. That's terrific and we absolutely love and depend on the work of volunteers here. It's also a fun and rewarding experience for the dev team members: they get to help determine the path of these projects along with inventing new ones, see their contributions used by thousands of people, work with other awesome talents and get all the free hardware they need, along with prototypes of new products.

 

But it's often hard to figure out exactly what jobs are right for which people, and how to add people to existing teams without causing disruption and slowing everything down with training and communications (the "Mythical Man Month" problem).

 

We currently have more than 40 core developers working on ArduPlane, ArduCopter, ArduRover, various ground stations and hardware spin offs, along with several dozen other contributors. That's nearly fully staffed, and requires nearly full time coordination of the various mailing lists, code repositories, wikis, Google Docs planning documents and weekly Skype dev chats. But we do want to have a path by which new contributors can join, in a way that slots them in best both for their own interests and skills and the projects' needs. This ensures that we're constantly refreshing the dev teams with new ideas and energy, and taking the load off core developers as the projects expand and life occasionally intrudes.

 

The best way to participate is to do something cool on your own and share it here. All of our code bases and hardware design files are open. If you see an opportunity to improve something, just do it, post it and then tell the community about what you've done. If it's good, people will use it, help improve it, and we'll get a sense of what you can do. That makes it much easier for us to figure out what your skills are and where you'd fit in best.

 

Here's a list of project you can get started on now.

 

So bottom line: see something you think you can improve? Just do it. If it's cool, your reputation here will grow and you'll be much in demand. It's as simple as that.

 

[photo at top taken by me of the Arduino team, which operates similarly]

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3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on August 4, 2010 at 10:03am
Here's a great example of how this worked, just this week. Michael Smith saw the request in the comments for a RC hookup diagram for ArduPilot Mega, and rather than wait for me to do it, he just whipped up an awesome one himself.

We chatted a bit about it, he created a second version (see below), and now he's a member of the documentation team (plus it turns out that he lives in the SF Bay Area, so we're looking forward to flying with him, too!).

A perfect example of a community member choosing one small task that should be done and just doing it, leading to an easy integration into the dev team with a natural role. Thanks, Michael!


3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on August 6, 2010 at 8:19am
Another great example: This week Norbert Machinek took it upon himself to write this awesome ArduCopter build log (with a custom airframe, below) over at RCG, and now he's part of the official ArduCopter documentation team:

Comment by Jason Beach on October 3, 2012 at 11:40am

I'm in a flight dynamics course now and as a class we're trying to see if there's a way to contribute to the APM code - we're going through the code now to see how it works, etc. Is there by chance already sort of a map to the software (or documentation other than what is in the code itself)?  

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