One of the top requests we get at DIY Drones is for ready-to-fly autopilots and UAVs. Lots of people aren't comfortable soldering, loading software and otherwise configuring electronics. Others don't have the time to learn the ropes. And everyone wants to avoid the risk of possibly getting it wrong and ruining electronics in the process.
All understandable. But we don't want to get into the RTF business. We're focused on making electronics components using automated pick-and-place robots, and our staff is oriented around R&D, QA and customer service, not hand-assembly. Plus complete autopilots are export controlled in the United States, while the individual electronic components we sell typically aren't.
But there is a solution, which I'm delighted to tell you about now. Building on our successful relationship with Jani Hirvinen at jDrones (formerly working under the FahPah name) in Thailand, we are now working with a new company called uDrones (pronounced "microdrones") in Tijuana, Mexico, which will be selling complete ArduPilotMega autopilots and UAVs.
uDrones was started by Guillermo Romero (we call him "Gigio"), an electronics engineer who formerly specialized in solar technology. It's an independent company, and the only formal relationship with DIY Drones/3D Robotics is that they're a retail partner (we work with lots of retail partners, who buy products in bulk from us at wholesale prices--contact Jordi at the DIY Drones store if you'd like to be one). But I wanted to highlight what they're doing because it's an impressive illustration of the processes and QA procedures needed to turn electronics parts into a Ready-to-Fly autopilot or UAV with confidence.
Here are some pictures from the new Tijauna factory, as they prepare seven ArduCopters for sale. Note that these are not sold as kits: they are fully assembled and flight tested. You should be able to connect your own RC gear and battery and just go.
ESC and motor connectors are soldered, to avoid the problem of loose connectors that can cause quad crashes.
Because these are hand-assembled and flight-tested, they cost more than kits: $895 for a RTF ArduCopter. (JDrones in Thailand sells similar RTF ArduCopters, fully assembled and flight-tested for $860.). But if you're looking for a little less DIY in your DIY Drones, that may very well be worth it ;-)
Also note that uDrones sells the ArduPilotMega autopilot itself fully assembled and tested with GPS and latest code loaded (specify fixed wing or quad), for $349.
Here's a gallery of photos from the new uDrones factory: