With full commercial integration of UAS on the horizon for 2015, open-source projects like ours have the potential to erradicate barriers to entry into the UAS marketplace.

The regulations involved with getting software certified by the FAA are pretty intense, but is it really anything that an open-source community can't handle? This place is chock full of people who are passionate about unmanned systems, and more than just a few who really know their stuff. As an engineering student, I'd be willing to do some of the paperwork myself, just for the bullet point on my resume, and I know I'm not alone.

Moreover, because of all the work that's been put in by guys like Mick, our GCS has got most of the capabilities the big boys have, like HiL simulation. Depending on how D)-178C pans out with using simulation environments for some of the system validation, it might even make it easier for us to get our projects stamped than it would be otherwise.

If we went through the process ourselves, using community resources, we could get our FAA stamp for a helluva lot less money than it would cost the people who pushed for the regulations in the first place. While they pay millions in salary to validate their own systems, our manpower is free.

Chris just got 5 million dollars in venture capital. With us helping on the legwork, and him putting the money towards greasing the right palms, every single one of us could own an aerospace company in five years, powered by 3D Robotics hardware. 

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The problem: constantly evolving code written for constantly evolving hardware.

Agreed, but doesn't every institution have to deal with the same problem?


Perhaps it's a matter of saving up a bunch of evolutions, then taking the time intermittently to push out one polished version every few months or so to push through validation. That's what the big boys do. Shouldn't we be able to do the same?

DO-178C would never fly (LOL) with open-source software.  Never.

Why not?

DO-178C locks the software at an approved level.  Once approved, NO changes are allowed without a complete re-certification.  There also has to be a responsible party, or more specifically, the party responsible for the software version control.  If something goes disastrously wrong, the FAA (and ambulance-chasing lawyers) want a paper trail to someone to nail to the wall for the screw-up.

Since no one is in control of the components in the software, open-source will never qualify for DO-178C certification.

But that's not exactly true, is it?

We have specific devs that have the keys to the trunk, and have the power to approve or reject new code. We also have the backing of Chris Anderson and 3DR.

Linux runs the whole damned internet. We couldn't sit here talking to each other without open-source software. We just need to adopt a small amount of the organization Linux has.

What is preventing Chris, or anyone in this community for that matter, from taking any specific release of the code and going through the process? You're right that the certification would essentially close that specific branch, but that doesnt close the trunk any more than when Linux does the same thing.

I could be very wrong, and please don't mistake my enthusiasm for this discussion as arrogance or disagreement, because I could just be very much mistaken.

But if I am not, then we can do that thing that I think most of us would like to see:open the unmanned systems industry up to healthy free market competition, and create a marketplace where even a lowly engineer or technician can make a buck flying UAV's

What is preventing Chris, or anyone in this community for that matter, from taking any specific release of the code and going through the process?


If, in the remotest possibility, an aircraft running the certified version of Arducopter crashes and injures or kills someone, would Chris or 3DR be ready to defend the software?  I kind of doubt it.  

What's the upside in DO-178C certification?

There's no reason that a UAV manufacturer couldn't use a branch of the open-source code and use it as the level zero code for a version of Arducopter that they "own" (I.E., they become the certifying party).  You buy their UAV and it comes with their certified version of Arducopter installed.  You will also pay $10 to $15,000 for the package.  This would leave the recreational community free to continue development of the open-source code.

Interesting discussion; thanks for starting it. 

The way we work on the software side (ArduCopter, ArduPlane, ArduRover, Mission Planner, etc) is like Linux. Volunteer developers write code and release it on the Internet for free, without warranty. This creates an opportunity for companies to build businesses around it, just as RedHat, IBM, Ubuntu and others build businesses around Linux. 

3DR, for example, has built a hardware business around these codebases. Along with selling directly to consumers, we plan to be an OEM selling to VARs in specific industry verticals, who want to create custom UAV solutions for things like agriculture or film production. They would could through the necessary steps of modifying, packaging and if necessary certifying the technology. 

So if some third party saw a business opportunity in taking a version of the Ardu* code and getting it certified by the FAA, that would be great, and we'd support that effort. But it is not something we would do ourselves. 

That's interesting. What happens to any modifications the user makes? Are those users compelled to release their source code as well, or are they allowed to keep any IP they create using it proprietary? That's something I'm not up to speed on, since this is the first open-source oroject I've actually contributed to.

Thanks for your reply.

If somebody did that, certified a version of the Arducopter for example, wouldn't that meant that we would all benefit from the certification?  We could all use that certified code?

Or, if they took a version of the code, changed something so that it was certifiable, and then got it certified, they'd have to release the changed code back to the community, and again, we could benefit from it.  Is that how it works?

Nobody can take Arducopter, and start benefiting commercially from it without giving back to the community, can they?

For example, we know of several people/companies who are using Arducopter or Arduplane, and packaging it in an aircraft system and selling the entire system, and that's fine because it's the same code we all have access to.

But nobody can take the OS code, add value in any way, and then close-source that, can they?  Is that against the rules?

I don't understand a lot of this OS stuff, so I'm just asking.  That was my understanding but if it's incorrect, I'd like to know.

Interesting that RedHat was mentioned as an example.  RedHat supports and encourages open source community, but to defend their users, they do patent any code RedHat generates.  (See Patent Promise).

But, that's getting off topic.  

What happens to any modifications the user makes?

Which user?  If it is the UAV manufacturer, then they do have to re-certify the software.  Which is not an inexpensive process and why most in-cockpit software-driven products seem to be two or three years out of date.  Once you lock down a design and start certification, you cannot change anything. If it is the end user making changes, then any mods they make would invalidate the certification.

Keep in mind that there is no force of law in the open source community.  But either the third-party manufacturer or the end-user could pass back improvements to the community.

I recall in a prior life (as the tech support manager for an embedded PC manufacturer) that a third-party manufacturer wanted to use an embedded PC  in certified aircraft.  They could not get FAA approval because DO-178C requires a copy of the source code running the equipment, and of course Microsoft wouldn't play ball.  They wound up using Linux.  And now you can select from dozens of in-flight TV and movie channels as your seat.

The thing is might become a requirement, not optional to have DO or STANAG systems. It will certainly knock the Chinese APs for six.

Thankfully in Europe they have not gone for it yet, but they don't have the major sUAS defence manufacturer sitting at the head of ASTM F-38 who are writing the airworthy for over there.

The UK has put in place holders for PPL(U) and CPL(U) it might be that a national piloting qualification is on the cards. You would need at least one of them to fly UA legally in the UK then. But its not happening yet but obviously on their mind.

I don't share the it will all be happening by 2015 love, the FAA are already behind the targets set by congress. Also 2015 is for RAPS first I believe.

Really everyone in the USA should be pretty hacked off that they have no representation on the ARC 2.0 committee. Guess what the big defence contractors do and the FAA feels they represent your needs.....

When the NPRM comes out people should speak with one loud voice.

Or... just keep going as they are. The trouble comes when there is an incident or accident.

Of course if the rest of the world is cool with APM as it is in sub 20kg airframes operating VLOS then why bother with all the pain.

Asia and Africa will dwarf the USA as a market.

Sorry this is a bit of a rant. From the outside the USA situation seems  insane.

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