Is ardupilot military/commercial grade?

I recently suggested in this thread:

that Ardupilot would be a low cost way to make a commercial/military UAV.

I haven't used ardupilot in autonomous mode yet, but I've been very impressed with the quality of the ArduIMU.

My impression of Ardupilot is that it is a fully functional autopilot.

I'm curious to get people's opinions: are there any reasons that Ardupilot is not ready for commercial & military use?

If so, what in your opinion are the bare minimum features necessary to a military/commercial drone surveillance aircraft?

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  • T3

    "The CE mark does not require an expensive certification process as it is a "self certification" process " ???

    You are naive, Sir. You could as well claim there is no problem with lawyer's salaries because after all you can learn the law by yourself, and even if, by living modestly and honestly you wouldn't get in conflict.

  • So, this brings up an interesting point. If I were to use APM2 as the basis for a commercial product, what requirements, licensing, waivers etc do I need to follow in order to resell the APM, Mission Planner etc to a customer?

    I am not talking about all the regulatory stuff or technical hurtles, just the commercial aspects that DIYdrones, Chris and the other contributors would be concerned about. Just give credit where credit is due?

  • T3

    Technically speaking ARDUPILOT is DIY kit but produced without any sort of formalised QA testing about its most pronounced functionality, being the autopilot.

    In short it is very complicated kit that works, that doesn't fit classification of a commercial rpoduct. It cannot be even exported from US without tons of permissions if it woudl be ready product. It is using commercial components produced in millions.

    You will have to spend your time, several months, in order to bring it to work, becaue this is how it is.

    Any of some 30 persons actively contributing to its development can screw most recent firmware in many ways, the time before it will be discovered is undefined, and you cannot neither sue nor held ANYBODY responsible for that. So this is not a commercial product as autopilot, but is as fully commercial, working soldered PCB for making amateur autopilots.

    If you are asking about milgrade, you must be seriously joking. Milgrade electronics defines specific: design procedures, manufacturing procedures, declaring statistical quality standards, connectors and most of all environmental conditions (temperature range), that practically none of the subcomponents would meet.

    Comemrcial electronics defines: specific env. conditions to work, norms like CE or orther electronics compatibility etc.

    None were tested because none apply to experimental, one-build apparatus made by amateurs.

  • As a technician for the NASA Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Lab at Langley Research Center, I can say yes we are using what you call COTS autopilots. Currently we have been using MicroPilot. super expensive equipment but very effective with plenty of features. The reason I have been browsing this site is to gain info and to try out the Ardupilot in one of our airframes to test out its abilities to possibly be a tool we use more often if it fits our needs. My lead Engineer thinks it has what it takes, so we will see what all we can do with it.
  • T3
    "Is ardupilot military/commercial grade?"
    It is not.
    1. No regression testing.
    2. No electronic compatibility testing.
    3. No logging.
    In short no support for quality control.
    Just found 3 reasons, could have found 20.
    This is an open source project for brainstorming. -
  • There is a big push in defense acquisition to acquire COTS (commercial, off the shelf) technology when and where it makes sense. Whether or not you can find a UAV program that is seeking COTS, I don't know.

    But there is no way in heck that ArduPilot would be accepted in a traditional procurement.
    * commercial temp grade parts; it gets hot in the desert, it gets cold in the sky
    * plastic encased chips (non-hermetic); water absorbed in chips, not good during thermal cycling
    * no conformal coat; humidity causes shorts; trace corrosion
    * no packaging ("case"); easy to short out
    * connectors too fragile
    * no vibrational analysis (nor spec)
    * no EMI/EMC analysis (nor spec)
    * no software spec
    * perhaps 1% of the needed documentation
    * yada yada yada

    For 12 years I worked at an avionics facility where we would validate drawing packages, do builds, do thermal, EMI & vibration testing. Every year or two someone would think they could do something for far less than what the government was paying and when they were ignored in the bid process they would complain to their senator/congressperson. We would have to stop our work and test their home made stuff. The guy would come in all gloating because he pulled the strings and was going to prove us all wrong. We would bolt his equipment to the shaker table and start the vibration profile.

    As young Jr engineer I went to get the broom and dustpan, ready to sweep up the parts as they flew off his equipment. In seconds or minutes his equipment would cease operation. In minutes parts physically would separate. At the end of an hour of testing I would hand him a pile of components and pieces in a shoe box.

    Even with specs as tough as we had to meet for fleet use, we still had huge numbers of units come back after a flight ... failed when cold; failed when hot; failed above 10,000 feet; wouldn't power on for second flight...
This reply was deleted.


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