Hello everyone, I feel the time has come to make an announcement, which I've been avoiding for a few weeks now, but which I can't put off anymore.
As some people are aware (and some maybe not) for a little over a year I have been doing development work and community support as a full time job, with the generous support of 3DRobotics. This represented a major shift in the direction of my career from industrial mechanical engineering, to this burgeoning field of aerial robotics. However, 3DR has decided to discontinue that support. As the project has grown in scope and complexity, the overhead time requirements just to stay on top of program development and developer group communications has grown with it. Prior to the support provided by 3DR, I was moonlighting while maintaining a "day job" outside of the industry, but that ended up burning me out and I won't go back to that situation.
This has led to me scrambling to figure out what to do next in order to pay the bills, etc. I actually saw the writing on the wall several months ago and began working in the direction to solidify my future in this industry, but the change happened a little before I was ready.
In any case, regretfully I must announce that my efforts to directly support the community, answering questions, analyzing logs and doing general improvements to the code will be ending. I am committed to seeing AC3.3 finally go Stable for Tradhelis, and updating the Wiki to be up to date with this. But beyond that, I'm not sure how much I'll be able to help out.
My hope is to produce revolutionary new turn-key UAV helicopter systems and use them for professional services, or 3rd party sales. If I can make this transition, I will likely continue to do Alpha testing on new AC code and contribute new features. I have almost completed design of an excellent new 700 helicopter design, and hoped to do a proper 500 size helicopter for mapping after that, but likely won't have the cash to bring these to market on my own at this point. Unfortunately, due to timing, I may be entering into development contracts with other companies which will be a bit more "closed" in nature.
It is my hope that the community can get to the point where it is self-supporting. We already have several members who are quite successful with helicopters, and are still coming around to help others, and that is encouraging. Hopefully this can continue to grow. I don't want to see Helicopter support in the code die. Helicopter mechanics are largely a "solved problem", and this platform delivers superior combination of flight performance. VTOL of a multirotor, range and speed similar to many of the foam airplanes used today, and absolutely unmatched stability and weather tolerance, while carrying payloads greater than any platform of similar size. And Ardupilot is the only full-featured autopilot system that will fly a UAV helicopter, unless you purchase military-grade autopilot systems. I feel, and I think the worldwide UAV community agrees, that Ardupilot is the most reliable, full-featured, high performance and cost effective autopilot system available. The fact that it is truly open source, distributed under a GPLv3 license means that is flexible, extensible and capable of meeting the needs of all users, big and small, while reflecting a share-and-share-alike mindset. And I don't need to tell you guys that Ardupilot is flexible and cost effective on the hardware side as well, capable of running on a wide variety of hardware systems from many companies offering differing capabilities to meet various user needs. This could be anything from tinkerers and hobbyists, to small service companies, UAV builders, academics and research groups. It's important that the project continues to keep UAV technology accessible to all, and not be locked down by big corporations or governments.