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.
Good luck Rob!
We will definitely miss your advice and expertise in all things ArduPilot.
Good luck with your job hunting as I have been there before and know what it takes to start over.
Tom C AVD
I always enjoyed your "well tempered" interventions here. I wish you the best for the future !
We will probably meet you again as a reader, I hope.
Rob, thank you for all your great efforts and I'm sure you will be successful and continue working on the project. We need to get your company listed here http://planner.ardupilot.com/wiki/common-commercial-support
All the best and good luck as well from me!
Thanks for all the help and support you provided.
Also wishing you all the best in your quest for the "revolutionary new turn-key UAV helicopter systems".
But mostly I will miss your "caustic" comments.
Best of luck
Sniff Sniff!!!, Have the best succsessfull Rob, We apreciate a lot your participating in this forum, I'm not fly helis but many thing's that you wrote here, were usefull for me.
pd.: I think that Rc helis are the future for spraying crops, take in mind.
I'm a bit surprised to hear it, but that's how it goes sometimes when the money end of town rolls in on the latest and greatest developments of open source. It is a bit sad to see you left a little bit in the lurch after you've invested so much in commitment and time into this "hobby". From here I can only sympathize with your predicament, but don't give up chasing what you love doing, just because of the money!
You have already heard this from me before; the only real currency in life is time, spend it on what, and with whom, you hold most dear, because you can never spend it again.
I hope you can continue advocating both helicopter and open source development, I must admit most of what I know about heli's was a result of discussions with you!
I'm sure we'll chat here online, but I'd still like to wish you all the best in your search for a new job, preferably one where you don't have to "work" because you love doing it so much! ;-)
Best Regards JB
BTW any time you need a break from the cold and want to visit a warm Aussie climate, we'd be happy to accommodate you and your family for a visit to sunny WA. Was 34C today at the beach..... :-)
Thanks, I've had a lot of invites from Aussies, and I'd love to go, but my family is not too keen to move that far away and I hate spiders. ;) Getting down there once at least for a visit is on my bucket list. I consider it to be just a warm Canada. :)
For sure, working in this industry is not "work" which is why I will try to keep in it. Truth is, I've abandoned most of my other hobbies because I "work" on this stuff 100 hours a week. I only stop for sleep and family time.
Best of luck, Rob. Your contributions have indeed been outstanding.
Who knows - If I manage to get my own drone-centred enterprise 'off the ground', I may yet seek you out. (We're in the same neck of the woods).
Hopefully, you're sticking around this site at least, as an enthusiast.
Let me thank you for all that you've done for this community, I think I can speak for most of us saying it was sincerely appreciated. You surely made a good decision as no one can last very long in a quasi burn out state; believe me I can, relate to that...that's the price to pay for having such a strong passion with multiple other jobs on top of that to support yourself and family.
Let us know when you have news on your job's search front ,
All the best,
Sorry to see you go. Good luck as you move on!