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.

Best Regards,

Rob

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I was trying to find some background on yourself and "Peer to Drone Crash Investigators" to see if I wanted to join.  I couldn't find anything that tells what it is or who you are?

@Tony,

it's all about your background, if you find yourself fit or not fit to study and discuss drone crashes.

Don't expect me to set rules to control you.

Just read Drone Crash reports at DIYDrones, rcgroups, Google drone crash report and provide your own expert's opinion in public.

Darius, please, just stop.

@Rob,

I am really sorry, but I don't know how could I help you.

One day you are are developer with 3DR

another day you close your activities

one more day you are a developer back. 

"My community support ending"

Ok, I don't need your support.

It was a chance for you to do the right thing.

Rob, Goodluck with the change. We would be really keen on the turn-key Heli. PM me when you have some specs and rough pricing.

Hi Rob,

You and I have communicated over lots of things over the years and you are 100% the go to guy for Helis in the ArduPilot firmware.

You figured it out and you wrote it.

There is simply no one who could replace you, let alone the likelihood that anyone effectively will.

In my own involvement as primary Wiki editor and for a long time by far the primary contributor, I also ran into a lot of "barriers" and i am not the type to suffer what I feel to be incorrect actions very well, so I eventually resigned my position because of them.

The wiki survived quite well without me and eventually became a very useful resource.

In your case, I doubt the loss can ever be made up - you ARE helicopters for Ardupilot and that is all there is to it.

I think the reality is that 3DR is primarily interested in concentrating on multicopters as well as taking most serious development fully in house.

Sadly 3DRs involvement with Ardupilot is so fully intertwined that they exercise considerable influence over getting what they want from it and obviously do not feel obligated to further support helicopters.

Open Source is a great thing, but it's inevitable tie to profit seeking Corporations is both a boon and a serious Achilles Heel.

And right now you are getting quite literally stuck with that.

I know where you have been and what you have done and I know that you are a very - very bright guy.

Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead!

Best Regards,

Gary

Darius, have you skipped a dose again?

Hi Rob,

First of all, thank you very much for all the effort you put to help us out with all kind of issues.

I've lost my job two times, so i know what you're talking about.

The only thing to say is "good luck finding your new job and keep your head up"

@Darius, how about you start your own discussion, stop trying to hijack other discussions.  Particularly don't argue with the discussion starter when they say your off topic and to stop.  

My free advice for you is that if you want people to join this group, you'll need to do a lot more on selling it.  You know the basic's like a mission statement, how you operate, who's in the team already, what cases have you worked on, what happens to the results, is any money changing hands, could the results get you called to court?, who owns the documents.  Those are key things most would want to know and not have the hassle of having to email you.....  Unless you have so many people in the group that your trying to keep it small, but then why do you ask this of so many people.....  

Anyway this discussion is about Rob finishing up in a full time capacity, did you not read his posts that said he would have to reduce what he does, he's not sure how much he can do in an unpaid capacity.....  Do you know if his last day in paid capacity has been?  He may not have picked up a paid job elsewhere so maybe he has some free time and is happy to engage with people.

Note the developer tag has nothing to do with being paid, it is someone who has contributed a reasonable amount to the APM codebase and are recognised as such.

I know that Rob has provided plenty both in a paid and unpaid capacity.  Where are you contributions?

Hi @Gary,

I'm curious when you say they get to exert considerable control, I'd see that happening for those staff they pay for or provide free equipment but the non paid persons should be focusing on what they want.  I see nothing wrong with that occurring.  What I would have an issue of is if they get the 'leads' to direct what needs working on, or gets released.  As long as the leads are looking at things fairly then that's ok.  

If anyone thinks that providing hardware or paying developers doesn't have strings attached need to open their eyes.

On the documentation side I can understand why they'd want it focused on the things that help them market products.  Since they are stumping up the cash for it that is okay in my eyes.  Aren't there some volunteers doing doc updates?  They should be doing what they want or what the community would like not what 3DR wants....

As a consumer of this stuff, firstly I am grateful for all the effort but I'd like to know if it doesn't work that way then that is an issue.  I will get into the dev stuff soon, just been extremely busy (not getting enough flying time at present).

Chris

Rob, Wow such a shame.  Sounds like the all too familiar story of someone who supported 3DR/3D Robotics to get them where they are today only to be left by the wayside.  Been there done that too.  Sorry to loose such a talented guy like yourself.  Good luck in your future endeavors.

Chris, there's always been this talk of a vast army of volunteers doing all this work, but it doesn't really work that way.  The vast majority of work is done by paid people.  Just keeping up to speed with the pace of the project dictates that it needs to be done full-time.

Don't get me wrong, there are some volunteers contributing, but it's like 90/10.  10% of the people doing 90% of the work, and those are the paid people. Maybe it's closer to 99/1%.  I don't have any actual metrics on that.

The biggest benefit that we get from the community is beta testing new firmware.  That participation is great, and we are very thankful for all the people who put their time and risking hardware into that.  If it wasn't for that, we would not be where we are now.  This is actually a huge cost, that any company thinking about doing closed source systems, probably don't realize.  

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