There are already many good basic multicopter controller boards on the market. Think of Naze32, KK2, etc. Then there's also great firmware, some of which that support multiple boards and PID controllers (e.g. Cleanflight). Most of these boards and firmware fly great, but lack or have poor navigation support (alt/GPS hold, RTH, etc). 

On the other hand we have Arducopter which is a multicopter controller that also has very feature rich and stable autopilot capabilities.

Wouldn't it be great if users could pick the basic flight controller of their choice and combine it with the autopilot of their choice? I'd like to do that, and I'm convinced that once these modular designs start appearing, that it'll boost both the development of both basic controllers and as well as autopilots.

What I'm thinking of is an autopilot board that acts as a PPM-sum filter between the RC receiver and the basic flight controller (e.g. barebones Naze32 or KK2), and has it's own gyro+accelerometer and I/O connectors for PPM-in, PPM-out, GPS+nav, and that's it. The autopilot need not even know how many motors the flight controller controls. It only has to be told via some configuration tool, what the functions of the various channels are and have configurable navigation PIDs.

If the autopilot/navigation board is designed small enough, then it can be simply stacked above the flight controller board and added at a later stage after the frame has been tuned.

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    • I'm not sure if we're describing the same thing here as the basic flight controller (or whatever I should call it) has nothing to share with the autopilot. You could think of sharing the gyro and acc info over a serial connection but since these chips are dirt cheap and tiny, they may has well be duplicated. Other than that, there is nothing else that needs to be shared. The autopilot is effectively a just filter in the PPM-sum stream that emulates a real pilot in what it 'sees' and by virtually piloting using PPM channels. 
      But I agree, that this will simplify and stimulate development of more autopilots (not necessarily just advanced, but also the most simple that beginning developers can pick up). At the same time it'll allow the minimal flight controller to be lean and mean and just do what it does best and nothing else: accurately translating stick inputs into attitudes and maintaining them.
      B.t.w., I say PPM-sum, but it could just as well be SBUS.

      • Ah I think the problem here is that there is a major discrepancy between what you seem to think an autopilot does and what one actually does.  These functions are not so neatly seperated.

        • Just stating someone is wrong doesnt really make them wrong. It would be better if you actually shared some info and gave an example of why it is better.

          • His understanding is completely fundamentally wrong.  An autopilot does not emulate a real pilot's inputs, it is completely integrated and not a seperate function to any type of stabalisation.

            If they were seperable (which they are not) sensors like gps, barometer, compass, gyro and accelerometers would all need to be duplicated which does not give you redundancy but multiplies the chance of failure with the added complication of deciding which conflicting input to believe. In a weight sensitive application like there is no such thing as an insignificant weight addition.

            So in summary: It's not readily possible, it has no proposed benefit and would add unnecessary weight and cost while descreasing reliability!

            • While you're describing what autopilots are now, that isn't necessarily the same thing as what they should or could be. This is technology that should be open to questioning and change, and not a new religion that is defined once, immutable, and defended by dogma.
              But thanks anyway for your facts or opinions (whichever best describes them).

              • It has nothing to do with dogma or preconceptions, it has to do with your idea having no basis in reality.  You may as well be suggesting that a magic potato controls our drones.

                • I still disagree, even though you may be throwing pontifications quicker than Chuck throws roundhouse kicks.

                  • disagreeing with the facts does not change them.

  • I think the Arducopter developers would rather spend their time making the Arducopter Acro mode better, rather than working towards handing that control over to these other boards.

    • It's not necessarily about handing over anything. It would be perfectly fine to continue Arducopter based development on both an autopilot as well as a lean & mean controller board at the same time.

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