3D Robotics

Warning: bad experience with UNAV

I've had mixed experiences with UNAV (maker of the Pico Pilot) in the past. I like their autopilot hardware, but the software is terrible and it all feels a bit dated and old-school. Based on some early looks I think Dean Goedde's AttoPilot is going to blow the Pico Pilot away (a proper review will be coming as soon as I get my hands on the hardware). But I wanted to be fair to UNAV, so I offered to review their new PicoPilot groundstation sofware, despite its high price ($100). UNAV's Dave Perry sent a disk and then the trouble started. Basically, it's the most amateurish software that I've ever seen offered for sale. It only works on Serial Port 1, which as everyone who has bought a computer in the last decade knows, is no longer the default serial port in the USB era, so you have to go into the windows device manager to remap the serial ports. All sorts of Windows error message pop up, such as "array out of bounds", of the sort I haven't seen since high school programming class. Worst of all, it doesn't do what it says it can do, which is to let you use a point-and-click interface to enter new waypoint data. The manual describes buttons and options that aren't in the software, and the UI is clumsy beyond belief. It may work as a groundstation, displaying aircraft position in real time (I didn't test that), but it doesn't work for data entry, which what I think most people would want it for initially. I could go on for paragraphs... So I wrote Dave with a list of bug reports, hoping that he'd thank me for my time in helping improve the software and offer to send me a new version once it was done. Sadly, that wasn't the case. Here's what he wrote: "I have no doubt that you've had problems with your PICO-GS. But since the program works fine on all our systems and our beta testers didn't report any significant issues and now several customers are successfully using it, I can only conclude that you are suffering from "operator error". Did you spend any time reading the manual ? From your descriptions, I'd take a wild guess and bet you didn't set your windows display to 1024x768 ( as called for in the manual ). If you don't have the time or patience to read the manual and follow the instructions, then I'd agree it would be a waste of time for you to continue with a review." Wow. "Operator error", as you all know, is the insulting term that bad programmers use to "blame the victim". It's a really crappy way to treat customers or, for that matter, reviewers. And when was the last time that you used software that required you to manually change your display resolution? 1997? Note no response to any of the bug reports, and a total refusal to acknowledge that the software simply doesn't work. Anyway, I've had it with them. I no longer recommend the PicoPilot, and I'll be switching our own UAVs to AttoPilots (which will be cheaper and better) as soon as they're out in a month or two.
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  • 100KM
    this exactly what i have experience 5 years ago that's why I'm working on competing with him . btw he lives in the same city i work in and have meet him and have talked to a few people he flys rc with . a very good friend of mine that passed last year worked for years with him . he did a lot of ground breaking stuff back in the 90s but it seems old age and old thinking is catching up with him.
  • Moderator
    Perhaps UNav has military contracts, so does not need to develope a decent customer service attitiude(?)

    The forums have begun to show examples of rude, condescending service and arbitrary customer screening and cancellations by Dave Perry.

    Any business, especially in the current economy, must develop a good raport with it's customer base and have a general positive and open approach to clients and the public as a whole.

    Having a unique and ground-breaking product may carry you in the short term, but as the market matures and technology catches up, all you will be left with is the short term.
  • 3D Robotics
    My sense is that as the march of technology and the rise of open source make better, cheaper autopilots, the market will expand considerably. Before the end of the year, we'll be selling a pre-made ArduPilot for less than $50 and pre-made ArduPilot Pro for less than $100. At that point, it well within the usual RC accessory price range, and you can imagine autopilots selling at least as many as FMA Co-Pilots, which is to say probably single-digit thousands per year. Nobody is going to get rich on that, but I'm betting that the growth of the entry-level domain will stimulate demand for the more sophisticated (and expensive) gear. In other words, everyone wins.
  • I think that is true in the sense that the capabilities, and quality of the hardware and software available on the consumer level will begin to overtake the current state of the art of the bigger higher price companies. Can't wait to hear what Dean's price point is going to be and what will be included with that. My guess is that the price will be a little higher than some people are hoping for, and I'm not sure all the "me too" voices on the forums will actually materialize into real sales for him, but I'm just wildly guessing. But it is precisely these sorts of fresh efforts that can push the industry forward ... Dean has a lot going for himself so it will be interesting to see how his efforts play out.

    That said, when you weigh the costs to run a business with even just a few employees against the quantities of UAV's and autopilots you are likely to sell, the prices that places like procerus and cloudcap and micropilot are charging, don't seem so unreasonable. I don't think any of them are bazillionaires, and most of them are probably doing it because they love the technology and love aviation, and this is a way to maybe almost carve out an existence doing it.
  • T3
    I have dealt with three autopilot companies and to some extent their owners had really strong opinions of their products and a ivory tower approach to support. I think that this is going to change as more people enter this market. The days of large military orders and high single unit prices are coming to a rapid end. The companies that are going to survive and prosper in a market that is driven by consumer civilian products are those that can adapt to provide the products and support we need.
  • Moderator
    I've dealt with customers at all leveles w/in large corp and as both a contractor and troop w/in government organizations. There's not much worse than dealing with a head-strong PHD who knows they are right and the system is wrong. As a customer focused technician you smile, suck it up and finish the task at hand. PO'd customers are a why of life.

    I think stuff like this worse is worse for customer focused people because they don't treat their customers that way...

    What would you do if the lovely lady behind the sandwich counter took one sandwich order (you have 3) and walked away before you finished the entire order, rolls her eyes when the first sandwhich was completed and you placed your next order, then gives a deep sigh and roll of eyes when ordering the next sandwich because she didn't think to ask if there was going to be more...

    I know what I'd do... Ask them if they want my business and still probabally take it away for a few months until I was no longer "twisted" about the bad treatment and tell everyone I know to get the lunch somewhere else.

    How is this any different?
  • I don’t want to belabor this but… what if I called and told you that your current magazine was birdcage liner and that I have some ideas (charge less for advertisements, get rid of that Japanese school girl thing -nothing but trouble), and I’ll help you out by writing a column? We have to remember right now is a bad time to be in the business…

    Letting it go over here, P
  • I work at a university so what do I know about business, but I've seen a couple situations where a *very* irate customer has called in with some complaint or even a long list of complaints (and ready to go on a personal crusade to let the entire world know how horrible the company is), and if the person on the other end treats the customer with reasonable respect and gives attention to their complaints and maybe even gives them some concession as a token of good will, they can turn that person into one of their most loyal customers. I've seen it happen a few times. I know it can go the other way too, but starting out by calling your customer dumb or lazy or ugly tends to steer you towards that negative outcome.
  • 3D Robotics
    This outburst was after many months of trying to help improve his code and getting treated rudely each time. The problem is not that he and his partners can't write decent software (they can't, but that's fixable) it's that they don't want to listen and engage with their customers in a constructive way. My complaint is primarily about his attitude, not his technology. Any if you're one of the people who made the mistake of complaining about one of his products, you'll know what I'm talking about. No product is perfect, but good companies welcome customer feedback, even if it's negative.
  • Gee whiz, U-nav has been around for a long time. He may be a little set in his ways, but I don’t think it entirely fair to start treating Dave like some sort of a pariah because his code isn’t up to Bay Area snuff. The guy is running a business and as such has invested a lot of time and money into this product. This is a small community and that’s my 0.02, P
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