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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  • 3D Robotics
    Let's just say that he has unorthodox views on customer relations, marketing and user-friendly software design, which is to say he seems not be in favor of any of them. And he really doesn't take constructive criticism well. I dared to suggest some improvements, and after that, well, what I quoted in my post is all too typical. Consider yourself warned ;-)
  • Wow, I am suprised he acted this way. Didn't you do an interview with him a few months ago? I can't imagine what he was thinking considering the audience you have.
  • I think so. I am not "screwing around", that's for sure.
  • Moderator
    Wow 400 gps, guess you have the orders backed up there Dean.

    That would probably make you an instant main player would it not??

    Best of

  • Jack: The "orbit" algorith has been done for weeks, and is usable as a loiter function at waypoints for specified direction, radius, duration or # of laps. A "new" algorithm is also done... for line holding between WPs. I basically had to bypass normal sine/ArcSine and use different math to calculate the Trig of distance between plane and the line between last and current WP target. I ended up having to use the upper 32 bits of overflow, so I could exaggerate and say it is using 64 bit math...but really the end result is Atto always know distance to the line within 0-2 meters even for Plane-WP-oldWP angles in the fractions of arc-seconds.

    I just received 400 GPS units this last week... and my PCB assembly guy is here in town, and all components for Atto are common... not out of stock anywhere. No delays!
  • that makes me feel like crap for having purchased from UNAV.
  • If the Attopilot ever gets finished of course. He was working on a new orbit algorithm lately.
  • some stuff is just not to be tolerated. If you can't handle criticism, don't answer the phone. If you make a subpar product, don't put it for sale. As a fellow reviewer, you have my sympathies, Chris.
  • Thanks for the heads-up. I always make a point not to support companies that operate like that.
    90% of the people here can program, so his "the problem is in the chair" way will not work here as it would with normal end users.
  • T3
    I seem to remember a telephone conversation with him back in 2005 that left me shaking my head....he had the transmit button firmly depressed and ego in overdrive needless to say his competition got my money..
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