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.