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.

Views: 250

Comment by Brian on July 16, 2008 at 9:34pm
Ya think that he submitted a trouble ticket on your report with a "PICNIC" code?

Problem In Chair Not In Computer....

What a schmo!

Comment by Rory Paul on July 16, 2008 at 10:55pm
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..
Comment by Boomslang on July 17, 2008 at 3:28am
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.
Comment by Genesis Factor on July 17, 2008 at 9:26am
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.
Comment by Jack Crossfire on July 17, 2008 at 10:56am
If the Attopilot ever gets finished of course. He was working on a new orbit algorithm lately.
Comment by JONATHAN on July 17, 2008 at 12:27pm
that makes me feel like crap for having purchased from UNAV.
Comment by Dean on July 18, 2008 at 11:18am
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!

Comment by Gary Mortimer on July 18, 2008 at 1:13pm
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

Comment by Dean on July 18, 2008 at 3:51pm
I think so. I am not "screwing around", that's for sure.
Comment by david albert on July 18, 2008 at 7:53pm
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.


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