Autopilots are export controlled by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which is why it's very difficult for US manufacturers to sell abroad without incredibly complicated guarantees about security procedures put in place by the buyer. That doesn't just apply to autopilot hardware; it also covers autopilot software, groundstation code and other technology in digital form such as schematics. And "export" doesn't just mean physically sending boxes abroad, it also covers "export by electronic means" such as over the Internet.
So why haven't we been arrested? We publish autopilot code, schematics and PCB design files here, and nearly half of our user base is outside the US. The answer is the "public domain exclusion" in ITAR. Because we're open source and release everything to the general public, it's no longer subject to export control.
's a good briefing presentation on ITAR rules. Page 19 says the following:
No Export License is required if the information is:
– Published in periodicals, books, print, electronic, or any other media
available for general distribution to any member of the public
– Generally accessible or available to the public through sales at
newsstands/bookstores and available without restriction
– Readily available at libraries open to the public or at university
– In patents and open patent applications available at any patent office
– Released with unlimited distribution at an open conference, meeting,
seminar, trade show, or other open gathering and generally
accessible to the general public
– Available in any form after approval by the cognizant U.S.
government department or agency
– Available through fundamental research in science and engineering
at accredited institutions of higher learning in the U.S. where the
resulting information is ordinarily published and shared broadly in the
scientific community (see 22 CFR § 120.11(a)(8))