A new chapter in ArduPilot development


The ArduPilot core development team is starting on a new phase in the project's development. We’ve been having a lot of discussions lately about how to become better organised and better meet the needs of both our great user community and the increasing number of organisations using ArduPilot professionally. The dev team is passionate about making the best autopilot software we can and we are putting the structures in place to make that happen.

Those of you who have been following the developments over the years know that ArduPilot has enjoyed a very close relationship with 3DRobotics for a long time, including a lot of direct funding of ArduPilot developers by 3DR. As 3DR changes its focus that relationship has changed, and the relationship now is not one of financial support for developers but instead 3DR will be one of many companies contributing to open source development both in ArduPilot and the wider DroneCode community. The reduction in direct funding by 3DR is not really too surprising as the level of financial support in the past was quite unusual by open source project standards.

Meanwhile the number of other individuals and companies directly supporting ArduPilot development has been increasing a lot recently, with over 130 separate people contributing to the code in the last year alone, and the range of companies making autopilot hardware and airframes aimed at ArduPilot users has also grown enormously.

We’re really delighted with how the developer community is working together, and we’re very confident that ArduPilot has a very bright future

Creation of ArduPilot non-profit

The ArduPilot dev team is creating a non-profit entity to act as a focal point for ArduPilot development. It will take a while to get this setup, but the aim is to have a governance body that aims to guide the direction the project takes and ensure the project meets the needs of the very diverse user community. Once the organisation is in place we will make another announcement, but you can expect it to be modelled on the many successful open source non-profits that exist across the free software community.

The non-profit organisation will oversee the management of the documentation, the auto-build and test servers and will help set priorities for future development.

We’re working with 3DR now to organise the transfer of the domain to the development team leads, and will transfer it to the non-profit once that is established. The dev team has always led the administration of that site, so this is mostly a formality, but we are also planning on a re-work of the documentation to create an improved experience for the community and to make it easier to maintain.

Expansion of ArduPilot consulting businesses

In addition to the non-profit, we think there is a need for more consulting services around ArduPilot and DroneCode. We’ve recognised this need for a while as the developers have often received requests for commercial support and consulting services. That is why we created this commercial support list on the website last year:

It is time to take that to the next level by promoting a wider range of consulting services for ArduPilot. As part of that a group of the ArduPilot developers are in the process of creating a company that will provide a broad range of consulting services around ArduPilot. You will see some more announcements about this soon and we think this will really help ArduPIlot expand into places that are hard to get to now. We are delighted at this development, and hope these  companies listed on the website will provide a vibrant commercial support ecosystem for the benefit of the entire ArduPilot community.

Best of both worlds

We think that having a non-profit to steer the project while having consulting businesses to support those who need commercial support provides the best of both worlds. The non-profit ArduPilot project and the consulting businesses will be separate entities, but the close personal and professional relationships that have built up in the family of ArduPilot developers will help both to support each other.

Note that ArduPilot is committed to open source and free software principles, and there will be no reduction in features or attempt to limit the open source project. ArduPilot is free and always will be. We care just as much about the hobbyist users as we do about supporting commercial use. We just want to make a great autopilot while providing good service to all users, whether commercial or hobbyist.

Thank you!

We’d also like to say a huge thank you to all the ArduPilot users and developers that have allowed ArduPilot to develop so much in recent years. We’ve come a very long way and we’re really proud of what we have built.

Finally we’d also like to thank all the hardware makers that support ArduPilot. The huge range of hardware available to our users from so many companies is fantastic, and we want to make it easier for our users to find the right hardware for their needs. We will continue working to improve the documentation to make that easier.

Happy flying!

The ArduPilot Dev Team

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  • @ Jani, I remember the days of your acrylic quad copter and oilpan. Evolution again:-)

  • Gary: my own quick thoughts on that would be that you don't want APM to be like OpenPilot, where getting a controller board seemed impossible - that seems to be a result of them controlling production of their board and being limited to small batches.

  • Developer

    @Jiro, as jDrones has been here from the beginning and we as one of the designers of electronics. It will be natural for us to continue making electronics that has been used on this project along with other projects too. And we will bring more of them on market as time goes by. There can be others too but we have always been in The Core :)

    jDrones, R/C UAVs and More....
    Manufacturer of ArduCopter frames and parts. Custom airframe manufacturing, Custom design services for all your R/C UAV needs
  • Thank you for the development team with their dedication making us hobbyist and commercial users enjoy the tools for aerial photography. Especially Randy been very helpful in answering questions to further my knowledge with ardupilot
  • Excellent news for the DIY community! Viva ArduPilot and the community built around it. Cheers!

  • 3D Robotics

    I wanted to personally express my huge thanks to Tridge and Randy for such a graceful and inspiring evolution of the project, which I hope to continue to be part of for years to come, if only as another enthusiastic contributor. Jordi Munoz and I started ArduPilot nine (!) years ago and never guessed that it would come so far, which is all due to Tridge, Randy and the rest of the team who provided the leadership, genius and lots and lots of hard work to make it what it the leading open UAV platform in the world. 

    Although 3DR is moving in a more commercial direction now (although still 100% committed to open source through our work with Dronecode, which includes our own open source code such as Dronekit, which supports ArduPilot, as well as our work on the sister PX4 project), 3DR is only one hat I wear. The other hat is this community, both ArduPilot/APM and DIY Drones.  And with that hat on, I wanted to offer my congratulations and admiration for what I think is exactly the right evolution for ArduPilot, which will allow it to grow even faster and better than it already has. Which is saying a lot!

    I, for one, welcome our new ArduPilot overlords ;-)

    DroneKit makes it easy to create custom applications to control any vehicle powered by MAVLink. Best of all, it is open sourced and free for everyone…
  • Leonard: great ideas :O ; happy to read about. :D

  • Jiro brings up a good point,

    We have progressed from various APMs to current Pixhawk hardware as our basic platform and we are probably going to need some sort of mechanism to produce, and distribute newer base platforms for our use as they are developed.

    I understand we can expect support in design, development and troubleshooting from our developers and testers, but we also need a reliable and repeatable and affordable source of these platforms for our users and simply relying on the various Companies producing platform X for their own use doesn't seem ideal.

    Self funded production of PC Boards, even multi layer ones is possibly reasonable, but loaded and tested ones are another matter and require a dedicated parts acquisition method as well as resources for assembly and test.

    I bring this up because it is probably a problem it is good to solve in a viable and comprehensive way ASAP rather than just trusting in the normal piecemeal approach.

    Just tossing this thought out there to see what others might think or any solutions you might have.

    We have several suppliers that are producing various spins on the Pixhawk, but uit seems to me that it would be good if we had a reliable and dedicated channel to deal directly with the core group designs.

    Not sure how we achieve that but really want to know your thoughts.

    Best regards,


  • Onward and upward, I like this...
  • Awesome stuff, Ill go down the path to get jacksonUAS listed as a commericial support entity ;)

    Long live the opensource flight controller!

    @JB - I have done similar SAR stuff from here in NZ, few demos for LandSAR and SAREX operations, would be interested in how the cousins across the ditch are doing it, and how its progressing - Do you have a website etc setup that I can follow?

    Cheers, Chris

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