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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  • Developer

    ArduPilot is only getting bigger and better every day.  Its a privilege to work on this project with such a fantastic group of developers and I look forward to many more years of great work together.

    Thanks, Grant.

  • 3DR has been providing standard hardware for ArduPilot and making profit then provide exceptionally support on DEV environment. Who is going to standardize the hardware and eco system ?

  • Developer

    This was something I posted on RCGroups someone suggested I should repost it here.

    Hi all,

    Like Randy, I am one of the main developers of the Arducopter code. I started working on Arducopter code back around the 2.7 release. Since then I have become the main developer responsible for the control code in Arducopter. Over the last year or so I have been funded by 3dr to help bring the Solo to market and to ensure my continued development of the control code that they have relied upon for so many years.

    Now that 3dr have stopped my financial support I have more time to focus on aspects of the code that benefit the wider community, both commercial and hobbyist. I personally have a number of projects on my list of things to do:
    - Randy and I are currently finishing on a rewrite of the motor mixing library to make it easier to incorporate a wider variety of control structures. This will in turn make it easier for different control architectures to be implemented by hobbyists, academics, or industry. 
    - I am now focused on finishing converting our attitude controllers to quertonion based maths. This will provide some slight improvements to our inverted recovery and also facilitate some forms of multirotor-plane hybrids.
    - I have a design for some improved battery handling that will enhance the lifetime of batteries in our multirotors. This enhancement will be particularly relevant to long endurance multi rotors using low C batteries or high performance multi rotors that are currently pushing battery technology to the limit.
    - I will add alt-hold to autotune. This will then make Arducopter the first autopilot I am aware of that is capable of tuning all it's controlers itself. 
    - I also have a plan to include a physical characterisation mode to autotune. This will make it easy for people with advanced control experience to create off line models of a multirotor to do off line tuning or advanced controller design. This will help those copters with secondary oscillations of large gimbals or flexible frames.
    - Randy and I have tested an improvement to Alt-Hold that will make it impossible for people to loose height in Alt-Hold even at large lean angles. I want to extend this to improve Auto modes.
    - I want to enhance follow me mode to take position, velocity, and acceleration values from the ground station. This will improve the performance of follow me for slow update rates and significantly improve how smoothly the copter moves around.
    - I have the collision avoidance equations ready for some basic collision avoidance implementation. Initially I want to implement simple collision avoidance for the fence.
    - We would like to bring the arbitrary geo-fence from plane over to copter.

    In the longer term I would like to solve the S-curve equations for 3 dimensions (or find the solution that someone else has already done). This would help us improve our auto missions, especially tight splines at high speed.

    There are also a number of the camera modes that 3dr have implemented using an external processor that would be better done on the autopilot. I am considering implementing them using our mission waypoints. For example, This would potentially let the pilot move forward and backwards along any path that can be set using the current waypoint system.

    I am also very interested to hear from the community what advanced control features we should be considering.

    So I personally am looking forward to having more time to focus on my own priorities within Arducopter now that 3dr isn't burning up my time in other areas.

    I would also like to personally thank everybody that has supported Arducopter over the years!!

  • Developer

    We created a lot of brand loyalty with ArduPilot and 3D Robotics. I would like to thank all of you who chose to purchase from 3D Robotics and chose to support the autopilot development effort. 

    This project has been very successful and we are fortunate we now have compatible autopilots available from several vendors and more on the horizon.  We also have many new companies providing developers to work on the open source software and hardware along with several hundred companies using those autopilots in their unmanned systems.
    I believe ArduPilot has a very bright future.
  • Hi Tridge,

    Excellent post and seems to be moving in a very positive direction.

    Possibly sometimes 3DR was a bit too close anyway and I for one am very happy to see things returning to a more open and unaligned structure.

    I will be following with great interest how this finally shakes out.

    Best Regards,


  • Yes! Congratulations Tridge, et al.

    It will be great to see a centralized Ardupilot forum. Currently discussion is distributed between drones-discuss, rcgroups, diydrones, and It’s pretty much impossible for a professional or advanced hobbyist user who might be very skilled, but new to the project, to know where to go. I for one would gladly support the creation, support, management, and administration of a solution.

    Also with regard to consulting services, because the need is global and distributed, a 'certification' model via a membership level in the nonprofit makes a lot of sense to me vs. a monolithic entity. In this way, we allow not only for firmware-level support, but integration, payload, systems design, peripheral hardware, and other providers within the Ardupilot network with something to offer whether or not they're technically "dev team".

    Cheers to all! This is great news.

  • Tridge
    As a cloud developer myself can I suggest that you have a developer certification program and that people pay to get that? This is a more transparent arrangement than having a consulting division in house. It is very standard practice to pay to be certified on a platform. This also does not allow a tight group of developers to control this and that would be human nature for this to happen.

    Having a more open developer certification can generate good revenue and also encourage more developers to work in this space. Arrangements could be made for actual project contributors to work in arrears so their certification fee can be paid after they have completed their work effectively neutralizing cash flow considerations.

    Just some ideas. Best of luck.
  • Developer
    As another Dev team member, I also want to thank 3DR for their support in the past, and look forward to a bright future for Ardupilot, and the team!

    Thanks all.
  • I think whatever needs to be done in life once needs finances. to start with why not have a paid membership of blog. the fee can be as little as 1$ a month payable for min 12 months. this will help atleast to some extent maintain the blog.

  • Sounds like the way to go. As a software developer I really do appreciate the amount of work that has gone into the Ardupilot project. Many thanks.

    I wonder if there are any plans for changes in collaboration with ground station software i.e. Mission Planner?

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