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 ardupilot.com 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.
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.
The ArduPilot Dev Team
@Jacko Please look on the commercial support page in the wiki.
Awesome idea. So what is the mechanism for me to pay for some help from a developer? And how do I know which devs are available for that?
the revenue model will eventually evolve. to start with lets have a paid membership. commitment of a nominal amount when buying from the online store. lot of members buy only 3DR autopilots. I have never bought a pixhawk clone for a serious project. genuine pixhawk and APM can have lot of loyal customers if a repair service can be provided. loosing a $300 pixhawk for a small repair is quite draining. A sort of membership certificate to members will be very encouraging and will motivate people to become a member.
@David, I can't really comment on the future direction of 3DR. I wish them all the best and hope they are successful. We will continue to collaborate with 3DR on many projects.
Hopefully we'll get the non-profit for ArduPilot sorted out soon. We have a few options that are being explored, and I'll post some updates once we know the options we are choosing.
@ Richard, what I mean is a webpage run by ardupilot where the companies supporting can link their "certified" products and be charged by clicks, not ardupilot running a store
@Andrew Wow that is a lot of people didn't know there were so many. So was this a downsizing by 3dr or are they going in another direction for the software they will use for their autopilots?
I have no concern in the long run the organisations new direction after a bit of pain will be better in every way. So many quads etc out there using APM software who would definitely benefit from the skill that was previously reserved for 3dr's priorities. I hope their is some way those of us who just play around can contribute financially also. I have donated in the past but a patreon stile thing would be nice. I se more and more developers using it.
@David, 3DR was supporting a lot of developers full time, so it is indeed a difficult time for all the people who are now looking for new opportunities. The team is working hard together to maximise the opportunity for developers to continue working on ArduPilot. Part of that is lots more effort going into providing good consulting and contracting services where developers can use their skills to help those who want commercial support make the most of ArduPilot.
I should also note that there are still some developers inside 3DR working on ArduPilot or closely related technology, and there are many other companies who are supporting ArduPilot developers, including some quite large groups at some companies.
@DynexHobby, we will setup a facility for corporate sponsorship, but I think the most likely way companies will contribute will be by hiring developers (either as short term contracts or long term employees).
We do not have any plans to have a membership fee or any barrier to users using the full ArduPilot code for fee. We are a free software project first and foremost.
Right now we're concentrating on getting new servers setup and moving ourselves over to ardupilot.org, plus setting up the non-profit and working on the new documentation system. You'll see some more announcements as we make progress on that.
Thanks for your patience!
What about corporate sponsorship. Could this be another DroneCode organisation?