One of the best decisions we made was basing our autopilot system on Arduino (credit goes to Jordi for spotting its potential so early and selling me on it). The engineers all sniffed at it, complaining that it was just an 8-bit processor running at 16Mhz and could never compete with 32-bit ARM processors running at 70Mhz and faster. But what Jordi spotted was something more: the Atmel chips are RISC processors and very effecient, an autopilot is not actually a very computationally intensive task, and most importantly, it's not about "feeds and speeds", it's about community, which Arduino attracts by being cheap, open and very easy to use.
Arduino has won the community competition hands down. The chart above is from the latest status post, and it shows more than 750,000 monthly vistors to the website and nearly 5 million monthly page views. These figures continue to grow at 100% per year.
Community brings tens of thousands of smart people around a platform, and many hands make light work. The amount of code and libraries out there that can be used for free are staggering and there's little need to reinvent the wheel. What basing the ArduPilot line on Arduino has meant is that we're not just using a great technology platform; we're part of a movement. That means not just great tools and thousands of available developers, but also a "cool factor", that really helps with marketing and adoption. In short, the success of the Arduino revolution is thrilling to watch, not least because it means we've hitched our wagon to the right horse!