3D Robotics

First pass at a Drone family tree diagram


For a presentation I'm doing I tried to explain how the modern drone industry grew out of the intersection of two communities, RC and robotics, and although they didn't merge, they did both evolve. 

Here's where this community comes in, bridging those two


And here's an animation showing how 3DR and Dronecode evolved alongside the markets


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  • 3D Robotics

    It's definitely a simplification, and probably an oversimplification. It's not designed to be a comprehensive view of history, but rather my own path through it. When I started this site and Jordi and I started the ArduPilot project, we weren't RC hobbyists, but rather electronics and software hobbyists (part of the Arduino/Maker world), with a focus on robotics. We gravitated towards flying robots simply because that seemed to have the most unsolved problems at the time (plus it was cooler than slow ground robots).  And the whole point was to eliminate "radio control" -- the point of an autopilot is that doesn't need a pilot. (I also suck at flying and refuse to touch sticks as a matter of principle)

    Fortunately, RC hobbyists later joined and helped us understand that world, but today you can still see three distinct communities that intersect but are not the same: software, electronics, and RC/vehicles.  

    Today, I spend most of my non-work time doing exactly the same thing with autonomous cars, but once again it's not about the car for me. It's about the software. 

    Autonomous cars for the rest of us
  • Yeah, I'm struggling to understand the message here as well.  This seems like a gross oversimplification of the history.  It seems to ignore the fact, that many of the most successful and influential Ardupilot developers, got their start at RC enthusiasts.  Chief amongst those developers, were all extremely well educated and experienced professionals, who just so happened to fly RC as a hobby, and then contributed to Ardupilot.  This is one of the reasons why Ardupilot flies so much better than everything else.

    Furthermore, this graphic seems to be a strange re-write of history. 3DR was initially built in what was essentially a partnership scenario with Ardupilot.  All of 3DR's hardware sales (ie: APM1.0 through 2.5 and peripherals) were initially developed in combination with the Ardupilot software.  Without Ardupilot software, there would have been no hardware sales.  Without hardware sales, there would be no 3DR.  Without 3DR, there would have been no Ardupilot software development funding.

    So, to say that 3DR was completely separate from RC (pilots), I don't get it.

  • 3D Robotics

    Yes, that's a good point. I guess what I was trying to say is the RC world was mostly about flying, while the world I came from (robotics) was all about engineering (software and PCB design). But you're right that the RC builders do blur that distinction, even if they're not necessarily trained as engineers. 

    Maybe "Pilots and crafters"?


  • Developer

    Hi Chris,

    Depending on what message you are telling, I think it is a bit of a oversimplifications to say that RC are 'pilots' and robotics is 'developers'.

    The RC community has always been extremely DIY oriented. For a very long time that was the only way to do RC at all, and it still is a huge part of that scene. Much more so then in the current drone climate. The very first multicopters (a tricopter) originally evolved using RC gyros and servos, and quickly moved on to dismantling Nintendo Wii controllers for access to better parts and so on.

    It was only once the autonomous parts got introduced that the robotics 'developers' and more traditional software side got involved (along with popularity outside of RC communities).

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