HobbyKing Selling ArduPilot Parts


HobbyKing is now selling much cheaper versions of some 3DR products:


(*This is an update of my old post which only referred to the two products available at that time.)

The latest addition to the list is especially well-timed because the 3DR Radio Telemetry Kit is currently out-of-stock, making HK the only place to get this item at any price right now. This could bring a welcome change to the tone of the DiyDrones Twitter feed as buyers stop venting their frustration with shortages and simply buy elsewhere.

HobbyKing changing strategies?

Even as HobbyKing is adding more ArduPilot accessories, the MultiWii and MegaPirate autopilots which they were selling are now being liquidated or have already been removed from the site entirely. It is easy to imagine that this pullback is the result of the rather infamous support nightmare they suffered when the entire run of MegaPirate boards shipped with an unworkable voltage regulator installed.

This shift in autopilot lineup could mean that HobbyKing has decided to get out of the autopilot business, sticking with accessories and staying away from complicated autopilots which have so many parts that can fail. A more likely explanation is that HobbyKing just wants an autopilot solution that works, and they're clearing the shelves to make room for something else, maybe ArduPilot, but probably DJI.

Personally, I like to imagine that somebody at HobbyKing is a rabid ArduPilot fan who clones a different 3DR part every time 3DR goes out of stock, just to make sure he can always get his fix.

Your ideas?

Last time I posted on this topic, I was expecting a rather dry discussion of the effect of clone manufacturing on the 3DR business model. That suggestion was rightly ignored, so this time I'll just ask: Do you plan to buy any clone hardware yourself?

For myself, I think my next purchase will be a 3DR PX4 with HobbyKing's telemetry and GPS. Frankly, buying the autopilot feels like enough of a donation to the developers without paying double for the accessories, as well.

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  • Michael, I think the language issue is a major factor, against HK participation in open source projects.  They probably have good technical people, but they are not always the most fluent in English.

    However, on the flip side of the coin, the APM project was started by Chris Anderson, championed by Chris Anderson, and mostly being run by Chris Anderson's company.  In fact one of 3DR's project managers is running the dev calls.  In fact, how many in the community knows what's going on, in the development side or is really involved in the development?  It's hard for another outside company to get a foot in.  That's probably another reason that companies, like HK are just consumers and not contributing.

  • I agree with Andrew Radford and Ellison Chan.  Open source is free to all.  Contributions are encouraged.  This is a community based thing.  When HK first put up APM 2.5 they didn't even mention DIYDrones or the people involved, though they did remedy that.   It's a little pissy that the creativity seems to be a one-way relationship, the DIYDrone community (made up of some very talented individuals) comes out with something great and a manufacturer cranks them out without giving anything back.  Perhaps whoever is just taking the design could join the community and contribute.

  • People need to realize that the products offered by HobbyKing are not "clones" or "copycats".  This IS supposed to be open source, right?  The developers cannot call it open source, if they are writing software and designing software for only one manufacturer in mind.  In fact if it was truly open sourced, HobbyKing would be contributing software and hardware designs to the whole project as well and should feel free to to make changes and fixes within the open source community.

    It seems a little hypocritical for developers of open source to design for only one "preferred" manufacturer, to me.  I can understand, for instance a validation program, where one manufacturer's products have been "vetted" by the open source development community.  In fact one way to make this open source thing work is that, the designers design, and manufacturers manufacture.  They can send hardware to the community for validation, at their own cost.  This keeps designer expenses low, and helps to make a more robust product.

    Again I must emphasize that open source developers, should not design for the sake of one manufacturer.

  • I prefer to buy original, but I see the pricing of the clones and with the economics of our hobby it is becoming harder and harder to stay with OEM purchasing. I see a future where I will most likely buy clone hardware at some point, but until that time arises I will stick with supporting the OEM. I have had great results with 3DR products, the support is skeptical sometimes, but that is the case with any company that is exploding in size and growth. It takes a long time to catchup to the demand side of business, and I know down the road Chris and Jordi will hopefully lick that issue and put it to bed. If not it will most definitely impact business in the future and drive more and more people to the clone side of the house.

  • Matthew, you sure about that whole "Hobby King Customer Support" thing?  I haven't had to use it yet, but from what I've heard, pretty unanimously is that there is none whatsoever.  Best case scenario is that they ask you to spend $50 to ship a $20 item back to them before they will consider a replacement.

  • In most cases, I would be against 3rd party hardware (I acknowledge it is legal, but I would not buy from a copy cat company).  However in this case, I am pretty sure my next order will be with a copycat company.  Why?  The customer support that I've gotten from 3DR has continued to be rediculous.  They take over a week to respond to many requests, sometimes not until I've written 2-3 times and finally have to write an "angry customer" email, forum post, or facebook post.  If hobby king is willing to replace bad parts at their expense and responds to my email the same day I inquire; I appreciate that we now have an option  Frankly they could sell the product at the same price that 3DR is selling for and I would probably still place my next order with them if I know that I am going to have someone that is willing to answer sales or quality related requests within a reasonable time frame.

  • I`m going to hang in with the originals,without the developing there`s nothing.

  • Andrew, I agree.  I really wish we saw more innovation instead of simple cloning.  There's lots of room for improvement.  It would be really great as you say to have the telemetry and OSD built right onto the board, or rather, a daughterboard.  Heck, add to it a receiver module.  One problem with this is that it means you'd have antenna(s) on the APM which could be an issue if they are of the "rubber duck" type. But if they were the wire type, such as used on most Rx, it's not a problem.  FrSky uses replaceable antenna, there's just a little connector on the board.

    Something else I'd really like to see is a really robust post supply system.  Not just voltage and current monitoring, but a dual supply for the APM with automatic switchover.  This means that the system starts to get stacked sort of high, but then the mass would actually help with vibration.  And the more wires we can eliminate, the better.

    I'd also like to see machined aluminum cases with a well designed vibration damping system. 

    I look at things like the Ruggeduino as being a great example of open source innovation rather than simply cloning.  "More expensive than an Arduino, but cheaper than TWO Arduinos."

  • As much as I find distastful this Carbon-Copy cloning of open source hardware, I wish I saw more evidence of what we all hoped would come from open source hardware - people developing furrther the hardware design. Say for example someone making an APM compatible board that fit on a 45 * 45 hole mount, or perhaps an 'All in one' board that had 3DR telemetry and OSD built on (mayby underneath?) so people like me who want a really light weight solution with fewer wires every are catered for.

    But I don't see that. Only clones, and people complaining about the clones. I'd like to be wrong about this if people want to correct me...

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