New Predator UAV available (if you're rich)

A company called RobotAV has released a standard $80 Nitro Models Predator with an autopilot and RC system already installed. Sounds great until you get to the price: $2,500!

To be fair, it's an IMU based autopilot and has other cool stuff like a gyro-stabalized nosewheel (not sure why, since the Predator with a standard steerable nosewheel handles fine on the ground). But it seems to have its functionality crippled to avoid regulatory or AMA issues.

It isn't a programmable autopilot; instead it just seems to have return-to-launch and manually-triggered circling--no programmable waypoints. No ground station and the autopilot functions are just controlled by RC, so it sounds like it's designed mostly for FPV flying rather than true autonomous flight

Given that you can make an identical-looking ArduPilot-powered Predator that's fully autonomous and programmable for less than $500, I'm not quite sure what accounts for the astronomical price. Does anyone know more about this outfit?

Views: 1398

Comment by Cole on March 7, 2009 at 10:49pm
I found it: The three LED lights! :)

They also have a software add on that will allow the RobotAV to take off on its own. There is also a failsafe where if it becomes unstable during lift off you can take control immeadiately by just moving the controls.
Comment by Jack Crossfire on March 7, 2009 at 11:18pm
He won't make a dime on it, but if you're going through the trouble of an IMU you might as well stabilize the nosewheel. People use gyros to get realistic takeoff rolls.

Comment by Krzysztof Bosak on March 8, 2009 at 5:41am
"I'm not quite sure what accounts for the astronomical price. "
Integration costs and IMU autopilot costs. Behind an IMU alone you typically have a good PhD full time for a year or three. Also you are paying for an integrated and functional solution. Not an open-source project that can be messed up with a bug by any amateur that has CVS access rights - even it they use open source they keep their private, professionally testd version and have their own extensive regression test suite etc. Open source coding is good for scientific exchange and low-importance home systems but not for high-integrity projects.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on March 8, 2009 at 8:47am
"Open source coding is good for scientific exchange and low-importance home systems but not for high-integrity projects."

What?!?! What about Linux, Firefox, MySQL, Apache, Perl, Hadoop, etc?

Or, for that matter, our own Paparazzi? I'd invite you to reconsider your sweeping statement. Properly managed open source projects can be as good or better as closed-source. It's just a matter of project management.

Comment by Gary Mortimer on March 8, 2009 at 10:43am
Strange choice of airframe, I wonder if they are aiming at the folk that think if it looks like a predator is must be as good as a predator??

At very least something made of EPP or a flying wing for people new to RC.

No mention of a camera or if they left enough room in there to put one.

Still if they sell a couple good luck to them.

Comment by Pat Hickey on March 8, 2009 at 1:00pm
Let's please dispel the IMU myth: all of the theoretical know-how you need to build one is available freely in papers that can be understood by an enthusiastic amateur who isn't afraid to spend some time in the library. The price of quality components is low and only getting lower.

The quality of work that makes it into the final product is entirely the responsibility of the project manager. Quality work can be done by open source communities if the engineers are organized properly.

If this UAV could perform a task useful to someone right out of the box, $2500 up front beats paying engineers to integrate ardupilot or the pic-based UAV Dev Board or paparazzi to achieve similar functionality. Whether this product is useful enough is another story.
Comment by Mike on March 8, 2009 at 1:02pm
I think you would know better of course but I am sure if you added up the time and effort yourself and Jordi have put into ArduPilot and sold it at price to recoup your inputs then it wouldn't be $24 (for which I am sure we are all extremely grateful)! Although maybe $2,500 is a bit steep....


3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on March 8, 2009 at 1:52pm
Our philosophy is to charge the lowest possible price to maximize the volume. We don't make money from the boards (and don't charge for intellectual property), but will soon be offering pre-built UAVs like this one. The difference being that they will cost about 1/5th as much and be twice as good ;-)
Comment by Pedro on March 8, 2009 at 4:59pm
@Krzysztof Bosak:

"Open source coding is good for scientific exchange and low-importance home systems but not for high-integrity projects."

The entire weather, climate, river and ocean forecasting systems of the National Weather Service of the United States, from workstations to supercomputers, run on Linux,...

Comment by Sgt Ric on March 8, 2009 at 8:10pm
I believe Krzysztof Bosak is either defending the RobotAV system out of necessity because he may have ties to the operartion, or else he is seriuosly out of touch with the currrent project development environment.


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