We've come a long way: US Department of Interior selects 3DR Solos, which got their start right here

Nine years and 80,000 members ago, we started with this

That first Lego Mindstorms autopilot was feeble, sure, but it was also possible. Inspired by the availability of cheap and increasingly good GPS, MEMS sensors, cameras and digital radios, we talked about the "bottoms-up disruption of the aerospace industry", just as the Homebrew Computing Club (birthplace of the Apple II) did for computers.

The aerospace industry followed the classic path: first they ignored us, then they laughed us, then they fought us. 

But thanks to this community, the technology got better, fast. 

The great-great grandchild of those first DIY drones is the 3DR Solo. 

Today we have this announcement on the US Department of Interior home page. We've come a long way, DIY droners!

Drones will allow Department missions previously deemed impossible


Boise, Idaho – The U.S. Department of the Interior has awarded a contract to 3D Robotics of Berkeley, California for up to 40 small, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The award follows a lengthy process to develop performance requirements and select the most useful type of aircraft.

“The contract is extremely important to the Department, as it will allow us to conduct many missions that were previously impossible due to limited resources and costs associated with using manned aircraft,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Safety, Resource Protection, and Emergency Services Harry Humbert.  

The aircraft weigh 3.3 pounds, are capable of carrying a variety of sensors, and are easily customized for the types of fieldwork and emergency response operations performed by the Department. The size and weight of these small UAS provide operators a simple, efficient and inexpensive tool to collect aerial data. Their design allows for rapid deployment of new payload options, as new sensors become available.  

“The Department expects to use these aircraft for a diverse set of missions including, wildlife and vegetation surveys, fire management, search and rescue, hydrologic study, cultural resource inventory, and surface mining monitoring, just to name a few,” said the Department’s Office of Aviation Service Director Mark Bathrick. “These UAS will not only provide us with better science and reduce the risk to our employees, but they will result in cost savings and better service for the Department and the American people.”

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Comment by Joe Renteria on August 24, 2016 at 12:20am
Comment by Francisco Ferreira on August 24, 2016 at 8:48am

ArduPilot wins again! The best autopilot software in the world :)

Comment by Paul Meier on August 24, 2016 at 10:19am

Congratulations for the milestone, may many more follow

Comment by Marc Dornan on August 24, 2016 at 12:55pm
@Francisco maybe you mean PX4 wins. It is not clear that Dronecode/3DR and Ardupilot are treading the same path these days.....
Comment by Francisco Ferreira on August 24, 2016 at 1:13pm

@Marc Solo has ArduPilot, that is why I said that ArduPilot wins. As far as I know 3DR hasn't launched any product with PX4 in it, I can only guess why...

Comment by Marc Dornan on August 24, 2016 at 2:34pm

@Franciso -- just indulging in some gentle ribbing here that may soon make sense......if that is not too cryptic.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on August 24, 2016 at 10:35pm

@Marc: Just a few more weeks. PX4 is the future. Modern architecture and full-stack approach. Times change and so do we.

Comment by Jack Crossfire on August 25, 2016 at 10:35am

So did Twitter make the buyout offer now?

Comment by Marc Dornan on August 25, 2016 at 12:17pm

@Chris A - it is always exciting to see new development. For me Arducopter is still very much the present and maybe the future. I think PX4 makes a lot of sense to 3DR in the quest to make systems and solutions that you can monetize. I am always open to change and new things though. I think much of the useful stuff will be done by somewhat RTF solutions (not DIY ones) anyway so to the extent that 3DR is part of that then more power to you. I am not yet persuaded to abandon Ardupilot in favor of PX4 though. Ardupilot for my purposes still seems by quite some distance more capable. But now it is in the hands of the user community to support it and developers to pitch in. I send Ardupilot a few $$ each month as I lack time and the right embedded development skills. I do hope, Dronecode reshuffling aside, that Ardupilot development continues to get equal billing here. 

Comment by Marc Dornan on August 25, 2016 at 12:27pm

@James. Yes. It is frustrating. My take is that 3DR is going to champion PX4 and use it as a basis for future developments. I suppose it makes sense as the license is more forgiving and you cannot build a RTF UAV business on open IP easily. So Arducopter, although it was the basis of Solo in many ways, will not be in the frame for the future. It is just business and reality. But IMHO Arducopter is rather more capable then PX4 now. It is all down to those that want to support and use truly open source to pitch in and support it. It is not written in stone that anything stays the same forever. And to Chris Anderson's defence he did a lot to elevate Arducopter when it was central to 3DRs business.


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