Well done Ardupilot!


I spoke at a the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture, Durban yesterday and 3 out of 4 projects presented, from South Africa, Kenya and Namibia used Ardupilot and either Pixhawks or APM.

The only project that didn't was funded by Bill and Melinda Gates. There were zero white multirotors involved in the making of the presentations.

The ability to flight plan and ease of use of Mission Planner was evident as images of it kept popping up in slides. I should not be but still am astounded that folks only fly auto missions and cannot fly manually. 

I made sure to mention DIYD of course when it was my turn and let the audience know where to come to roll their own platforms. Sadly I drew the short straw and was talking regs so could not show the cool stuff.

So well done development team, I felt almost parent like pride whilst doing none of the hard work!

The efforts of people writing code all over the world are making a difference to food production and research in Africa. I was most struck with the pride of one group who have even 3D printed a frame and are able to mass produce airframes for their needs. Empowered if you will by the opensource community at large.

We sort of operate in a bubble here not seeing enough of the end product. People rush in get their help when required and rush off again. If you are doing something cool with Ardupilot, do us a favour and write a few lines on DIYD and tell us!

It feels like a long way from 2007, what ifs and could we now seem to be reality.

In the image Etienne Labuschagne of ESRI and I are sharing crash videos ;-) While Luke and Chris from a local survey company watch on.

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  • There were zero white multirotors involved in the making of the presentations 

    What a relief!

    At our stand, I estimate that 70% of all the agronomists utilized the Sensefly eBee for their needs while all admitting that they questioned the air-frames longevity especially in the hot African sun. But a large number of those people had already attempted to construct their own RPAs with either APM or Pixhawk FC, which is very inspiring.

    Of the 20-25 people that we met at the conference that "rolled their own", all of them used Ardupilot!

    But sadly, their is this impression all over Southern and Central Africa that a RPA is a magic bullet that any one can fire and farming will immediately get better and easier. If we sold airframes, we could have made a fortune as everyone wants to fly and command one. But few want to look at the data that makes the whole point worthwhile. It seems as though the functionality is too often overshadowed by the fact that the person actually want to own a RPA. This was evidenced by that nearly none of those people own GIS or proper photogrammetry software to fully utilize the data. It seems as though a snapshot is sufficient.

    A stand holder that pushes precision agriculture software and farm management ( said he often got data from farmers to implement in his GIS, but was more than not useless as it didn't suit the exacting criteria for queries and geoprocessing especially when there are holes, insufficient over side lap and most importantly, not georeferenced correctly. The single camera NDVI solution was also a problem giving shoddy results that could never be replicated between sessions.

    Even worse is that nearly every one seems to feel that they are above the law and that the restrictions do not apply to themselves, as it is "their land". I know that our country is big and open and their impact my be neglible but this attitude is a problem and does not help the development of the regulations.

    While the conference was a success and and people from all over Africa got a chance to share ideas and technology, there is still a big need for people to understand what they are actually doing and why they are doing it. In my opinion, people are so fascinated by the new viewing perspective they can get from RPAs in such a short time frame and from so cheap, but the data analysis is still secondary. Its easy to find the funds to give some struggling agricultural school in rural "Africa" a RPA. It makes excellent media fodder as "bring technology to deepest darkest Africa where no one wears shoes" But in reality, what is the data these schools are getting and is it really worthwhile?

  • Moderator
    Is there a way to add a function to the AP forums that mimics trouble ticket software? I try to remember to help out on those forums, but haven't been there lately. Would be nice if some of us could help when able, and escalate questions when needed.
  • Developer

    Open still has a tendency to be more about taking, then giving. But it is getting better.

  • People rush in get their help when required and rush off again.

    I agree with this.  But it's not just that we don't see enough cool end-product.  It also is a problem for support.  We need more super-users helping other users out, instead of all the support load falling on just a few developers.

  • Glad to hear it, AC:3.2< is unparalleled. And I am glad to hear that South Africa has a growing interest in commercial drones!

  • Moderator

    There was talk of something in the new year, I will post it when I find out.

  • 3D Robotics

    Go team! Any idea when the paper/presentations will be posted?

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