My latest blog looks at the importance of choosing the right drone software platform to support your business.

Just like Google vs. Apple

When the Apple iPad first appeared on the market in 2010, I didn’t jump in to buy one. I didn’t own an iPhone, I had a company-issued Blackberry, so I wasn’t motivated. Besides, I figured there would be a better model a year or so later. So I waited. By the time Apple released the iPad 2 in 2011 all my friends had one. It looked and felt great in the hand. I thought the user interface (UI) was pretty slick. But I also heard about this thing called Android in development by Google and the Open Handset Alliance (OHA) with a similar and perhaps better UI. I was conflicted about which to buy first. I eventually got an Android tablet on the promise of what could be an open source model. However, after one disappointing experience after another, I got rid of it and switched a year later to an iPad first generation. I stayed on that path and haven’t looked back since.

As Diffen says:

Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS are operating systems that provide a good example of open source vs. proprietary. Both are used primarily in mobile technology, such as smartphones and tablets. Android, which is Linux-based and partly open source, is more PC-like than iOS, in that its interface and basic features are generally more customizable from top to bottom. However, iOS’ uniform design elements are sometimes seen as being more user-friendly.

But wait, I thought we were going to discuss drone software. We are.

For all drones, the interaction between the user and the aircraft, and the aircraft and its hardware is mediated by software. As I have written here, the quality of the pilot experience can be driven by the features and the quality of implementation, but the comparison with tablet and smartphones is a good one. Just as with your smartphone and tablet systems, choosing the wrong software platform for your drone can produce some very high switching costs should you decide later you need to change. In this post, I’m going to look beyond manufacturers’ claims and help you understand the differences with the following explanations of what is it, who makes it, who uses it, and what you need to know.

Read more here: http://droneanalyst.com/2014/05/23/which-is-better-open-source-or-proprietary-drone-software/

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  • A risk for open source - Google's Android operating system can be used—and changed—by anyone. Now the search giant might be losing control of its creation: 


  • And if you are just in for the hobby, a proprietary UAV gets real boring real quick.

    @David, that's an interesting comment. Not that i think differently but i'm interested in your reasoning. Mind elaborating it a bit based in your experience?

  • Best is relative and even variable.

    For me anyway (A DYIer since about 7 yrs old) it would take a life or death emergency to buy closed source prioprietary.

    I DO buy Windows, but at least I have Visual Studio and a few other IDEs to get inside.

    And if you are just in for the hobby, a proprietary UAV gets real boring real quick.

  • Moderator

    At the end of the day unless you have operated the autopilots in real conditions day in day out you can't tell which is best.

  • @Chris Anderson, like many open source licenses they have restrictions, in this case it is a very restrictive license that only allows private use with the proprietors own equipment. To save companies (and certain big ones in the past have pretended to release open source) there is a good definition here - http://opensource.org/osd - and by that definition the Mikrocopter is not open source. Some points though for effort, better than being completely closed :-)

  • 3D Robotics

    @hotelzulalima: I don't think Mikrocopter is open source. They post the code, but do not allow reuse. Here's their license. Am I missing something?

  • "Tap a community of engineers" wtf?
    My friend, red epics have been in the air a long time now.
  • Closed means no opportunity to learn anything except how much does it cost.  

  • @Seb,

    "If I wanted to strap a geiger counter to my quad to collect data, how would I do that?"

    This is exactly my argument in favour of open source.

    I can buy a gorgeous quad with all the bells and whistles and pay $20,000. Fine it does everything except lift a geiger counter. Now what? I NEED a geiger counter.

    At least with open source, I can make the modifications I need to run my geiger counter, and even find help on line to do it.

    The RD department of my $20,000 "Ace Fly-by-wire" is going to get back to me soon.

    I can't even buy a cheap RTF from Giants Incorporated to do R&D. The minute I need to do anything other than bolt something on to it, it's useless.

  • Open source has some potential up sides, but really no down sides.

    Let us say a company writes some great flight controller and choose to open source it. Well apart from the extra 12 seconds it takes to push to somewhere (e.g. github) it is same work. As an owner of software you don't have to take pulls, but lets face it, wouldn't you be crazy to not accept help from others.

    Lots of software is done like this.

    Now you could argue that being open source you might say it is a distraction with all the developers you might want to help, or the extra documentation to help new developers, or the time taken to get new patches in accept them.

    My opinion though that distraction and extra work improves the code and project.

    Maybe what people think of as open source is only where you pay nothing to develop it. Just taking an open source project and selling it - nothing wrong with that, but you can't compare that type of project.

    So you see any comparison of projects of close source vs open source, can not conclude just about anything just from that one fact. 

    There are big projects people know, like Linux, Firefox, Android,... but don't forget that almost everyone compiles even their closed source flight controller code with GCC :-) 

    We build our world on top of the pervious efforts. 

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