Open-source software powers many consumer drones and UAVs today, and now a new initiative will put those applications under one unified platform managed by the Linux Foundation.
The program, called Dronecode, aims to help accelerate and broaden drone software through the deep Linux community. Announced today by 3D Robotic’s CEO Chris Anderson at the Embedded Linux Conference in Dusseldorf, Germany, it will focus on the major drone applications, including 3DR-sponsored APM (autonomous autopilot software for embedded copter, plane, and wheeled controllers), MissionPlanner and DroidPlanner (laptop/Android-based flight-path management), and MavLink (aircraft flight information communiications). It will also take oversight of the PX4 project, a cutting-edge autonomous flight endeavor that is being utilized in the 3D Robotics “Pixhawk” flight controllers.
“…we are entering the consumer and commercial drone age and I’m delighted that an open source platform is helping lead the way,” Anderson writes on dronecode.org. “Now that we have reached this level of adoption and maturity, it’s time to adopt the best practices of other highly successful open source projects, including professional management and governance structures, to ensure the continued growth and independence of these efforts. There is no better organization to lead this than the Linux Foundation.”
Along with 3D Robotic’s inclusion, the program comes with the support of major players in the drone community, including DroneDeploy, jDrones, Walkera, and Yuneec. Anderson also notes the support of Intel, Box, and Baidu for the project.
“By becoming a Linux Foundation Collaborative Project, the Dronecode community will receive the support required of a massive project right at its moment of breakthrough,” says Jim Zemlin, executive director at The Linux Foundation, in a press release. “The result will be even greater innovation and a common platform for drone and robotics open source projects.”
Beyond the Dronecode announcement, it’s been a busy past couple months for 3D Robotics.
Last month, the company announced Richard Branson as their latest investor, bringing considerable business acumen and flight experience to the company through his experience with Virgin Atlantic and America airlines and the space tourism endeavor Virgin Galactic.
In his official welcome, 3DR and Virgin posted a video of the company’s visit to Branson’s private getaway in the British Virgin Islands that demonstrated new flight functions for its aircraft, including their new GPS-powered follow-me mode. The video also includes 3D-rendered shots of the island made from quadcopter-shot footage.
3D Robotics also recently announced the next iteration of their Iris quadcopter, the Iris+, which incorporates many of these new flight functions along with double the flight time of its predecessor, improved landing apparatus, easier spin-on propellers, and direction-indicating lights.
And at the Intel Developer Forum, 3DR disclosed partnership plans to use the diminutive Edison microcontroller in their next-generation autopilot as a computing companion — allowing for more advanced functions like an optical-based follow-me mode (instead of tracking your phone’s GPS). “Our next-generation autopilot will be built around the notion of carrier boards,” Anderson says, explaining that different boards will be used for different functions.