3D Robotics and other drone makers have joined Intel and Qualcomm in an effort to formalize the creation of open-source hardware and software for the unmanned aerial vehicles.
The folks who help bring you the Linux operating system today want to bring you better drones tomorrow.
The Linux Foundation, which sponsors some development of the widely used operating system, announced the new open-source Dronecode software project. Dronecode brings a formal structure and oversight to two existing open-source drone projects, the APM/ArduPilot autopilot software and PX4 drone hardware.
Such formalities may seem like a bother for the free-wheeling world of open-source projects, but they can make companies, universities, governments, and others more comfortable that a project is safe to adopt. Organizers expect Dronecode to help encourage drone use in environmental research, humanitarian work, and search and rescue.
The foundation announced Dronecode Monday along with a host of partners, including chipmakers Qualcomm and Intel and drone companies 3D Robotics, jDrones, DroneDeploy, Squadrone System, SkyWard, Walkera, and Yuneec.
The partnership reflects the growing maturity of drone technology. Most people are likely to encounter drones as fully-assembled products from companies such as Parrot or DJI. But a large group of do-it-yourself drone developers also build their own aircraft out of electronics components. Commercial drone use remains largely illegal in the US, but hobbyists have embraced them.
The combination of APM/ArduPilot and PX4 has let thousands of people do everything from Hollywood-quality aerial video to scanning buildings to make 3D models, said 3D Robotics Chief Executive Chris Anderson.
"It's a classic example of the power of democratizing a technology; we are entering the consumer and commercial drone age and I'm delighted that an open source platform is helping lead the way," he said in a statement. "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."
Dronecode's technical steering committee chairman is Andrew "Tridge" Tridgell, a longtime open-source leader through his work with the Samba file-server software and now the lead maintainer of APM/ArduPilot.