First Look

Dronecode: A home for drones

The drone world could have become a fragmented mess of proprietary systems but Dronecode promises to deliver sophisticated, free, open source platforms

MQ 1 Predator unmanned aircraft

If I had to pick the top ten hottest technology fields of 2014 right now, one of my choices would be drones.

Actually, the term “drone” is generally misused as it should strictly only be applied to pilotless, autonomous devices (“unmanned aerial vehicles” or UAVs) but, thanks to the US military and the mainstream press, the term has come to encompass remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs) as well.

Parrot AR.Drone 2.0WIKIMEDIA

Parrot AR.Drone 2.0

These flying systems have evolved rapidly over the last couple of years (check out my slideshow Drones to Own) and gone from flying toys to incredibly powerful and sophisticated devices. Today's low end products priced at a few hundred dollars are amazing while commercial products, priced at tens of thousands and beyond, are capable of complex autonomous surveillance and surveying missions. 

And along with the market for complete systems with out-of-the-box operation there’s also a large market for experimenters, academics, and developers working on free, open source control and flight systems that can be used on a wide variety of platforms.

dronecode logo

It’s in the latter that a new group has emerged: Dronecode, a collaboration some of the leading players in the drone world including 3DRobotics, DroneDeploy, HobbyKing, Horizon Ag, PrecisionHawk, Agribotics, and Walkera. Dronecode has been created as a 501(c)(6) non-profit organization (pending IRS approval) and will be managed by The Linux Foundation as a Linux Foundation Collaborative Project.

To facilitate an open ecosystem, Dronecode is structured around an open source license, open design, development and contribution model and finally, an appropriate, open governance model. Any individual, company or organization can engage directly and immediately to begin shaping the future of the project. Anyone can develop and contribute code, get elected to the Technical Steering Committee or help steer the project forward in any number of ways.

The software platforms Dronecode has backed are APM/ArduPilot and PX4, both well-developed, sophisticated, open source projects with extremely active development communities supporting them.

Dronecode is a terrific idea because it brings together a wide range of players in a field that could have evolved into hundreds of isolated projects and provides the structure and coordination that will make the best use of a huge, enthusiastic developer community(currently more than 1,200!). If you’re interested in drones and drone technology this the organization to keep in sync with.

Dronecode infographic
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