An Open Source Project for Drones (now how cool is that?)

It was only two weeks ago that I wrote here about the launch of a new Linux Foundation consortium, called the Open Platform for NFV Project. That's an extremely important development on the telecommunications front, with a mission "to develop and maintain a carrier-grade, integrated, open source reference platform for the telecom industry." But if you're not of the technical persuasion, where does that rate on the register of cool? Well, maybe not so high.

Today's announcement, on the other hand, should be enough to catch the eye of anyone. This time, the effort being launched is called the Dronecode Project, and the code it supports controls a much hotter platfrom than a telecom backbone: unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), more popularly known simply as "drones." So just how cool is that?  (Disclosure: my firm and I represent the Linux Foundation and the Drone Project).

Although this project may have been (ahem) flying under your radar so far, more than 1200 developers are already actively involved, and the founding members include not only industry giants, such as Intel and Qualcomm, but also 3D Robotics, one of the small handful of companies that currently dominates the non-military drone marketplace. The other founders are: Baidu, Box, DroneDeploy, jDrones, Laser Navigation, SkyWard, Squadrone System, Walkera and Yuneec.

The new entity has been formed to continue the development of the APM/ArduPilot UAV software platform and associated code already developed by project participants and hosted by 3D Robotics. It will also incorporate the partner PX4 project, led by Lorenz Meier from ETH, the Technical University of Zurich. Andrew Tridgell (“Tridge”), a lead maintainer of the project, will chair a new Technical Steering Committee, as well as have a seat on the Project’s Board of Directors.

As with all LF-hosted projects, Dronecode Project has been set up with a neutral governance structure, coordinated funding, and access to the types of resources and tools the community needs in order to expand and capitalize upon their initial success. The governance structure formalizes a means for all interested parties and developers to influence and participate in the development and direction of the software at the technical level, as well as a means (at the Board level, where both corporate and community members are represetned) to ensure the economic and infrastructural support of the effort. A Technical Steering committee is made up of project leads, elected committers and maintainers of top-level projects.

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Of course, drones are more than simply cool. A recent study conducted by an aerospace research group estimates that the total amount spent worldwide on research, development, testing and evaluation of drone technology will reach $91 billion within ten years. That’s a lot of drones, doing what is expected to be an extraordinarily broad range of tasks, from research, to commerce, to education, to environmental monitoring to, well, much more.

You can find the full press release here (as well as pasted in below), the web site is here, and a device running on Dronecode Project software may already be visible overhead.

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Linux Foundation and Leading Technology Companies Launch Open Source Dronecode Project


Dronecode Project to advance development of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles; 3D Robotics, Baidu, Box, DroneDeploy, Intel, jDrones, Laser Navigation, Qualcomm Technologies, SkyWard, Squadrone System, Walkera and Yuneec among founding members

DUSSELDORF, Germany {EMBEDDED LINUX CONFERENCE EUROPE} October 13, 2014 – The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the growth of Linux and collaborative development, today announced the founding of the Dronecode Project. The Project will bring together existing open source drone projects and assets under a nonprofit structure governed by The Linux Foundation. The result will be a common, shared open source platform for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

Founding members include 3D Robotics, Baidu, Box, DroneDeploy, Intel, jDrones, Laser Navigation, Qualcomm, SkyWard, Squadrone System, Walkera and Yuneec. Dronecode includes the APM/ArduPilot UAV software platform and associated code, which until now has been hosted by 3D Robotics, a world leader in advanced UAV autopilot and autonomous vehicle control. The company was co-founded by Chris Anderson, formerly editor-in-chief of Wired and the author of the bestselling books “The Long Tail,” “Free” and “Makers: The New Industrial Revolution.” The Dronecode project will also incorporate the partner PX4 project, led by Lorenz Meier from ETH, the Technical University of Zurich

More than 1,200 developers are working on Dronecode with more than 150 code commits a day on some projects. Examples of projects include APM/ArduPilot, Mission Planner, MAVLink and DroidPlanner. The platform has been adopted by many of the organizations on the forefront of drone technology, including Skycatch, DroneDeploy, HobbyKing, Horizon Ag, PrecisionHawk, Agribotix, and Walkera, among others.

Andrew Tridgell (“Tridge”) will become the chair of the Dronecode Project’s Technical Steering Committee (TSC) and have a seat on the board. He is a lead maintainer in the development of APM/ArduPilot and is well recognized for his contributions to the open source software community, including his work as the author of the Samba file server.

“Open source software and collaborative development are advancing technologies in the hottest, most cutting-edge areas. The Dronecode Project is a perfect example of this,” said Jim Zemlin, executive director at The Linux Foundation. “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. The result will be even greater innovation and a common platform for drone and robotics open source projects.”

The Dronecode Project will help meet the needs of the growing community with a neutral governance structure and coordination of funding for resources and tools the community needs. The governance structure will allow other parties and developers to influence and participate in the development and direction of the software. The Dronecode board will be comprised of members and technical community members. The Technical Steering committee will be composed of project leads and maintainers from top-level projects. Committers can be elected to participate on the TSC.

The development of drones has drastically increased over just the last couple of years due to the vibrant maker community and the use of drones in a variety of new applications. The Teal Group, an aerospace market research firm, recently estimated that within a decade the total amount spent worldwide on research, development, testing and evaluation of drone technology will reach $91 billion.  From environmental research to wildlife conservation and search and rescue, drones are becoming recognized for a wide variety of uses beyond commercial and defense applications. Furthermore, the opportunities drones provide for data analysis, storage and display open up a world of possibilities for application in business. Hundreds of thousands of developers and makers around the world today are contributing to drone technology and this future. The Dronecode Project will help advance these technologies and accelerate adoption of better, more affordable and more reliable open source software for UAVs.

The Dronecode Project is a Linux Foundation Collaborative Project. Collaborative Projects are independently funded software projects that harness the power of collaborative development to fuel innovation across industries and ecosystems. By spreading the collaborative DNA of the largest collaborative software development project in history, The Linux Foundation provides the essential collaborative and organizational framework so project hosts can focus on innovation and results. Linux Foundation Collaborative Projects span the enterprise, mobile, embedded and life sciences markets and are backed by many of the largest names in technology. For more information about Linux Foundation Collaborative Projects, please visit: To learn more about Dronecode Project and to start contributing today, please visit: