Free Drone Software and Hardware
Drones are impacting everyday life through Earth Observation (EO), especially close-range aerial photography and remote sensing. Earth observation (EO) comprises both the collection of the Earth’s surface information as well as the analysis and presentation of the gathered data.
EO is so critical not only for governments and organizations, but also for private citizens. It provides insights to help make informed decisions about the rapidly changing landscape and global challenges.
Although drones have been around for a while, it’s only until recently that the technology has found intensive use in mapping applications. Thanks to the advent of lightweight lithium polymer batteries, low-cost drone technology, lightweight digital cameras and smaller, compact high-fidelity sensors.
This article highlights some of the most reliable open-source drone hardware, software, and related projects. Ambitious projects which have been created to make aerial, photography, surveying and remote sensing work easier, cheaper and more exciting.
Here we go:
- ArduPilot: Is one of the most advanced and full-featured open source autopilot system. Developed since 2007 by a team of diverse professionals, ArduPilot is capable of controlling any vehicle system imaginable. From conventional airplanes, multi-rotors, and helicopters, to boats and even submarines. The flexibility and ease of installation of ArduPilot makes it very popular platform integrated for a variety of mapping and remote sensing missions. ArduPilot’s source code is available on GitHub , licensed under GPLv3.
- Dronecode: Project describes itself as “A neutral place where industry and community developers can contribute technology in order to reduce costs and time to market”. The Linux Foundation-sponsored project aims to build a common open source platform for UAV development. The platform contains everything needed for a complete launch of UAV solution. From flight-controller hardware, to autopilot software, ground control station, and developer APIs for enhanced and advanced use cases.
- WebODM: Is a free, user-friendly, extendable application and API for drone image processing. The platform is flexible and easy to integrate with other existing GIS software, like LuciadLightSpeed, QGIS or AutoCAD. WebODM helps generate georeferenced maps, point clouds, elevation models and textured 3D models from aerial images. It uses OpenDroneMap for processing.
- OpenDroneMap: This open source toolkit for processing aerial drone imagery helps in converting simple point-and-shoot imagery into 3 Dimensional geographic data, point clouds , digital surface and elevation models, orthorectified Imagery or other useful products that can be used in combination with other GIS datasets. ODM toolkit is available on GitHub under a GPLv3 license.
- Pixhawk: Is a project aiming at providing high-end industry standard autopilot hardware components needed for DroneCode and PX4 projects. The 2 Bit Arm® Cortex®-M7 with 216MHz, 2MB memory, and 512KB RAM hardware is designed and developed in collaboration with Holybro and the PX4 team and comes pre-installed with the latest PX4 firmware.
- PX4: This IP-friendy software has been built to power VTOL, fixed-wing, multi-copter and ground vehicles. The powerful and uniquely flexible open-source software is freely available under BSD license. Documentaton and source-code can be obtained from GitHub repository, which holds the PX4 Pro flight control solution, drivers and middle-ware that are required to run drones.
- DroneMapper RAPID: Although not fully open-source, RAPID for DJI drones is available for download and testing on limited imagery data sets at no cost to the user. The software platform can process upto150 scene images in near real-time and provide scaled DEMs and orthomosaics.
Do you know of any other open-source drone project? Let’s add to the list.