The Open Source ecosystem for Drones

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Today’s world is unimaginable without drones. Whether in the hobby sector or in logistics companies, they are omnipresent and will boom even more in the coming years. Example Germany:

“The market study by the Association of Unmanned Aviation predicts that in 2025 the demand for the commercial drone market in Germany will amount to 1.5 billion euros and that of the private drone market to 95 million euros,” according to

One of the global players is the Chinese company DJI. The 14-year-old company has dominated the drone category thanks to an aggressive pricing strategy for its hardware. But with the addition of DJI to the blacklist US Department of Commerce’s, the initial situation changes fundamentally: This step not only prevents DJI from continuing to source US components, but also means that any company that wants to do business with DJI (even if it is only the use of the DJI SDK), now has to check whether these activities comply with US regulations. This becomes a legal risk for the affected company, as does the use of Huawei hardware, the Chinese company that has been on the same list since 2019 and is next to no use in the US.

An open source ecosystem is now in the process of establishing itself as the industry standard in the battle for market share. Since its inception in 2011, PX4 has become the most widely used open source flight control system for autonomous aircraft. While Auterion is the leading contributor, it is used by an external community of more than 600 contributors, including leading drone and aerospace companies, as well as companies all of whom are committed to software and hardware advancement. According to Auterion, the PX4 has two major advantages over the previous software controls for drones

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On the one hand, it massively simplifies flying drones and makes it much safer. On the other hand, the software enables drones to start or land autonomously and to follow certain objects independently, such as cyclists, skaters or surfers during their wild ride.

The software was created by a global team of developers under the leadership of ETH doctoral student Lorenz Meier, initiator of Pixhawk and chief developer of PX4. Countless man-years of work went into programming the software that an individual could never do. But one can say with a clear conscience that PX4 essentially emerged from the ETH Zurich ecosystem.

The Open Source ecosystem for Drones



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