Autonomous flying vehicles, where are we and where are we going?
During the last 10 years the technology that was formerly only available to the military, reached the hands of thousands. Researchers, hackers, enthusiasts and hobbyists helped drive the technology further and higher than anyone had imagined just a few years ago. We will recap what the civilian airborne robot community has achieved in the last decade and what the next frontiers are that need to be addressed.
Over the last decade, projects and companies like Paparazzi, Microdrone, AscTec, Mikrokopter, UAVP-NG and others have made small unmanned vehicles (aka. drones) what they are today. Through innovation and hard work, autonomous drones are now affordable and accessible enough that most of us can build one at home. While the companies inspired, the Open-Source projects advanced and shared these multidisciplinary technologies with many engineers and hackers thereby building a collaborative community of innovators from the ground up.
Though many challenges have been overcome, we are only at the very beginning of the private UAV revolution. Consider a comparison with the personal computer, which has evolved in ways that could not be foreseen in the beginning. Those working on this platform need space and time to discover the beneficial possibilities. There are many challenges that we are still facing and they are as exciting and basic as the technology itself.
Let me take you through a brief history of the developments and advances in Open-Source UAV and try to envision what is still in front of us.