Linux Foundation Dronecode Project Takes Flight

The open-source collaboration project leverages embedded Linux in a bid to open up unmanned aerial vehicles to development.


The Linux Foundation is taking its efforts to foster new levels of open-source collaboration to new heights today with launch of the Dronecode Project. Dronecode is an effort to help build an open platform for software that enables nonmilitary unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones.

The Dronecode Project is now part of the Linux Foundation Collaboration Projects initiative that brings people, process and technology best practices to open-source code development. The Dronecode Project will join other Linux Foundation Collaboration Projects, including the Yocto Project, which is an effort to build embedded Linux platforms.

Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, told eWEEK that Dronecode leverages the Yocto Project and there are potential synergies across the two projects.

As to how the Linux Foundation got involved with Dronecode, Zemlin said he was approached by Chris Anderson, founder of the APM (ArduPilotMega) UAV platform, and open-source developer Andrew Tridgell to help them advance the state of open-source drone code. Tridgell is well-known in the open-source development world as a key contributor to the Samba file server.

"The APM UAV project itself is not new and has had active contributors for several years," Zemlin said. "The project has grown up pretty well, but it has now reached a size where it can benefit from having a neutral place where the project can be housed and people can invest with an equal say."

The founding members of the Dronecode Project include 3D Robotics, Baidu, Box, DroneDeploy, Intel, jDrones, Laser Navigation, Qualcomm, SkyWard, Squadrone System, Walkera and Yuneec.

"This software is fueling a lot of the UAV industry, and drones are set to be a real growth market," Zemlin said. "We're only at the very tip of the iceberg in terms of what we will see."

Drones are not just hobbyist devices, he emphasized; they also have very useful and practical commercial applications. Drone technology is useful for mapping, conservation activity, and search and rescue operations.

In addition to the APM UAV application code, the Dronecode Project includes the PX4 project code. Zemlin expects other kinds of projects within the UAV ecosystem to join the Dronecode Project over time.

Looking forward, Zemlin is confident that the Dronecode Project at the Linux Foundation will lead to better code and more participation by developers and companies. Multiple vendors are using the APM UAV code today in commercial products, he said. When code improvements are now made as part of the Dronecode Project, those improvements can be contributed back to the project.

"The companies that join Dronecode are all aligned in wanting to share the underlying infrastructure software that will enable their products," Zemlin said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.