The U.S. Government’s decision to standardize on PX4 and MAVLink for small unarmed reconnaissance drones (Verge article) as part of the Blue sUAS architecture is solidifying open-source software as the standard to replace DJI drone products. Auterion is under contract to provide government-approved distributions of these open source projects for the Blue sUAS architecture.
With the introduction of the National Defense Authorization Act, the U.S. Government prohibited the use of foreign-made unmanned aircraft systems in a push to ban the purchase of Chinese-made consumer drones under security concerns.
The Government has looked to open-source drone software to fill the gap left by Chinese Manufacturers. With the Department of Defense already running Redhat open-source products, their preference was for open-source, to move faster and integrate solutions more effectively across Government Departments.
As one of the leading contributors and provider of open-source drone software, Auterion was able to help the U.S. Government accelerate its sUAS program while addressing security concerns.
Auterion began working with the U.S. Army 18 months ago on the Blue sUAS architecture to provide QGC and MAVLink for the ground control station of small unarmed drones to enable standardization on open-source software. This work is continuing with the incorporation of PX4 into the Blue sUAS architecture, on the air vehicle.
A tangible result of this work is U.S. government’s recent announcement approving 5 drone systems for purchase by federal agencies which includes the Vesper by Vantage Robotics, which runs on Auterion software. All other approved drone systems are also compatible with the ground control station software distribution provided by Auterion.
Despite the U.S. government’s strong preference for its Blue sUAS architecture, which mandates MAVLink, vendors are still free to include their proprietary software.
The same situation unfolded in the server industry where now-defunct companies like Sun Microsystems pushed their proprietary software. Aside from vendor-lock in, this curtails choice for the customer, while making cross-system integrations harder and always dependent on the vendor. The U.S. Government is pushing towards interoperability and standardization, and Auterion is supporting this architecture effort through its contracts.
The Department of Defense is separately purchasing the ground controller which runs on open-source ground station software provided by Auterion. Some government customers have also asked Auterion for a highly portable hardware option and Auterion has created Skynav in response to the demand.
As well as providing the infrastructure for the short-range reconnaissance drone systems, Auterion is also powering the Vector, a flexible Hybrid Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) sUAS which combines Auterion’s advanced autonomy and AI on board with best-in-class hardware from Quantum Systems.
The U.S. government’s preference for open-source is a necessary step for accelerating the US drone market, as it is taking the burden of software development off each individual drone company. While improving commonality, this also lowers overall development costs for companies in the drone industry.
Auterion is enabling these companies to leverage open-source and compete with the industry giants, who with thousands of software engineers at its disposal, were otherwise impossible to keep up with.
At Auterion our experience is that working with government organizations can be one of the most important drivers for innovation. But with every engagement, thoughtful evaluation of that partnership and its related activities against our code of ethics remains crucial. Learn more about Auterion’s code of ethics.