Amid concerns that certain companies (read, DJI) are getting too big, and in light of recent news that the U.S. government had placed DJI on a restricted trade list, the drone industry has seen a recent surge in calls for open source drone code.
Enter Dronecode: a vendor-neutral foundation for open source drone projects. The US-based non-profit operates under the Linux Foundation, with a goal to provide open source governance, infrastructure, and services to software & hardware projects for developers, end-users, and adopting vendors all around the world.
And today, Dronecode announced a key addition to its Board of Directors. Paul Stubbs, who is also Director of AI & Innovation Marketing for the Microsoft Business AI team, will represent the Gold members on the board. The Microsoft Business AI team team drives research and new product incubations in emerging technologies. Stubbs’ work at Microsoft focuses on autonomous systems like drones, industrial robotics, and simulators, and he also works with the Microsoft AirSim team. Microsoft has already been a Gold member of Dronecode since 2019.
“We are at an exciting inflection point in the history of flight, and the Dronecode Foundation is changing how the world codes, trains, simulates, certifies, and flies both piloted and autonomous drones,” Paul Stubbs said in a prepared statement.
Why are companies like Microsoft interested in open source?
The tech world, in general, is open source. The open source drone world, though, is small at the moment. That said, many of the biggest technologies today — Android, GIS, even WordPress (which runs this site!) to name a few — are open source.
Historically, Microsoft has more supportive of open source than Apple. It’s no secret that DJI has long sought to emulate Apple, but it’s interesting that a key leader at Microsoft would join in on an open source drone initiative.
Many have suggested that while no single company can compete with DJI, open-source drone tech is what it’ll take to break DJI’s strong grip over the competition.
“As the drone industry keeps growing, the collaboration among industry players becomes increasingly important to ensure the development technology that is both safe and scalable,” said Auterion cofounder and Dronecode board member Kevin Sartori in a prepared statement. “In 2021, an open approach beats closed ones.”
While Dronecode has been around since 2014, it really picked up steam this year – largely over those sentiments.
Dronecode is chaired by Lorenz Meier, who is also the co-founder and CEO of Auterion. Kevin Sartori, the other co-founder of Auterion, is also a board member.
Fittingly, Auterion is the largest open-source drone software platform in the world, providing enterprise and government users with an ecosystem of software-defined drones, payloads, and third party applications, designed for use within a single platform based on open-source standards.
Auterion has been big in the drone news world recently, namely for hiring two key leaders from DJI: Cynthia Huang and Romeo Durscher. But Auterion’s solutions have also been relevant in the news lately given the practical aspects of open source, such as enabling operators to control multiple drones made by different manufacturers all from one interface. Open source could also theoretically allow for better parsing of data, something drone operators have struggled with given the vast amounts of data drones have generated.
In addition to Stubbs, Dronecode today also announced two more Silver member representatives on its board: co-founder and CEO of ModalAI Chad Sweet, and CEO and co-founder of UVify Hyon Lim.