Drones aren't just for the military anymore.
There's something so fascinating about flying a remote-controlled aircraft that our collective inner child longs to do. Now there's hardware and software that anyone can copy and use for free. The Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands designed the world's smallest drone autopilot system, the Lisa/S chip. The chip is only 4-square centimeters, and its software is based on Paparazzi, another open source drone autopilot system. It can be used with any type of drone.
These micro air vehicles are not the same kind of drones we often think of. Bart Remes, project leader for the Lisa/S chip, says these aircraft are a great way to teach aerospace engineering because they are safe, easy to program, and more informative of the world than a simulation. "The main reason we chose to open source is that we want to make it available for society," Remes said.
US-based electronics company 1BitSquared will begin selling Lisa/S chips in Jan. 2014, but any company will be able to sell chips based on the technology because of it being open source.
Unmanned aerial vehicles, known as drones, are used on missions too dangerous for manned aircraft. While the military has put these aircraft to use, they also have civilian use such as aerial mapping and surveys, forest fire detection, archaeology, and search and rescue.
Remes envisions a time when every fireman will have a drone for search and rescue missions. He hopes this can happen within a few years. With the technology being open source, users will be able to improve and add on to what already exists. Who knows what the future holds?