3D Robotics announced the release of DroneKit, an open platform for drone app development. DroneKit packages years of 3DR’s flight control R&D into a single robust and extensible platform which developers can use to create web-based drone apps, or even apps onboard the drones themselves. DroneKit works with any vehicle powered by the APM flight code.

Why now

3D Robotics wants to empower makers anywhere to create apps that fit their purposes. Imagine an agriculture app that surveys your land; a search & rescue app; a football practice app. Before DroneKit, if you wanted to create any of these single-purpose apps for a drone you’d have to reinvent the wheel, building all the flight control software from the ground up. DroneKit abstracts away the hard parts of writing flight control software, leaving you a clean, modern interface to code on.

A good analogy is the smartphone: In order to make a smartphone app, you don’t need to design and create a phone first. The hard part (the platform, in other words) is already done.

“Unlike other APIs for drones, there are no levels of access to DroneKit; it’s completely flexible and open,” noted Brandon Basso, 3DR’s VP of Software Engineering. “The platform works on laptops as well as mobile devices. Best of all, once an app is created, the app automatically works on any computing platform—the interface is always the same.”

3D Robotics' role is to maintain DroneKit: we created the API; we’ll fix any issues with it; we assure it works with all APM vehicles; we add experimental features from our labs and from those contributed by the global community, and we make all updates available to anyone for free. And should you develop an app, just put it up on 3DR Services, “the app store for drones,” where you can price it how you want, and we won’t take anything off the top. DroneKit is a community garden for technology; we want anyone to be able to use it to cultivate and take their product to market.

What you can do with DroneKit:

With DroneKit, you can develop apps for three platforms: mobile apps (DroneKit Android); web-based apps (DroneKit Cloud); and onboard computer apps (DroneKit Python) [i.e., for a companion computer on the actual drone].

DroneKit allows you to:

  • Fly paths with waypoints
  • Fly in spline path with fine grain control over vehicle velocity and position
  • Have the drone follow a GPS target
  • Control the camera and gimbal with regions of interest points
  • Access full telemetry from the drone over 3DR Radio, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or over the internet
  • View playbacks and log analysis of any mission

Advantages of DroneKit:

  • Truly open; no “levels” of access that you get from other proprietary programs
  • Computer agnostic: Create an app for controlling drones on whatever computing platform you want, and the interface is always the same
  • Works on planes, copters and rovers
  • Works on laptop computers as well as mobile devices
  • Provides web-based access to vehicle data

DroneKit powers the most successful flight control programs in the world:

  • Tower (formerly Droidplanner), hands-down the best flight planning mobile app out there, was built on DroneKit for Android
  • Droneshare, the global social network for drone pilots, is built on DroneKit web services
  • Project Tango Indoor Navigation is built on Pixhawk, APM and Tower
  • IMSI/Design TurboSite aerial reporting app for construction

Online Access

To find out how to write your own application for UAVs, and to walk through some example apps from us, please visit dronekit.io