Pixhawk APM Ardupilot: History of Opensource UAV

All these opensource thing started with Chris Anderson CEO of 3DR. Founder of DIY Robocars, DIY Drones, Dronecode, ArduPilot. Formerly Editor of Wired. He started the website diydrones.com while working on lego based UAV. Now founders of both Pixhawk and Ardupilot Joined as Dronecode collaboration, but the ardupilot is still independently running with its own contributers.

Ardupilot and APM

2007: Chris published a video of his UAV. and started diydrones.com website

2008: Jordi Munoz build helicopter based UAV win sparkfun.

2009: Jordi and Chris joined to form 3DR robotics

May 2009 – First ArduPilot board (using thermopiles) released by Jordi/3DRobotics

Nov 2009 – ArduPilot code repository created by Jordi

July 2012 – PX4 released by ETH (Lorenz Meier,MikeS) / 3D Robotics

Jan 2013 Android GCS released(Droidplanner and andropilot)

Nov 2013: PixHawk Hardware released for PX4 by PX4 and 3DR, ArduPilot ported for pixhawk

oct 2014: foundation of Dronecode

March 2016: 3DR ends funding Ardupilot

Pixhawk Hardware and FlightStack

Lorenz Meier a Masters student at the Computer Vision and Geometry Lab at ETH Zurich wanted to enable a drone to fly autonomously using computer vision. But as there was no flight controller so he had to develop the drone before using it for computer vision experiments.

  • After DayNight work for 9 months his students built the drone and won european micro air vehicle competition in 2009.
  • The Platform was named as same as the student team name PixHawk.
  • 3D Robotics, which took over manufacturing and distribution.
  • Pixhawk team collaborated with ArduPilot to enabled them to run Ardupilot flight stack on the PX4 middleware on Pixhawk, so users had more choice.
  • Dronecode founded in 2014, Pixhawk Team joined Dronecode with all their employees.
  • Ardupilot and Dronecode(PX4 Team) separated with a declaration from both sides.

Which is popular PX4 or Ardupilot ? Ardupilot Vs PX4

Hardware Platform: APM is popular among hobbyists as a lowcost Hardware platform. But the APM boards come with 8bit AVR processor which are not first enough for good performance of the codes. Commercially Pixhawk Hardawre platform is used by 80% of manufacturers.

Softwares: The prefered flight stack for both commercial, Hobbyists and  researchers is Ardupilot on PX4 middleware running on Pixhawk. APM users too use Ardupilot on APM boards directly without middleware.

Which is actually better ?

For softwares i can’t say, beacause till now i have no experience with the PX4 Autopilot except the middleware used to run Ardupilot on Pixhawk hardware.

  • Comparing Hardware platform Pixhawk with APM is reaaly easy
  • 32bit Processor with More RAM space
  • Backup Processor
  • Higher Processor clock speed so the loop frequency
  • Redundant Sensors and Better sensors.

But if we are using Ardupilot on Navio2(Raspberry) we have high enough processing performance.



  1. Ardupilot History
  2. PX4 Launch News on diydrones
  3. Ardupilot Dronecode Separation Announcement by tridge(One of the top contributers)
  4. Pixhawk hardware and PX4 Flightstack history