Open source: Mars explorer developer teams with drone company on open architecture

The future of drones is open source, and the global race for supremacy has American companies sticking together.

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A company that designs precision motors used in Mars and lunar exploration is teaming up with an open source drone architecture company. maxon, whose technology is enabling the autonomous helicopter Ingenuity and rover Perseverance to explore Mars is announcing a strategic partnership with Auterion, the company building an open and software-defined future for enterprise drone fleets.

That may seem like an obscure bit of industry news, but it actually points to a dawning reality for the enterprise and government drone sector: The drone sector for government and enterprise is largely being reshaped out from under the shadow of DJI, and open source is taking a lead role.

A bit of recent history: As I've written, the drone industry has reached an inflection point, with a handful of companies, and most notably DJI, dominating the industry. As a result of the reigning monopolies, it's nearly impossible for any single company to compete against overwhelming market share, along with an inability to easily scale and the fact that companies need to essentially reinvent the wheel to innovate.  

But that's changing, in large part because DJI, a Chinese firm, is now persona non grata when it comes to American governmental and many enterprise applications. That's left an opening for a sort of sector-wide reset, and open source has emerged as an important driver of recent innovation and partnerships. A strategic partnership between a precision motor company and a drone company that provides enterprise and government with an ecosystem of software-defined drones, payloads, and third-party applications within a single, easy-to-use platform based on open-source standards has far-reaching potential for the sector.

"The partnership between Auterion and maxon provides access to the very best drone technology that also addresses impending federal legislation in the United States," said Kevin Sartori, co-founder of Auterion. "We're seeing utility companies and others that specifically require drone service providers to offer systems compliant with regulatory executive action. Ultimately, our open-source, software-defined ecosystem built with outstanding partners like maxon is what will instill greater trust in drone components and autonomous technologies."

According to the companies, with the new partnership enterprise customers will benefit from an open ecosystem of avionics and motors integration in the drone industry, which joins Auterion's module Skynode and maxon's best-in-class BLDC motors, like the EC 87 flat UAV motor. The implementation will use open-source standardization that's critical for the drone industry's next phase of enterprise scaling and smooth workflow management. Across every commercial, government and non-profit use case, open ecosystem integrations support component upgrades and mixed portfolios of small, medium and heavy-lift drones, carrying a wide variety of specialized payloads or cargo.