The Power of Pixhawk

Pixhawk

The Power of Pixhawk

With each project that comes to Aurelia Aerospace, engineers are creating new ways to give your ideas flight. To do so, Aurelia Aerospace, besides having a great custom-built drone with its hardware, makes use of open-source software that can be fully customized to meet the needs of your business or operation. 

An example of the use of the Pixhawk software was when Aurelia Aerospace was asked to participate in a project for the Government of Sierra Leone in December 2019. The government of Sierra Leone was looking for ways to establish its first drone port in West Africa. The government contacted UAV Systems International, which in their turn contacted us to have an experienced partner working together in delivering a fleet of drones using the Pixhawk software.

The open-sourced nature of Pixhawk has made it possible to extensively customize the software on the Aurelia X6 Standard drones that were used for the project, to meet the needs of the Government of Sierra Leone, to integrate the drones with their drone port infrastructure on the ground, allowing West Africa’s first medical drone deliveries to take flight!

The varieties of Pixhawk software explained

With each project that comes to Aurelia Aerospace, engineers are creating new ways to give your ideas flight. To do so, Aurelia Aerospace, besides having a great custom-built drone with its hardware, makes use of open-source software that can be fully customized to meet the needs of your business or operation. 

An example of the use of the Pixhawk software was when Aurelia Aerospace was asked to participate in a project for the Government of Sierra Leone in December 2019. The government of Sierra Leone was looking for ways to establish its first drone port in West Africa. The government contacted UAV Systems International, which in their turn contacted us to have an experienced partner working together in delivering a fleet of drones using the Pixhawk software.

The open-sourced nature of Pixhawk has made it possible to extensively customize the software on the Aurelia X6 Standard drones that were used for the project, to meet the needs of the Government of Sierra Leone, to integrate the drones with their drone port infrastructure on the ground, allowing West Africa’s first medical drone deliveries to take flight!

Now lets get more into detail

To make use of the Pixhawk software, your drone can be set up with the software of Ardupilot or PX4, depending on what the purpose of your drone usage is. Both mentioned software providers are fully open-source and have extensive online support in case you’re aiming to go above and beyond with your drone.

Two main open-sourced drone softwares explained

PX4 Logo

As with Ardupilot, Aurelia Aerospace can program your drone using the PX4 software upon request. The PX4 users can make use of the full operating system, allowing you as the end-user to develop on top of the PX4 software. The biggest benefit of using PX4 as your flight controller is that PX4 works with a BSD license. When you develop new features for the software, you do not need to send the upgraded features for the software back to the main project of PX4. This open approach gives end-users more ownership over their developed Intellectual Property.

Ardupilot Logo

All the Aurelia Aerospace drones are standardly programmed using the Ardupilot open-source software. The Ardupilot software offers a full stack of features and has extensive online support via forums for Ardupilot support. Ardupilot is one of the oldest drone software out there, and due to its longevity of existence, it is very advanced in comparison to PX4. 

One aspect that could be a drawback for businesses and research institutions that are interested in using the Ardupilot software, is that it uses GPL (General Public License). This means that in case you make any changes to the codebase of the software, it has to be added to the main project, or the parent project of Ardupilot. It will be available to the public, which gives you less to no ownership over any developed features. Any IP is not protected but shared with the community using this open-sourced software.

Pixhawk Computer Software

As your drone has its own Pixhawk software to operate itself, your ground control station also should be able to connect to a computer. Using the software on your computer will make it possible for you to view and configure the Pixhawk drone settings, plan flights, view past flight logs, etc. As there’s a wide variety of software available for Pixhawk like Ardupilot and the PX4, there are also three main software options for your ground control station. The main software that is used for most use cases, namely Mission Planner, Q Ground Control, and UGCS will be explained here.

Mission Planner

MissionPlanner

Mission Planner is free open-source software that is only compatible with Windows software. Aurelia Aerospace uses this software as the preferred ground station software as it has a lot of extra features available that are not yet developed for Q Ground Control. Another remark is that you can only make use of the Mission Planner software if the Pixhawk software used on the drone is Ardupilot.

In case you would like to read more up on Mission Planner or download the open-sourced software yourself, click here

Q Ground Control

QGroundControl

Q Ground Control is like Mission Planner a free and open-source software. Unlike Mission Planner that can solely operate on Windows software, Q Ground Control can operate on Windows, Mac OS, Linux, iOS, and Android. Another addition to this is that the software also supports drones that operate with both Pixhawk software of Ardupilot and PX4. The Q Ground Control gives you greater flexibility when it comes to devices and software to be used, however, the functionalities in the software are still more limited.

For more information about Q Ground Control, or to download the free and open-sourced software yourself, click here.

UGCS - Universal Ground Control Station

UgCS

UGCS is out of the three ground station software compared here, the software with the widest range of features. The main difference is that compared to Mission Planner and Q Ground Control, you have to pay a monthly fee for using the software. The UGCS software can support for example drones from DJI, Parrot, Mavlink, and Aurelia Aerospace, along with drones running on the Pixhawk software of Ardupilot or PX4. The software is available on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. The software of UGCS is very advanced and offers for example a 3D map interface, image geotagging, simultaneous drone operations, 3D mission planning, and much more.

In case you got interested in reading about what opportunities the software of UGCS can enable for your business, click here.

Pixhawk Computer Software

The Aurelia X6 and Aurelia X8 standard both come with a RadioMaster TX16S RC controller. However, the most popular upgrade done by our clients for these drones, which already is standard included with the Aurelia X6 Pro, is the Herelink Pixhawk Ground Station. The Herelink Ground Station offers a wide variety of features that combines your RC controller, laptop ground station, and FPV all into one easy-to-use unit with a range of up to 20 kilometers, ideal for using it with your drone for any kind of operation.

The right flight controller for you

Like with many things in life, there is always a wide variety of options in every segment. Like there is a large number of Ford cars driving on the road, phones operating on Android or iOS, there’s also a lot of variety of flight controllers for your drone that runs Pixhawk.

Are you curious about the best Pixhawk flight controller for your drone, talk to one of Aurelia’s drone specialists or click on ‘Help’ in the bottom corner of your screen. They will be able to guide you to pick the right Pixhawk software for your drone.

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