World’s Smallest Drone Autopilot System Goes Open Source

Illinois will regulate the use of drones by law enforcement under a bill signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn

The Lisa/S chip is 4 square-centimeters — about the same size as a Euro coin. But this 1.9-gram sliver of silicon includes everything you need to autopilot an aerial drone.

It’s the world’s smallest drone autopilot system — over 30 grams lighter than its predecessor — according to the chip’s designers at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. And best of all, both the hardware and the software is open source, meaning anyone can copy and use it — for free.

“The main reason we chose open source is that we want to make it available for society,” says the project’s leader, Bart Remes. He envisions open source drone technology enabling a wider range of civilian drone applications, from agriculture to search and rescue.

“Before, only the military had access to this type of technology,” he says. “My vision is that within a few years, every fireman [will have] a drone in his pocket.”

Remes says he’s been flying remote-controlled aircraft since he was six years old. About 10 years ago, as a student at Delft, he started building his own drones, attracted to the challenges of programming and electronics. It turned out that very small drones — called micro air vehicles, or MAVs — are a great way to teach aerospace engineering because they’re relatively cheap, safe and easy to program.


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