Nine of the top ten platforms at the 2018 AUVSI sUAS student competition were flying Ardupilot firmware. The number nine slot was taken by a custom Linux system on an odroid SBC. The competition is held at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station (NAS) Webster Field in St. Mary’s County, Maryland.
This is the site of the UAS Test & Evaluation Directorate.
A total of 69 teams competed (35 domestic, 31 international), 63 submitted Technical Design papers, 51 presented Flight Readiness Reviews (FRR), 51 teams attended, and 47 were able to get airborne. A total of $70,700 was awarded to teams. This was the first year to have interop-only ODLC submission (no paper or USB drive).
Autonomous Aerial Missions. The competition focuses on Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) performing autonomous missions. Many of the tasks require autonomy to be eligible, and others receive more points for autonomy.
Competition Components. The competition has 3 major graded components: a Technical Journal Paper which describes the systems engineering approach and the UAS design, a Flight Readiness Review (FRR) where teams describe their mission readiness and what testing gives them confidence, and a Mission Demonstration where the team is evaluated on performance.
Mission Tasks. The competition has a series of tasks that should be completed by the UAS system built. The competition changes these tasks year-to-year to reflect the forefront of the UAS industry. The tasks are joined to form a simulated real-world mission.
- Interoperability. The UAS downloads mission details, uploads aircraft telemetry in real time, and uploads mission deliverables to an external judge-provided system.
- Autonomous Flight. The UAS autonomously takes off, flies within boundaries, navigates a series of waypoints, and lands.
- Obstacle Avoidance. The UAS autonomously avoids obstacles, which can be stationary or moving.
- Object Detection, Classification, Localization. The UAS takes pictures of a search area, detect objects of interest, classifies its characteristics, and provides a GPS position.
- Air Delivery. The UAS autonomously drops a payload object so that it lands undamaged at a provided GPS position.
Ardupilot is firmly established as the firmware of choice for research and commercial applications. All for the cost of free.