Autopilot Software

Find suppliers and developers of Autopilot Software for Drones, UAV, UGV, USV and UUV
Overview Autopilot Software
By Technology Editor Last updated: November 9th, 2022

Drone autopilot software is firmware that is installed on hardware flight controller boards and systems. It enables UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) to carry out fully autonomous missions without input from a human pilot, and can also assist the operator during remote controlled flight. In addition to UAVs, many autopilot software solutions also support other unmanned vehicles such as UGVs (unmanned ground vehicles), USVs (unmanned surface vessels) and UUVs (unmanned underwater vehicles).

Open Source Autopilot Software

A number of autopilot software packages are open-source, including PX4 and ArduPilot which are both used widely in the drone industry. Flight controller hardware may be optimized for use with one or more particular autopilot software stacks.

Autopilot software may provide a number of configurable features, including the ability to change aircraft parameters as well as upload custom waypoints and mission plans. If the autopilot can communicate with the GCS (ground control station) via a datalink, this can be done remotely during flight. The autopilot may also send back real-time information such as telemetry to the GCS. Information such as flight logs may also be stored on SD cards or the flight controller’s onboard memory.

Software Development Tools for Drone Autopilot Software Testing & Validation by MicroPilot
Software Development Tools for Drone Autopilot Software Testing & Validation by MicroPilot

Sensor Integration

Drone autopilot software requires inputs from a number of sensors on board the aircraft, typically gyroscopes, accelerometers, magnetometers and GNSS/GPS receivers at a minimum. The software may also use data from other sources such as barometers, tachometers, and airspeed sensors. It may also use distance sensors and cameras to aid in terrain-following or precision takeoff and landing.

In order to control the UAV and carry out the required operations, the software will issue outputs to various components of the drone. These include motors and ESCs (electronic speed controllers), flight surfaces and structures such as flaps and ailerons, cameras and other sensors and payloads, and parachutes and other safety systems.