A decade ago the term Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) was synonymous for expensive equipment, complex aerodynamics, and cruise-missile-type control algorithms. But since then, a rapid price decay in IMUs caused by the rise of mobile computing has slashed equipment costs. Today, open-source software like the Arduino environment and open-source hardware like the ArduPilot allow you and me to build our own UAV in a weekend for less than 300 USD.
Much of this progress is due to what has become the largest amateur UAV community and one of the largest robotics communities: DIY Drones. Founded by Chris Anderson, whose day job is Editor-in-Chief of WIRED, the site now has more than 12'000 members and covers all aspects of UAVs.
In its latest episode, the Robots podcast interviews Chris Anderson about DIY Drones. Anderson explains how to go about building a cheap UAV, why autonomous stabilization and navigation has become easy, the technical and legal aspects of flying your autonomous plane around the neighborhood, and the risk of putting UAV technology into the wrong hands. Anderson also talks about his experience with producing open source hardware and the economic challenges - and benefits - this brings about. To conclude, he shares some anecdotes on some of the crazy projects run on his site.