May 19, 2011 AT 12:38 am

Cloned open source hardware – DIY drones

Ardupilot1

The DIY drones folks have a cloned version, Chris Anderson one of the founders of the company has a great comment…

It’s pretty simple. 3D Robotics is a hardware development business. The more successful we are as a business, the more hardware designers we can hire to create new products, and the more production equipment we can buy to make them, the more customer support we can provide etc. We’re 100% focused on creating great products for this community. If we grow, it’s because we’ve given our customers what they want. 
 
DIY Drones, meanwhile, is a community. It is built by you all and exists to serve your needs. It’s free and always will be. This community not only provides information and support for each other, but also includes the many dozens of people who make up the development teams that create the software that gives the 3D Robotics hardware all of its value. The most important work is done by volunteers here and given freely to all.
 
This is the classic open source hardware model. Software, which costs nothing to distribute, is free. Hardware, which is expensive to make, is priced at the minimum necessary to ensure the healthy growth of a sustainable business to ensure quality, support and availability of the products. All intellectual property is given away, so the community can use it, improve it, make their own variants, etc. 
 
The possibility that others would clone the products is built into the model. It’s specifically allowed by our open source licence. Ideally, people would change/improve the products (“derivative designs”) to address market needs that they perceive and we have not addressed. That’s the sort of innovation that open source is designed to promote. But if they only clone the products and sell them at lower prices, that’s okay, too. The marketplace will decide.
 
Either way, the DIY Drones community will be unaffected. It is not a business, but rather a free service by and for the members (the small hosting costs are paid for by Google AdSense ads). 
 
BTW, Arduino has gone through exactly the same situation, with many Chinese cloners. The clones were sometimes of lower quality, but even when they were good most people continued to support the official Arduino products and the developers that created them. Today, clones have a small share of the market, mostly in very price sensitive markets such as China. And frankly, being able to reach a lower-price market is a form of innovation, too, and that is no bad thing. 
 
Personally, I’m delighted to see this development, for four reasons.
1. I think it’s great that people have translated the wiki into Chinese, which makes it accessible to more people.
2. It’s a sign of success– you only get cloned if you’re making something people want.
3. Competition is good.
4. What starts as clones may eventually become real innovation and improvements. Remember that our licence requires that any derivative designs must also be open source. Think how great would it be if a Chinese team created a better design than ours. Then we could turn the tables and produce their design, translating the documentation into English and making them available to a market outside China. Everybody wins! (Hey, a guy can dream ;-) )


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2 Comments

  1. I’m missing the news..

    What is being cloned, and by who? DIY Drone hardware is being cloned in China? Arduino hardware being cloned by DIY Drones/3d Robotics?

  2. Chris Anderson

    DIY Drones hardware is being cloned in China

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