Skip to content
Subscriber Only

Drone Makers Get Help From the Open-Source, DIY Crowd

Open-source culture focuses on sharing designs and tools
A researcher at ENAC handles Blender drones during the 2012 UAV Show Europe, an international drone fair in France
A researcher at ENAC handles Blender drones during the 2012 UAV Show Europe, an international drone fair in FrancePhotograph by Pierre Adriue/AFP via Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration isn’t expected to approve unmanned aerial vehicles for commercial use until at least 2015. Even so, manufacturers are already preparing to jump into the market—relying on the open-source movement for free research and development. Amateur designers and manufacturers are building prototypes at home, then e-mailing or posting the results, often with how-tos that can be completed using part-making 3D printers.

That’s giving far more people, including startups, an opening in the $1.6 billion market for drone design, which will almost double in a decade, according to the aerospace and defense consulting firm Teal Group. Online support is “quite a game-changer,” says Jeff Moe, chief executive officer of open-source 3D printer company Aleph Objects. “You have collaborative worldwide development of hardware and electronics.”