I recently ran a survey to determine how and where companion computers were being used by the ArduPilot community.
This was done as part of research into a successor to my Pi-Connect board, but the results are also of interest to the community.
I would caution that I did not get as many responses as I had anticipated (53 respondents). The results presented below should not be taken as precise numbers. They should be interpreted as general trends instead.
Results and Observations
Most ArduPilot users do use (or plan to) companion computers. I would point out that this being a “companion computer survey”, many people who do not use them may have elected not to complete the survey.
There is a generally equal split between hobbyist, commercial and R&D work; but with a slight bias towards hobbyists. Respondents could select multiple answers here if they wanted.
No clear winner here. This shows how varied and flexible companion computer usage is. Respondents could select multiple answers here if they wanted.
It is very clear here that the Raspberry Pi and Nvidia Jetson are by far the popular companion computers. Respondents could select multiple answers here if they wanted.
Over a third of users are creating their own software using libraries such as pymavlink, dronekit or MAVSDK.
There’s a lot of development going in here, with 73% of respondents doing some level of bespoke development.
Respondents could select multiple answers here if they wanted.
Looking at the top desired features here, it links back to why the Raspberry Pi and Nvidia Jetson are so popular. Respondents typically want something small with a powerful CPU, plenty of existing software libraries and good community support – which the Pi and Jetson excel at.
For ArduPilot users, most companion computer usage is centred on the Raspberry Pi and Nvidia Jetson. C/C++ and Python development of bespoke applications is typical on the software side, creating a wide variety of applications.