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The Pentagon's Drones May Soon Run on Open Source Software


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Instructors at the ARCENT Readiness Training Center in Kuwait demonstrate how to launch an aerial drone.

The U.S. Defense Department has signed a deal with Auterion of Switzerland to upgrade open source drone software used by the agency's Defense Innovation Unit.

Credit: Brent Thacker/U.S. Army

The U.S. Department of Defense's Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) has reached a deal with Swiss company Auterion to enhance the agency's open source drone software.

The PX4 platform, which would standardize the operating system for different drone models, could eventually power the U.S. Army's entire fleet of small unmanned aircraft.

Using an open source enterprise platform like PX4 gives the Pentagon constant access to the latest innovations from the private sector without waiting on vendors to upgrade their proprietary systems.

Auterion will spend the next year improving PX4's cybersecurity, user interface, communications protocols, and computer vision system, which helps drones detect and classify objects on the ground.

Said Pentagon spokeswoman Elissa Smith, "The software is continuously being improved, which allows the [Defense Department] the flexibility to iteratively pull the latest and greatest [software] version and build-in any additional [department-] specific requirements quickly and easily on a sustainable cycle."

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