Worldwide, 75 percent of all industrial drones fly using the open source software PX4 from Auterion. It is what Android is for smartphones: the basis of many applications. With offices in Zurich and California, Auterion is the world’s largest company for open source drone software. It is also used by companies such as Amazon and DHL. This autumn, Auterion will be delivering the first units of its programmable drone Astro. The startup will also be supplying a Software Development Kit (SDK) to make the programming of drone functions really easy.
“As soon as the Astro is out on the market, developers can write their own app for it deploying it on the drone to do machine learning and AI on the system itself,” explains co-founder Kevin Sartori in an interview on the website of UAV Expo Europe, the drone trade show and conference. He is “very excited to see what developers will do with that SDK. We just give them the platform that enables them to take advantage and build on top of it”.
Auterion recently achieved a real key breakthrough: in September, the U.S. Ministry of Defense made the Auterion platform PX4 the software standard on which all the army’s small reconnaissance drones will be based in future. (Auterion expressly excludes weaponized technologies or technologies where principal purposes are to cause injury to people in its code of ethics.) “One company could transform U.S. drone industry” was later a headline of U.S. magazine Forbes.
“This is not just a disruptor for the industry, it is a move of geostrategic importance,” Auterion CEO Lorenz Meier said in an interview. At a time when tensions between China and the USA are growing, he now hopes to secure European investors: “In this age of new geostrategic challenges, it would be great if Central Europe plays its part in the digital sovereignty of the West,” he said in an interview with business journal Bilanz.
Over the next few years, the startup even hopes to come close to achieving unicorn status, Meier said to Bilanz. Meier created Auterion’s predecessor Pixhawk in 2008, when he was a student at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. In 2011, the PX4 platform was created. To further scale this, he founded Auterion together with Sartori in the USA in 2017.