Hardware is the peripheral sensors, controller, and output
devices that act as the vehicle’s eyes, ears, brain, arms etc.
Almost any mobile machine can be transformed into an autonomous vehicle,
by simply integrating a small hardware package into it. Hardware
packages begin with a controller.
Using inputs from sensors, the controller is able to send outputs to
devices such as ESC’s, servos, gimbals, etc.
Firmware- is the code or “skill set”
running on the controller. You choose the firmware to match your vehicle and
mission: Copter, Plane,
Rover, Sub, or Antenna Tracker.
The choice is yours – one autopilot for any mission. A firmware
update is all it takes to repurpose your hardware into a different role.
Software is your interface to the
controller. Also called a Ground Control Station (GCS), the software can run
on PC’s or mobile devices.
A GCS allows users to set-up, configure, test, and tune the vehicle. Advanced
packages allow autonomous mission planning, operation,
and post-mission analysis.
Mission Planner is a full-featured GCS supported by Ardupilot. It offers
point-and-click interaction with your hardware, custom scripting, and simulation.