The concept of open source hardware has interested me for some time. There are a number of wildly popular (at least with the geeks) products available for “free”. This particular type of free is akin to freedom and not cost. If you have the materials and tools on hand you could build a Makerbot from scratch or mill a circuit board and solder up your own Arduino compatible board, but even then it isn’t completely free. The freedom comes from sharing the design, making incremental improvements, and combining the community effort with a product to make it better.
The Open Hardware Summit has been organized to nail down some of the vague definitions to the term “open source hardware” and produce a real, and enforceable license, much like the Creative Commons License does for artistic creations and the GPL does for software.
Definition v.0.3 of the Open Source Hardware (OSHW) has been released for public comment, and you can join in the discussion on the Forum. Ayah Bdeir and Alicia Gibb will be chairing the Open Hardware Summit as part of MakerFaire NY on September 26, 2010. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend, but I will be watching the blogs for information.
Chris Anderson, founder of GeekDad, has developed a respectable business around his open hardware products ArduPilot (pictured above), ArduCopter, and now Parrot ARDrone. All of the source code, schematics, and board layouts are available for free online. If you have the facilities and parts, you could solder one up and start flying in a week or so. If you aren’t so patient or doubt your soldering foo, you can buy preassembled boards from SparkFun. More information is available at DIY Drones.