Ground control stations are an important part of every autonomous mission, but with so many free GCS choices out there, how do you know which is best for you?
The truth is, most ground control stations will do the same thing, you just need to find the GCS that is best for your setup and mission needs. So without further adieu, here are the top 5 ground control stations (in no particular order) for ArduPilot and PX4 vehicles.
Mission Planner is by far the most popular GCS in the ArduPilot world, and it is no wonder why. The primary developer Michael Osborn has packed in a ton of functionality into this GUI.
From dataflash log analysis, to real time data graph plots, to spinning up your own SITL instance for testing, it can do it all.
This program is only supported on the Windows operating system. While there have been attempts at porting this GCS to other OS platforms, this isn’t advised.
QGroundControl wins on having the cleanest looking interface. It can do most of the things MissionPlanner can, but with a futuristic style that is easy to use.
While MissionPlanner works on Windows, QGroundControl is designed for Apple and Linux devices. While MissionPlanner is favored by the ArduPilot community, QGroundControl is favored by the PX4 community.
APM Planner 2
This ground control station is essentially a clone of MissionPlanner, but was designed to run on Apple and Linux devices.
I wouldn’t recommend this as your primary GCS, but only if you are used to the MissionPlanner interface and only have access to an Apple or Linux computer.
It may be counterintuitive to consider MAVProxy as a GCS since it doesn’t have a GUI, but make no mistake, it is a very powerful command line based GCS.
It is quite common to use both MAVProxy and a GUI based GCS at the same time. In this setup, MAVProxy is used for MAVLink networking and one of the other GUI based GCS for control.
MAVProxy is a python based program that can be installed with the pip package handler
Tower is great if you want to use your Android phone as a GCS. Formerly known as DroidPlanner 3, this powerful GCS can be downloaded from the android play store.
It is open source and used the GPLv3 license agreement.
As you can see, your intended GCS hardware OS choice will likely determine which ground control station you end up using. Most of these GCS offer the same features, and unique functionality really only exists at the fringes.