[Need help!] navigating drone programming resources

Hi! I’m new to drone programming and am very confused by what I’ve seen online. I really need help in getting off the ground (pun intended).

I’m looking to develop commercial applications like autonomous home (exterior) inspections and also be able to stream data from third-party sensors (like thermal cameras). I’d say I’m an advanced programmer, but I’ve never programmed drones. I’ve used Arduino in the past and am open to learning any new languages that I’d need to. I am not looking to custom-build hardware.

  • Do I need to learn a platform like Ardupilot? I’ve heard of DroneKit, which run on a companion computer and communicates with Ardupilot over MAVLink. Perhaps I only need to learn how to use DroneKit?
  • Suppose I want to deploy software onto a drone that autonomously takes off, flies to a specified location, returns and lands, all the while streaming sensor data to the cloud. How long would it take for me to learn how to do this? (for context on my skill-level, I built an automated support-ticket resolution system for Uber in the past that processed thousands of tickets per second).
  • If I need to learn Ardupilot, what are the best resources to do so?

You can try a drone but if you buy a $200 RC crawler you can practice missions on the ground. There are only 2 required connections. A RC ground vehicle will save time and money learning autonomous programming. After that learning curve if you know how to setup a drone it’s pretty straightforward instructions under "copter and rover "links at the top of this page.

Just buy a $75 pixhawk to start your rover.

Awesome and thanks for the reply!
Do you have any idea how long learning to program the crawler would take (rough estimate like few days/weeks/months)?

How would I send instructions to ardupilot from evaluation of sensor-data? Would I need to learn how to setup a single-board-controller (with my sensors) and have it communicate over MAVLink to Ardupilot? (sorry if I’m messing up terminology, I just learned some of these words).

Well, a few diligent nights should get you started but many of us have had small issues we work on here sometimes for months.
The fine tuning is not easy compared to market products but we do get a return with almost unlimited options where as the market products make you pay full upgrades.
I would be glad to help upon request, that said there are more qualified people on this site to help you too. Channel 1 & 3 are the channels used for rover. Follow the Wiki link for rover (above). Have fun!
Never worry about the English! If your trying Kudos!

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Have you read This: