Using telemetry port on APM 2.8

Hi, So I am on a university project and working with 2 quadrotors. I’m using APM 2.8 for both of them. One of my boards is not being recognized on my workstation. (Ubuntu 16.04). I was wondering if I could use the APM via telemetry port connecting my APM to the ground control software? My other board works and connects perfectly under the same conditions.
Also is there any cheaper alternative which I can use as I am planning for making vision-based autonomous drones. I need to be able to control the drones over wifi/cellular network using the Robot Operating System. This project will later scale into swarm robotics. Has anyone worked on similar projects?