The reason digital nautical charts and maps are so expensive is they must be constantly brought up to date. While they seem expensive, they are a bargain compared to standard paper ones. Just one paper chart or map, that is up to date and of reasonable quality, will cost an average of $25. (hmm...sounds similar to the price of the RPA....) If you are just an average day sailor or tourist, a handful of these charts/maps will suffice. However, if you are a more ambitious adventurer or professional mariner, you may require hundreds. For example, Navy ships that are not certified for electronic navigation, have between 2 and 4 copies of up to 800 or more charts. If you do the math, the cost is pretty staggering. That is where the comparative advantage of electronic navigation reveals the true potential for pursuing this as an open source project. Think how many tax payer dollars, not to mention trees, could be saved.
While I am not a programer, I am an avid computer hobbyist. I have several years of experience installing computer navigation systems on yachts. I currently work as a professional mariner, going on 9 years now. I have come to realized the need for a scalable, modular, portable, low cost, computer navigation system, able to fully integrate with existing shipboard networks and systems for everything from sensors inputs to auto pilot and robotic controls. People and organizations are naturally weary of letting go of the paper charts/maps as back up. However, if a low cost system could be developed then, they would essentially become their own back because, the low cost would make multiple units affordable.
It would not be cost prohibitive to acquire a license to use one small library of professional grade digital nautical charts or terrestrial maps for the purpose of development.
My question to anyone who has read this so far is: If i were to consider attempting to learn how to start writing the kind of software this system, utilizing the Raspberry Pi, would require, what programming language would be best suited for a collaborative effort? Any other recommendations would be most appreciated.