I have seen some really horrific pictures on the internet of Bixlers with everything taped to the outside. After digging through the internet, I found the answers I needed to build my plane, but the learning curve was pretty steep. Hopefully I can help somebody out and save them a lot of frustration by logging my whole build.
The equipment list:
APM 2.6 with separate GPS/compass
Receiver: AR6210, no satellite
Prop: APC 6 x 4. The HK 6 x 4 prop came with horrible adapter collars and I do not recommend them!
30cm 4 position cable: https://store.3drobotics.com/products/df13-4-position-connector-10-...
30cm 6 position cable: https://store.3drobotics.com/products/df13-6-position-connector-30-cm
Female-female jumpers (15cm x 7 qty) https://store.3drobotics.com/products/servo-extension-cable-female-...
About using an external SBEC: I chose to do this because I am an RC heli guy, and I am used to using servos that draw ridiculous current. My thoughts are that if you supply the servos separate from the motor, there is less chance of either one shutting down due to over-current draw (but you also add a second electronic device that can fail). I am thinking of when the motor is at max throttle and the servos are fully deflected, such as on a very windy day, the separate BEC will give you some headroom. If space becomes an issue, you can always get rid of the external BEC and use the internal BEC from the ESC.
Programming the ESC:
1. Set up the programmer card as such:
I purposely set the low voltage cutoff to its lowest setting to allow the APM failsafe feature do its job. It is veeeeeery nice, but more on that later. Don't worry about FWD vs REV; you can just switch two of the motor wires if the motor spins backwards.
2. Connect the ESC to the card and the motor (no prop).
3. Plug the ESC into a battery and you should get one tone from the motor, letting you know that programming is complete.
4. Disconnect the programming card and then the battery.
Wiring the ESC and BEC:
I chose to use EC3 connectors in my build, because all of my batteries have them. XT-60 are just fine.
1. Cut the servo power lead off of the BEC at the connector. Solder the BEC power cables with the ESC power cables into your connector. This can be a little tricky, but if you get the solder hot in the connector, you should be able to slip the BEC power cables into the connector after you solder the ESC cables. Just keep the heat on it and slip them in. It helps to have a set of "helping hands", but I use my children instead :)
2. I chose to run my servos at 5V from the BEC. There is a jumper on the end of it that lets you select 5 or 6 V. Before I reinstall the electronics I will secure the jumper on the BEC with a glob of hot glue or shoe goo.
3. Pull the center (red) pin and wire from the ESC receiver connector. This disconnects the built in BEC from the ESC. You don't need it, it is only powering the motor. Make sure to tuck it away with heat shrink tubing. You will need it if you need to re-program the ESC.
Here it is ready to go:
I made a mounting plate for the APM using 5mm plywood, which I assume is 1/4" thick. I cut it 45 x 80 mm. I mounted my APM on sorbothane and secured it to the gel pad to the plywood plate with Welder's glue. I bought the Welder's glue from Lowe's, but if you can't find it, Amazon has plenty.
The APM mounted on the plate:
(Pictured are the stock cables to the GPS. I will be using the 30cm cables for the real build)
A note on Welder's Glue: it is contact cement. Lightly cover each surface you wish to bond and let them partially dry for about five minutes. Put the two surfaces together and POW, it is stuck. I will also use Welder's Glue for assembling the foam air frame and building a super trick access door in the fuselage.
In Part Two of the build, we modify the airframe to accommodate the APM. We also make a really cool access panel to access the ports and USB hub of the APM.