APM:Plane 2.74 released

The APM dev team is delighted to announce the release of APM:Plane 2.74, a major new release with a lot of new features. This release is recommended for anyone flying fixed wing aircraft with an APM2 or PX4.

There are a lot of changes in this release, but some of the highlights are:

  • new APM_Control attitude controllers.
  • new TECS speed/height controller from Paul Riseborough.
  • two new flight modes, ACRO and CRUISE
  • new camera trigger by distance system, for better aerial mapping
  • dozens of small fixes and improvements from two months of development
  • lots more documentation, including tuning guides for all the new parameters

Scroll down for a more complete list of changes, but before that I'd like to give you a bit more detail on the highlights above.

New Attitude Controllers

The new "APM_Control" attitude controllers have been in development for a long time. Originally developed by Jon Challinger last year, they were extended by Paul Riseborough and made compatible with the existing parameter names. The key advantage of these new controllers is their improved handling of noise, and much better ability to tune for your aircraft. There is a new tuning guide in the wiki which gives detailed instructions on how to make the most of the new capabilities.

One of the big effects you will see with the new attitude controllers is better handling of pitch compensation in turns. The new PTCH2SRV_RLL parameter makes tuning for flat turns much easier, which has been a major source of frustration in the past.

The new controllers also handle sensor noise much better, especially if you use any D term in your roll or pitch controllers.

New Speed/Height Controller

The new TECS speed/height controller is the second major controller change in this release, and will make a world of difference for aircraft with an airspeed sensor. After a lot of testing I decided to make TECS the default in this release, although you can switch back to the old controllers using the ALT_CTRL_ALG parameter if need be. If for some reason you find you do need these old controllers then please let me know, as I am planning on removing the old controllers in the next release.

The previous airspeed controller for speed/height suffered from a major problem that it gave absolute priority to airspeed. If the aircraft could not achieve the target airspeed you had set then it would dive to gain speed, even to the point of diving into the ground. This made it quite fragile, and you had to be very sure of your airspeed configuration.

The new controller operates over a range of airspeed values, set using the ARSPD_FBW_MIN and ARSPD_FBW_MAX parameters. That controller will try to meet both the airspeed and altitude demands of the mission, but if it can't reach the target speed it will happily fly a bit slower, as long as it doesn't get below ARSPD_FBW_MIN. You can control the relative priorities of speed versus height using the TECS_SPDWEIGHT parameter. See the full tuning guide for details.

New ACRO flight mode

After a suggestion from Thomas in the 2.73 release thread, we have added a new ACRO flight mode.

This modes brings rate controlled stabilization to APM:Plane, and should help give you an "on rails" manual flight experience. It is a lot of fun to fly, but it is not for beginners!

We're planning on expanding the ACRO mode in future releases. Right now it is great for "locked in" flying, and also good for loops and handles inverted flight very nicely. It doesn't yet handle knife-edge or prop-hanging.

New CRUISE flight mode

After a suggestion from Hein, we now have a new CRUISE flight mode. This mode is ideal for longer distance flying without a pre-programmed mission. It is like FBWB, but also does ground track heading hold, with heading update via aileron or rudder.

I've been testing CRUISE at my local flying field, and it is the easiest mode to fly in APM. Just steer the plane around the sky, and when you stop steering it locks onto a ground track and holds it. It isn't a good mode for takeoff and landing, but once you are in the air it is great.

New camera trigger system

When using APM for aerial mapping where you want photos taken at regular distances, the previous system was to setup a grid mission with a "camera trigger" mission item at regular intervals within the mission. That worked, but led to overly large and complex missions. You can now just set a single parameter CAM_TRIGG_DIST to the number of meters of flight between photos, and the APM will take care of when to trigger the camera. This makes for much simpler missions, and also works in other flight modes, including FBWB and CRUISE.

Lots of smaller changes

As is usual with a new release after a couple of months of development there were a lot of smaller improvements based on feedback from users. Many thanks to everyone who gave feedback and contributed patches!

Here is a partial list of the changes:

  • added new GND_ALT_OFFSET parameter for ground station barometric correction
  • made it possible to set the failsafe battery voltage and battery level at runtime via parameters
  • added MIXING_GAIN parameter for controlling the elevon and v-tail mixers
  • fixed stick mixing range in AUTO modes  (thanks Soren!)
  • fixed mode logging in dataflash
  • added support for the EagleTree I2C airspeed sensor on PX4
  • added new RCMAP_* parameters for re-mapping control channels (good for DSM and SBUS receivers on PX4)
  • made it possible to configure board orientation at runtime, to make setup easier without rebooting
  • switched to new task scheduler for more accurate internal timing
  • added a new RELAY_PIN parameter for setting up camera trigger via a digital pin
  • added secondary rudder support, useful for when a separate servo is used for a nosewheel and the rudder, or for v-tail planes with nosewheels
  • fixed RTL glide slope when starting above the target RTL altitude. Descent should now be smooth over long distances. Many thanks to Kitsen13 for raising this.
  • fixed a bug with FBWB airspeed control. Many thanks to Gabor for reporting this
  • Added FS_LONG_TIMEOUT and FS_SHORT_TIMEOUT parameters. Many thanks for the suggestion by Aleck
  • fixed handling of deadzone parameters on RC channels. Many thanks to Soren for reporting this
  • many small C++ fixes from NeuroCopter. This sort of detailed review of our code is much appreciated!
  • fixed analog in handling with some unusual devices - thanks to Andi for noticing this!
  • added support for apparent versus true airspeed calculations based on pressure altitude, for better flight control at higher altitudes
  • avoid writing unchanged bytes to EEPROM, for faster updates and less wear on the chip
  • cope better with large yaw changes in the AHRS code
  • improved the reliability of USB connections on PX4
  • added PX4 support for RELAY (thanks to Marco Bauer)
  • fixed handling of high spin rates in AHRS (thanks Jurgen!)
  • removed support for the old APM1 1280 based boards.

This new release has a lot of new features that should improve the flying experience for all APM users. The APM dev teams wishes all APM users many enjoyable flights, and we hope you have as much fun flying this release as we had making it.

Happy flying!

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  • Does this version still have the throttle slew rate option? I had read this might be eliminated. It's helpful for nitro engines to slowly advance the throttle as apposed to 'nailing it'. 

  • A question to cruise mode.

    Does ALT_HOLD_FBWCM work in cruise mode?

  • Hi Tridgell, congratulations to you for this new outstanding development...

    I have one question: for those who has not installed airspeed sensor yet, Could we use the new cruise fly mode also?.

    Thank a lot

  • These sound like some exciting changes, thanks!  I can't wait to try them on my X8!  ...well, not the Acro one, but the Acro one will probably work well on my 1600mm P51D once I get that one built :)

  • Something I have never known with both Plane and Copter when updating is, do I have to go through full setup? Do I just load a Hex file?

    I usually always erase eeprom and reset, but somebody asked tis question the other day and the response was 'no'.Is it just small updates that don't require this as I thought that PIDs changed with updates like 2.74 and therefore required eeprom clearing? 

    I have tried to find the answer to this, but am unclear.

    Hoping someone will let me know for sure, thanks.

  • does the TECS controller work if I don't have an airspeed controller installed, or should I switch back to the old one just for safety?

  • Thanks for all the hard work...looks like some good changes and I'm excited to get out and fly it!  Is there any word on getting HIL back up-and-running?  Please correct me if I'm wrong but the last version with working HIL capability is 2.68, correct?

    Thanks again,


  • Developer

    I've just released 2.74b which fixes a bug in the yaw integrator noticed by Steven G, plus fixes a bug with FBWB aileron control.

    It should be updated in the MissionPlanner downloads in a few minutes.

    Cheers, Tridge

  • Hi tridge...thanks for this release..arduplane now it's amazing....very good...congratulations...

    I have a question...referring to flight's possible to update a flight navigation in blocks...similar to micropilot, gluonpilot and paparazzi...this method is great to manage multiple mission, only program once...separate landing and takeoff just...pull a button in mission planer and the plane realize...the gps use relative possition in meters reference to home position in the other autopilots...this is very usseful for flight...turn on the arduplane waith for fix and need to load a new plan every time to changr home position or flight location...i believe the flight plans in blocks its realy nice because no need to load in the air and this improve safety and better manage.....but this is only an idea and hope in the future see this method of flight plans in arduplane

    Thanks again
  • Thank you so much for your efforts!

    Question: I was fine tuning the Advanced Parameters and noticed that YAW2SRV_IMAX was at -36. I had done a CLI Reset so that, I assume, is the standard "factory" setting. HOWEVER, the explanation says the DEFAULT setting of 1500 centi-degrees should work on most airframes. Can you explain the contradiction and what is the right default setting.



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