Confusion about the ArduPilot

So I am confused. If i buy the ArduPilot 2.5 Mega, do i need to buy an ArduinoMega 2560 R3 As well?

Also, if I buy the ArduPilot 1 board, can i build it to the 2.5 specs my self?

I guess my real hangup is, what is the ArduPilot actually. It seems like a mystical flying unicorn, that is all important, and your rig will be useless without it. can anyone answer these questions in simple terms?

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  • The APM is the heart...or rather brain...of the multi-copter. You don't need an ArduinoMega, because the ATMEGA2560, the chip the ArduinoMega is based around, is already onboard...among other things. There are a number of sensors that keep track of its orientation and position (accelerometer, magnetometer, altimeter, etc). The board takes the inputs from all these sensors, and tells the motor controllers how fast they need to spin the propellers to keep the multi-copter level, or fly in a given direction. Radio control signals also run through the board, and it does the interpreting so that you, the pilot, need only concern yourself with direction and not speeds of the individual motors themselves.

    For a multi-copter, it really is all-important; a model plane can fly well enough relying only on input from the pilot, but without some kind of computer constantly micro-managing the motors to maintain balance, a multi-copter won't fly.

    Additionally, the APM is what allows you to store and carry out missions, granting your plane/copter/rover, etc. a degree of autonomy. It's what separates a UAV or drone from a model aircraft.

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