Is this for real?


I've been reading a lot lately about auto pilot boards for quadcopters and if all I read is true, today's technology is just too cool :)

I've been tinkering with RC stuff for many years now. Starting about 20 years ago with electric cars and trucks, moving up to nitro trucks, then RC planes and for the last 10 years or so, I've been a RC heli enthousiast.

Today, I own several RC helis starting with some micros all the way up to a Trex 600N nitro. I pilot all of those with my trustworthy DX7 radio and I,d say I'm an intermediate pilot. I do sport flying with only some really basic 3d, but I can handle loops, rolls and inverted flying no problem.

I've always been a DIY fan and I've been enjoying fiddling with my RC stuff for a long time, but I'm also a big computer and robotic fan so the more I read about those AP boards, the more I get interested.

But I always have the same question on my mind. Is this for real? I mean, I know it's real, but can a DIY quad drone equipped with APM 2.5 and ArduCopter really fly itself along some waypoints and return to it's launch location. All of this while I'm looking at it's live camera feed and telemetry on my laptop?

I know this is exactly what it is meant to do, but how good is it really at it? I read a lot of stuff about tuning complexity and all and not much real world showcase of a real drone flying a real circuit by itself.

I have access to a large field behing my parents cottage which is probably at least 1000ft x 1000ft. With a well built quad and a tuned APM 2.5 and all the required gear, would I really be able to attach my gopro and setup a flying path in the field and launch my drone so it can fly itself around the field while I can enjoy just looking at it?

How realist is this? I mean, I'm not afraid of tinkering/tuning, but I need to know if it's really achievable? Can some on you guys share some real world experience of this kind?

Also, how much would such a setup cost me? Am I right to think that I could build myself a pretty decent drone for something like 700-800$ ?  

Thanks for sharing!


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  • Thanks a lot for all the feedback. 

    It really gives me a better idea of exactly what to expect.

    @u4eake: I really enjoyed the video where you are chasing a plane drone!

  • Hi,

    Yeah you got it pretty much all right.

    It is not yet super duper mature and reliable all of it, but it is going the right way.

    Some people complain there must be something wrong if their (new) drone can't hold its altitude within 1 ft or something like that, or that switching on "return and land" will not bring it out of every stupid situation, such as being flown by someone who didn't bother to learn flying it... Fortunately you seem to know better than that :)

    Wish you lots of success with homebuilt drones. There is a lot to learn but it is fun :)



  • T3
    Now that its real. How much? If you already have a radio transmitter and reciever and a battery. You can get a basic kit from 3DR for @$400 or complete built 3DR Quadcopter from uDrones for @$600.
  • While we have a lot of FPV pilots here, check out the FPVlab forums to supplement your knowledge on what FPV/long range control systems you might want to use with your APM system.

  • 100KM

    Yeah, it's for real.  I always say that getting an ardupilot to fly is about as difficult for an average modeller as getting a first trainer plane to fly for a firsttime modeller.  There is a learning process, but if you're into it, you'll get it done.

    As for the waypoint flying, it works very nicely, but there are still limitations and you'll have to think for the drone and plan the path carefully.  If there's a tree in its preprogrammed path, the drone will fly into it.  If you load a wrong mission, the drone will fly away to wherever the wrong mission takes it (till batteries are empty).  If gps lock is lost in flight, it can sometimes do strange things.  If there's an excessive voltage drop it may reboot and fall out of the sky.  If you have powerfull currents creating magnetic fields that disturb the compass, it may wander off course.  If you have excessive vibrations, it won't hold altitude very well, etc etc ...

    That being said, if you inform yourself and be carefull of the pitfalls, it will work beautifully and will not let you down.  

    Have a look at my youtube channel for some video's of arducopter and arduplane in action : youtube channel

  • It is real. It is a learning process though as there are a lot of information to read. Most of all, lots of experimentation which I think is the best part because you learn how the whole Arducopter system works. I recently tried connecting to my quadcopter with a Android Tablet equipped with the DroidPlanner app and the 3DR radio wireless kit. The follow me mode works like a charm.

  • Yes, it's completely real. And with the latest code, it can fly auto better than many novice/intermediate pilots.

    Now, a rank beginner would need to still learn a lot to be successful. But given your experience, you should have no trouble at all, though you will still need to learn a bit of new stuff.

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