I recently discovered a post on RCG here back in May 2015 from a new member about using a single Pixhawk for VTOL control on the BirdsEyeView FireFLY6. It lead to the PX4 page below describing some development firmware for the Pixhawk. Does anyone know if there have been updates to this development or how to obtain the firmware for testing?

VTOL Firmware for Pixhawk

PX4 Page to BirdsEyeView FireFly


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I am wondering about the commonality of the PX4 Flight Stack and the APM Flight Stack. Is there any code in common?

If so, are basic flight modes like Stabilize, Alt. Hold, Loiter, Take-off, and Landing the same between these flight stacks?

Since I am familiar with APM, but not PX4 firmware, is there a document that  describes the differences for users?


The Pixhawk hardware offers a choice for flight stacks; PX4 and APM.

Does anyone have experience with both flight stacks? If so, can you comment on the differences or point to documentation that may compare them? Do they contain some common code base and maturity?

My understanding is that Mission Planner supports only the APM flight stack but QGroundControl and APM Planner 2.0 support both stacks. The PX4 flight stack seems more rooted in the academic world while the APM flight stack is in both the commercial and academic worlds. Both flight stacks seem to be under the Dronecode project umbrella.

My goal here is to determine if I want to try a VTOL project under the PX4 flight stack that uses a single Pixhawk or stick with the current APM solution that uses a Pixhawk and a second flight controller (DJI, APM, EagleTree, etc.) I am comfortable with Mission Planner but have little experience with QGC.

I found several Dronecode links that helps explain the two flight stacks. The APM flight stack is much larger and more mature than the PX4 flight stack.

Dronecode Org Homepage

Flight code description for APM and PX4 stacks

Size Comparison of Devs per stack

Compatible Ground Stations (GCS)

A Newbies Guide to UAVs

As an update, and, some closure on this discussion, I decided to use the the new AvA (or Advanced VTOL Autonomy) feature from BirdsEyeView Aerobotics. This feature combines the copter and planes features of the APM stack into a single Pixhawk firmware load.

In the first two images below, you can see the elimination of the Arducopter (Arduflyer) controller and the bridge transition assistant using the new AvA feature. The result is a fully autonomous VTOL design that can be controlled in the FireFLY6 Planner derivative of Mission Planner. The documentation on the BirdsEyeView Aerobotics products is top notch!

Hello Greg, nice build, like the position of the RF900.

I want to ask how does it fly with AvA compared to the transition bridge, any improvement with gps on mast as compared to first pic, and finally do you use airspeed sensor.


Hi Paul,

The AvA feature makes autonomous flight much easier than using the bridge because you only need one instance of the Mission Planner running. Also, the custom FireFLY6 Planner provides additional buttons on the Fly screen and additional commands like "Transition" and "Gear" in your mission plan.

The M8N GPS on the mast really cleaned up my noise and inconsistency issues. The flying pic above was taken by me after setting the transmitter down. You can see the 18 satellite count and low hdop value in the image below. I don't have an airspeed sensor yet because I am more experienced with APM:Copter and just a novice with APM:Plane. I plan to learn more in 2016.

Greg, thanks a lot for your feedback, really appreciate. Have a nice sunday.

hi, Greg Covey, congratulations on your success :)

I am also very fan of APM 2.6, and usually go for long range flights on hexa copter using APM 2.6. My hexa has hover time of 60min using 30000mah 4S tesla style batt,. 17in CF props.... but the problem, as u know, multi-rotors are inherently inefficient in comparison to planes, planes need runway to land & take off :(... VTOL is a perfect choice... i have been looking into FireFly for some time, but recently i saw someone(you) trying to build his own.:) I will be glad if u offer me little guidance because i want to make VTOL for my self :)

my queries:

1- I learned in the previous posts that we can upload VTOL firmware using PX4 Flight Stack Beta firmware in QGC v2.7.1, my question is that is this the firmware that "BirdsEyeView Firefly Y6" use? i mean can we have same type of transformations when we upload that QGC firmware?

2- once the firmware is installed, is it possible to fly the VTOL machine using FireFlyY6 Planner? or we can just use QGC? which one u suggest being better ground-station?

3- i was reading AvA on-board manual, they say we need to email BirdsEyeView  the "KEY_PID" and they will give us a pass code to unlock necessary AvA parameters... is this necessary? I think we do not need any pass key, as we are not buying "FireFly Y6"

thanks :)

Hi Sunnysun,

It's actually been 9 years since I built my last VTOL using heli gyros on a Multiplex Magister airplane frame. Today's flight controllers make it much easier.

To answer your question #1, BirdsEyeView Aerobotics uses the APM stack, not the PX4 stack for their AvA solution in FireFLY6. The PX4 version does not offer the same transformations.

Question #2 answer: The PX4 stack solution does not use the FireFLY6 Planner or the APM Mission Planner but it can use QGC for control. I do not know how much of it can be automated. The FireFLY6 solution using the APM stack can use the FireFLY6 Planner and new QGC beta for full autonomous control. As for which GCS is better, it is a personal choice. The FireFLY6 Planner is streamlined for the FireFLY6. QGC has a different GUI but is also well designed.

Question #3: If you use the Pixhawk firmware for the AvA version of the FireFLY6 then you need to purchase the key level. When you purchase the key level, you provide the unique KEY_PID to them and they return the KEY_VALUE to you for entering into the FireFLY6 Planner Full Parameter List. I purchased the Pro Key level.

The AvA solution does not necessarily need to be used on a FireFLY6 but it does need to be used on a Y6 (or Tricopter configuration) and purchased or it will not function properly.

Alternatively, you can use the dual flight controller solution (now known as the classic FireFLY6) but it requires the hardware bridge transition unit.

Lastly, you can use the PX4 stack solution, without any purchase, but it is sparsely documented and not well tested by many users. In other words, the AvA solution for the FireFLY6 is the current best solution with documentation that allows an autonomous transition between copter and plane configurations.

Hi, thank u for such an elaborate and prompt reply. and u got a loooooot of experience :D.. 9 years!! great

to simply put i want a flight experience that is similar to FireFly Y6 and i want to make it my self, instead of :)

here are the brief outline of steps that i have in mind to achieve my goal.

1-Install VTOL firmware using QGC V2.7.1, into pixhawk flight controller

2-Make a VTOL hardware as per firmware requirements (it my assumption that it will require a hardware setup like "Tricopter Y6" style similar to FireFly Y6, i dont own pixhawk yet, so it is my guess when i move forward after installing firmware in the pixhawk, it will demand a plane+tricopter y6 configuration to achieve VTOL

3-After hardware and software installed, now calibrate and test fly using QGC V2.7.1 ground station...

this is the brief setup in my mind, plz correct me if i am wrong some ware. My goal is to achieve similar flight experience as FireFly Y6, if not same experience :), and i want to achieve this using one flight controller, instead of using two flight controllers and a bridge. i seek your guidance in this :)



For #1, the QGC should work fine to load Pixhawk firmware. The main designer of QGC has posted many times on the FireFLY6 thread here and is working to make QGC fully compatible with the FireFLY6 AvA firmware. His screen name is DonLakeFlyer.

For #2, this seems like a reasonable plan. I have also thought of making another VTOL using the Pixhawk with AvA firmware.

For #3, yes this is a good plan.

I do not see anything wrong with your approach. My approach was similar in that I used the AvA firmware with a FireFLY6 model but used my own lower cost power system. My 6s Lipo SunnySky power system and low cost ESCs works identical to the more expensive "High-Efficiency Propulsion Bundle" from BirdsEyeView Aerobotics. You may want to look at their spares section for possible use of great ideas like the chain drive for servo transitions.

Good luck!

Thank you, ur reply gave me a lot of confidence to continue my research on this. :)

Also I don't think I will be needing any KEY_VALUE t enjoy all features, right ?

One t

hing that I am concerned about is the transformations in auto mode. I mean when the machine is asked to follow a mission and while going towards a specific way point, does it automatically shifts to plane mode to automatically improve efficiency? And when a waypoints are achieved, does this system hovers like tricopter automatically?

Suppose I gave a mission which looks like an alphabet "W", it has three sharp turns, and at each turn it will have to dead stop and then turn sharply to go to next waypoint, so if it only flies in plane mode it will definitely stall and fall at the edges of " W". But if it intelligently switches at corners to tricopter mode, then it wouldnt crash. Got any experience in that? If do plz answer

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