Sanity check & forward plan advice

I'm at the point where I think I should be able to get in the air fairly quickly, but I'm also starting to get the in-over-my-head feeling so I figured I'd post here to get some input from people who can help.

Background: 2 months ago I bought what appears to be the 3DR Ardupilot Mega (APM1 2560) kit, fully assembled. I bought it from a pawn shop pretty cheap, so at worst I figured I could sell it and put the money toward another project. This is a big step up from the toy quads (RC Eye One) that I had flown before, but I've decided to try to finish it and fly it.

It is the model pictured here:

3drquad.jpg

*mine also has a tilt camera mount installed

 

Current parts list:

APM1 with oilpan w/ GPS, sonar, & power distro board
xbee telemetry board
Flight Batteries (3S 30C)
Turnigy 9X (modded with SmartyParts board, FrSky DIY module, backlight, but no 6 pos rotary switch yet)
FrSky D8R-XP receiver
Kyosho Zeal Gel (for vibration isolating the APM board)
Dubro Foam (for vibration isolation if the Kyosho Zeal Gel doesn't work)
GoPro Hero HD (later)

 

I've downloaded Mission Planner and installed v2.9.1b firmware on APM1. That seemed to work well. I've also downloaded Andropilot and Droidplanner, but haven't used them.

I have also flashed OpenTX onto the Tgy9X, but have not gone very far into the programming. My plan is for a very simple setup with the flight modes controlled by the ID/Ail switches and current flight mode displayed on the screen (http://diydrones.com/profiles/blogs/setting-up-open9x-to-show-current-requested-flight-mode).

 

 

Initial questions:

1) When I flash OpenTX onto my Tgy9X, do I check the "FrSky" option or the "Arducopter" option (or neither)?  I will be using a Frsky DIY Telemetry module in the 9x with the FrSky D8R-XP two-way telemetry Rx.
p.s. I'd like to eventually move up to a Taranis Tx, so I'd rather work with OpenTX than ER9x to ease that transition.

 

2) Should I start with ArduCopter 2.9.1b or start with the 3.0 beta? I know that beta software is usually not newbie friendly, so if that holds true here I don't mind working with 2.9.1b for a while. I will be updating the GPS firmware and adding vibration dampening for either option.

 

3) It looks like I also need to update the PPM Encoder firmware. Is this correct?

Reference:

http://code.google.com/p/arducopter/wiki/AC2_Failsafe

http://code.google.com/p/arducopter/wiki/AVRStudio

 

4) Is there a template or common setup guide for the standard 3DR APM kit with OpenTX? ER9X? Other than the flight mode mixes for the ID/Ail switches, do I need to perform other programming on the transmitter or should it be done in Mission Planner?

 

5) Other than the ESC calibrations called for in the startup guide, is there anything I need to do to ensure that the setup is correct before trying a first 'real' flight?

 

6) What is a reasonable goal for a maiden voyage? Should I tether it to the ground to guard against a fly-away? Simple take-off & landing? Waypoint? Altitude?

 

 

I'm expecting to have more questions, but if anyone can help with those answers it would help me a lot.

 

p.s. If anyone happens to live in the Houston area and likes beer, I'd definitely supply plenty of (good) beer for a couple hours of tutoring and setup help.

 

Thanks!

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