Ok so I'm close to taking the dive and getting one of the Easy Stars I seen at my local rc shop. The first basic question is what kind of radio controller to get? Go with a bare bones one or is it better to get a good one for when I advance to the whole auto pilot part of this project??

Also, can the average computer literate guy with a small amount of programming knowledge get this the autopilot up an running successfully? I just don't want to jump in and find I'm in too deep... 

Thanks,

J

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I would go with a more advanced controller if you are using the whole autopilot system just because advanced controllers give you safer control. But you also have to think about if your going to want to continue(I'm assume this might? Be your first plane) flying planes or if this is just a test drive. I think it really depends on how serious you want to take this. If you are going to take it seriously, then go ahead and buy a nice controller. Like a nice futaba.
answer to you second question(can a computer literate..) is YES , once you know how to swim, it wouldn't matter how deep it is.;-) but go for some decent Rc controller(6 or7 channel) so that you wouldn't grow out of it soon. good luck
Yes, you should get a better what means also more expensive radio controller. But if you're going to get something like Futaba 7 channel Radio controller, it costs 350$ if I remember right, but if you have money, it's okay then. But if you do not have money, Futaba 6 channel Radio controller is good enough too. Most have 6 or 7 channel now days, so it's okay to get a better if you're going to take this more seriously.
On the controller, just don't go cheap like the HobbyKing or anything crazy like that..it is a good controller for certain situations (like the Blimpduino), but this is not it. You will want a good 6 channel Tx/Rx combo (some are not interoperable even among brands.) Units from the big brands like Futaba, JR, Spektrum, Hitec etc. will usually have decent support, although you should keep an eye out for the frequency range of the transmitter, and even for discontinued models.

And ABSOLUTELY a computer literate guy with a little programming knowledge can handle the Ardupilot - in fact you may actually find it sharpens your skills!! Besides, what fun is it playing in the shallow water?? - You have this entire community here to help sort things out...and they WILL be here to help!
I have to disagree with this as my controller bit the dust a little while ago so I posted on the forum asking advice and suggested the turnigy 9 channel controller from hobbyking. Lots of people slated it but then browsing other sites lots of people recommended it and especially cause the price.

I bought it along with the recommended 2.4ghz module and have had no problems at all with it. Yeah it probably isn't the best looking out there but it works great, I have had no range issues, I have had no glitching or problems with binding and it does just what I need it to do and probably more.
I got the Futaba 7c 2.4ghz from towerhobbies, which is the one they recommend in the ardupilot blog. Towerhobbies also offers easypay options on their radios so may help you get something a tad better. I have been very happy with the radio so far, I was going to go the route like the radios you can get from hobbyking but everytime I have tried to order from them I run into some kind of issue and have given up on that company all together. Also I would rather pay a little more and not have to wait so long on shipping and a easier means of contact if something goes wrong. Hope this might help some

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