What is an amateur UAV?

An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is an aircraft that has the capability of autonomous flight, without a pilot in control. Amateur UAVs are non-military and non-commercial. They typically fly under “recreational” exceptions to FAA regulations on UAVs, so long as the pilots/programmers keep them within tight limits on altitude and distance. Usually the UAV is controlled manually by Radio Control (RC) at take-off and landing, and switched into GPS-guided autonomous mode only at a safe altitude. (Confused by all the acronyms and unfamiliar terms in UAVs? A glossary is here.)

What do I need to make one?

---1) An RC plane, muticopter (quadcopter/hexacopter/tricopter, etc) or helicopter. You can buy them ready to fly, including autopilot, here. If you want to build your own, these instructions are a good starting point.
---2) An autopilot, such as Pixhawk (see below)
---3) Optional: a useful “payload”, such as a digital camera or video transmission equipment

What does DIY Drones have to offer?

The DIY Drones community has created the world's first "universal autopilots", ArduPilot Mega (APM) and its next-generation big brother, Pixhawk. They combines sophisticated IMU-based autopilot electronics with free autopilot software that can turn any RC vehicle into a fully-autonomous UAV.

A full setup consists of:

  • Pixhawk autopilot: The electronics, including twin processors, gyros, accelerometers, pressure sensors, GPS and more (shown at right). Available from mRo.
  • Mission Planner software Desktop software that lets you manage APM and plan missions, along with being a powerful ground station during flights and helping you analyze mission logs afterwards.
  • Autopilot software (automatically loaded by the Planners):

You can buy Ready-to-Fly UAVs planes from mRo and multicopters from HobbyKing



Last but not least is flight safety. The RCAPA guidelines are an excellent set of checklists and do's and don'ts, so please refer to them.

Also, here's the FAA's official word on what's legal and what's not.

Views: 1378347

Comment by vova reznik on March 31, 2009 at 1:48pm
Oh, no. One waypoint currently.
We don't have any plans to make it a 'full' autopilot just yet. Because right now, the most popular way to fly is by camera- the autopilot is a safety measure in case radio or video links fail.

Comment by Sgt Ric on March 31, 2009 at 2:22pm
Yes, Vova, FPV may be more popular, but this site is dedicated to full-function autopilots.

I cut my teeth with your equipt, and still use your stuff alot, but now require an autopilot with multi-waypoint navigation for UAV work.

(your RVOSD is still on my list for this summer for the FPV side)

Comment by Krzysztof Bosak on March 31, 2009 at 4:16pm
"We usually define a full-featured autopilot as one that can allow you to program a "mission" of multiple waypoints." I don't think this is wise, because making waypoint sequencing is maybe 1% of a challenge to make an autopilot, on the other hand this is making US export very difficult. You wouldn't want to put down all potential autopilot projects just because they are intentionally limited to a single waypoint.I dont believe adding RTL systems would flood the list, either.
Comment by vova reznik on March 31, 2009 at 5:47pm

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on March 31, 2009 at 9:14pm

I'm not trying to set a standard for the industry or tell any company what they should make, I'm just trying to clarify the mission of this site. As the name suggests, it's for Drones. Not FPV, or OSD or generic RC. We're focused on autonomous flight here, and follow the usual definitions of UAVs, which goes beyond simple RTL.

We love the Range Video gear and highly recommend it for video downlink, etc. But there are other sites for FPV stuff.

Comment by Krzysztof Bosak on April 22, 2009 at 10:12am
Indeed I support the presence of RVOSD on this list, he has all the feedback control loops etc. being useful for learning the functionality of typical autopilot. Second thing is that PicoPilot is missing on the list. I would call it to be Yaw Gyro Assisted Thermopile. Devboard is 6DOF, Procerus is 6DOF + magnetometers.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on April 22, 2009 at 10:21am
It's not a complete list--it's just those we've had experience with and can recommend. We've sadly had too much experience with PicoPilot and can very much NOT recommend it.

Comment by Sgt Ric on April 22, 2009 at 10:40am
Any supplier who treats individual customers with repeated contenpt and abuse should not make the list.
Comment by Gilbert Yarbrough on May 30, 2009 at 11:22am
I recently joined this site because I am very facinated and interested in the construction and operation of UAV's. From a military standpoint, UAV's serve as a huge tactical scouting advantage. Since I'm new to this and just starting out; are there any recommended reading guides for the construction and operation of UAV's. I'm interested in building my own from scratch.
Comment by Rahul Bura on September 14, 2009 at 12:08pm
is it possible to not use RC? Perhaps wireless control via the internet??


You need to be a member of DIY Drones to add comments!

Join DIY Drones

© 2019   Created by Chris Anderson.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service