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: 1377220

Comment by Angel Rivera on March 26, 2014 at 7:40pm

I brought a Iris recently in doing inventory, I noted a rectangular shape electronic in a clear plastic container with a long female 4 pin wire connector on one end a USB port and the rectangular  end. Looking up all the parts in the store I could not find it to identify it. it seem associated with the gimbal but in the gimbal instructions it does not show this part and it's function. Possibly a programming module for the Iris to connect to my computer?

Comment by Rob J on March 26, 2014 at 8:29pm

No chance you could put in a photo...you know, a photo is worth a thousand words...and you have several hundred to go.  Based on your description, not a clue

Comment by Ron Irby on May 5, 2014 at 9:45am

I'm new to waypoint flying, using APM 2.6 flight planner, and I've had several successful waypoint flights.  But today I tried to execute a new flight plan, but the software wanted to include waypoints from the flight I flew 2 days ago.  How do I get rid of these extra waypoints?  Are they being retained in memory on the quad?  Also, what is the setup so that quad rotates to face the direction of the next waypoint?

Comment by John Githens on May 5, 2014 at 10:02am

Hi Ron, you may have a faster response on a sub-forum of this forum, specifically this forum if you are using Mission Planner.  If your drone system is a 3DR product, try this forum. Here are general tips for searching or interacting on the DIY Drones site. It might help to be a more specific about your configuration of hardware and software, so others can respond to your questions with less back-and-forth.

Comment by Philip Giacalone on June 22, 2014 at 11:09pm

Do you think that this '"newbie's guide" could be improved by having a section that talks about flight safety and pilot responsibilities? 

The future of this hobby in many ways depends on the behavior of the thousands of new people now flooding in. Neophytes could be given some important pointers by the experienced DIYDrones community under this heading. This will benefit everyone. 

Comment by Morli on June 23, 2014 at 12:31am

Hi Philip,

Any thing that helps Newbie  is welcome. So answer is "Yes, why not". Please do what you can to improve/help.


DiyDrone support

Comment by Philip Giacalone on June 23, 2014 at 7:31pm

Great, thanks.

How about adding a second paragraph entitled 'Flight Safety' to the 'newbie's guide' above. The paragraph should include the FAA link below, as well as any other safety suggestions the DIYDrones community suggests.  


This URL points to the FAA's friendly and short advice on how to operate model aircraft/UAS safely. Hopefully, they'll keep this link active and current as the rules evolve. 

Thanks again...!

Comment by Morli on June 24, 2014 at 12:56am

Done, Hope this serves its purpose.

Comment by Philip Giacalone on June 29, 2014 at 8:46pm

Great job, Morli. Thanks for making those 'Flight Safety' additions! 

Comment by tito B on August 6, 2014 at 5:28pm

I have newbie question. I hope its the right place to ask it. I am curious about building a hexacopter and i want to us the pixhawk. now as far as the motors go I know every other motor will spin counter clock wise. Do i need to wire them (switching the positive and ground to reverse the rotation) or is that something the would be done with the control board?


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