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 3D Robotics.
  • 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 (both planes and multicopters) from 3D Robotics:

 

 

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.

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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?


Admin
Comment by Morli on August 9, 2014 at 8:20am

that will be taken care by controller board. However in some situations the wires need to be changed. You have to follow the manual to the word.  Remember to remove the prop while playing with wireing,  motors might spin un expected and injure you. once you fixed every thing and double checked , take it some play ground or safe place to test. Good luck

Comment by tito B on August 10, 2014 at 11:28am

Will do, thank you for the Information. I was thinking of purchasing a pixhawk. 

Comment by Jim Jordan on August 21, 2014 at 5:06pm

The link is a now a dead link. 

While trying to find the information, I did find this interesting piece:  http://www.faa.gov/uas/media/model_aircraft_spec_rule.pdf


3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on August 21, 2014 at 7:42pm

Jim: Which link are you referring to?

Comment by Jim Jordan on August 21, 2014 at 10:24pm

Phillips post of June 23 has a link that no longer works.   At least when I click on it I end up on a FAA Page not found message.  Thanks Chris.

Comment by Gonzalo Velasco Conde on August 24, 2014 at 8:16am
Comment by John Githens on August 24, 2014 at 11:13am

@Gonzalo:  Link to Archaeology DRONE – Air Technical Projects acknowledged on 'UAS for environment'. :-)

Comment by Frank Ketcham on December 22, 2014 at 5:41pm
Is there any way to see touch feel one of the 3DR X8s. Kinda crazy that there seems to be no sales folks. What are other options? Hard to buy sight unseen.

Anyone know of kits?
Comment by Frank Ketcham on December 22, 2014 at 6:29pm
Is there a store front to go see these before purchase?

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