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 Kevin Goff on January 26, 2016 at 2:55pm

"Do Fly your model aircraft/UAS at your local model aircraft club. "    Unless you in DC metro, where no flying is allowed 30 miles out from DCA

Comment by Alexander Thorp on February 25, 2016 at 7:35am

Where can I find a discussion on the pros and cons of plane vs. copter?

Comment by Alexander Thorp on February 25, 2016 at 8:47am

This page does not address what I imagine to be one of the first major questions that a newbie would face - plane vs. copter?  What are the pros and cons of each, for different applications?  I thought I had seen such a discussion, but don't remember if it was on DIYDrones, or another site, and in any case can't find it now.

Comment by Patrick Palensky on April 8, 2016 at 12:03pm

I have a co worker who has a nephew who will be in San Diego for the summer and he would be willing to work as an unpaid intern for the summer working with UAV's.  The nephew is 18 years old and will be going to college in t he fall and is thinking of being an Electrical Engineer.  Should I post a resume or how should I proceed.

Thanks for working with me.



Comment by bijoux-de-lithotherapie on April 18, 2016 at 1:56am

Thanks for the guide !:)


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