[This original ArduPilot board, now called the "Legacy ArduPilot" is no longer produced or officially supported by the DIY Drones dev team, and this page is maintained just for historic reasons. However, there are still many users of it out there and it still works fine. The user group for Legacy ArduPilot users, for both thermopile and IMU use, is here.]


ArduPilot is a full-featured autopilot based on the Arduino open-source hardware platform. It uses infrared (thermopile) sensors or an IMU for stabilization and GPS for navigation. It is the autopilot used to win the 2009 Sparkfun Autonomous Vehicle Competition.

The hardware is available from Sparkfun for $24.95. An expansion board ("Shield") kits that includes an airspeed sensor, a 3.3v power regulator for 3.3v GPS modules and other sensors and cables and connectors for easy attachment of the XY and Z sensors, is available from our own store for $57.20.


User f

ArduPilot features include:

  • Can be used for an autonomous aircraft, car or boat.
  • Built-in hardware failsafe that uses a separate circuit (multiplexer chip and ATTiny processor) to transfer control from the RC system to the autopilot and back again. Includes ability to reboot the main processor in mid-flight.
  • Multiple 3D waypoints (limited only by memory)
  • Altitude controlled with the elevator and throttle
  • Comes with a 6-pin GPS connector for the 4Hz uBlox5 or 1hz EM406 GPS modules.
  • Has six spare analog inputs (with ADC on each) and six spare digital input/outputs to add additional sensors
  • Supports addition of wireless modules for real-time telemetry
  • Based on a 16MhZ Atmega328 processor. Total onboard processing power aprox 24 MIPS.
  • Very small: 30mm x 47mm
  • Can be powered by either the RC receiver or a separate battery
  • Four RC-in channels (plus the autopilot on/off channel) can be processed by the autopilot. Autopilot can also control four channels out.
  • LEDs for power, failsafe (on/off), status and GPS (satellite lock).


ArduPilot requires the free Arduino IDE to edit and upload the code to the ArduPilot board.

The code is currently optimized for the Mutiplex EasyStar three-channel powered glider and FMA sensors, but can be modified for other aircraft and sensors. It uses the rudder/ailerons and elevator to maintain level flight and navigate to GPS waypoints. It supports a desktop setup utility and ground station software. It also includes a "fly-by-wire" mode that simply stabilizes RC flight. The main code is ArduPilot2.x.zip in the download section of our Google Code repository, where x is the latest version.

What you need to make a fully-functional autopilot:

Open source extras:

  • If you want to build your own board from scratch, the necessary files and component lists are here.
  • [Note: you shouldn't need this, since this code is loaded on the ArduPilot board at the factory] Latest multiplexer code (for the board's second processor, an Attiny, which runs the failsafe system) is here.
    Instructions for loading this code are here.

Recommended UAV setup:

Airframe option one: Hobbico SuperStar (49" wingspan, $95, shown above). This is an inexpensive, good flying high-wing trainer with ailerons. It can be hand launched in a park or take off from a runway, and replacement parts are readily available in case of a crash. If you want much better performance with this aircraft, you can upgrade it to a brushless motor, speed controller and a LiPo battery. [If you don't already have one, you'll also need a balancing charger and power supply.] Note: any stable aircraft with both ailerons (for stabilization) and rudder (for navigation) can work, so feel free to experiment with what you've got.

Airframe option two (recommended for ArduPilot 2.x): EasyStar (shown above). Performance can be improved with the modifications described in this post.

You'll also need:

  • A six or seven channel RC transmitter and receiver, with at least one toggle switch (ideally three-position but two-position will work, too, although you will have to mix channels to have access to both autopilot modes in the air), such as the Futaba 7C.
  • Some servos (at least three for ArduPilot 1.0; at least two for ArduPilot 2.x) and at least three female-to-female servo cables to connect the RC receiver to ArduPilot.

Cool optional extras for your UAV:

Views: 310130

Comment by Danilo Marques Figueiredo on August 18, 2009 at 10:29am
How I do the conections to radio receiver?!

Comment by Jordi Muñoz on August 18, 2009 at 10:36am

Is the same way you are saying. =) The problem in futaba is that one switch will completely low the PWM, so will disable the autopilot not matter the position of the second switch (RTL/WP). ;-)

Comment by Jordi Muñoz on August 18, 2009 at 10:39am

You can solder a wire (that conducts electricity) from the receiver to the ardupilot, be careful with the polarity. You can get the servo cable from any hobby shop. Remember white is signal, red power and black ground. Ardupilot indicate you this with the labels in the board (S+-)...
Comment by Danilo Marques Figueiredo on August 18, 2009 at 10:53am
OK Jordi,

The conections from receiver to ardupilot I think is good now, the switch of ch 5 is ok but ch 6 is the "potenciometer" from flap. Do I have to conect the ch 6 too?!

Comment by Jordi Muñoz on August 18, 2009 at 10:59am
HAA i got it., sorry The answer is NO. Your remote control will do all the mixing by software using that potentiometer. You must leave the ch 6 disconnected. Read your manuals for the MIXing modes. One is master an the other will be slave input (in si case you wan the potentiometer as slave).
Comment by Danilo Marques Figueiredo on August 18, 2009 at 11:10am
So the solution is the ch mix...

Thanks Jordi!!!

Comment by Danilo Marques Figueiredo on August 18, 2009 at 11:25am

with your experience, what chanel I can use as master and what as slave?
And when I mix the chanel, how may percent I use to mix?!

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on August 18, 2009 at 11:27am
It doesn't matter which channel you use. Danilo, this is *DIY* Drones. You've got to start experimenting and learning more on your own. Trust me, it's more fun if you do it yourself!
Comment by Danilo Marques Figueiredo on August 18, 2009 at 11:33am
Thanks Chris!!!

Comment by Jordi Muñoz on August 18, 2009 at 12:00pm
With my experience. Use any button in your left side to turn on/off the autopilot, in that way you have available the right hand to control the aircraft. WHEN you enter in panic mode and you see your aircraft going down @ full throttle, and you feel in your belly like Coca Cola with Mentos you will have to react quickly by switching back to manual mode and recover (if you can) so is better always leave your left hand in the autopilot switch.


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