[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: 305526

Comment by fefenin on August 23, 2009 at 10:42am
can i ask you to share this version you did compile?

i'm also interested about using ardupilot without shield and Z sensor for an other airplane (i,ve got the XY sensor from FMA unused)

here is my new plane, it fly's great and very slow for a really big plane like that, i still have an issue with the front landing gear before i put all the precious electronics inboard

i made a video (inboard and from the ground but the quality is poor so i'll not put it online)

hope i'll fly soon!!

and thank's for all those report Peter!
Comment by Reto on August 23, 2009 at 11:08am
A few months ago I've converted a MPX Fox to brushless, ailerons and elevator, running on a 2 cell 1000mAh Lipo. It is fast and very reactive, quite far from a smooth floating platform. Of course it will be interesting to see your conversion with added cam and AP. I am eager to see that fly !!!
Comment by fefenin on August 23, 2009 at 11:14am
i'll try to do the full test (AP, and cam) as soon as the landing gear is fixed and the side of the fuselage are closed

have you got pictures of the Fox converted??
Comment by Mike W on August 23, 2009 at 1:03pm
So today was my first shot with the V23 setup. Basically I ran into a huge problems with the thermopile sensors. I know the sensors themselves work fine since I have used them before with my FMA Copilot however when attempting to do the field calibration following the manual I never got the elevator to indicate that it had calibrated the thermopiles correctly. Help!
I followed the instructions in the manual to the letter..


3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on August 23, 2009 at 1:10pm

Are you using XY and Z from the same source? Have you tried the sensor test program in the manual? Are you using the DIY Drones cable and shield?
Comment by Reto on August 23, 2009 at 1:31pm
Comment by fefenin on August 23, 2009 at 3:45pm

thanks for those pictures!
Comment by Peter Meister on August 23, 2009 at 4:39pm
Sure thing Fefenin, i will send you link in PM...
Comment by Peter Meister on August 23, 2009 at 5:17pm
Flight Video Report:

3 Waypoints 3/4 mile - 4 circuits autonomous.

No wobbling as there was hardly any wind today....smooth and very angular turns...nice and steep too in some cases...

Comment by Earl on August 23, 2009 at 5:51pm
On my bench the airspeed is reading -123. minus 123 ? Any help ?


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