Introducing the PX4 autopilot system

The PX4 team is pleased to announce early availability of the PX4 autopilot platform, with hardware available immediately from 3D Robotics. 

The platform is a low cost, modular, open hardware and software design targeting high-end research, hobby and industrial autopilot applications.

PX4 is an expandable, modular system comprising the PX4FMU Flight Management Unit (autopilot) and a number of optional interface modules.

The PX4FMU autopilot features include:

  • 168Mhz ARM CortexM4F microcontroller with DSP and floating-point hardware acceleration.
  • 1024KiB of flash memory, 192KiB of RAM.
  • MEMS accelerometer and gyro, magnetometer and barometric pressure sensor.
  • Flexible expansion bus and onboard power options.

Expansion modules available at release include:

  • PX4IOAR This module interfaces PX4 to the AR.Drone motor controllers, allowing a complete quadrotor to be assembled using an AR.Drone frame and motors.
  • PX4IO A flexible interface module with support for eight PWM servo outputs, relays, switched power and more.

As an open hardware design, third-party and DIY expansion modules can be easily developed for specific applications, and more PX4 modules are in development.

In addition to the versatile hardware platform, PX4 introduces a sophisticated, modular software environment built on top of a POSIX-like realtime operating system. The modular architecture and operating system support greatly simplify the process of experimenting with specific components of the system, as well as reducing the barriers to entry for new developers.

Adding support for new sensors, peripherals and expansion modules is straightforward due to standardized interface protocols between software components. Onboard microSD storage permits high-rate logging and data storage for custom applications. MAVLink protocol support provides direct integration with existing ground control systems including QGroundControl and the APM Mission Planner.

Pricing of the PX4 components reflects more than a year of careful development and a strong commitment from our manufacturing partner.

This release is targeted at early adopters and developers looking for a more capable platform than existing low-cost autopilots. With more than an order of magnitude more processing power and memory compared to popular 8-bit autopilot platforms, PX4 is exceptional value for money and provides substantial room for future growth.

For more information about the PX4 autopilot platform, visit the project website at

PX4 modules can be purchased from our manufacturing partner, 3DRobotics.

Views: 50588

Comment by davidbuzz on September 14, 2012 at 5:57pm

to Dave_fr:

DIY Drones is manufacturing and distributing the *hardware* on behalf of the "PIXHAWK" project.   

The nuts and bolts of the project can be found here      

The project has its own "software stack", which is based on an embedded RTOS called NUTTX, with a number of custom applications and tools designed specifically for the sensors and management.  

There are a couple of side-projects that are being worked on to port ArduPlane/Copter  to the PX4.  Once of them based on a "bare metal" solution ( porting ArduCopter32 to PX4 ) , and the other using the existing Nuttx OS, and porting ArduPlane as an "application".    Neither of these is anywhere near being workable at this time, and it's possible that we may not even persue  these to completion.

As I understand it, the hardware/software stack is designed for *research* not as a turn-key solution, so don't expect any of the software to work "out of the box" ( although that said, some of it is getting very good)

They are actually working very closely with the ArduPilot hardware peeps in regard to keeping the platforms as compatible as possible ( which is why there is a gps connector on the APM2.5 to match the PX4 connector type), and the software devs are working toward making the systems compatible on as many levels as they can.    As I understand it, the "stock" PX4 firmware already works well enough to ( a ) fly an AR drone ( b ) fly a quadcopter (experiemntal) and ( c ) fly a plane ( experimental) .....  
It also talks "mavlink" happily to qgroundcontrol, and will soon be able to speak to APM Planner happily as well (the fact it doesn't is a bug).


( the guy who's crazy enough to try to port ArduPlane to PX4 as an app ) .

Comment by Randy on September 14, 2012 at 6:52pm

I've started looking at the existing PX4 software a bit and I really like the architecture.  Like Buzz says above, it doesn't have all the features of the diydrones code yet but it's a nice base to build on.

Comment by Dave_fr on September 15, 2012 at 11:18am

Thanks for your answer,

I also very much appreciate the whole system architecture. I think I'll wait to see something flying for real before I get it. The architecture looks very promissing but the nuttx RTOS seems to be very new and not that well documented either unlike "free RTOS". Furthermore I tried to developpe ARM C project in Eclipse and I haven't had such a good user-experience especially when I had to modify the make file everytime making changes to the project files ect... In that regard MPLAB or arduino IDE looks like a much better approach for hobbiest.

Can you share you insights on this ?

Comment by robert bouwens on September 15, 2012 at 2:14pm

MPLAB or arduino IDE - a reason for a 180 degree turn.

freertos is a pain when going beyond the housekeeping task.

for a start i see no reason to take a makefile project apart.

Comment by Eagle Wong on September 19, 2012 at 8:55pm

Any users video uploaded for enjoy?

Comment by Dave_fr on September 20, 2012 at 9:12am

I think that's what all other potential buyers inluding me are waiting for ...

Comment by Edouard H on September 24, 2012 at 4:37am

There is one here now (as seen on Px4 Q&A site) 

Comment by Dave_fr on September 24, 2012 at 4:44am

Nice ! Is it running the nuttx rtos based software ?

Comment by Dave_fr on September 24, 2012 at 6:30am

I have one question :

I don't quite understand the interactions between the px4 autopilot project and the Pixhawk one. When I look at the pixHawk project, I see that the hardware used is different to the px4 autopilot and is not using an RTOS. I suppose that there is a plan to port the pixHawk software to the the px4. If yes how far has it gone  ?

Comment by Eagle Wong on September 24, 2012 at 9:18pm

why the video so secret unlisted at youtube!  Very hard to find.


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