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 mRo.
  • 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 planes from mRo and multicopters from HobbyKing



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 Scott Plunkett on September 14, 2009 at 12:34pm
@Rahul..Wireless control via the internet is just another type of RC...RC is remote control...so the wireless control via internet is just another transmission means - regardless, somewhere along the path you are going to have to transmit data to the aircraft, whether you use an Iridium uplink via satellite and an IP communication channel, or simple 900MHz hobby shop gear. The real point of this site is autonomous flight - and the capability to take the pilot (obviously within the regulations - grins in Chris' direction) out of the loop for the majority of a mission profile.
Comment by James Harwood on October 14, 2009 at 6:48am
Ah....the proper place for a noob like me to start. :)
Comment by Matias Arenas on February 12, 2010 at 1:52pm
Some of the links in the flowchart are outdated (the 3 from NASA's beginers guide to aeronautics). Apparently they have changed to

http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/airplane/forces.html and
http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/airplane/rotations.html (from http://www.lerc.nasa.gov/* ).

Great wab page with a lot of usefull info !
Comment by Paul Marsh on February 12, 2010 at 4:24pm

Thanks for the updated links. The chart itself has now been updated.

Comment by Utsav Drolia on February 15, 2010 at 10:01pm
I am completely new to UAVs. I want to know where should I start gathering knowledge.My final aim is to build an autopilot, most probably IMU based. So I want to learn about IMUs, and how to handle them in code, but I cant really find one good source of knowledge for it. It would be great if someone could just point me in the right direction.

Comment by Morli on February 21, 2010 at 3:13am
Hi Utsav,
You are in right place , like you many of us started the same way( NOOB) and we discovered this site, started reading back and forth a dozen times and asked lot of questions, start in the first page here and read through every blog ( take your time ) , follow up every new info with wiki or google, you will soon assume you in small community college library dedicated to home made ( DIY) UAV , and there are many professionals who would be happy to share their wisdom.
Comment by Jiri Pistek on March 1, 2010 at 7:08am
We sell an easy to afford autopilot here:
A specially designed plane for it
Comment by Christopher Rhodes on March 7, 2010 at 7:26pm
Hi, I' m new to this, and have no experience with building aircraft. I am hoping to build a UAV to send around my town for laughs. I am wondering where should I start to get experience with this.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on March 7, 2010 at 7:29pm
Christopher, that's illegal. You won't get help here doing that.
Comment by Christopher Rhodes on March 7, 2010 at 7:40pm
Okay that's for letting me know that, where's a good legal place to start with air drones?


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