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 Philip Louis Timmis on September 5, 2012 at 6:29am

hi, new to the forum, I am keen to learn, Regards Phil

Comment by Brandon Kharns on October 6, 2012 at 1:32pm

I watched Christ Anderson's lecture online last night and I am so inspired. I'm one of the many who are, and have always been fascinated with RC, FPV, drones, pretty much flying objects in general and all the potential uses they may have. I have endeavored many times over the past few years to start a drone project but ended up giving up for lack of knowledge and finding good help. I hope that through this community that will change. Thanks so much for setting this up!    

Comment by Hamilton From Above on October 9, 2012 at 2:10pm

I'm new to DIY Drones. I confess to investing is several Parrot AR Drone 2.0's (and lots of parts) because I am infatuated with the idea of controlling a UAV and video camera with an iPad or Android tablet. I made this purchase before I discovered DIY Drones. I realize that the DIY Drone community considers the Parrot AR Drone a toy. It lacks the more robust systems and mechanics that you will find elsewhere on this website and the UAV community. However, the Parrot is my "beginners kit," so, I'm stuck with it for at least the next 12-18 month.

So, I am wondering if there is any interest in the DIY Drone community in using the Parrot platform to develop a radio signal interface that uses 3G, 4G or LTE instead of the native Wifi?

If there is interest, I will start a discussion group.


Comment by Julian Davidson on October 11, 2012 at 2:20pm

Hi guys, hope someone can give me some advise on this. I got "Ardupilot Mega 1.4 (IMU shield) Copter Ready", everything look fine until I started to install it into my Quad.

1) Attitude display look fine, sensors data all ok. Connected to APM.

2) CH1 - CH4 in > all works with my stick input.

3) When in stabilized mode, when I yaw the Q, CH1-4 out no response.

4) can't power up my Ardu with servo in, got to power up via diff pin on the board. The "Vin 6v-12v" pin.

5) I got the CH out working once, when I power up my throttle (CH3in), all CH1-4 shows PWM output , however non of my motor is turning.... again, in stabilized mode, when I input other command other then throttle, nothing will happened...

I'm puzzled .. some help will be great :) 

Thanks in advance.

Comment by Andreas on October 20, 2012 at 8:38pm

Is anyone who try to build a quadcopter using pic microcontroller ?

Comment by Job apps on October 26, 2012 at 4:00am

excellent publication can we get it in a pdf application

Comment by Mike Stroup on November 12, 2012 at 3:58pm

Prolly this info is pasted about throughout the forum.... but could someone please summarize a goor robust FPV system?

with links?


thanks again!!!

Comment by sayed musthafa isa al-aidid on January 11, 2013 at 8:03am


i have download ardupilotmegaplannar C# source  code  but i can load the solution can you guide me or give a solution to load the C# project

Comment by Noah King on January 29, 2013 at 6:58am

does the APM need an external GPS unit, and if so what does this look like/ where can i get one.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on January 29, 2013 at 8:26am

Noah. Yes. The GPS comes with the APM autopilot. It looks like this.


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