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 Tharun on January 3, 2015 at 7:47am


I am new here. I would like to know if there's a blog or post here where there is a step by step process on how to build a multicopter from scratch for beginners. And it must hopefully include instructions on hardware and programming. can anyone help?

Comment by John Githens on January 3, 2015 at 8:11am

Hi Tharun,

Your question has been asked many times, in many ways, with many answers on DIY Drones. Depending on what you want to do with a multicopter, you can start by reading through the Arducopter 'Instructions' menu starting here, also this page. If you are not sure what you want to do, or where to begin, you may want to read this page. Another resource is Instructables, starting with this reference. And for even more reading, see this page. Best wishes on your journey.

Comment by Tharun on January 3, 2015 at 9:15am

Thanks John! 

Found all what I needed!

Comment by Daniel Ivanov Denev on January 19, 2015 at 11:47pm

In our school we trying to develop blimp autopilot based on Arduino. Had anyone tryed it before. We unexperiensed.

Comment by Sgt Ric on January 20, 2015 at 6:48am
This whole community is based on an autopilot based on Arduino!
...Chris and Jordi used to have a Blimpduino available, but the project seems to have been over-shadowed by the quadcopter buzz.
Comment by John Campen on March 23, 2015 at 8:57am

Where has the APM1 setup pages gone?

Comment by johnkowalsky on May 29, 2015 at 9:59am
Just out of curiosity what's a typical price for revo board for open pilot? and where can I get one ?

Comment by Morli on May 29, 2015 at 11:28am

revo board price may not be known here but no harm in asking

Comment by Eugene Den Daas on January 13, 2016 at 9:12am

I'm not sure why dronecode.org, sugested I start here at the "Newbies Guide", but this page only seems to explain operation rules.

Would anyone know where I can get on the beginners path to  UAV programming? I have no programming experience; no clue how, or what language to start with. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks! 

Comment by Kevin Goff on January 26, 2016 at 2:55pm

"Do Fly your model aircraft/UAS at your local model aircraft club. "    Unless you in DC metro, where no flying is allowed 30 miles out from DCA


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