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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3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on March 7, 2010 at 7:43pm
Start here and here
Comment by Christopher Rhodes on March 7, 2010 at 7:47pm

Comment by Sgt Ric on September 7, 2010 at 3:30pm
This isn't really the place for FPV.
Try rcgroups.
Comment by 420choky on September 10, 2010 at 12:06pm
Comment by Johny Vavouras on December 27, 2010 at 3:13am

I' m interested in making DEM and orthophotos with a small RC plane on the cheap.

 I want to use a cheap rc plane (preferably with auto pilot, in order to fly in pre configured paths) and mount a pocket camera in order to take nadir photos. Any suggestions about planes? How many channels RC should be in order to control the plane, autopilot and auto triggering mechanism for the camera?

Comment by André Xavier on January 16, 2011 at 10:49pm


what this board under the XBee?

Comment by Martint BuildYourOwnDrone.co.uk on January 17, 2011 at 1:21am

Hello Andre,


If you have a look at the manual the parts are listed with links. There are two boards for the Xbee's one, which will go on the airframe, and one that will go with the ground station. I have popped the links below for the DIY drone and sparkfun boards that are needed to work with the Xbee boards. The manual link should give you all the information you will need to put them together.


DIY & Spark






Comment by PhilippH on January 17, 2011 at 5:36am



I'm new to DIY Drones and I've been wondering about the possibility of an iPhone based UAV. It has a GPS, compass, accelerometers, camera and quite a bit of RAM. 3G internet would also be useful to update waypoints and even stream FPV. It seems like there would be a possibility of adding an airspeed sensor and jailbreak the iPhone to allow servo control. 


Any thoughts?

Comment by Martint BuildYourOwnDrone.co.uk on January 17, 2011 at 6:10am

Hi Philipp,

Welcome to DIY Drones!


You might find some of the answers here. There has been a few posts made on this topic, if you go into the main forum page and use the search box you should find even more information.


Kind regards




Comment by vamsi chakradhar on February 24, 2011 at 9:13am
I wanna build drone.Iam a beginner.I wanna learn from scrap.Can any one mentor me. . . .


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