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 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. . . .

Comment by Martint BuildYourOwnDrone.co.uk on February 24, 2011 at 10:41am
Hi Vamsi,

Your mentors are all waiting! There is a great community of people here on the forums who will be more than happy to offer assistance every step of the way!

I would recommend looking through the pages in the newbie forum thread, get a feel for where other people have started, come up with what you like to achieve and start a post there.


Comment by Andrew Clark on March 1, 2011 at 3:00pm
i hate to sound like such a newb but is there any way we can get an acronym list put together for those of use who are not familiar with ALL of these acronyms?????????????????

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on March 1, 2011 at 3:56pm
Andrew, that acronym list is linked right on the front page of the site!

Comment by hyunho kim on April 8, 2011 at 10:51am

excuse me, i like to make UAV helicopter,,, 

but i dont know where to start first,,,

and where in this site i can ask make airplane fuselage or blade shape designed by me?

Comment by Allen Bishop on May 21, 2011 at 11:57am

I have a QuadraCopter with APM, Xbee Pro 900 for telemetry and a Spektrum 2.4 GHz radio for flight control.  What do you recommend for sending full frame rate (30 FPS) to the ground station.  I tried a 900 MHz video transmitter and the video signal is excellent until I turn on the Telemetry hardware.  The video signal tears and looses sync.  I suspect it it because of the 900 MHz being shared by both data streams.  Any suggestions?


Thank you



Comment by Ed Stewart on May 21, 2011 at 6:06pm
@ Allen You'll need to use one of the 1.2/1.3 Ghz Video set ups most likely. (1.280 Ghz in the USA) You cannot get reasonable results using more than 1 transmitter on or near any given Frequency.  Using Circularly Polarized Antennas will greatly help with your video as well. (Excellent multipath rejection for clear video.)

Link to good info on 1.2Ghz gear.

1.2Ghz Tx/Rx Info



Comment by Allen Bishop on May 24, 2011 at 9:52am

I am considering going from a quad to a hex configuration.  It appears that the ArduPilot Mega only supports the quad configuration.  If this is true, what can you suggest for a full function autopilot that provides the functionality of the ArduPilot Mega?



3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on May 24, 2011 at 10:05am
Allen, APM supports all configurations, including hex. Please see the home page:
Comment by Alain Rivard on June 17, 2011 at 10:54pm

HI all i m new to this site to i just fin out about it recently, not soon enught to my likeing becaus i would save way mor time fabricating and less looking for the rong stuf for my UAV, now that i can get all the autopilot component that i nead her ( see i would never imagine that sutche sit exist m i ever appy lol ) my question is how meny component can the autopilot control all together ? how meny servos and switch, or wer can i get the thecnical details, is it  16 all and all ? thanks for the help


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