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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3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on June 18, 2011 at 6:58am
Alain: APM has 8 RC outputs (servos or ESCs) and one relay output.
Comment by Alain Rivard on June 18, 2011 at 9:51am
hey Chiris ty for the inf. now that i know i m ok with the numbers os servos my next question is can you recomende a light weight relay that would suport up to 15v DC, and wat is hightest resolution ccd camera that a 300 to 400$ budeget can get ( max load weight 320g or less that would be great) that can fit in a 4"diameter shpere

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on June 18, 2011 at 9:55am
The relay is already built into APM. I'm unable to give camera recommendations. You might try a FPV site.
Comment by Alain Rivard on June 18, 2011 at 11:01am

altight all keep on looking for the cam, thanks for the info chris il go a long way lol

 

Comment by Danton Quinn Barnes on July 28, 2011 at 11:38am

I am very new and I have an Idea.  I am in the military and i have been working with UAV's for a while now.  I know my way around an aircraft, and i have been flying R/C models for quite a while now.  My Idea is simple, but I am wondering about the legalities of it.  I don't want to post my idea here in an open forum, but I was wondering if someone can point me in the direction of the legal aspects of flying uav's in civil airspace.  Particularly Class G airspace.  I'm a little fuzzy on it and I really need some help on legal aspects of flying one of these things.

Comment by CHARLES on August 7, 2011 at 11:39am

SO HEY COULD anyone tell me if there is a limit on distance xcept 4 feul ofcours.

 


3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on August 7, 2011 at 11:41am
Charles: limits are only imposed by the laws in your country. In the US, it's line of sight.
Comment by Tomas Soedergren on September 25, 2011 at 8:59am

Hi Chris,

Do you think there will be a native OSD support feature  in the ArduPilot system in a not too distant future?

(that would be so nice!)


Moderator
Comment by Sgt Ric on September 25, 2011 at 10:41am
APM seems more suited towards GCS data downlinks using XBees than OSD overlays.
OSDs are more popular in the FPV side of our community.
Comment by Tomas Soedergren on September 25, 2011 at 1:51pm

Agreed.

Though it would be just great to have a system that works good with both concepts, seamlessly. One modus would not have to exclude the other, I mean. And there seems to be many resourceful people here around... ;)

Wishing and dreaming...

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