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 September 25, 2011 at 1:59pm

We'll be releasing an OSD board that works with APM in a month or so. 

Comment by 420choky on September 25, 2011 at 2:07pm

lost all my equiptment due to main battery loosing power .. which shut off the osd and gps .. leaving  my cam powered  but thanks to a osd not being able to use the second battery that the cam has .. makes me wonder what the heck!!!  

sad over a grand lost 1.7 miles  in front of me ..  about to get the fpv helicopter but .. PRIVATE PROPERTY  means PRIVATE .. so i loose ..  they need a signal to always show the location  no matter what 


Comment by Tomas Soedergren on September 25, 2011 at 3:14pm


An upcoming APM compatible OSD - that´s just wonderful news!!

I´ll be looking for the "preorder" button :D

Comment by Pete Hollands on October 22, 2011 at 11:24pm

UAV DevBoard: Update: It's now better value than shown in the orignal post above 2.5 years ago. UDB4 Price is now $99.95 (UDB3 85$). The cheapest GPS from DIYDrones store is the MediaTek with adapter at $37.95. So for the new UDB4, the price is $109 less that shown in the original post above. (which is shown above at time of posting as $160 UDB + $60  GPS).

Comment by alex jack on November 24, 2011 at 12:13pm

what are the dimension of Full ArduPilot Mega kit

Comment by Stepleader on December 3, 2011 at 10:09pm

I second what Rahul Says..

Comment by cal cal on December 11, 2011 at 2:18am

ok im am really new to this and just want a help with the what to buy side. i have a bixler plane and a dx6i tx so that side is sorted i want to mount a camera to the nose. most probley my conture hd which is 170grams and a 2200mah battery 200grams all i want is the ability to take a video of my property to fly down to each corner and make a box shape flight. i need to control alttitude direction and speed. can anyone give me an email of what they did for there one or what is the best way to go about this is.. thanks in advance

Comment by Nadim Wehrli blanco on January 11, 2012 at 2:10pm

could yoy make a guide on how to assemble everything

Comment by Angus McLeod on January 26, 2012 at 6:45pm

UDB hardware significantly improved with v4 and now only $99.95!

Comment by LAURENT on February 7, 2012 at 3:07pm

Amazing system


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