3D Robotics

Adding wireless telemetry to ArduPilot

You may have noticed that we had wireless telemetry in our flight testing last week. It's really easy to add. The first thing to keep in mind is that you should use Xbee modules in a different frequency range than your RC equipment. If you've got 72Mhz RC gear, you can use 2.4Ghz Xbee modules. We use Xbee Pro wireless modules with a Adafruit adapter board on the aircraft side, and a Sparkfun USB adapter board on the ground/laptop side. If you've got 2.4Ghz RC gear, you should use 900Mhz Xbee modules. We use a Xbee Pro with the wire antenna for the aircraft, and and Xbee Pro with a SMA antenna connector (and a good 900Mhz antenna) on the ground, with the same adapter boards as above. Next, you need to set up your Xbee modules. They ship with a default of 9600bps, which you must change to 4800 bps for ArduPilot 1.0 or 57,600bps for ArduPilot 2.x. Connect them with your FTDI cable (see instructions here) then use Digi's X-CTU utility to change the baud rate to 4800 or 57,600 (in the modem configuration tab--press the Read button and then click on and change the baud rate line). You should also give them unique Network IDs so they'll be paired. Just use any 3-digit number, and just make sure you've set it the same on both modules. (Don't use 999 if you're going to be flying around me--that's mine!). When you're done with the settings, click "Write". Remember that after you change the baud rate you have to switch back to the PC Settings tab and change the baud rate there, too, or the utility won't be able to communicate with the module. (Switch it back to 9600 when you're switch to the second module, if it's still in the default mode, and repeat the process.) On the ArduPilot side, use three jumper wires to connect the following pins circled in red on the board below: --Xbee RX to ArduPilot FTDI port TXO --Xbee 5v+ and GND to the VCC and GND pins next to the FTDI port.

It will end up looking like this:

(Note: the above is to get telemetry from the Autopilot. If you just want to see the NMEA data from the GPS module, connect the TX pin to ArduPilot's RXI pin, right next to the to TXO pin, instead.) On the ground side, connect the other Xbee module to your laptop with your FTDI cable, as described here. That's it! If you open up a terminal program on your laptop and set the baud rate to 4800 or 56,000, depending on which ArduPilot software version you're using, you should see ArduPilot telemetry coming in. Anytime there is a "Serial.println" in the code, that data will be sent through the Xbees to the ground. You can record any data you want, and even GPS datalog from the ground! Couldn't be easier. BTW, if you want to test the range of your Xbee link, connect the plane-side Xbee module's RX and TX pins together to create a loopback circuit and use the X-CTU utlitity's range test function. For the modules we're using you should get around a mile. Once you've got the wireless connection set up, you can use our Ground Station to display real-time telemetry with ArduPilot 2.1 and up:

E-mail me when people leave their comments –

You need to be a member of diydrones to add comments!

Join diydrones


  • hello i have apm 2.6 and iam trying to use my xbee pro 900 as telemetry and i failed to have connection every time........how ever i have no problem with connecting my 3dr telemetry ..............any one please help

  • is there a way to use this setup on the kk blackboard? v5.5?
  • My XBEE only transmits for a second, then quits until I reconnect it.

    I have an XBEE PRO attached to the XBEE Adapter, and then attached the 3 required pins to the Shield Version 1. I then have the 2nd XBEE attached via USB and it's terminal opened in X-CTU. My ArduPilot is running V2.4. and on my terminal reads:


    It appears to transmit some random periods for some reason... Also, if I disconnect it, and reconnect it while the Ardupilot is running it will send a few more packets of data.

    Anyone have any ideas why this is happening?
  • This is not the place you'll get helped. it's about wireless telemetry with ArduPilot!
    Post your question in an appropriate location to be heard. You'll probably want to add some details about your setup and code versions you loaded onto your board in order to other to imagine what the problem could be. Furthermore, its not the Ardupilot board which locks to satellites, but your GPS! I also hope you went through the instructions several times.
  • Hi. I relatively new to all this.(under grad @ University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

    Is it possible to use Xbee with the board that comes with BlimpDuino?
    If not, what must I add to it to enable some form of wireless communication?
    The Idea is for the blimp to float around gathering mac addresses. I really need some sort of push in the right direction, so any advice no matter large or small is greatly appreciated.

    Thanks, you guys rule.
  • Yup thats what I am looking for. I have Labview Pro. So I am good to go to modify it...thanks david...
  • @Peter
    you meant ardupilot groundstation right?
    then it is over here, btw u need labview in order to edit the source code
  • Ok, maybe I didn't clarify my question properly. I was looking for the ardustation groundstation source code . My bad... I found the other one, thats for the board version correct. I want to modify to software version for windows, if that is possible ? If not no biggie...
  • Thanks - I am going to modify it, make it fit to a smaller screen resolution of 800x600 and also add some changes to the displays...thanks...
  • Developer
    Of course! 100% DIY and with a good example to start with. All is found here:
This reply was deleted.