[This original ArduPilot board, now called the "Legacy ArduPilot" is no longer produced or officially supported by the DIY Drones dev team, and this page is maintained just for historic reasons. However, there are still many users of it out there and it still works fine. The user group for Legacy ArduPilot users, for both thermopile and IMU use, is here.]


ArduPilot is a full-featured autopilot based on the Arduino open-source hardware platform. It uses infrared (thermopile) sensors or an IMU for stabilization and GPS for navigation. It is the autopilot used to win the 2009 Sparkfun Autonomous Vehicle Competition.

The hardware is available from Sparkfun for $24.95. An expansion board ("Shield") kits that includes an airspeed sensor, a 3.3v power regulator for 3.3v GPS modules and other sensors and cables and connectors for easy attachment of the XY and Z sensors, is available from our own store for $57.20.


User f

ArduPilot features include:

  • Can be used for an autonomous aircraft, car or boat.
  • Built-in hardware failsafe that uses a separate circuit (multiplexer chip and ATTiny processor) to transfer control from the RC system to the autopilot and back again. Includes ability to reboot the main processor in mid-flight.
  • Multiple 3D waypoints (limited only by memory)
  • Altitude controlled with the elevator and throttle
  • Comes with a 6-pin GPS connector for the 4Hz uBlox5 or 1hz EM406 GPS modules.
  • Has six spare analog inputs (with ADC on each) and six spare digital input/outputs to add additional sensors
  • Supports addition of wireless modules for real-time telemetry
  • Based on a 16MhZ Atmega328 processor. Total onboard processing power aprox 24 MIPS.
  • Very small: 30mm x 47mm
  • Can be powered by either the RC receiver or a separate battery
  • Four RC-in channels (plus the autopilot on/off channel) can be processed by the autopilot. Autopilot can also control four channels out.
  • LEDs for power, failsafe (on/off), status and GPS (satellite lock).


ArduPilot requires the free Arduino IDE to edit and upload the code to the ArduPilot board.

The code is currently optimized for the Mutiplex EasyStar three-channel powered glider and FMA sensors, but can be modified for other aircraft and sensors. It uses the rudder/ailerons and elevator to maintain level flight and navigate to GPS waypoints. It supports a desktop setup utility and ground station software. It also includes a "fly-by-wire" mode that simply stabilizes RC flight. The main code is ArduPilot2.x.zip in the download section of our Google Code repository, where x is the latest version.

What you need to make a fully-functional autopilot:

Open source extras:

  • If you want to build your own board from scratch, the necessary files and component lists are here.
  • [Note: you shouldn't need this, since this code is loaded on the ArduPilot board at the factory] Latest multiplexer code (for the board's second processor, an Attiny, which runs the failsafe system) is here.
    Instructions for loading this code are here.

Recommended UAV setup:

Airframe option one: Hobbico SuperStar (49" wingspan, $95, shown above). This is an inexpensive, good flying high-wing trainer with ailerons. It can be hand launched in a park or take off from a runway, and replacement parts are readily available in case of a crash. If you want much better performance with this aircraft, you can upgrade it to a brushless motor, speed controller and a LiPo battery. [If you don't already have one, you'll also need a balancing charger and power supply.] Note: any stable aircraft with both ailerons (for stabilization) and rudder (for navigation) can work, so feel free to experiment with what you've got.

Airframe option two (recommended for ArduPilot 2.x): EasyStar (shown above). Performance can be improved with the modifications described in this post.

You'll also need:

  • A six or seven channel RC transmitter and receiver, with at least one toggle switch (ideally three-position but two-position will work, too, although you will have to mix channels to have access to both autopilot modes in the air), such as the Futaba 7C.
  • Some servos (at least three for ArduPilot 1.0; at least two for ArduPilot 2.x) and at least three female-to-female servo cables to connect the RC receiver to ArduPilot.

Cool optional extras for your UAV:

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Comment by Jordi Muñoz on July 18, 2009 at 10:13am

The FTDI drivers are also located inside the arduino IDE folder:
\\arduino-0016\drivers\FTDI USB Drivers

Comment by Danilo Marques Figueiredo on July 18, 2009 at 12:20pm
Thanks Thomas!!!
Comment by Danilo Marques Figueiredo on July 18, 2009 at 12:20pm
Thanks Jordi!!!
Comment by Danilo Marques Figueiredo on July 18, 2009 at 12:32pm
Hi Jordi!!!

How I do to install the driver from \\arduino-0016\drivers\FTDI USB Drivers in pc?!!!


Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on July 18, 2009 at 12:55pm

When you first plug the FTDI cable in, Windows will detect the cable and ask you where to get the software drivers. You can point Windows to the arduino folder that the drivers are in. However, the 2.04.16 drivers on the FTDI website are the same as the ones in the arduino folder, so take your choice.


Comment by Jordi Muñoz on July 18, 2009 at 12:59pm

Exactly what Thomas wrote. Anyway here is a good tutorial of how to install drivers manually in Vista:

Is exactly the same way you have to install the FTDI cable, look for the device with an exclamation mark (error). Then right click and click on update driver, then fallow the instructions.

Comment by Jordi Muñoz on July 18, 2009 at 1:03pm
Danilo, After you install the driver you must fallow this instructions:

Comment by Danilo Marques Figueiredo on July 18, 2009 at 1:15pm
All right !!!

Thanks a lot guys!!!!

Comment by NorthSweden on July 19, 2009 at 11:10am
One question,

Why are the trottle set to max when you switch to automod? I rely want to test the sensors and see if my servos are reversed,

Cant handle the plane whit full trottle!

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on July 19, 2009 at 11:28am
NorthSweden: Just disconnect the ESC connector from the board and plug it into a spare Rx channel when you're testing on the ground. That will ensure the board gets power without controlling the throttle.


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