[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:

Views: 312182

Comment by NorthSweden on July 19, 2009 at 2:47pm
Thanks for the easy solution.
Comment by Danilo Marques Figueiredo on July 20, 2009 at 4:28pm
Hi guys!!!
Can I use the devboard IMU with ardupilot board?!!!
If yes how can I do it?!


Comment by Jordi Muñoz on July 20, 2009 at 5:13pm

I know is possible use DEV board with ardupilot. But i don't know how. I guess nobody will tell you step for step how to do it by internet (will take forever). But you don't even need ArduPilot, just with the DevBoard is enough to control an airplane. But you will have to learn PIC.
Comment by Danilo Marques Figueiredo on July 20, 2009 at 5:27pm
Hi Jordi!!
Thank you!!!
Yes I seeing this now...heheh....
and if I want to use only the sensors?!


Comment by Jordi Muñoz on July 20, 2009 at 5:54pm
Well you can buy the sensors from Sparkfun (you don't have to rip them off from the DevBoard).
Comment by Danilo Marques Figueiredo on July 24, 2009 at 7:54am
Hi Guys!!!
Exists some restriction about frequencies in xbee modules to use with ardupilot in ground telemetry?!

Comment by Riccardo Kuebler on July 26, 2009 at 5:41am
Hi all,

I feel so ?
I read all what I found on voltage divider but I am not able to set it properly.
If I have a 2s lipo (~8,3V), an esc that feed the board with 5.955V (measured), how do I calculate ADC and where do I pick up Vin2?
I set in the easystar.h file 5955mV, is that right?
Do I have to set something in the pde code too?
So sorry for the question but after a lot of diy try I'm a little confused and frustrated.
Thanks a lot for any help!

Comment by Jordi Muñoz on July 26, 2009 at 12:19pm
Riccardo it is not right. You will damage your system if you continue feeding the system with 5.95V.
Comment by Riccardo Kuebler on July 27, 2009 at 8:48am
Ok, thanks Jordi. I am now feeding it with 4x Nimh.
Now the question is how can I determine if the unit is damaged?
The leds are working as they have to do, but I can no more have a GPS fix. I tryed to use the 5v GPS connection on the shield.
The stabilisation and fbw is working good (a little overshoot is there, but I will fix it in the next reducing the P gain or adding some D or both).
If the unit is damaged do I have to buy another Ardupilot, a shield or both?
What about the GPS antenna?
Anyway is it possible to have a right reading of the voltage of a 2 cells lipo on the ground station?

Comment by Jordi Muñoz on July 27, 2009 at 3:58pm
Are you using EM406 GPS?


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