[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: 310802

Comment by SciFly on October 24, 2010 at 12:09pm
Not sure, but try the paparazzi wiki or attopilot forum!
Comment by Richard Hirst on November 27, 2010 at 9:50pm
V Tail..

Is there a mix fuction for V-Tail to mix Rudder and Elevator..?


3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on November 27, 2010 at 10:25pm
You mean in addition to the ailerons? Not in the base code, although that would be easy for you to add.
Comment by Richard Hirst on November 27, 2010 at 10:48pm
Yes the aircraft I am building has a normal wing with two ailerons and a V-tail with a servo for each half. So when elevator is applied both go up and down, but when Rudder is applied one goes up the other down. Left Rudder the left half up the right half down etc.

On the point of two ailerons, I aslo have a servo in each wing panel. Would it be easy to add a second aileron output from the AP to drive the other wing, so I do not need a Y-Lead.

Great work, thanks

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on November 27, 2010 at 11:16pm
Richard: yes, all that is pretty easy for you to add to the code if you're at all familiar with Arduino. That's the advantage of open source!
Comment by Eugene on December 7, 2010 at 9:23am
Hi..im hooking up my arduIMU+,Ardupilot,GS407 and Xbee. From the telemetry, i can get the lat/long, but not the number of satellites. how should i add in a line in Ardupilot code so that the num of sats print together with the lat/long?
Comment by Theodoros Bakoyiannis on December 11, 2010 at 4:07am


 I will be searing a Locosys LS20033  GPS between Ardupilot and EZosd. I would appreciate if anyone could tell me if i need to power the GPS from the Shield in order to make use of the GPS auto shut-off  feature when uploading or it is OK if i just provide the Shield only with the GRD and Rx wires coming from the GPS.

Comment by Samuel on December 15, 2010 at 3:07am



some people from fpv-community.de and me want to create a german version of the manual and setup process as well as change the code comments to german for those ppl that doent speak english very well. Since we have some computer science pros in our team we might find some optimations etc, of couse we will post them in the english section as well if we find some.


Just wanted to ask if its ok for you guys to create a google code project where we support the german people that want to run an ardupilot.


Cheers Sam

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on December 15, 2010 at 8:13am

Of course! That's what open source is all about. When they're done, please send me the link and we'll put it on the wiki.
Comment by Samuel on December 22, 2010 at 3:48am

Ok we started on a german manual. Its located here: http://fpv-community.de/comm/wiki/index.php?title=Ardupilot


Its still work in progress, but we will add things everyday.


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