Introducing the PX4 autopilot system

The PX4 team is pleased to announce early availability of the PX4 autopilot platform, with hardware available immediately from 3D Robotics. 


The platform is a low cost, modular, open hardware and software design targeting high-end research, hobby and industrial autopilot applications.

PX4 is an expandable, modular system comprising the PX4FMU Flight Management Unit (autopilot) and a number of optional interface modules.

The PX4FMU autopilot features include:

  • 168Mhz ARM CortexM4F microcontroller with DSP and floating-point hardware acceleration.
  • 1024KiB of flash memory, 192KiB of RAM.
  • MEMS accelerometer and gyro, magnetometer and barometric pressure sensor.
  • Flexible expansion bus and onboard power options.

Expansion modules available at release include:

  • PX4IOAR This module interfaces PX4 to the AR.Drone motor controllers, allowing a complete quadrotor to be assembled using an AR.Drone frame and motors.
  • PX4IO A flexible interface module with support for eight PWM servo outputs, relays, switched power and more.

As an open hardware design, third-party and DIY expansion modules can be easily developed for specific applications, and more PX4 modules are in development.

In addition to the versatile hardware platform, PX4 introduces a sophisticated, modular software environment built on top of a POSIX-like realtime operating system. The modular architecture and operating system support greatly simplify the process of experimenting with specific components of the system, as well as reducing the barriers to entry for new developers.

Adding support for new sensors, peripherals and expansion modules is straightforward due to standardized interface protocols between software components. Onboard microSD storage permits high-rate logging and data storage for custom applications. MAVLink protocol support provides direct integration with existing ground control systems including QGroundControl and the APM Mission Planner.

Pricing of the PX4 components reflects more than a year of careful development and a strong commitment from our manufacturing partner.

This release is targeted at early adopters and developers looking for a more capable platform than existing low-cost autopilots. With more than an order of magnitude more processing power and memory compared to popular 8-bit autopilot platforms, PX4 is exceptional value for money and provides substantial room for future growth.

For more information about the PX4 autopilot platform, visit the project website at

PX4 modules can be purchased from our manufacturing partner, 3DRobotics.

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  • Sorry but im confused RE firmware. Does this have its own firmware? Will it run Ardu*? Lots of info regarding the hardware but can I get some more info regarding the firmware it runs and the current development state?

  • Moderator

    @PX4 Thank you! I'm also really interested in your forthcoming onboard computer offering!

  • Congratulations, incredible work! I think this is just about everything one could ask for from a microcontroller-powered autopilot. (And great documentation too!)

    I notice that on the wiring page, there is a guide for connecting the STM32F4 Discovery board. Are there more details anywhere for trying out NuttX on that board? Not sure if I can justify buying the PX4 hardware, but I'd like to try some of the software.

  • @Ruwan: The AR.Drone is just one of the platforms, you can also output PWM or Mikrokopter/Asctec ESC I2C signals. We should have soon a guide up how to run the ArduCopter and Mikrokopter frames with it. Mechanically it does fit both, the 30x30 mm M3 holes do directly fit both frames without modifications.

    @ThomasB: We do not actually produce hardware, that is solely done by 3DR in California. I don't have any distributor details yet, but it is a safe assumption that any 3DR distributor will also make this product available. Since shipping is however very affordable, you can safely order in the meantime directly from 3DR.

  • 3D Robotics

    Thomas: The boards are made in the US by 3D Robotics. The regular 3DRobotics/DIY Drones distributors in Europe will be able to stock them locally.

  • If I'm right the pixhawk team is located in europe. 

    DIY Drones are located in the states. So if I want to order some boards, pixhawk will send them to california and from there back to europe. right?

    Or in other words, will there be a direct europe distribution channel in the future?

  • Moderator

    Great!. probably too early to ask, but if we use an on board computer[1], we might need to use different set of motors and propellers (rather than AR Drone stuff), right? given the weight considerations?


  • @Hai - what you are describing is, to a degree, the way that the PX4 software system works.

    Rather than being a single, monolithic piece of software, it's built up from components that communicate in standardized ways, and many of those components can be re-used in more than one vehicle configuration.

    I don't want to over-simplify the situation because navigation is a complex problem, but the intent of the design is to make it easier to focus on specific problems - say, making your vehicle handle well - without having to invent all of the other functionality all over again.

  • Distributor

    Well done guys, really looking forward to build with these.

    Hai, i get what your saying. The modular concept using interfacing boards with a common navigation controller certainly is a step in the right direction for adaptive autopilots.

    I'm looking forward to getting my hands on these to see what they're capable of.

  • Moderator

    I think is a step in the right direction.  I would like to see an autopilot that is "independent"  from the platform.  What I mean specifically is that an autopilot that can work on a car, boat, plane, heli, multicopter, because its outputting commands like forwards, backwards, left, right, rotate left, rotate right, climb, descend etc in order to achieve a desired result ie. move to position x,y.  Yes the APM hardware can be REPROGRAMMED for different platforms, but an autopilot hardware+software that does not need to be reprogrammed and can be picked up and put into another craft would be cool.

    And then a separate module that inteprets those navigation commands into craft specific, so for example the autopilot is told to move to position x,y,z it makes calculations and give the command to move forward.  Which the craft specific module will then interpret, for a car it might be throttle on, for a quad it might be motor 2 increase power, for a helicopter it might be pitch forward.

    I'm not sure if I have articulated this well, but I hope someone out there knows what I'm talking about. This PX4 seems to be doing, that, in terms of a autopilot system with a module specific for AR.Drone, and one for General RC.

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