| DIY Drones team|
| 3.2.1 / February 2015|
| 3.3.0 Beta1 / February 2015|
Unmanned aerial vehicle
ArduPilot (also ArduPilotMega - APM) is an open source unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) platform, able to control autonomous multicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, traditional helicopters, ground rovers and antenna trackers. Ardupilot is an award winning platform that won the 2012 and 2014 UAV Outback Challenge competitions . It was started in 2007 by members of the DIY Drones community. The first ArduPilot version supported only fixed wing aircraft and was based on a thermopile sensor, which relies on determining the location of the horizon relative to the aircraft by measuring the difference in temperature between the sky and the ground. Later, the system was improved to replace thermopiles with an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) using a combination of accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers. Vehicle support was expanded to other vehicle types which led to the ArduCopter, ArduPlane and ArduRover subprojects.
Early versions of ArduPilot used the APM flight controller, an AVR CPU running the Arduino open-source programming language which explains the "Ardu" part of the project name, but today ArduPilot is almost entirely C++ and has evolved to run on a range of hardware platforms and operating system including the Pixhawk/PX4 line of autopilots, Parrot's Bebop2, Raspberry Pi based flight controllers like NAVIO2, ErleBrain and Qualcomm's SnapDragon.
The free software approach from Ardupilot is similar to that of the PX4/Pixhawk and Paparazzi Project, where low cost and availability enables its hobbyist use in small remotely piloted aircraft, such as micro air vehicles and miniature UAVs.
In 2012, the Canberra UAV Team successfully took first place in the prestigious UAV Outback Challenge. This challenge began in 2007 to showcase and promote UAV's significance to Australia in search and rescue missions and promoted growth in aerospace, government, and civilian applications. The CanberraUAV Team consisted of Arduplane Developers and the airplane flown was controlled by an APM 2 Autopilot. The intended mission that was developed for the UAV Outback Challenge was to locate and deliver medical supplies to a "lost" hiker. The CanberraUAV team and all subsequent teams failed to meet the requirement to drop a bottle of water on an intended target. However, the CanberraUAV team were placed first based on a points system.
The customizability of Ardupilot makes it very popular in the DIY field but it has also gained popularity with professional users and companies. For example the 3D Robotics Solo quad copter uses ArduPilot. The customizability allows for support of a wide variety of frame types and sizes, different sensors, camera gimbals and RC transmitters depending on the operator's preferences. The Ardupilot has been successfully integrated into many airplanes such as the Multiplex Easy Star, Easy Glider Pro, and the Bixler 2.0. The customizability and ease of installation has allowed the Ardupilot platform to be integrated for a variety of missions. The Mission Planner (Windows) ground control station allows the user to easily configure, program, use, or simulate an Ardupilot board for purposes such as mapping, search and rescue, and surveying areas.
ArduPilot has a large set of features including:Fully autonomous, semi-autonomous and fully manual flight modes
Programmable 3D way points
Return to home
Failsafes for loss of radio contact, GPS and breaching a predefined boundary
Stabilization options to negate the need for a third party co-pilot
Fly By Wire mode
Optimization of 3 or 4 channel airplanes.