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I am endeavoring to design and create a Auto-Pilot for a Quadcopter.  I am planning this  project in phases.

Getting Started

Since I read about the DARPA Grand Challenge in the 2004 I have wanted to work with autonomous navigation.  I first though of a RC boat but the thought of the boat getting stuck in the middle of the pond or lake was not appealing.  Using an RC car was another thought but finding a wheeled vehicle that appealed to me was cost prohibitive, I like trucks and a little one just would not do.

I have loved flying for ages and even got my pilots licenses in 1988 but RC planes do not interested me.  RC planes require a bit of space so testing and debugging will have to be preformed at and RC field.  I noted the advent of Quadcopters with interest but the kits are out of my price range. So I was still looking for a test platform.  I was not even sure I was going to do anything.

I picked up a Brainstem microcontroller by Acroname Robotics and played with it.  I found the Brainstem to be great with 5 10-bit ADC Input, 5 Digital I/O, 4 RC Servo Control, I2c and TTL serial connections. The Brainstem so that modules can be networked but at $80.00 for the resources I would need....

I found Parallax and the Propeller with 8 Cogs (Cores) and 32 I/O pins and $8.00 per chip with prototype boards $25.00 to $30.00.  What a find!!!

In July I stumbled on to the Gadget Gangsters podcast started listening.  In one of the first few shows they talked about the Propeller Expo in May 2012 and they talked about the Quadcopters kits that were at the Expo and they thought that there would be Autonomous Quadcopters at next years show.  I decided it was time to start.

I shopped ebay and found I could gather the parts for under $200.00 so at the end August I ordered parts and I am waiting on the on the final parts for the flight test vehicle.

Phase 1

Build a flight test vehicle - Quadcopter

Frame:   Motors: Motor Controller:

Flight Controller: Propellers: Battery:

and a 6 channel radio in picked up from Craigslist.

Assembledled and waiting on propellers.

The plan is to first fly the flight test vehicle via RC control to shake out the bugs and get a stable flight vehicle for the Auto-Pilot to control. 

Phase 2

Auto Pilot control.

  • Microcontroller: Parallax Propeller using the Quick Start Board
  • Communications: Bluetooth
  • Location: GPS
  • Heading: Compass
  • Height: Altimeter and DRM


  • Bluetooth communications with laptop or tablet
  • Autonomous takeoff / landing
  • Fly to lat/lon and return
  • Fly route



Last updated: September 12, 20012