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ArduPlane Instruction

June 2013 UPDATE: The ArduPilot manual has now moved here. The manuals here are for legacy hardware and will no longer be updated or maintained.


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Updated Oct 30, 2012 by

First-time APM Setup

We recommend that you use the Mission Planner for first-time APM setup. (It's designed for Windows but will run in a Windows VM on a Mac or under Mono under Linux. Or, if you don't want to use either of those, you can use the CLI mode, which will work on any operating system.)

After you've downloaded the firmware, ensure that you've got the right COM port and baud rate (115k) selected, and click on Connect in the top right corner. The Mission Planner will now connect via MAVLink.

Now you can click on the setup button circled in red below:

This will open up a dialog box that will walk you through the basic setup process, described below.

Note: you MUST have an ESC or other 5v source plugged into your APM RC pins to power your RC receiver. USB power does not power the RC receiver. If you do not separately power the RC system, APM will be unable to read any signals on its RC inputs.

Setup steps

1) Calibrate your RC input

You must be powering the APM RC pins (with an ESC or equivalent 5v source), and your transmitter must be on. Ideally, you have already flown your airplane in manual RC mode and adjusted any trim values necessary, so the RC outputs reflect these trim settings; if you haven't already flown your aircraft in RC mode and trimmed it out, you may need to do the RC calibration again later, after you have flown the aircraft (this is easy to do at the field).

Channel assignments are as shown above. When you move the RC sticks, the relevant bars will move. Click on "Calibrate Radio" to set the radio limits. Red bars will appear, and you should move them to their limits for each channel you have connected.

On this screen you can also reverse servos if necessary and set up elevon mode if desired.

Press "Click when done" when you're done.

2) Set your flight modes

You can choose different flight modes in the air with your RC transmitter's toggle switch, which you should have connected to APM input 8. Full details on the available modes are here. (If you want to get more than three modes from your transmitter, a guide is here) When you move the toggle switch, you will see the green highlight change to a different line. You can use the drop-down menu on each line to assign that mode to a function. Note that Flight Mode 6 cannot be changed from Manual. It's "hardware manual", which means that it's controlled by the failsafe circuit on the APM board to always be able to return you to RC control as a safety measure.

3) Configure your hardware

In this tab, you can tell APM what optional sensors you have connected. Just click the check box for any sensor you're using. (Sonar is not currently supported with APM; it's primarily used for ArduCopter)

For the magnetometer (compass), you have a choice of calibration options once you enable the sensor:

  1. You can do nothing, and the code will try to figure out all the offsets and declination by comparing the compass readings with the GPS and IMU readings over time in flight. Pro: No user effort. Con: It takes a few minutes of flying to get right, so the compass is inaccurate at first launch.
  2. Manual calibration in the Mission Planner (above). You can enter your Declination as instructed below and then press the "Live Calibration" button and move and rotate your aircraft around for 30 seconds while it records the data and does some math to calibrate the sensor. Pro: It works. Con: it's a little awkward, especially for big aircraft. Also it doesn't reflect the magnetic interference that can occur when the motors are going in flight.
  3. Replay a flight log. This is a very cool option, shown above as Log Calibration, where you can just replay a previously recorded flight log (.tlog) and the code will compare the GPS and IMU readings with the compass reading and make the necessary corrections. Pro: Works great. Con: You must have already flown, if you load a .tlog file where you didn't actually fly you'll mess up your calibration and will have to do it again or risk poor flight performance.

To manually enter a declination for your geographic location, you can find the correct value by clicking on the link to open a web browser. Enter your location and it will give you a declination, as circled below:

In this case, I would enter "14.13" into the magnetometer line (the software converts from decimal to degrees/minutes).

4) If you're using a standard airframe, load a pre-made configuration file

For common airframes such as the Bixler, Skyfun and Skywalker, we have supplied configuration files which are tuned for those aircraft. You can download theme here and use the Mission Planner to write them to APM.

5) Now if you switch to the Flight Data tab with MAVLink connected, you will see the artificial horizon moving with the board. Remember to leave the board stationary for 15-20 seconds when you switch into this tab, since the IMU must calibrate first. Once it's done, the HUD will start moving.

Comment by, Nov 1, 2010

Can anyone tell me if I can configure the APM to command an airplane that requires 2 ailron servos (one for each wing)? My RC radio is set up to handle the mixing required.

Comment by project member, Nov 1, 2010

epsartain: most of our planes have two aileron servos, but we just use a Y cable. If you can't use a Y cable for some reason, you'll have to modify the code to mirror (or modify) the output for the second aileron servo and put it on one the spare outputs.

Comment by project member mark.grennan, Nov 23, 2010

If you have other controls (Switches) do the receiver ports pass through?

4 to 4 and so on? I know I can hook up landing gear directly to the receiver.

Also can you add to the graphic some programming notes? Simple things like the serial port 0-3 used by the deceives.

Comment by project member mark.grennan, Nov 23, 2010

Oh - I'd also like to see the optional power pins and the chip programming pins included.

Comment by, Jan 26, 2011

As i was reading this i just thought of a question........

Is it generally a good idea to place the APM as close to the plane's center of gravity as possible, or can PID tuning compensate for an off center APM?

I'm wondering this, as it is sometimes hard to place something like this at an RC plane's center of gravity (some cutting might be involved).

Comment by, Mar 6, 2011

As a follow up to epsartain question:

We have the same problem: We need to configure the APM to control 2 aileron servos. We can not use a Y cable because of several reasons: 1. All our planes have already the servos installed and configured. (We would have to set the servo ways to 0 again if we would use a y cable. 2. Both of our aileron servos' deflections are already configured electronically with our RC. 3. Also we sometimes use our ailerons as breaks.

I have to admit that my programming knowledge is not advanced enough to modify the code myself. Has anyone mirrored or modified the APM code to control 2 aileron servos and can help me out?

Thanks Daniel

Comment by, Mar 22, 2011

Ref. Note 1. How do you configure ailerons for Roll Control, as to make Yaw/Rudder channel used? Is there some #define in APM_config.h? I am asking this because, even after modifing SERVO_YAW_P to 0.6, the rudder response to yaw is very low.

Comment by, Apr 14, 2011

epsartain: you can use an external servo mixer like FUTABA SR-10 to drive both aileron servos...

Comment by, Aug 7, 2011

How do I find what outputs goes to which motor/esc in a hex x config?

Comment by, Aug 8, 2011

Sorry, never mind. I found out :)

Comment by, Sep 14, 2011

Can anyone tell me that if I can fly the arducopter in automatic without the RC control? many thanks.

Comment by project member, Sep 14, 2011

jacky: it's technically possible (see the Joystick setup in the Mission Planner), but not recommended until your ArduCopter is really set up well. Latency and the possibility of wireless dropouts require that autonomous mode is working perfectly before you drop the RC.

Comment by, Oct 12, 2011

hay, if am using it for a hexacopter any recommendation on witch RC Control should be used?

Comment by, Jan 15, 2012

Crash Problem Just went through setup with a pre-loaded and preassembled APM1. Process proceeded OK through move to HARDWARE TAB. Had no "hardware" could not find any exit path. X (close window inoperative) Had to do CTRL-ALT DEL to exit. Question. Are mode setups to this point still valid in t the APM1? Can I ignore this crash and proceed to flight? How does the GPS get initialized? Thanks in advance for RSVP Mike

Comment by, Jan 29, 2012

Just completed "first time setup" step 5. HUD and instruments respond correctly in appropriate mades, so I am assuming that the load was valid. Note there is no validity feedback from the flight param load. Also figured out how the GPS was designed to integrate. In retrospect there were many time consumiing interpretation-of-instruction issues to overcome. The ArduPilot? Project is a remarkable achievement and is an indicator of an accomplished robotic community. Still a look through the AMA magazine shows that the RC establishment is peopled with middle or senior age (like me) members. Age brings experience, money and clout to the table with the rulemaking FAA. I would humbly recommend that DIYD consider reaching out to the intergenerational RC sector at large for its own self interest. Editing the technically accurate instruction manual might be one way of doing this. "Keep 'em flying"

Comment by, Feb 8, 2012

Were should I save the pre-made configuration file? Which folder?

Comment by, Feb 8, 2012

My GPS is just that normal?

Comment by project member, Feb 8, 2012

grabbag88: I take your point. Is there something in particular that you'd like clarified? I'd be happy to give you wiki access if you'd like to edit or improve something yourself.

Comment by project member, Feb 8, 2012

Pupylino: the GPS will not get lock indoors, and will take at least 2-3 minutes to get lock outdoors.

Comment by, May 29, 2012

Step 5 not working. I dont seeing any movement in the HUD (step 5). I am using ArduPlane??-2.34 and APM MissionPlanner-1.1.83. Steps upto 4 are working.

I am stuck with this problem. Can anyone tell me how to solve this problem?


Comment by, May 31, 2012

Problem listed above SOLVED!!! . For APM1 2560 hardware and ArduPlane?-2.34 the SLIDE SWITCH needs to be in "fly" position (away from the edge, toward the GPS connector). Once set the attitudes are indicated on the Mission Planner Artificial Horizon as you move the hardware.

Can anyone add this slide switch position requirement before Step 5?

Thanks to Peter Wlodarczyk for this solution !!!

Comment by, Oct 2, 2012

I need 2 aileron servos too. any solution yet?

Comment by, Oct 2, 2012

If ArduCopter? has the ability to use sonar, why can't arduplane? Seems like that would be standard as well for auto landing and take-off. Is there a way to add sonar ability? Or is it something that's under development?

Comment by, Nov 15, 2012

Comment by, Nov 12 (2 days ago)

I have recently completed a quad build but am running into a snag. Hopefully the collective genius of the group can tell me what I'm missing. I am using the Ardupilot Mega 1 kit. Here goes:

- USB plugged in and and boards are getting power

- Mission Planner 1.0 loaded on computer and opens fine

- Handshake between computer successful

- Firmware download successful

- Radio transmitter and receiver bonded and working

- ESCs respond and calibrate using the transmitter with the ESCs connected directly to the receivers

- All sensors working on shield and indicate on the mission planner's attitude indicator

Here is my problem. I cannot calibrate the radio transmitter using the Mission Planner, nor can I get any of the motors to respond using the Ardupilot. I get empty bars on the calibration window, which go all green when I select the invert box.

I have followed the step by step on the Arducopter's getting started page, but it appears that I am missing something. What say ye.

Comment by, Apr 2, 2013

Hi All- I've search for a week now and am stumped... Can someone please point me in the right direction for setting up my Fat Shark fpv camera to use with the HUD.

I will not be using an OSD (at this time, bu may in the future) and if possible, the camera will be connected directly to the AP.

I'm already using the 3d radio for APM telemetry which works great.

Comment by, May 19, 2013

Anyone who wants to check whether the magnetometer has big declinations compared to the GPS heading, take a look at this post of mine. I couldn't find the info on this wiki or online in general so once I found it I posted it:


Comment by, Dec 2, 2013

Need some help, we have the APM 1 Arduino Compatible UAV Controller and the Hotel 1.0 IMU sensor board pluged together and mission planner 1.2.86. The com port is set up with 115k baud rate. When we try to connect it times out and tells us that there is no "heatbeat". The Hotel 1.0 board TX light is flashing every second and the RX light is not flashing, when it times out the RX light flashes once. The GPS light is flashing. It connected about five times and sensor reading that we were getting through mission planner were just repeating patterns. email me at

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