Ok so you got the Arducopter APM board and want to get into the air, but don’t quite know where to start. That’s where this guide comes to the rescue. I’ll try to step by step guide you through setting your new board up so that you can go out and fly. So lets get started.
First off you need to hook up your board.
Connect your receiver into the left pins as follows:
If you’re going with a Quad setup hook up your outputs as follow:
If your going with any other setup follow this guide: http://code.google.com/p/arducopter/wiki/APM2_Motor_order
(The signal wire is always connected on the pins closest to the inside of the board)
Now it’s time to install the APM mission planner software on your computer. Download the latest MissionPlanner-*.*.** from here, and install it.
When you’re done with that it’s time to connect the board to the computer and boot up the software.
Click the “Connect” button in the top right corner and let it connect.
Once connected, click on the “Firmware” tab. Then click on the picture of the model you want your board to be able to control.
It’s going to ask you if you are sure that you want to upload the software. Click yes if you are.
When that is done, click on the “Configuration” tab in the menu on the top
This is what you’re going to see. It’s the setup screen for the radio. So make sure that your radio is on and that it’s bound to the receiver you have plugged into the APM board. Move the sticks about and you should see the bars move. To make sure that everything is moving the right direction follow these bullet points:
- CH 1: Roll Left = low PWM – Roll Right = High PWM
- CH 2: Pitch Forward = low PWM – Pitch Back = High PWM
- CH 3: Low Throttle = low PWM – High Throttle = High PWM
- CH 4: Yaw Left = low PWM – Yaw Right = High PWM
- CH 5: Flight Mode
- CH 6: up to you
- CH 7: not engaged = low PWM – engaged = High PWM
If a channel is moving the wrong way simply go into the reversing menu in the radio and reverse it. Also make sure that all trims and sub trims are set to zero.
Once you know that everything is moving the correct direction, click the “Calibrate Radio” button. Move the sticks to their end positions and click “Done”, center all the sticks and click OK. This is to ensure that the control board knows how far your sticks goes and where the center is.
When you’re done this window will appear telling you the pulse width of each channel. Just click “OK”.
Next, click on the “Flight Modes” tab on the left. This is where you tell the board which modes you want your channel 5 toggle switch (preferably a 3 position switch) to toggle between. Normally you want to fly in the “Stabilize” mode so set that to the first position. I use “Loiter” mode a lot which is like the stabilize mode but with GPS positioning, so I set that as my 2 position. Lastly I setup “Acro” for fun flying. It’s also a good idea to have a switch activate the “RTL” mode (Return To Launch) which flies the copter back to you and lands autonomously. I used a programmable mix on my transmitter to “push” channel 5 upwards by 10% making it jump to the “RTL” spots.
To find out more about the different flight modes read this (and the sublinks in the left hand menu)
Next click on the “Hardware Options” tab in the left hand menu. If you have a GPS unit hooked up to your board you need to enable the compass. Otherwise, if you don’t have any additional hardware you can simply skip this step.
This is an optional step, Click on the “ArduCopter Config” tab. If you’re using a different setup than the recommended one you might need to change your gains. More powerful motors needs a lower “Rate Roll P” and “Throttle Range P”. Read all about setting up the gains here.
If your setup is close to the recommended one try the stock settings first. Even though the gains might be off the copter will most probably fly.
Something I found somewhat hard to find in the wiki was to setup a remote gain channel. Here is how to do it: In the picture above find the “Ch6 Opt” dropdown menu (shown in the picture) There you can choose what channel 6 on your transmitter will control. I would recommend setting it to “CH6_RATE_KP” to start with as that will most likely be the one you need to dial in. Underneath the dropdown menu are two “Min” and “Max” value boxes. These dictates between which two values you want your CH6 to be able to change. Start out with 0.08 and 0.2 that should give you plenty of range.
The last step to the board configuration is clicking on the “ArduCopter Level” tab on the left. Choose which layout your multirotor has (either “plus or X”. Now place the quad as level as possible and click the “Calibrate Now” button to calibrate the accelerometers on the board.
Now you’re done! Unplug the board and go outside. Before the first flight I highly recommend setting the throttle endpoints on your speed controllers. To do that you simply move the throttle stick to full and plug in the battery on your multicopter. The APM board will automatically detect that you want to do a throttle calibration and will give signal passthrough to the ESC’s. The ESC’s will beep just as they normally do during throttle calibration, and then you move the throttle stick to minimum again. Unplug the battery to reboot the board and you’re ready for your first flight.
Josh and Josh demonstrate the Arducopter APM 2.5 board on a H-quad with stock settings in this video:
I hope you found this guide helpful. Good luck flying and as always keep on watching flitetest.