Beginner UAV Plane (Pixhawk + Mission planner + Glider airplane) = is it THAT simple?

Hello all,

I am interested in building a UAV glider with a camera, and organize long distance flights from point A to point B, recording the flight inbetween. I believe amazing missions can be had, especially flying down from mountains where altitude potential energy would be an advantage.

My questions are;

  1. So I obtain an RC airplane, a PixHawk autopilot and a laptop with Mission planner and I’m good to go ? Just buy components, plug them together and then it’s tinkering/testing/flying? No soldering required ? (I know Arduino and RC airplanes, have owned 2 gliders, one aerobatic, and a couple foamies I built myself).

  2. Can I switch from autopilot to manual control (classic RC with Tx/Rx) at will ? This is for landings and emergencies.

Thanks in advance for any replies/comments to what I want to do. Good luck to all


PS about me: 48 y/o computer programmer, computer science teacher, can easily program C in an arduino, but I am not good with building electronics (e.g. soldering chips on boards etc)

EDIT: Or to rephrase the question, what is the most difficult part of the whole process, in your opinion ?

The learning curve is steep, but yes, no soldering required, and the software is mature enough to reliably do that for you.

Simple is relative. Yes, it can be “that” simple. It really depends on what you expect from it and what level of performance and features you demand.

And yes, in ArduPlane you can set up options for manual control and then it’s old school RC (with some extra weight). On the other end of the spectrum you can make fully automated take-off and landings with your planned mission so you can start the mission from your laptop and never have to touch another thing till you load it in your car to go home. And of course everywhere in between.

Buy good gear. There’s lots of knockoff garbage out there so don’t get tempted into things that are really cheap. You don’t have to buy the most expensive, either unless you want to or need a feature that it offers.

Read the Ardupilot/ArduPlane instructions. Read them again. There’s lots of great information there, maybe too much it seems for beginners but it’s an amazing resource.

And don’t be afraid to ask questions here. Lots of people here willing to help.