On the 3D Robotics web site the APM 2.6 is priced at $240, but several sellers on eBay advertise them for about $40. I presume these are clones but I would like to know if they are up to the job. Do they work with Mission Planner and can you load them with the correct firmware from Mission Planner? Has anyone had experience with these ?
I have used 3DR APMs and much cheaper clones and in my own experience both have worked equally well. However others have posted problems with clone boards. One big difference is that if you do have problems, customer service from a clone vendor can be difficult to impossible. So it’s a gamble whose worth you have to decide.
Some clone vendors also play games to sell something for what appears to be a very low price. They may not include a case (usually needed), a GPS or a Power Module to power the APM. All these items should be part of the overall package in order to have a functioning APM. The software and firmware necessary to run an APM is all open source and freely available.
I think for someone who has used a real 3DR APM and is familiar with it, cheap clone boards are an option if they want to build more. They would already know how they are supposed to work. If someone completely new to the APM board goes out and buys a clone and has problems, it’s harder for them to know if it’s their lack of knowledge or just a bad APM.
If the price of a 3DR APM is a major issue, have a look at Hobbyking’s offerings. I’d put them a notch above most of the eBay sellers in quality. And personally, unless you absolutely know you would use it, I wouldn’t recommend bothering with the telemetry radio set as that adds cost (it can always be added later). A cheap MinimOSD (less than $20 from Hobbyking) can give you all the flight data you need.
Thanks for the advice. Much appreciated. I think for the time being I’ll stick with the Crius AIO boards that I am using.