In Market for RTF/ARF Ardu-based Copter

I am looking for a RTF or ARF quad that is Ardu based (PX4, Pixhawk, or APM - doesn’t matter as long as it’s open source). It would be great if it already has a gimbal/camera and a receiver. If not, please recommend a list. I am overwhelmed by the choices, and basically need a recommendation for a comprehensive RTF or ARF kit. I currently have a Phantom IV, but I would like to learn more about customization and coding. I want to have something that’s working, so that I can start tweaking right away. I do have Arduino and RPi experience, and I am trying to get up and running fast. My application is aerial videography, but not racing. Real-time camera view is a must.
Thank you.

Something you can tweak eh ? An Open Solo springs to mind.If you can get one cheap they are a tinkerers delight and have been upgraded regularly by the Ardupilot community to the point that an Open Solo is a serious bit of kit for GoPro stuff.What was a locked down operating system is now fully open and getting hacked within an inch of it’s former life.I have three.

There are overwhelming choices.So you have to narrow it down a bit with your specs.Like which cameras will you want to use ? - tells you roughly what size of craft.How long do you want it airborne for ? - determines the sort of power package.What kind of video feed do you want ? - HiDef required= more money.

If you just want an introduction to Arducopter you can get that for cheap with a Quanum Nova Pro from Hobbyking.Old all round with an APM 2.7 controller it will get you in at the ground floor and provide endless challenges to learn from.You can get a 450 sized kit with a Pixhawk clone for cheap off ebay to build yourself and learn in the process.Either is a good introduction to Arducopter,but not aerial videography particularly.

At the other end of the spectrum you could buy a professional level copter from Foxtech and specify a Pixhawk 2.1 FC and HERE GNSS to be totally up to date on the latest code.And be able to fly commercially from the off.

I don’t know of a list of commercially available RTF Pixhawk powered copters.A few that claim to be open source base their design on the code and then change a few bits of it without telling anyone (the old CX-20 springs to mind) which makes it more of a challenge to hack.

There’s always the option of a local builder but you’d have to specify usage to get what what you wanted.

So what do you want to do with this copter ? A bit more description than aerial videography would help.

Thank you for your advice.

I think I will start with the cheap Quantum first. Later, I will pursue the 3DR solo route as there are still plenty around. I also ordered a cheap Hubsan X4 to play around with. I got the Hubsan recommendation from the ArduPilot website, although I am unclear if it is APM-based. I will save pricier models for later when I’ve had some practice breaking stuff first. So I don’t want to tweak my DJI Phantom IV just yet.

In terms of application… it’s not very demanding. One application is static photography, say in front of my land. So I was going to see how much of the APM code I can comment out and still have it meet some basic stabilization, elevator functions. Again, just an excuse to play around with the code.

I am hoping to use get into Arduino more, so I want to play around with sensor interface and comm. So no real “big project” in mind other than to build some skill, and hopefully have fun int he process.


The Nova Pro has an APM controller which is an 8 bit processor but I fitted mine with a Pixhawk as an upgrade.I found it to be a good introduction to Arducopter and now have around 10 copters flying it.All learned from breaking the Quanum Novas.I learned a lot from messing that copter up.I always say it’s good introduction to the Ardupilot project even if it isn’t thebest copter out there.Have fun with it.

If you want to start extremely cheap just so you can learn the code, building, mission planning environment, etc Start with the SkyViper. It’s only $150 (sometimes on sale) and while it is running a forked Ardupilot, it’ll get you going. You probably won’t be able to strap a gimbal to it, but again, it’ll get you started on the cheap, and you can transplant the parts to a bigger kit. The real-time camera it has is pretty poor, but could be upgraded. Records to phone live or SD card 720p 30fps)
I personally want to try to upgrade it to a RunCam Split Mini. (but i’m not confident enough yet to start tearing it apart :wink: ) Anyways, just a suggestion. May not be what you’re looking for.