Need Advice on Hardware Purchase

Hello all,

First off, thanks for taking the time to read this and hopefully steer me in the right direction.

Secondly, I’m new here and looking to get into an Ardupilot setup for a boat (Rover, right?), but I’m afraid of wasting lots of money on old crappy hardware…

I’m looking to spend under $400 for a decent beginner setup.

I found this on amazon, but it seems like it’s old pixhawk 2, and it seems like there is a pixhawk 6 now…


  1. Is this doable for under $400?
  2. Is there a “kit” i can buy that would give me everything i need (Like the above amazon link), or am I better off buying a ton of things separately?
  3. Should I be looking at “open” or “closed” hardware? (Autopilot Hardware Options — Rover documentation)
  4. Yes or no…Is there a way (In the future) that I could keep the boat pointed in a certain direction?
    4a. If yes to q4, do I need 2 GPS units on the front and back of the boat to accomplish this?


  1. Good GPS accuracy for not slamming into river banks, bridges, etc…
  2. Must work in sub freezing temps
  3. Add hardware sensors for collision detection (Not needed immediatly)(Also, is this even possible?)

Thanks again for your time,

Mark from Money Pit Boating

Those old Pixhawk 2s are mostly clones, and a bit of a hot topic here right now. The originals were good but they are outdated now. The market is full of clones and that’s proving to be an issue.

At that price point I would look to Matek, mRo, QioTek, or Holybro. Matek is probably the best bang for the buck right now, but the Qiotek seems to be gaining popularity. These aren’t the only good ones, but just what I’ve seen as commonly mentioned here.

mRo used to sell a great kit, meant for multirotor but it would work for many different applications. It was the PixRacer R15 DIY Kit. Its probably still on their website but hasn’t been available for some time. Otherwise you’re better off buying separately. Open or closed probably doesn’t make any difference for you so don’t worry about that.

Yes, you’re going to want a GPS. Many of the GPS units are sold as a GPS/Magnetometer combo. So it will get you where you want to go, facing the right direction. You can also do this with dual GPS but that might be more than you want for the first build/budget. You also need a more expensive GPS for that.

Most of the M8Q GPS modules will give you reasonable positioning. They are good for most flying machines, but rovers are a different story. Budget wise you might want to stick with something simple for now because you can get M8Q gps modules cheap, but then if you need better you can look into RTK or whatever other system will fit your bill. The bigger issue might be what happens when you go under the bridge.

Most of this gear will work in sub freezing temperatures but it can be cranky, especially batteries. (I’m in Canada, so yeah, winter…) I just finished a SnowCat and I used the video transmitter to keep the battery warm. So far, so good. The bigger issue will be keeping it dry and temperature stable.

Collision detection… This is where you might want to look at the better flight controllers. Something with an F7 or H7 processor. They will typically have the extra processing power to deal with additional sensors and scripts down the road for all the extras.

Do you have any plans yet for telemetry and radio links?


This has already been super helpful, so thank you!

We are in Michigan, so yeah…winter! My Mom is from Canada though!

I was hoping to buy the telemetry and radio links in a kit, so I haven’t looked into too much detail on individual components, other than the main board.

I have a spektrum radio with an extra receiver somewhere (I used to fly/crash RC helicopters), that I was hoping to use to save some money. So I’d just need telemetry, right?

I’ve done a little research over the past few months, so I’m KIND OF familiar with some stuff, but is the H7 the best processor right now?

Also, I’ve heard a lot of “Cube” talk…are those decent?

I want to avoid buying better parts if the worse ones don’t work as intended, so I’d rather spend a little more at the start, to not waste the money in the long run.

The “going under the bridge issue”… It’s multiple 5 lane wide concrete beasts… I was thinking that 2 GPS units (One on front and one on back) would help A LITTLE, since it would reduce “hidden” time…

Will the rover just stay “on course” until it regains GPS signal, then correct accordingly?

Also, what feature(s) on the GPS units are the ones to be looking for that will lock heading/location?

Maybe I could start with 1 decent/good GPS and see if it works, then add 2nd later, if needed.

Again, I can’t thank you enough…this has already moved me closer to my goal!


Great advice from Allister. I run Rovers also, coincidentally in Michigan, and while I have/do use Pixracer’s and performance is good I would use a Matek H743-Wing FC if I was building a new one. Cubes are good choices too, better redundancy and a refined package. If there is anything “Mission Critical” or you are carrying expensive hardware then consideration should be given to the choice.

The going under the bridge scenario will depend on how quickly it loses positional accuracy. If it’s enough to trigger an EKF Failsafe there are only 3 options; Disable, Hold or Report only. Hold is the default option. If you select Report Only at least you will have a message back on telemetry and you can take manual action assuming you are in RC range.

I agree with Dave on the Matek H743-Wing. I also like the QioTek Zealot H743, but I can’t fully recommend it just yet due to some potential issues and my own lack of long term familiarity.

The Cubes are outstanding options, but the only ones really worth considering are the Cube Orange/Orange+, which will blow most of your budget by itself, and the Cube Blue H7, which will obliterate your budget (and is really only necessary if you’re a US corporate entity needing to avoid foreign-sourced components).

Given your stated goals, I think an H7 processor is the way to go, regardless of manufacturer.

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A good bet for telemetry are the 915mhz SiK radios. mRo and Holybro make good ones for a reasonable price. Again, avoid the clones.

I have a friend that runs RC sailboats and he’s commented that his RC range on the water with Spektrum is very poor. Obviously if you have it already there’s nothing to lose by starting with that, but expect you’re going to want to upgrade at some point in the future. I also just thought, watch the power supply. Many of the new FCs don’t have the 3.3V supply that older Spektrum RX use.

The Cube Orange is great. And the Here2 and Here3 GPSs are solid. But they will blow your budget in a moment. Along with what Dave said, if it’s not mission critical you’re fine with Matek.

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This has all been super helpful, and I really appreciate everyone’s input/expertise/advice.

I’m going to do some more research and compile a list of gear.

One thing I’m curious about after about 10 minutes of looking around…

It seems like a lot of the recommended flight controllers are little circuit boards, that don’t really have ports/places to plug all the other electronics into.

My soldering skill level is about 1.5 out of 10!

Am I missing something obvious?

The pixhawk and cube products have lots of plugs and it makes sense to me.

Could anyone clairfy?

Again, appreciated 10,000%!


All of the Matek boards require some level of soldering. It isn’t particularly difficult in most cases, but it’s a must. If you’re not comfortable soldering through hole components, maybe avoid those. At the same time, there’s no time like the present to learn a skill, and it’s one you ought to develop for this project.


The plugs and connectors are great … if everything you are using has the same connectors. There are some common connectors for some things, but not everything.

And even if you are using one of the controllers with all the plugs you’re going to need to solder something. (ESC connections, battery leads, etc)

My suggestion regardless of the controller you use is buy a good soldering station, and practice, practice, practice.


Ok. I actually love trying to improve and learn, but I just don’t want to ruin an expensive board if there’s a simpler way of accomplishing the same goal for around the same amount of money.

Also, even though the connectors can be convenient, you may find that you’ll need to pin or re-pin some of those, which I find more tedious than soldering…

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Look for a soldering practice board like this: (there are tons on the market, this is just the first one that google brought up)

Get comfortable with something like this before you hit the expensive stuff.


Got any recommendations on “good soldering stations”?

I just have a cheap, 20 year old, metal rod with a handle that I’ve used about 50 times, and I’m probably actually a 4/10.

I’ve wanted to buy some new gear, but couldn’t really justify it, because I could do most of my repairs with current gear.

Agreed! And don’t get me started on crappy crimping tools. I’d rather solder than fight with that junk.


Here’s my go to right now:

Cheaper than the Wellers, but seems to work just as well. Lots of tips available. The clue for me was when the electronics guys at work were buying them I knew it would work for me.

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Hakko makes some nice gear that isn’t too overpriced. Most of their affordable lineup uses a ceramic heater that takes a little longer to heat and transfers heat slightly worse than the more modern stuff I’m about to mention.

I have a Pace soldering station that is AMAZING, but that may be beyond reach for your budget at the moment.

Surprisingly, the “Pinecil” is an EXCELLENT tool that rivals anything I’ve used from Weller and most of Hakko’s lineup (if you use a good power supply and get a few assorted tips).

Also, use lead-based, flux core, 60/40 or 63/37 solder if you can. The lead free stuff really sucks by comparison. Just wash your hands after handling it. It won’t hurt you unless you try to eat it!

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YES! Agreed.

That Pinecil looks pretty decent. A good size to carry in the tool box.

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No, not really. The decent FC’s with connectors cost 2X or more than what the bare board types do. The Matek Wing board is a bit friendlier but you have to solder no matter what.

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915mhz SiK radio - $56 - Range: over 300m

Microhard Radio P840 - $520 - Range: up to 60 MILES!

Are these the two ends of the spectrum? The range difference is night and day!

Any 10 miles-ish for $100ish radios out there?!

The more research I do, the more excited I get, and wish I would have decided to take the plunge years ago!

The Pinecil uses an integrated heater in the tip like the expensive stations. It heats super fast with a 20V supply.

I reach for it often when I only need to do a quick repair or single, simple splice.

@ktrussell was the one who recommended I get one.

A good first project might be to make a power adapter for the batteries that inevitably show up in this hobby…