New/First Build Noob


Im new here and hopefully this is in the right section. I have been looking over the forum for a little bit, but mostly I have been reading the Ardupilot docs page about introduction to rovers and I have been building a list of things to get for my first build. In general I know nothing about autopilots. I am somewhat familiar with normal RC cars and planes as I have tinkered with them all my life, but that is just using a normal transmitter and receiver with an ESC and motor. I have always bought pre-built rc cars and recently I built my first RC plane out of a foam glider, but that is the extent of my knowledge. I certainly know nothing about making something autonomous, so I figure starting out building a ground based vehicle would be the place to start as the cost of failure for a car is minimal compared to a boat, plane, or quad but in the future I want to be able to use all this for boats and planes in addition to rovers.

I have been creating a list of things I need to start, and I have a couple questions to ask so I understand what I am getting and make sure it will all work together.

I already have a Spektrum Dx6e transmitter and appropriate 6 ch receiver.

I am still deciding what to use as a vehicle base for my rover, but I will have something drive-able with a motor, esc, and servo, somewhere at least in the 1/10 scale size as that is what the rover docs talks about.

I need to buy an autopilot and from the ardu pilot guides I have been looking at the holybro pixhawk 4s that come with the pixhawk, gps, and power management boards. (Though I am still trying to figure out the difference between their pm07 and pm02 power boards? I assume they get power through the vehicle esc, or are they running off a separate power supply?)

As far as telemetry I am trying to decide which version to get also. The SiK radio on holybro is tempting because of the price but the dragon link seems amazing for its distance. I do have a question here though. Is telemetry used to communicate with the vehicle long distance while it is on a mission? Or is telemetry solely for a camera system and the vehicle only responds through the transmitter and once its out of range of the tx, its in autonomous mode until it gets back? Or is it both? I am interested in it more for the communicating with vehicle and at this point could care less about a camera system. Hopefully that question made sense. I have never once used a telemetry system so I am somewhat confused by it and its purpose and from the Ardu pilot docs it seemed to talk about it from the sense of communicating with the rover, but then alot of websites selling telemetry systems are talking about camera things.

I also am thinking about adding other sensors onto the unit eventually, probably starting with a sonar sensor to start with as a rover, but that may even be later after I get the rover working.

I also plan on using mission planner as my ground control station via my windows 7 laptop, assuming it works on here.

All in all I think I have a complete list of what I need, but its one of those cases where I don’t know what I don’t know and I am completely new to this, but really excited to learn. Is there anything I am forgetting? Would anyone suggest getting something different? Also, does anyone have some easy guide or wisdom on my telemetry and power questions above? At this point in time I only own the 6 channel spektrum tx and rx, so everything else is still up in the air and in planning phases, though I am willing to pull the trigger now. Anyways, I am definitely looking for feedback either positive or negative about everything.

Lastly I have what may be the most stupid question, but what exactly is Ardupilot? Is it the software that will be loaded onto the pixhawk autopilot? or is there another piece of hardware I am missing? Or is it mission planner? I know from the website saying it is the leading open source autopilot system, but I want to make sure there is something I am not missing.

Thanks for your time, hopefully everything I said made sense and you weren’t too aggravated by my lack of knowledge. I am willing to learn, I am just trying to get enough knowledge to feel comfortable being able to start and not be over my head as I know nobody in real life who knows anything about getting into this.

Thanks again,

Start here:

That makes so much sense. Thank you! It was a constant back of my mind question that I didn’t fully understand.

As far as an available Rover platform goes you can find some in the main Rover thread. I have built/configured them from Basher type RC trucks (2wd) and RC Crawlers (4wd). It’s fairly straight forward actually. You could use a Pixhawk 4 but just about any Flight Controller that ArduRover supports, and there many, will do for a Rover. I have Pixracers in mine but I had them when I was building they were not purpose purchased. If I was building a new Rover today I would probably buy a Matek H743-Wing board.


Oh okay, I will definitely take a look there. Thanks. I had been trying to decide myself if I should go with a crawler or truck.

As far as Flight Controller, will one be better over the other if I also plan to use this same controller for a boat or aircraft in the future? or are all flight controllers pretty much the same?

No, they are not the same but they can be used interchangeably between Rovers, Planes and Multirotors assuming they have enough outputs for the craft. For future proofing pick one with a H7 processor and 2, or more, IMU’s. Often the decsion comes down to what you are willing to pay. They range from ~$35 to $500.

The top recommendations I see for people starting like me is to buy a PIxhawk but most are completely sold out until April (according to the Sparkfun site). For someone starting out and wants it to be easy, are there recommendations for boards that aren’t sold out / backordered? I see the Pixhawk 4 mini offered and the Pix 2.4.8 are available, Are they suitable options? Any help is appreciated.

I ended up getting the Pixhawk 4 and have successfully put it on a rover and have been slowly learning. I have yet to put it on a plane or anything else, but definitely will in the future. I like it so far. I bought the package deal from Holybro here with gps and PM07 Power management board. I didn’t have any issues except a small issue which ended up being user error for connecting the power management board to the pixhawk unit.

It ships from overseas and took 2 weeks to get in I believe. I don’t think they have any backorders now, but not sure what their price is versus elsewhere. I have also heard good things about the Matek boards like Dave mentioned. I have no experience but have heard of alot of guys using them.