Arducopter - Quick setup guide

by RCExplorer | December 22, 2012 | (49) Posted in Tips

Ok so you got the Arducopter APM board and want to get into the air, but don’t quite know where to start. That’s where this guide comes to the rescue. I’ll try to step by step guide you through setting your new board up so that you can go out and fly. So lets get started.

First off you need to hook up your board.

Connect your receiver into the left pins as follows:

If you’re going with a Quad setup hook up your outputs as follow:

If your going with any other setup follow this guide:

(The signal wire is always connected on the pins closest to the inside of the board)


Now it’s time to install the APM mission planner software on your computer. Download the latest MissionPlanner-*.*.** from here, and install it.

When you’re done with that it’s time to connect the board to the computer and boot up the software.

Click the “Connect” button in the top right corner and let it connect.

Once connected, click on the “Firmware” tab. Then click on the picture of the model you want your board to be able to control.

It’s going to ask you if you are sure that you want to upload the software. Click yes if you are.

When that is done, click on the “Configuration” tab in the menu on the top

This is what you’re going to see. It’s the setup screen for the radio. So make sure that your radio is on and that it’s bound to the receiver you have plugged into the APM board. Move the sticks about and you should see the bars move. To make sure that everything is moving the right direction follow these bullet points:

  • CH 1: Roll Left = low PWM – Roll Right = High PWM
  • CH 2: Pitch Forward = low PWM – Pitch Back = High PWM
  • CH 3: Low Throttle = low PWM – High Throttle = High PWM
  • CH 4: Yaw Left = low PWM – Yaw Right = High PWM
  • CH 5: Flight Mode
  • CH 6: up to you
  • CH 7: not engaged = low PWM – engaged = High PWM

If a channel is moving the wrong way simply go into the reversing menu in the radio and reverse it. Also make sure that all trims and sub trims are set to zero.

Once you know that everything is moving the correct direction, click the “Calibrate Radio” button. Move the sticks to their end positions and click “Done”, center all the sticks and click OK. This is to ensure that the control board knows how far your sticks goes and where the center is.

When you’re done this window will appear telling you the pulse width of each channel. Just click “OK”.

Next, click on the “Flight Modes” tab on the left. This is where you tell the board which modes you want your channel 5 toggle switch (preferably a 3 position switch) to toggle between. Normally you want to fly in the “Stabilize” mode so set that to the first position. I use “Loiter” mode a lot which is like the stabilize mode but with GPS positioning, so I set that as my 2 position. Lastly I setup “Acro” for fun flying. It’s also a good idea to have a switch activate the “RTL” mode (Return To Launch) which flies the copter back to you and lands autonomously. I used a programmable mix on my transmitter to “push” channel 5 upwards by 10% making it jump to the “RTL” spots.

To find out more about the different flight modes read this (and the sublinks in the left hand menu)

Next click on the “Hardware Options” tab in the left hand menu. If you have a GPS unit hooked up to your board you need to enable the compass. Otherwise, if you don’t have any additional hardware you can simply skip this step.

This is an optional step, Click on the “ArduCopter Config” tab. If you’re using a different setup than the recommended one you might need to change your gains. More powerful motors needs a lower “Rate Roll P” and “Throttle Range P”. Read all about setting up the gains here.

If your setup is close to the recommended one try the stock settings first. Even though the gains might be off the copter will most probably fly.

Something I found somewhat hard to find in the wiki was to setup a remote gain channel. Here is how to do it: In the picture above find the “Ch6 Opt” dropdown menu (shown in the picture) There you can choose what channel 6 on your transmitter will control.  I would recommend setting it to “CH6_RATE_KP” to start with as that will most likely be the one you need to dial in. Underneath the dropdown menu are two “Min” and “Max” value boxes. These dictates between which two values you want your CH6 to be able to change. Start out with 0.08 and 0.2 that should give you plenty of range.

The last step to the board configuration is clicking on the “ArduCopter Level” tab on the left. Choose which layout your multirotor has (either “plus or X”. Now place the quad as level as possible and click the “Calibrate Now” button to calibrate the accelerometers on the board.

Now you’re done! Unplug the board and go outside. Before the first flight I highly recommend setting the throttle endpoints on your speed controllers. To do that you simply move the throttle stick to full and plug in the battery on your multicopter. The APM board will automatically detect that you want to do a throttle calibration and will give signal passthrough to the ESC’s. The ESC’s will beep just as they normally do during throttle calibration, and then you move the throttle stick to minimum again. Unplug the battery to reboot the board and you’re ready for your first flight.

Josh and Josh demonstrate the Arducopter APM 2.5 board on a H-quad with stock settings in this video:

I hope you found this guide helpful. Good luck flying and as always keep on watching flitetest.


liveyourdreamsRC on December 22, 2012
This article has inspired me even more to go and build something with it! Thanks again David!
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Zach Robinson on December 22, 2012
how much are the boards

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J0BL0 on December 22, 2012
Board is about $170 from DIY drones, or $90 for the clone at RCtimer.
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Lubis on December 22, 2012
Bought one after FliteTest's ArduPilot video, and just waiting for it to arrive. This is just what I wanted. Thanks David, grymt!
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LittleG on December 22, 2012
Thank you for writing this quick setup guide.

My APM 2.5 should arrive Monday and I'll be installing on the tricopter.

Can you include additional information on how to set it up for tricopter?

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piravin on May 30, 2013
heyy!!! have you setup your tricopter? I need some help on setting up the tricopter esc's. thanks.

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Lubis on December 22, 2012
Btw. When you click on the pictures to zoom, they're dead. (Not Found)
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MidwestRob on December 22, 2012
Excellent guide David. I'm tempted to get one for myself.
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apache64 on December 22, 2012
Just what Diy Drones should have done, so now i will buy one too :-)
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tramsgar on December 23, 2012
Might even dust off my PhoneDrone board. Thanks for the reminder.
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earthsciteach on December 26, 2012
How do your pics show up and mine and others' don't???
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Jake Wells on December 22, 2012
As always your Swedish super powers have exceeded all expectations.
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trobi81 on February 9, 2013
FYI: If you get the message 'No Heartbeat Packet Received' when trying to connect to the board click the firmware tab first and update the firmware to the desired craft (you don't need to hit the 'connect button' first). I was left scratching my head for about an hour looking through forums trying to figure out why I was getting this error - this is a common message that relates to a number of reasons why the board will not connect via the selected connection.

I hope this helps :-)
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Lloyshius on July 7, 2013
Hey guys I'm in the process of buying and building my first quad and I definitely want to use the APM in it eventually for loiter and RTL but is it suggested that i learn to fly quads on a simpler board like the KK2.0 before moving up or will using the APM allow me to learn with a lower risk of crashing?
I currently fly FPV foamies, mainly wings.
Thanks for the help,
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jaberman on August 12, 2013
Is there a version of this software for mac?
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kido on November 22, 2013
Yes there is .
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schubrakete on November 25, 2013
Hi, Thanx David for the detailed setup instructions.
I got my ArduPilot last week and built the Copter this weekend. So Far so good.
Installed an APM 2.6 with AC 3.0.1 firmware. Set up everything, did all calibrations. All pre flight checks tests seem OK (no double flash) and values look good, but I can not arm.
LED is flashing single red. GPS is solid blue.
With or without Mission Planner connected it won't arm with lower right, neither does it indicate what's wrong. Seems to me it does not trigger the arming procedure on low throttle yaw/rudder right.
Any Ideas?
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2fast4myself on February 6, 2015
Hi guys,.
does the ardupilot have to be near the CG or can it be placed someware else ?
Thank you
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guilhermebbastos1993 on November 3, 2015
Hi... Just the ArduCopter or ArduPilot is enough to do the quadcopter? I need some other board like Arduino Uno?
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RTay1138 on August 29, 2019

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RTay1138 on August 29, 2019

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Arducopter - Quick setup guide