The free APM:Plane (formerly ArduPlane) firmware running on the APM autopilot gives any fixed-wing aircraft full autonomous capability.
APM:Plane provides advanced functions such as support for hundreds of three-dimensional waypoints, automatic take-off and landing as well as sophisticated mission planning and camera controls.
It works with the desktop Mission Planner ground station software to offer a compete UAV solution.
Programming and mission operations are done through an elegant and well-developed software interface. The entire package is designed to be easily approachable for the novice, while remaining open-ended for custom applications, education, and research use.
This is the platform that won the prestigious 2012 Outback Challenge UAV competition!
- A suitable airframe for your mission.
- Support tools and hardware for operating and maintaining your aircraft.
- Plus many other useful options, such as two-way telemetry radios which allow in-flight communication and control between the robot and your computer.
Please use the instructional wiki located at the top of this page for further details on platform integration.
A fixed-wing aircraft has both advantages and disadvantages in comparison with rotorcraft. Fixed-wing aircraft tend to be more forgiving in the air in the face of both piloting and technical errors, as they have natural gliding capabilities with no power. Fixed-wing aircraft also are able to carry greater payloads for longer distances on less power.
When precision missions are required, fixed-wing aircraft are at a disadvantage, as they must have air moving over their wings to generate lift. This means they must stay in forward motion, which means they can’t hover in one spot the way a copter can and as a result cannot provide the same level of precise camera positioning.
So for longer missions and more payload, a fixed-wing is your best choice. But for keeping a camera in one place, consider switching to a multicopter instead. The same APM autopilot can control that equally well by simply loading the APM:Copter code.