Getting started with a helicopter kit and Navio 2/Ardupilot

Hi guys,

I’d like to play with Ardupilot on some cheap helicopter using Raspberry pi and Navio 2 board. Since I’m a noob in rc models and hardware stuff, I believe my best bet would be to buy a helicopter kit for it.

On Ardupilot docs I found out that it requires 8-channel transmitter/receiver to work.
Is transmitter really necessary? Why it cannot just run in autopilot mode?

I will appreciate if somebody can suggest a reasonable setup for my goal.
Many thanks.

There is no such “cheap” thing. If you intend to follow the Ardupilot road with helicopter, without any experience in the hobby, be ready to enlarge your credit reserve.


Hi Marc, thanks for your reply, but I’m not sure if it is the answer I was looking for.
With “cheap” I ment relatively cheap compared to average hobby rc helicopter price which is, by my observations, somewhere in 800$-1500$ range. What I’m actually looking for is the most reasonable way to have a hans-on experience running a helicopter with Navio/Ardupilot.

At the moment I’m considering Walkera V450D03 as a good choice.

I believe its possible to have ready-to-fly unit for up to 400$. But it usually goes with a 7ch transmitter. Is it a problem for running Ardupilot?

Could somebody suggest any issues I can potentially meet on the way marrying Walkera V450D03 with Navio 2/Ardupilot please?

I would also appreciate any other ideas/suggestions that will resonate with the goal described above.

Hope we can find the solution together.
Thanks in advance.


There are some information about helicopter with ardupilot here:

It is not Navio specific, but as the software and how to do things is common, it could help you.


Hi @michaelmichael,

Yes, it’s possible to fly without transmitter/receiver. However, I wouldn’t recommend you to do it. It’s better to have them at least as a backup.

check out this thread Navio2 traditional heli

Traditional helicopters are mechanical complex, fragile and expensive to repair. One wrong move during takeoff and the main blades or the tailrotor are hitting the ground and get damaged and maybe even the main shaft is bend. There is a reason for the saying: “Helicopters are just a bunch of parts flying in close formation”.
You plan on buying a Walkera RTF heli and I bet they “optimized” it to a degree where it is almost impossible to add third party hardware. The gyro for example is integrated into the receiver and if you can not deactivate it, you will never get a "clean " signal from the receiver for the Navio.
The Navio needs a PPM or Sbus signal, so you will need a ppm encoder, too.
Then there is the problem with real estate. 450er helicopters may seem large, but they have just enough room to carry the needed parts and a lipo. A Raspberry Pi is not big, but it is wider than the main frame of the 450 helicopter. If you look at the detail pictures on the helipal site, you will notice that there is almost no flat spot on the frame to mount anything. If you put the Rpi/Navio under the helicopter between the landing skids, you will risk damaging it during harder landings, because the skid bends on impact.
Not knowing how to fly an RC model and relying on the “autopilot” is one of the main reasons why “drones” are being bashed by the media. The pilot is responsible for the aircraft and should be able to fly and recover it, if the autopilot malfunctions.
Please forgive me for being so negative, but what you are planning to do is not an easy task and you said you are a “rc and hardware noob”.

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Agree with Sebastian, if you have not flown a helicopter before your best bet is to get a RTF collective pitch micro heli they are cheap to repair and will crash multipe times before you need to replace anything or get a rc flight sim and a cheap radio. Autopilots should only be viewed as cruise control ++++ you should always be ready to take control of your model. If you can I also recommend joining a local rc flying club when you move on from the micro heli to say a 450 size.

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