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Automatic Software In The Loop (SITL) setup for ArduPilot

For those who use and develop using the ArduPilot autopilot software (as featured on DiyDrones and ArduPilot Discourse), a powerful simulation tool is available that can replicate all of the features of the autopilot without flying an actual aircraft. This is extremely useful for testing complex missions or parameter configurations without risking real hardware.

Flying a simulated ArduPlane UAV around Canberra from the comfort of my desk in Perth.
Flying a simulated ArduPlane UAV around Canberra from the comfort of my desk in Perth.

Unfortunately setting it up is a bit tricky, official instructions are available however to make life easier I have created an automatic script that you can run that will install and run the SITL software on a Ubuntu 14.04 Linux PC or virtual machine.

This software is licensed under GNU General Public License version 3 and the source code is available at

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Simple set up for Turnigy 9XR (or similar) 6 position mode switching with APM Autopilots – No Hardware/Flashing Required

This is a cross post for one of my original blog posts on DIY Drones. It is included here for permanent reference.


Until recently my main TX was a Turnigy 9X and I (like many others) was using a hacked in 6 position POT switch to select modes on my various aircraft. Unfortunately the 9X has died so has been replaced by a shiny new 9XR. Rather then hack apart the 9XR (too pretty) I wanted to experiment with using the existing controls to select modes on my aircraft. I have seen several tutorials on this but none met all of my requirements below.

  1. Not relying on guessing the position of the continuous POT switches
  2. Gives a easy to read visual indicator of current mode
  3. Uses only a single radio channel
  4. All performed with the default software and hardware – no flashing/hacking required

The method I used was to combine the 3 position switch (ID0/1/2) with the Aileron Dir switch. Between these two switches there are six possible combinations which neatly matches the 6 modes of the APM ecosystem.

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Team West Coast UAV in the 2016 Medical Express UAV Challenge

One of my passions is UAVs or drones of which I’ve built a number. Over the past year I’ve been working with a local team of fellow enthusiasts preparing an entry for the 2016 UAV Medical Express Challenge.

The competition involves a simulated scenario where teams must send an unmanned, autonomous aircraft a substantial distance (10-30km) away to locate a person who is unwell. Once located, an aircraft must land near the unwell individual and a blood sample will be placed in the aircraft. Next, the aircraft must autonomously take-off and return back to the launch site where that sample would be “tested” to help diagnose and treat the simulated casualty.

In September 2016 we received a “go” decision from the judges to proceed to Deliverable 2 where we must demonstrate our capability to complete the challenge. We submitted this yesterday and from here the judges will short-list the 20 teams that will get to attempt Deliverable 3 and enter the competition.

Our team blog contains the full details from Deliverable 2 including the written report and the accompanying video is below:

This challenge is an exciting opportunity to demonstrate the abilities of technology for doing good in our world. The fact we can develop this on tiny budgets with a DIY approach is a real testament to the amazing world we all live in.