Getting Started

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Getting started with Paparazzi is not difficult if you follow the steps as described in this Wiki. It take some persistence if things do not work out immediately , but in the end everyone will reach their goal.

Install the Ground Station

See Installation

Go to the page for your OS, download and install all packages, download paparazzi repo from git and compile it.

Run a Simulation

Now you are ready to start your Simulation.

For your first few simulations you should use the default flight plan (use the Microjet aircraft) and configuration files in Paparazzi. This will allow you to get the simulator up and running in as little time as possible so you can see what Paparazzi can do. Once you have familiarized yourself with what a default Paparazzi simulation can do you will probably want to start building a flight plan (where the simulated aircraft flies) for your local area. The best way to do this is to go to Google Maps and type in your local town. Once you have found your local town, get the Latitude and Longitude of somewhere where you would like to fly your simulated UAV. Now you have the lat and long go and edit the basic (this is the example flight plan) flight plan and change the HOME lat and long to the one near your home town. When you change the HOME lat and long, the whole flight plan and way points will dynamically move to their relative position around your chosen lat and long. You can now download the Google maps for your chosen area to give it that realistic look.

Once you are doing this you will quickly be interested in learning more about what you can configure with Paparazzi. The best place to start to learn how to configure Paparazzi is to edit your flight plan so you can do more complex things. There are a multitude of examples for you to use both on the wiki and within the supplied Paparazzi flight plan files.

Now you have spent time simulating the aircraft and configuring flight plans and any other goodies which has peaked your interest you might be ready to take the plunge and get a real UAV.

If you are ready to take the plunge you will need a few things other than your computer.

If you used your desktop computer for simulating Paparazzi, you will need to move to a laptop so you can take it out to your flying site.

Get the hardware

The Autopilot

  • Your best bet is to buy a prebuilt autopilot pack from one of the vendors. This saves lots of time and they will often give you help if you need it! ORDER ONE WITH A POLARIZED PLUG FOR POWER. It is common to accidentally reverse the +/- input and burn up the board without one.
  • Make sure you understand that the signal input to the autopilot/controller is a combined signal of all channels together. The RC receiver outputs 8 individual channels. You have options that include:
    • Get a PPM encoder board (combines 8ch inputs into a combined signal).
    • Get a MeekPE Encoder Board (combines 8ch inputs into a combined signal).
    • Purchase an RC reciver that outputs a combined signal (many do nowdays). Below lists several.
  • You can avoid the PPM encoder board by using an RC receiver that outputs PPM sum stream:
  • Make sure you get a FTDI board/cable in your pack. You need it to connect the GCS PC directely to Paparazzi without a radio modem. You might also need it to connect your GCS radio modem to the GCS PC. The reason is communications with the autopilot is via serial Tx/Rx. So you can use the XBee as an RF serial device or use a wired serial adapter like the FTDI USB to serial adapters out there. Just be sure to cross Tx -> Rx and Rx->Tx. Think of it like plumbing where the out on one goes to the in on the other.

The Airframe

  • Get an electric foam aircraft because they are not dangerous and cheap. The Multiplex Mentor (flies very good-natured) or the Multiplex FunJet (already has prebuilt airframe configuration files) are good starting points.
  • There is more information in the Airframes page

The Radio Control

  • You need a radio control with a 3 position switch to switch between autopilot modes.


  • Get a decent LiPo or NiMh battery with at least 11 volts available with a Deans plug on it (make sure its the correct way around or you will fry your autopilot). You will also need a power extender so you are not plugging the battery directly into the autopilot - you will understand later.

When the autopilot arrives

PPZUAV assembled autopilot steps

Note: photos coming soon for all the steps below Here are the steps perform on each autopilot to verify it before shipping. You are welcome to re-do these steps but know they were done already.

  1. Inspection under a microscope for solder bridges and open connections. Repair as necessary.
  2. Power using current limited power supply with short protection. I use a micro-deans inserted into the (+/-) holes. Verify power draw at 10v to be sure there are no shorts missed by step 1
  3. Using a custom made cable (8pin molex) to FTDI serial utility board I power the autopilot and send this command:
    make upload_bl

    See here for more details and output.

For TWOG that's it. You're ready to program it with a USB cable from now on. For Tiny13 or 2.11 there are more steps.

  1. Load the "tunnel" program. This routes all UART output from the GPS to the other UART. This makes a tunnel from the serial connector to the GPS. Using this you can connect the Tx/Rx on the serial connector directly to the GPS Tx/Rx (via the tunnel). Using the USB program cable and an airframe file like MJ5 this is the command:
    make AIRCRAFT=MJ5 tunnel.upload 

    You will see a lot of output so look at the end. When the autopilot is powered on and the USB cable is attached it goes into USB mode. When the make program detects the autopilot on USB you see ###### as it programs. The more # you see the bigger the program. The tunnel is small so I only see 1x #.

  2. Using u-center set to 115kbps the firmware v5 is loaded (from u-blox download site). Note you must first use 9600bps, the default for the module, then change it to 115k for the flashing. After it's automatically set back to 9600bps again.
  3. Using u-center the Paparazzi configuration file is uploaded into the GPS module
  4. The autopilot is reset and in u-center it is monitored to verify it sees satellites and left on until a 3D fix is acquired.
  5. Using the USB cable a sample program is flashed into the autopilot (usually funjet one modified for either Tiny13,Tiny211 or TWOG).
  6. The autopilot is reset and the LED blinking is verified. The LED blink based on the program loaded and is not itself an indication of hardware condition. It's an indication the software is running correctly.

GPS programming using the "tunnel"

  • Using the USB programming cable, load the tunnel program with:
make AIRCRAFT=MJ5 tunnel.upload
  • Using a serial adapter board like the FTDI Utility board (or SparkFun has similar) connect everything as shown in the photo.
  • More instructions on programming the GPS are found here.

Where to go go from there

Configure the environnment for your hardware

Tune your airframe

Web for beginners are out there

Many people have created websites and postings about their first time experience with Paparazzi. Remember however that Paparazzi is updated and only this Wiki will have the latest and most up to date information. Always check this Wiki first and use these links as simply extra information.

User's Manual

Another excellent source of information is the Paparazzi User's Manual.

You might find the Common_problems and XBee_configuration pages useful too.

If everything else fails

If you get completely stuck and you read all the above already you can come over to our IRC channel on Freenode #paparazzi. Some of the Developers are hanging out there and will help you if you get stuck.