The APM flight controller can be used to control RC cars, fixed wing planes and multicopters. It is popular mainly due to its excelence in GPS way point, return to launch and Telemetry functionality. APM is also easy to setup, generally the stock setting should get you flying although tuning is required to fly perfectly. RCtimer has a knock off apm with telemetry for 150 I believe and is supposed to be quite good.
What I feel about this board
The firmware and any adjustments can be made in Mission Planner, which is handy. I set up my hex with APM2.5 and NEO 6M GPS, It couldn’t have been more straightforward, other than just plugging it in and it is working. I fly the APM2 with a quadcopter, and it takes all the sensors, GPS, etc. The real benefit to the APM2.6 in my opinion is that you have a breadth of sensors, all supported natively in the code, and you have full autopilot with multiple waypoints, return to launch, and so on, which eanbles a great ground control station.
The APM2 board is expensive, but again it comes with barometric pressure sensor, magnetometer (compass), GPS, accelerometer, etc and it’s FUN replaying the telemetry logs in the ground control station and seeing all the on screen gauges, google maps updates, and is really useful in troubleshooting crashes.
However there have been people complaining it was been extremely hard to get the GPS and some other sensors working correctly on it due to noise and interference in the system, for example unable to get the compass to output a dependable signal in flight, though I didn’t see it in my case. I think that’s why they decided to remove the compass from the main FC, and now use an external one.
And also the software seems to change a lot between releases. I usually have to spend a few hours just to get things tuned up, then there’s another software release and suddenly altitude hold and loiter no longer work. I’ll put in the time to get those working and find that some other feature doesn’t work – but hey there’s a new release to fix that and the cycle starts all over again. It’s not clear that they test these software releases much or at least on many different platforms.
In terms of performance it’s not outstanding compared to other cheaper flight controller. If it wasn’t for that ReturnToHome/AutoLand feature (we didn’t have much choice back then), I don’t think it have been this successful. But nowadays, there are so many other cheaper options that can do the same thing, APM is lossing its place.
You’ll get the APM flying no doubt but to get the best out of it you will have to spend a lot more time tuning PID and other parameters just like you would with other flight controllers. I have setup crius AIO, KK2, Naza and APM 2.6 boards before, every controller has its issues, so don’t expect APM “just works”, though you are paying a lot more than other FC.
Full of great features, relatively reliable, however with all the accessories and sensors, you will need to be ready to spend a lot of money. I enjoyed building it, and am loving flying it as well, but if you just want to do some short range flying or acrobatics flying, it might be an overkill. If you love to tinker, there are TONS of settings within the APM2 flight controller and it’s so rewarding to get something working, and not unfathomably complicated.
So if you feel like this is an overkill, check out other simpler RC only boards, for example the Naze32 Acro or KK2. If you want to fly a long way out, have GPS and telemetry data, etc, APM2 and Naze are both good choices, and the difference in price isn’t enough anymore to make the APM the clear choice.