Guide to Building a Search & Rescue UAV

This set of pages is a guide to building and operating a UAV based on the technologies that CanberraUAV has tested and developed for the 2012 and 2014 Outback UAV Challenges.

Although this is specific to building a Search & Rescue UAV, it could easily be adapted to other remote sensing applications.

This guide will be focusing upon the specific technologies that CanberraUAV uses – the Pixhawk, APM:Plane, MAVProxy and cuav hardware and software environments. Due to the deliberately modular nature of these UAV’s, it would not be difficult for a knowledgeable user to substitute in alternative hardware and software if required.


For this guide, it is assumed that the reader is knowledge or has experience with building and flying small UAV’s or RC model aircraft, in addition to a basic knowledge of electronics and using the Ubuntu operating system.

In most cases, it would be most useful to have a small team of people whose skills cover these areas. A combination of RC model pilot, software engineer/programmer and electronics engineer would make a good team.


For those that want a high-level overview of a S&R UAV, there is a systems overview at:

System Overview

Next up is a brief section on the system requirements of the UAV:

System Requirements

Following on, there is a page of each major subsystem. This covers the hardware, software, setup and operation:



Flight Controller



Ground Station


Last of all is the (very important) safety and legal aspects of operating these sorts of UAV systems: