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Autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) require avionics systems that enable them to maintain a stable attitude and to follow a desired flight path. This paper considers the design and development of such an avionics system that provides navigational and terrain information to the flight computer of a rotorcraft UAV. The process includes the design and testing of flight hardware and software that interprets sensor data. The paper provides an overview of a specific implementation of the approach: the GTMax testbed developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology UAV research facility. Its available payload and performance allows for a variety of onboard sensors, supports reconfiguration, and has the capability to demonstrate aggressive maneuvers under complex and changing mission scenarios.