Small UAV for AP? New project! - RC Groups
Thread Tools
Dec 08, 2004, 12:43 PM
Registered User
icebear's Avatar

Small UAV for AP? New project!

I have been into AP for two years now and I feel it's time to take the whole thing a step further...

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to release your AP ship for those missions over areas where it's hard to land by including a simple autopilot to GPS-navigate within a few waypoints (within sight) and return back to land?

To facilitate this I've been looking at the U-NAV PICOPILOT to use for my next AP project.

I have found surprisingly little information on UAV's + AP in this forum, but
there has been a few threads with valuable information.

My plans for the setup would be;

Approx 45" high winged stable model with ailerons/rudder/elevator
MEGA 16/25/4 and probably a 9x5 prop
8xNiMH cells /GP2200?
PENTAX Optio S4 with PRISM shutter
U-NAV PICOPILOT with ALT-E and NAV-A (altitude hold and stabiliztion) with GPS receiver (800 USD).

The whole PICOPILOT setup would probably be in the 2-3 oz range so I have figured that a light 45" trainer-like plane would be able to carry the Pentax AND the PICOPILOT with a reasonable wingloading (to minimize damage in case of a crash!).

Total weight target approx 40 oz which would require a 150 W power system
(hence the MEGA 16/25/4 and 8 cells at 20A)

Does anyone have any experience with the PICOPILOT or equivalent systems?

This has been in my mind since I was a ten year old in 1976 fantazising about an autonomos AP ship when such a thing was almost impossible.

$800 doesn't seem very much to make a 29 year old dream come through!

Any thoughts, ideas, experiences are most welcome!

Sign up now
to remove ads between posts
Dec 08, 2004, 01:22 PM
In Thrust We Trust
Dreams are what seperate us from the mundane. Nice ideas, would be good to see it operate. Do a search again, saw a thread on those type of programmed flight controls and their expense, roughly ten grand for the industrial strength one. Do consider two things, if you go preprogrammed with your plane, the Govt. will take you away as that class of flight must be specially licensed and approved before each flight. Serious business to call it a UAV and not a remote controlled, piloted (by transmitter and always in sight) hobby plane. The other thing, which would avoid the first, is to practice flying to the point you can land the plane at your feet or catch it in tight quarters. Saved me a few times! But I do like your idea, creative!
Dec 08, 2004, 01:35 PM
In Thrust We Trust

Show ya what I mean...

wasting time on some left over video editing...
Dec 08, 2004, 01:55 PM
RCGroups Author
SoarNeck's Avatar
I don't have much time to contribute right now, but two points may cause problems:

1) Photos with the motor running don't usually turn out very well, so you'd likely need to kill the motor to take a shot. Don't know if/how the unit would react to that (especially if it controls alt via elevator).

2) This is controlled technology (I checked with them), and Sweden may or may not be on the list of countries where the unit could be exported. At the minimum, if you didn't have an FBI file before...
Dec 08, 2004, 01:57 PM
honey... anOTHER PLANE!
Dampy's Avatar
Waterdog - LOL I thought you were going to pull up into a nice 3D hover in front of the cam! Great clip!

Icebear - Are you looking for a quick plane or a slowflyer? I'd probably use a Lipo batt, that GP2200 weighs 13oz (bare cells), you could get a 3-cell Lipo 2100-2500 around 5.5 to 6.5 oz
Dec 08, 2004, 03:47 PM
Registered User
icebear's Avatar
Waterdog - thanks for the comments! And beautiful clip! (I see why you don't need an autopilot...)

I realize that there could be legal issues, but I live in an area with lots of free space and since I intend to keep the size/weight down I could get away with it if I am not flying straight over populated areas... I think it's the idea that excites me more than the actual usefulness...

SoarNeck - You are right about the problem with the motor running. I did some tests with my current setup and with a balanced prop and half throttle, I can't really notice any difference with my Pentax if I take daytime pictures (short shutter speed). With my Mustek the pictures were awful withe motor on...
And I checked with U-NAV - they have a permit to ship to Sweden now. I guess we still are considered to one of the good guys...! Have to check my FBI-file though - but normally they let me into your country when travelling in my job

Dampy - You're right! I HAVE to get into LiPO's!

Thanks for the comments! I'll post the projects progress in this forum!

Dec 08, 2004, 03:59 PM
Registered User
Timbo337's Avatar
If you have any questions on the PicoPilot, pm me. I used one at work with success.
Dec 08, 2004, 04:07 PM
RCGroups Author
SoarNeck's Avatar
Originally Posted by icebear
And I checked with U-NAV - they have a permit to ship to Sweden now. I guess we still are considered to one of the good guys...! Have to check my FBI-file though - but normally they let me into your country when travelling in my job
Good to hear, though I'm not actually an American (I'm Canadian).
Dec 08, 2004, 04:15 PM
Registered User
icebear's Avatar
Thanks Timbo - I will!

Sorry SoarNeck - just realized when I had answered. I've even been to Calgary a few years ago... But surely you have your own version of FBI in Canada...?

Dec 08, 2004, 04:21 PM
Arp's Avatar
Sounds doable, even if somewhat complex.

Of my own ventures... well, despite having shifted slightly away from AP (and instead become quite interested in ground-based robotics)... I now have a strange project on paper... which may return my contraptions to air in quite curious fashion.

To make it short... I want an aerial robot (the smarter the better).
I always want too much... but this one, I am sure I *will* eventually get.
Hopefully with a minimum of bumps and crashes.

Bits and pieces:
-- PC-104 or System on Module mainboard (104 is a bit bulky, but SOM is more difficult to develop with)
-- Linux running from CompactFlash card
-- couple of USB webcams
-- navigation bits (altimeter, compass, GPS)
-- some proximity sensors (for obstacle avoidance)
-- WLAN card for interfacing with operator
-- depron, plywood and carbon rods
-- LiPo's
-- ducted fan or smaller props
-- lots and lots of code

-- weight below 1 kilogram
-- fully automatic VTOL takeoff
-- fully automatic hovering (positioning relative to visible ground object or GPS) until operator request
-- moving to locations (relative to same framework) per operator request
-- automatically deciding when battery level demands return
-- automatic return and landing
-- naturally also snapping pictures
-- staying repairable (or at least preserving the computer) after dropping from treetop level

It will require notable care and attention... but seeing such a contraption actually fly... should compensate for the effort.
Last edited by Arp; Dec 08, 2004 at 04:51 PM.
Dec 08, 2004, 07:11 PM
Ascended Master
Sparky Paul's Avatar
Arp, the University of Georgia at Atanta, GA here has a science competition at the collegiate level with your parameters as the specifications.
You might check on this..
Dec 09, 2004, 07:57 AM
Registered User
Ironsides's Avatar
Per Tideman from Norway has done a lot in this field.

Have a look at:

Dec 09, 2004, 08:32 AM
Registered User
To follow up on what Sparky Paul mentioned, here is a link to one of the competitions:

And here is the home page of the Cornell University team:

Their objectives are very similar to what you folks are proposing and are really impressive: upload mission waypoints from the ground to the model, have the model fly and navigate on its own to the way points, search a defined area, observe targets, possibly track moving targets autonomously (think about all of the steps involved in that), return and land, all the while transmitting video linked with gps derived locations back to the ground.

I am helping them out as I am able with general modeling information, but if any of you are knowledgeable and willing to assist with autonomous controls and such, please contact them. And conversely, they can probably help you (though I don't know how much they would be willing to share since they are preparing for a competition).

Dec 10, 2004, 08:01 AM
Registered User
icebear's Avatar

Thanks for the link to Per Tideman! I won't go for the helmet with ground antenna as yet, but it was encouraging to see!
I'll just go for the PicoPilot with flight stabilization/navigation/altitude hold and see if I can get a simple setup to work.
Timbo PM:ed me with some detials of his findings and he got the PP to work really well so I am hopeful!

Dec 10, 2004, 03:25 PM
Vientos del Dios
johnsloper's Avatar
DO A BUDGET first before jumping into the project. And do your motorcalc numbers. You'll need the best gear, b/c the platform will be $3000 to $5000 when you're done.

So figure on PCM reciever, lipoly's, etc. I'm looking at the PICO as well. Probably in January.
Last edited by johnsloper; Dec 10, 2004 at 03:27 PM.

Thread Tools

Similar Threads
Category Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Discussion Twin Boom electric for AP - new fuselage RaptorAP Aerial Photography 36 Jan 29, 2007 11:55 PM
Discussion newbie UAV for AP usage rbno UAV - Unmanned Aerial Vehicles 9 May 16, 2006 02:33 PM
Advantage of small planes for AP? j_eich18 Aerial Photography 19 Mar 18, 2005 06:47 AM
Selling A Few Thing For A New Project ! Puddlemaster Aircraft - Electric - Airplanes (FS/W) 5 Jul 18, 2002 01:07 PM
? for edf gurus / new project. kevin Electric Ducted Fan Jet Talk 5 Jan 19, 2002 09:28 PM