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Feb 05, 2021, 12:19 AM
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Discussion

UAV platform for surveilance and mapping


I'm looking for a solid platform to perform routine surveillance on my land. I consider this recreational, but the law hasn't been settled in court yet, so it's hard to say.

I've decided to post this here because it's the only sub forum that mentions mapping.

Initially, I just want to live view (FPV). Fly around, locate animals, do a barrel roll, that kind of thing. Fully recreational exempt.

Future maybes are mapping, multi-spectrum analysis, seek and return.

I want takeoffs to be as easy and hands off as can be managed. Ideally there would be an automatic hangar that the craft taxis to in order to automatically charge for the next mission. Then it taxis to the runway for takeoff. I think that can wait though.

I'd like to bring the craft to the runway, plug in the battery, and take off using the flight controller. Hand launches or bungee cords are highly undesired. Placing the craft into the wind is an acceptable action.

The craft needs to live through many landings. Surface is mown grass. Land size isn't huge, maybe a couple hundred acres. A mile and a half on the longest side.

A quad would be the obvious choice for safe landings, but I don't want to swap a handful of batteries for each mission, and I can see a plane further.

I've been flying sims since the 80s, and RC planes before there was telemetry. Not that I'm a vintage flyer, I just feel most comfortable flying fixed wing craft. I've even thought about converting a nitro plane to Arduplane, but, since no one seems to be doing this, I assume there must be better options.

I thought about helicopters, but I don't have any data on the loads and runtime expected on that type of craft. Also, there is a significant lack of examples, so there must be a reason for that lack as well. Quads too popular?

From what I can gather, a slower plane in the 2 meter size range is probably what I'm looking for. Change my mind! (or give examples!)

Budget is limited, of course. I can't afford to purchase a $10,000 prebuilt craft, and I think I should be able to do as well if not better for under $1000. Time isn't free of course, but I'm doing this for fun, remember? I enjoy building, and have successfully completed a few kits, so it doesn't need to be BNF.

So what type of craft would you recommend? What works for you? What are some pitfalls you have learned to avoid in building your own, or using something premade? Do you have a link to the kit? that is in stock? or not.

Suggestions so far:
  1. Powered Parachute
    • Pros: Might land safely unpowered
    • Cons: Flyability in windy conditions.
  2. Flying Wing
    • Pros:
      • Efficient lifting, can carry large payloads.
      • Can stay aloft for hours.
      • Highly maneuverable.
    • Cons:
      • Must be power launched: Either hand or catapult.
      • Larger frames cannot be hand launched.
  3. QuadPlane
    • Pros: No runway needed for gentle takeoff and landing.
    • Cons:
      • Must be self engineered.
      • Not as agile as a traditional fixed wing.
    • Questions: Assuming no runway cost. Does the added expense and complexity yield allowable loss, or is the cost in range and maneuverability greater than 25%?
Last edited by ohlenec; Mar 01, 2021 at 10:24 PM. Reason: Keep fist post updated with discussion to date.
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Feb 05, 2021, 12:44 AM
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TrikeTrash's Avatar
If you can pass on the barrel roll, how about a powered parachute?
Feb 06, 2021, 01:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TrikeTrash
If you can pass on the barrel roll, how about a powered parachute?
I hadn't considered that form factor. I guess it shouldn't need to worry about landings. What is the load capacity for these craft? There are no examples for sale at the online shops that I visit. Also, I would miss the loops and rolls, but wing-overs look cool too.

I see that I forgot to mention takeoff requirements in the original post. I'll edit it in in case someone hasn't seen my omittance.

I want takeoffs to be as easy and hands off as can be managed. Ideally there would be an automatic hangar that the craft taxis to in order to automatically charge for the next mission. Then it taxis to the runway for takeoff. I think that can wait though.

I'd like to bring the craft to the runway, plug in the battery, and take off using the flight controller. Hand launches or bungee cords are highly undesired. Placing the craft into the wind is an acceptable action.

Does no one roll their own mapping UAV?
Feb 09, 2021, 12:21 AM
Power by hearty franks & beans
Flying wing. Used for search and rescue here. Used automated flight software to fly a search pattern while taking pictures. Can be landed hard, and even launched from a catapult. I was there when he flew in training with a North Texas K-9 SAR group. I was a volunteer 'victim." I think you could find out more at the North-Texas-Drone-User-Group on MeetUp. Thats all I know. Good folks flying, dog handlers, and furry heroes. Amazing experience. ps: its a cheap plane. Pretty sure that he used MissionPlanner. Please report back and let us know what you have learned, and your choices on gear and software. Good hunting.
Last edited by pchaplo; Feb 09, 2021 at 12:25 AM. Reason: Its a cheap plane & MissionPlanner
Feb 26, 2021, 06:28 PM
Registered User
Quote:
Originally Posted by ohlenec
I'm looking for a solid platform to perform routine surveillance on my land. I consider this recreational, but the law hasn't been settled in court yet, so it's hard to say.

I've decided to post this here because it's the only sub forum that mentions mapping.

Initially, I just want to live view (FPV). Fly around, locate animals, do a barrel roll, that kind of thing. Fully recreational exempt.

Future maybes are mapping, multi-spectrum analysis, seek and return.

I want takeoffs to be as easy and hands off as can be managed. Ideally there would be an automatic hangar that the craft taxis to in order to automatically charge for the next mission. Then it taxis to the runway for takeoff. I think that can wait though.

I'd like to bring the craft to the runway, plug in the battery, and take off using the flight controller. Hand launches or bungee cords are highly undesired. Placing the craft into the wind is an acceptable action.

The craft needs to live through many landings. Surface is mown grass. Land size isn't huge, maybe a couple hundred acres. A mile and a half on the longest side.

A quad would be the obvious choice for safe landings, but I don't want to swap a handful of batteries for each mission, and I can see a plane further.

I've been flying sims since the 80s, and RC planes before there was telemetry. Not that I'm a vintage flyer, I just feel most comfortable flying fixed wing craft. I've even thought about converting a nitro plane to Arduplane, but, since no one seems to be doing this, I assume there must be better options.

I thought about helicopters, but I don't have any data on the loads and runtime expected on that type of craft. Also, there is a significant lack of examples, so there must be a reason for that lack as well. Quads too popular?

From what I can gather, a slower plane in the 2 meter size range is probably what I'm looking for. Change my mind! (or give examples!)

Budget is limited, of course. I can't afford to purchase a $10,000 prebuilt craft, and I think I should be able to do as well if not better for under $1000. Time isn't free of course, but I'm doing this for fun, remember? I enjoy building, and have successfully completed a few kits, so it doesn't need to be BNF.

So what type of craft would you recommend? What works for you? What are some pitfalls you have learned to avoid in building your own, or using something premade? Do you have a link to the kit? that is in stock? or not.

Suggestions so far:
  1. Powered Parachute
    • Pros: Might land safely unpowered
    • Cons: Flyability in windy conditions.
Mini Talon Quadplane.

(3 min 44 sec)


Details here: https://discuss.ardupilot.org/t/mini...ion-cont/38840

You will need to get comfortable with Ardupilot. You can probably do this within your budget.
Feb 28, 2021, 07:41 PM
Registered User
Thread OP
Quote:
Originally Posted by pchaplo
Flying wing. Used for search and rescue here. Used automated flight software to fly a search pattern while taking pictures. Can be landed hard, and even launched from a catapult. I was there when he flew in training with a North Texas K-9 SAR group. I was a volunteer 'victim." I think you could find out more at the North-Texas-Drone-User-Group on MeetUp. Thats all I know. Good folks flying, dog handlers, and furry heroes. Amazing experience. ps: its a cheap plane. Pretty sure that he used MissionPlanner. Please report back and let us know what you have learned, and your choices on gear and software. Good hunting.
Thanks for the suggestion.

I've thought about using a wing, but I don't think I could convince my Dad to use it.

Somehow, I think that if I make something easy enough to use, it might be something that he would find useful. I'm not saying that hand launches are impossible, but he's getting older, and he wouldn't want to risk breaking something. That throw and hope it doesn't crash thing wouldn't boost his confidence. He doesn't fly, so he couldn't manually launch or catch an errant toss.

Also, most of those toss'n'go wings I have seen are quite limited in range and air time. I don't want a craft whose time aloft is counted in minutes, but hours. Some of the larger (approaching 3 ft / 2M) craft have decent range, but aren't something he could throw.

On top of that, I've never hand launched a plane. Since I can control the launch site, I don't see where I would benefit from a plane that can launch from anywhere, at the expense of unstable take offs.

I'm not ruling out a wing, they're just at the bottom of the list, and I'm hoping to find some better matches to put above them.
Mar 01, 2021, 12:35 AM
Registered User
Thread OP
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Dornan
Mini Talon Quadplane.



Details here: https://discuss.ardupilot.org/t/mini...ion-cont/38840

You will need to get comfortable with Ardupilot. You can probably do this within your budget.
I haven't had the opportunity to dive into Ardupilot yet, but I look forward to it.

A VTOL UAV would be the best for ease/gentleness of takeoff and landing. The example craft you see touted for quick eCommerce delivery are almost all multi-rotor or plane/rotor hybrids. I've also considered tilt-rotor planes. I don't think thrust vectored planes are in my price range.

I know the tail-sitter VTOL types exist, but I haven't come across an example of one that was carrying much of a payload, or had extended flight times.

There are some excellent lifting body / flying wing platforms that would be great to move up on the list, if they were converted to quad-planes.

Conversions do drastically increase the mind cost, however. There aren't many companies that have conversion kits available, so I would have to copy someone's build. A lot of material has become unavailable, or hard to get recently. I don't know enough to know which pieces could be substituted and have a successful build.

Many conversions use 3d printed parts. I don't have a 3d printer. I doubt that I could whittle a replacement. Printing services exist, but you'd have to hope that the conversion of choice had some STL files.

There is a loss of efficiency when adding things to the air stream. I don't know how much, and much may be able to be mitigated by good placement, but it would be nice to find some pre- and post-conversion comparison numbers.

VTOLs use a tremendous amount of energy to take off and land. Of course the faster you can transition, the less energy consumed. Can a similarly priced wing and conversion fly for longer than a traditionally launched wheeled craft?

Lots to think on, thanks for the input.
Mar 24, 2021, 01:50 AM
Whadda YOU lookin' at?
CactusJackSlade's Avatar
Any reason you have not considered a quadcopter ("drone"). For surveillance being able to hover has tremendous advantages. Aerobatics might be an issue going from fixed wing to a drone.

We used a Quad/Drone to view our property (350 acres) and it worked well. If you can fly a fixed wing you can fly a drone..... especially when most are capable of autonomous take off and return to home and even waypoint missions.


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