Does anyone have any experience / tips for building and using a drone for ecological work? I'm looking to use it ideally for the following; tree surveys, wetland identifications (potential delineation), elevation mapping etc...

I assume I would need it to lift ~5 to 10lbs of sensors and fly for about 20minutes or more if possible. I would like it to be somewhat modular in the sense that I could swap out cameras for lidar fairly easily.

Drone frame suggestions and motors would be greatly appreciated and I think get the ball rollig for me. I'm hesitant to buy a those parts without suggestions myself because I feel that's the backbone of a proper field drone.

Thanks in advance!

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Better to buy a ready made system than Build one in this case it will be cheaper. Thay have 10 letter & 20 letter spry models.

Regards,

You will find some info here

https://conservationdrones.org/

Unlike OG, I think you can be very successful building a custom UAV for your purposes - just don't expect this to be easy or cheap. There's tons of information online that describe how to do exactly what you wish to do but it's not all in one place, idiots can publish just as well as geniuses, and each project has its' unique challenges and quirks. You need to first determine what data you hope to collect, then pick a camera(s) that's most suitable. Find an appropriate gimbal - you have exact payload specs to plan your build around. Have you shopped for any LIdar Sensors (for mapping, not machine vision/autonomous flight)? They're costly...

You're talking about a very heavy payload and I'd advise you to reduce your intended payload weight significantly. You can lift 2-4 lbs (camera, gimbal, etc) using a 600mm quad or hex without terrible difficulty. There's rigs that lift 5-10 lbs, and more, some of which are DIY custom jobs. But if this is your first custom UAV, you're looking at a pretty sizable project just to build something that flies reliably, can carry any camera/gimbal payload and is capable of actually doing work (collect data). I suggest you look at building a 650mm sized quadcopter, using Pixhawk, to carry a Go-Pro style action camera and a $100-200 gimbal. This type of rig can perform a lot of tasks and theres a great deal of affordable hardware at this form factor. 

Course, if you need to get 5-10lbs of payload flying, proceed with a much more powerful build. I'm afraid you'll end up sinking a great deal of money into a project that's in hundreds of pieces on your shop floor - or, worse, crashed in a swamp somewhere.  

Look at the Tarot 650 frames. Foxtech has some good options also. I very much recommend Pixhawk with the common modules (power, GPS/compass, telemetry radio...). Motor/Esc selection is very budget-dependent. For cheap hardware, I'd look to RCTimer or sunnysky (they're pretty good for the money); otherwise look at TMotor or DJI propulsion packages (e600, e800 or bigger). For premium, look at AXI or KDE. I'd expect you'll want to use a 6S Lipo pack with lower KV motors (300-600) and larger props (11-15"). And all this is assuming you're wanting a multirotor - fixed wings are a different ballgame...

I love your ideas bro but your out of your league here! You need a water proof solution that get's coverd in poison , must be presue washed very often! Dealing with toxic materials! & be able to carry 10kg for extended duration. Nothing you discribe meet those spec! Your better off with ready made solution it is lot cheaper

Event 38 has a fixed wing agricultural drone package.    It doesn't support the payload weights you are after but it would allow you to prototype the system operation.   I have found their fixed wing drones to be quite robust.   They use a similar Skywalker airframe to the Conservation 100km drone.

https://event38.com/agriculture-drones/

I tend to agree with OG, you are better off buying a ready made system. We built a large X8 a few years ago for agricultural spraying because we couldn't find anything on the market that would suit our needs.

We ended up with a pretty nice unit that is waterproof and can fly for around 22-25 minutes with a 20lb payload (including a 20% battery reserve). It is not cheap  however, 30" props with KDE 7215 motors and a pixhawk on a custom frame. We have several customers successfully flying the system in several applications.

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At Kashmir World Foundation, we help people design, build, operate, and maintain drones for ecology, conservation, and counter poaching applications. You will have a drone that you can customize and optimize for your application.

Sorry, Richard, I have decided to eat some popcorn and watch the debate between the masters. I reserve the right to chime in at the end :))

At this stage you need to identify your long term goal and budget. If your goal is only to get data, then buy something ready made. If your goal is to learn how data is collected then the time you spend making and breaking things is invaluable. Once you decide what your goal is, your budget will then show you what is within reach.

That is a good looking rig verry nice, what your cost on it ?


Brian Riskas said:

I tend to agree with OG, you are better off buying a ready made system. We built a large X8 a few years ago for agricultural spraying because we couldn't find anything on the market that would suit our needs.

We ended up with a pretty nice unit that is waterproof and can fly for around 22-25 minutes with a 20lb payload (including a 20% battery reserve). It is not cheap  however, 30" props with KDE 7215 motors and a pixhawk on a custom frame. We have several customers successfully flying the system in several applications.

Apologies for the delayed response. I was out of town for work and I appreciate everyone's feed back. 

@OG - I definitely wont be using the drone for spraying or anything agricultural/food. So i'm not worried about poisons but the waterproofing might be something to consider.  

@Brian - That is a very impressive drone you all build. I cant imagine the cost for that machined casing...

@Andreas - The desire to build on from scratch is part personal satisfaction and also the ability to fix things on the drone while on site in the field vs. if i have one from a manufacturer then typically they don't want you working on the drone less you void the warranty. I believe the hands on experience and knowledge you can get for troubleshooting can be invaluable. Budget wise I ideally don't want to spend more than 3000.00 on the drone itself. Instrumentation for data collection I know will cost a nice sum. 

Overall, this drone would be used for inland tree and wetland surveys, maybe some phase one assessments and recon work of hard to reach areas. There are surprisingly many of these in the southeastern United States.

I was doing some reading over the weekend and stumbled upon an article noting that rotary copters/drones are great for inland work and fixed wing drones should be preferably using for coastal/high wind work. Does anyone have any input on this?

In re choice of multirotor v fixed wing airframe, I think your primary consideration has to do with the scope of your intended remote sensing project. Multirotors are best suited generally for smaller sites (tens of acres per flight) whereas fixed wing uav's are better suited for large areas (potentially hundreds of acres/flight). Consider your needs in re take-off and recovery. Multirotors ascend/descent vertically and require just a few feet of open space. Fixed wing need a much larger flat, smooth area for takeoff and recovery (generally). 

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