Aero-M Test Flights - SCARY!

Hello Everyone!

I feel compelled to share my less than impressive experience with this product after my first three test fights with the Aero-M mapping UAV.  This is actually my second unit, sent to me as a replacement to my original Aero-M which I crashed on three of my four take-off attempts several months ago.  The damage to the nose section was so severe on the last crash that it was irreparable and I ended up sending it back.  Low and behold, however, this new replacement Aero-M has EXACTLY the same flight performance issues as my first one!  It's all indicative of an inherent issue with this airframe's design...

Here is what's been happening:  The Aero-M has a nasty tendency to nose-dive on takeoffs (the most critical part of any flight).  And it doesn't matter if you apply a LOT of up elevator trim, or use different flight modes.  It doesn't seem to make a heck of a lot difference.  I tried taking off in Manual, Stabilize and FBWA modes with the same results.  The only two reasons why I managed not to crash my new replacement Aero-M today were a) my 27 years of RC flying experience and b) my still quick reflexes to move my launching hand down to the elevator stick on the RC transmitter within a split second of letting go of the plane on launch to quickly apply up elevator to save it from hitting the ground.  But the issues don't stop here, unfortunately.

I expected this unit to be well trimmed "out of the box" because, after all, it's marketing as a RTF (Ready To Fly) UAV.  This is not the case.  Despite being balanced, as per the manual's diagram of the CG location, the Aero-M continued to want to fly downwards at various throttle settings.  I had to trim the elevator to maximum up trim to get it to improve.  But then it began behaving as if it were tail heavy, flying this roller coaster pattern throughout the sky.  When I saw this, I didn't know what to think (too nose heavy?  too tail heavy?).  It also had a tendency to keep veering to the right, requiring quite a bit of left aileron trim to straighten out.  I will have to do more flight tests now to figure out where the CG actually needs to be.  Not something I was planning on when I purchased it...

I also tried my first mapping mission, which was also a bit of a disaster.  I set up a small polygon with just four passes to check the camera.  I don't know if I set the polygon too small in size (it was roughly 200m x 200m in size), but the Aero-M had a ton of trouble properly lining up for the waypoints, and tracking them in a straight line.  The about-turns at the ends of the passes were also way too wide, putting the plane out of position of the next waypoint.  I had a 70m length set up for the turns at the ends of each pass.  

Finally, the UV filter that is supposed to be protecting the camera's lens during mapping causes the images to be unusable for real mapping work because it causes a reflection in the imagery.  It's a lot like when you try to take a picture of something through a glass.  It doesn't work.  For mapping, the UV filter must be removed so that there is nothing in the way of the camera's lens and the objects on the ground.  Yes, the camera lens can potentially get scratched or dusty, but I can tell you from my professional experience mapping tens of thousands of acres of fields every season that it's not that serious a problem.  We have used the same Canon SX260 cameras for our work for two seasons now, and they still produces excellent quality imagery.

I wish I had something more positive to say about the Aero-M, but unfortunately we cannot use it, as is, for the very purpose for which we had purchased it - aerial mapping.  

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Replies

  • 100KM

    Jan,     Your flight logs will allow you to see what kind of trim and moding problems you are having.    

    The Skywalker 2013 airframe that I have been flying is pretty much identical to the AeroM. With the autopilot on it flies very well. Same small tail.    

    However in manual the big wings make it very susceptible to gusts.     One of my worst launches ever, and near crash, was when I accidentally launched the Skywalker 2013 in manual on a gusty day.

    I had become a little to used to the easy takeoffs in FBWA.       

    I have been surprised a few times at how important aircraft trim is.  If you have a new airframe, that hasn't been set up with your transmitter, your trim is probably off quite a bit.

     

    • Hi David,

      I am still baffled by all these issues I am having with the Aero.  I am aware of its limitations in wind.  I find that sometimes it's nearly impossible to even turn in one direction when it's breezy, with full aileron deflection.  I think that the flight performance issues go deeper than just the trim, though.  I will try to make a new video of my launches to show what the plane does on takeoffs.  Having thought some more about it, and how it has a strong tendency to nose dive (on takeoffs and in level flight, and at various speeds), I am going to try and move the CG slightly aft of where 3DR says it should be (which is roughly 10cm from the LE of the wing).  

      Out of curiosity, I measured the Aero's horizontal stabilizer length and compared it against my Skywalker's T-tail horizontal stab.  The Aeros' stab is 2.5" shorter.  

      • 100KM

        Jan,

        The flight logs for the mission planner would provide a lot of insight.

      • Moderator

        Are you flying with the factory battery?? If its nose diving under high power is the engine incidence right?? If it were me I would take it slope soaring to get it trimmed out power off to start with. 

        I have the 2013 version of the Skywalker which I think is the same it has never given me an issue but then if I fly a camera its only a small one. Be quite an all up weight with an SX260 not sure how well it would go where I live at 5000'

        Just an out there idea, it did come with the right fw onboard?

        @Jaideep the Talon is a fantastic platform love mine, it flies quick and floats on landing so needs a bit of room and some planning for landing. I think the Aeromao one has a parachute which would not be a bad plan if you are not too experienced on the sticks.

        • Hi Gary,

          Yeah, I looked at that too (the motor's angle of incidence).  Not sure what it should be though for pushers.  On the nose the general rule of thumb is a 3-degree offset.  Good idea to try and trim it during power off.  That would definitely isolate the motor mounting as a probable culprit if it ends up flying well without power.

          The Aero is designed to take specifically the SX260, so that shouldn't be an issue.  My Skywalker 1900 flies great with the SX260 on board.  

          Yes, the FW is right - I even re-uploaded it from Mission Planner to be sure.  But for trimming it I've been flying the Aero in manual mode.

        • Thank you Gary,

          Talon seems a good option , but it is priced at 8800 USD , I am looking for something in the the range of 5000 USD. I could only find aero in this range and the other option that I have is RF-70.

          I think a canon s110 or s100 should work good for me , but still if I would want to place a sony NEX or NIR, then could there be any issue ?

          • Hi Jaideep,

            I am afraid that at the "5K" price point the options will be quite limited for an RTF system.  If you have the capability to put together your own UAV, then you could do as I did at somewhere around $1-2K:  I bought the Skywalker X8 wing which has plenty of room for larger sized cameras and battery packs and flies amazingly well and slow!  Then install a Pixhawk autopilot system complete with the telemetry radio, your RC radio receiver of choice and you are off to the races.  I found that after just a couple of test flights in what's called the Autotune mode on the Pixhawk, the autopilot learned the flight characteristics of the X8 well enough to fly very stable in the Auto mode, which is the mode you will need for your project.  If the X8 is too large in size for you, there is also a smaller version (X5) that might work.  I have attached a photo of mine for your look.  I do use a catapult system to launch it, however, as my payload is large enough to make hand launches too risky.

            X8 on Catapult.JPG

            Catapult on Truck.JPG

            https://storage.ning.com/topology/rest/1.0/file/get/3702847796?profile=original
            • Jan,

              Your suggestion looks brilliant to me, I would prefer the X8 . I would also like to have something like mission planner. Assembling on own would take some efforts but I can save money this way.

              David suggested me that E384s from event 38 is also used for aerial mapping, I liked the assembled product from them. I am trying to get the more details on this product.

              Thank you very much 

              Jaideep

               

              • Jaideep,

                I think that the E384 should be a good option too, if you are looking for a RTF alternative.  I do like the E384 airframe because it's basically the Skywalker 1900 version with the T-tail design.  It will come with everything pre-installed and trimmed for you.  They are also quite approachable for technical support, which is always nice.

                • Yes, even I think this could be a good choice , but I would have to be careful regarding its stability issues. It looks similar to Aero-M , and you are facing various issues with Aero-M, so I would want to make sure that this one doesn't crash frequently.

                  Jaideep

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