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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                  • Jan,

                    I do not have any experience with flying , neither I know someone who could help me with launching. So, I would have to figure out myself. I was reading review about skywalker 1900 and they are good. 

                    If I ask you which one is better between skywalker 1900 and X8, which one would you suggest. I am browsing if I could find something RTF for skywalker X8


                  • Yeah, that's definitely the risk, in my experience.  Do you have much RC flying experience, Jaideep?  Could someone help you launch it, if you decided to go with it?

  • I am student of Arizona State University, USA. I am working on a project that aims at aerial surveying of a canal to find out any kind of encroachment. We are planning to use mapping drones for this purpose. The canal runs into hundreds of kilometers.
    I want to use a fixed wing uav for the purpose. I was planning to buy Aero-M, but I think I would have to reconsider my choice. Could you suggest a good mapping drone for the purpose ?
    I would want high quality results in  terms of resolution, GSD, GPS accuracy, Post processing of GPS locations and Vertical/Horizontal Orthomosaic accuracy. Furthermore, I would also want to output to be imported into GIS, matlab and other CAD tools.
    Please suggest something , I am considering Aeromao Talon, Sensefly Swinglet and RF70 RTF by roboflight . Do you have any opinion about these drones ? 
    • 100KM

      jaideep,    I am getting about 90 minutes of flight time from a Skywalker 2013 (Aero) using two 5000 mAhr 4S lipos flying at 12 m/sec.   I have found that the Canon S100 works well in the Skywalker.  It can be triggered by distance with a USB to pixhawk cable.

      • David,

        Thank you for the information.

        This option seems good to me. How is the performance of Skywalker in terms of stability and crashes ? Can I put any other camera that I want in there or there could payload/stability issues? I would also be interested in doing GPS waypoint navigation , is that possible ? Can I use something like mission planner ?

        Sorry for the fact that I have many questions.



        • 100KM


          The Skywalker 2013, with the autopilot on, is remarkably stable.  I have one of the older Event38 E384s that has been configured for aerial photography.  The Event38 E384 is similar to the Aero.   I am currently flying APM3.2 and use the latest mission planner.

          The waypoint navigation works well and I get great aerial photo coverage.  

          The only note of caution I have regarding the Skywalker 2013 airframe with the autopilot is that the stability of the airframe in higher winds and gusts is all the autopilot.    With the autopilot launches in gusty winds are trouble free.    However without the autopilot, in manual, gusts really take your full attention to control.

          • David,

            I checked Event38 E384s and kind of liked it. What is the GSD that you are getting ? I would like to have GSD in the range of 2cm/pixel, so which camera would be recommended to achieve this?



            • 100KM


              You can get 2cm/pixel GSD easily.

              The Canon S100 is a 12 megapixel camera that works well with the Aero-M or the E384.   If you fly at an altitude above the ground of 55 meters you get 2 cm GSD.    The S100 has a built in GPS that provides an excellent time stamp.

              You can install the mission planner on a PC and experiment with different flight plans.    The mission planner has an auto-waypoint tool that will generate a flight plan for any survey mission you would like to look at.     There are a number of different cameras in the auto-waypoint tool you can select from and see how they affect the mission.

              Mission planner will allow you to make some great graphics for your project plan. :-)

              • Thank you David for useful information.

                I was thinking of using this Canon S100 Camera into either E384 or RF-70 . I am just trying to figure out which one is going to be better. I am talking to people at troy built models and they are suggesting to go with RF-70 . But still I would like to make an informed decision. 

      • Hi David,

        That's great to know that you can get that many minutes per flight (and that you can load up the plane with that kind of battery weight).  Would you be able to post a photo of your camera and battery payload positions inside the fuselage?  I currently use a 4S 5000mAh pack in my Skywalker 1900 (placed up front in the nose) and a Canon SX260 right below the CG in the middle section of the fuselage.  The Skywalker I have has the T-tail configuration.  Does yours as well?

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