Best flight times, electric vs nitro...etc.(plane)?


I would like to get into flying drones and i'm really excited I just don't know what to buy. Since I would like to have a FPV system and of course Ardupilot.  I'm about to purchase the already made system from Udrone but I was really hoping for some longer flight times than the standard 30-40 minutes.  How about 3+ hours? 

Is Nitro out of the question or really that much harder to use with Ardupilot? I'm thinking generally I could get better flight times.  I guess you could say i'm a stereotypical redneck engineer that lives in North Dakota in the middle of the oil boom so I don't think oil/loud engines is necessarily a problem for me..

I have read a lot of people saying they are getting longer flight times but reading on later in the post it becomes more and more apparent that they are making up stories so I would appreciate an honest opinion.

I am leaning towards an already made kit but I wouldn't mind just a plane with an FPV system to calibrate/practice with before I start using APM. Eventually I would like to add some thermal imaging/image tracking to the live video stream which I might not be able to accomplish but it sure would be fun to try and I will of course post updates about my progress.

With these future goals in mind where should I start?  What airframe/model will have a high payload capacity and 3+ hour flight time?

I know all of you veteran APM guys are busy and maybe this seems like a silly post to answer I would appreciate any help/guidance/direction/patience I can get.

Views: 18870

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Hi Ben Weber


I'm working on the same project as you. There are a few things I have figured out. Perhapes we can share information.

The air frame I want to use is a flying wing. It was the best design in world war 2, it was the best design for USA bombers and it is the best design now used for the most advanced drones.

The new x8 skywalker 2,120 meter wing span Max weight is only 3.5kg. (However this many not be big enough for the payload you will need to carry. We might need to build our own 3,5m horton wings and have a +5kg)




I can only find small nitro engines. Nothing avalible below FG17 (17cc) in normal petrol engines.

The FG17 petrol engine takes 91octane and has a fuel economy of (if I remember correctly) 1liter to 1.5 hours. That being said it costs 450USD so you might as well use a weedeater engine for a few extra grams of weight. (its just too big and thirsty)


Unfortunatly I can not find any person who has bothered to verify the fuel economy of their small 2 - 3 cc Nitro engines.

No worries I will be the first :-) I have ordered a SH 0.18ci OR 2.73cc nitro engine. Its cappable of 1horse power which converts to about 750watts which is enought to power the X8 Skywalker. I have no idea if it will be efficent enough for long flights.


My flight times I'm aiming for 5hours at 70% throttle. As much as 8hours circling.


I'm not bying any radio controller or even the controller for the servers. I'm looking to use my own micro controller attached to a amd gizmo computer. I do not plan to fly this plan with a radio controller, everything will be through the ulink or via the auto piolit.


This project will work out quite expensive and I'm hoping that by the time I have it up and going the price of a small thermal cam modula will be affordable.


My engine should arrive in 2 - 3 weeks.

A bigger low profile 3meter flying wing...

Also noticed that no one has ever tried to quieten down their nitro engines...I will atempt to do with with audio boad..sound proof foam...or just polyurethane foam spray. I will need to find away to get a air to flow over the engine so it doesn't over heat.



1. Engine. SH 18 Nitro 2.74cc R650 (65USD)

2. X8 Sky walker R1700 (170USD)

3. MicroController (Arduino R3) just because everyone writes the programing for it. R300 (30USD)

4. R/C Servers

5. Battery pack (run elecronics posibility of charging them with small motor)

6. HD cam (Also can get IR web cam for low light)

7. ArduPilot Mega 2.5

8. 3DR GPS uBlox LEA-6

9. 3G dongle

10. amd gizmo sphere board

This is an interesting video of a +-8kg payload on a Giga Wiesel glider. Also note that this glider was cut out of ordinary epo foam.

Hey Tyrell,

thanks for all of the helpful information i'm really looking forward to your flight times.  Its interesting that I was thinking about the same basic build as well.  I would love to be able to go all digital as well however I was also hoping to eventually implement some image tracking software on the ground station end therefore I assume I would need a somewhat high res video image feed. I thought about going with the Android mobile data route but I don't know if I would be able to achieve a constant quality video feed.   Do you believe you will have enough bandwidth with a 3g dongle? I guess in your case you only need to send somewhat simple small amounts of commands. In my case I might need to use both a radio transmitter and a mobile data source.

I work in the geological field. It would be really efficient and a bit nerdy if I were able to keep a better eye on a project from an aerial view. If I could implement some trigonometry and with image tracking based on landmarks and gps I could see exactly what is going on and where and who is doing it without leaving my office/vehicle...

HI Ben good to see you are still keen on the Drone.

Made some good progress this weekend. I gave up on the idea of material wing and went back to polystyrene. Found a neat way to cut it with a long hot coper wire. Tried it out this morning works great.

1. I took thin copper wire out a transformer about 3meters. (I think it was about 0.5mm thin)

2. I took and old power supply from a computer and hacked it so it would turn on.

3. Connected the wire to the red and black and it heated up enough for me to pull it through the polystyrene.


The idea is to shape a wing templet on each side of the polystyrene. The templetat the fuserlage will be bigger and the wing tip templet smaller. Two people pull the wire at the same time over the templet and it will give the wing its perfect smooth cut shape.

Please note that I have touched the hot wire connected to the power supply and have not been shocked since it is only 12v (but alot of amps). But I don't recomend it and you will probably need leather gloves to hold the hot wire anyway.


I was planning to cut a wing now but the polystyrene at the local hardware is really expensive so I need to sop around.


***I found a really good site that shows you all the calculations you need to build a flying wing to your specifications...MY GEEK SHOW (Designing the Raptor- Trent puts the link in that video for the calculations)

The Giga Wiesel looks like a good platform for long duration flights. Nothing beats flying wings when it comes to lift, but they can be hard to balance out. Adding a tail dragger like on the Wiesel solves that problem.

On the topic of using a nitro/petrol engine there are two major problem sources with regard to autopilots. Vibrations and EM noise from the spark plug.

For EM noise there is really one one solution. Enough separation.

And since a gas engine is pretty much just a continuous series of small controlled explosions, making it not vibrate is hopeless. Your best best is to try and isolate the APM from the vibrations. Using a foam plane is actually ideal in that regard. Also try mounting the APM onto a thin steel plate (to give it some mass) and then use gel or rubber feet to isolate it from the rest of the plane.

Thanks John...I'm trying to accumulate as much information as I can. And find the best methods to build this plane.


Another idea I have been wondering is if I could use a round flat turbo fan instead of a propeller. The turbo fan will lie flat near the center of the wing. The idea is that the turbo fan sucks air in from the top and blows it out the back. I would need to first test it with a nitro engine. I will try sorce the trubo fan from and old hair dryer or a cheep Hand Crank blower.


There are three turbo fan designs i'll probably try all 3.




Interesting idea, but I don't think you will get the trust/efficiency needed compared to a traditional propeller.

Another design see this link...the idea is to place the turbo fan insde the body of the flying wing. Seems powerful enough. 

Reply to Discussion



Season Two of the Trust Time Trial (T3) Contest 
A list of all T3 contests is here. The current round, the Vertical Horizontal one, is here

© 2018   Created by Chris Anderson.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service