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.

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  • Pie in the sky.

  • Hi TJ,

    Whereabouts do you live?

    Been following this conversation with with interest. AMT is cool, helped a friend build a full size BD4C,

    wing tips, engine cowl, and wheel spats all done with AMT products.

    Oh, it won the 2013 State Presidents Air Race a month or so back !

    A well designed wing beats most conventional airframes, but a mediocre conventional beats a bad wing any day !

    And regrettably, a well designed propeller still is the most efficient way to transfer motor power to the air.

    At least at our levels.

    Up to X8 size, electric is the way to go, search these forums, a X8 did just over 100 kms......

    The size you seem to be contemplating really starts to require wheels for launching and landing, and wheels don't translate too well on a delta/wings. And there is nothing that tames a beast of an airframe as well as a generous vertical surface as far to the rear of the frame as possible!

    (Think darts)

    I was going ahead with a 50cc twin petrol engine plane, search my blog, but my life kinda fell apart, so now I'm tinkering with a 1.9 m SkyWalker.

    Might actually fly it one day :-(

  • First test results.


    The SH18" 2.74cc Nitro engine running on 25% nitro


    5ml of fuel every 60seconds running at high to medium rev.


    1000ml / 5 = 200 minutes (+-3hours)





  • The 3g dongle would be a lot lighter and wouldn't carry unnecessary components. How do you plan to implement the 3g dongle to APM as your transmitter and reciever?

  • Moderator

    Tyrell, epoxy resin doesn't eat polystyrene, only polyester resin eats or dissolves it. Also sealing polystrene before using polyester resin doesn't work, I've tried, no matter what you use to seal it with, the resin and/or fumes get through to the polystyrene. AMT (Advanced Material Technology) in JHB is one of the company's to talk to for resins.

  • LIST.


    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

  • 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.

This reply was deleted.


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