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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  • Hi There,

     We have got more than 4 hours on the Raptor E1 using a 26,000mah 6 S lipo and custom made large diameter propellers on a slow spinning motor.


  • Hi,   I have been reading about the question of using a nitro engine in an X8 in an attempt to get better flight times.    

    I started down this path about a year ago,     Here is the bad video of an X8 fitted with a 19cc glow engine:


    I had flown the X8 electric  very successfully with flight times over an hour,  and it flew well.      I decided to try a 4 stroke  nitro engine  and made a new aluminum chaise to mount the engine and wings to.      It flew OK, but not as easily as the electric.    I needed to keep the speed up, as I think the drag was slightly to high.      The ASP engine did not seem to have excessive power for the job.

    I originally wanted to mount the engine as a pusher,  however I had trouble with getting a pusher prop,  so the engine went to the front.     Then the next problem is launching it, and landing it without prop damage;   so I put fixed landing gear on it.      This added to the drag,  but was necessary as I have farm paddocks for an airstrip.       I did try, a catapult launch with the glow engine.    This was tricky to master as the engine got starved of fuel on launch.    the trick was non return valves. 


    I have since abandoned the X8 Glow and made a scratch built a traditional tail plane with glow engine,  which flew for the first time yesterday:


    First was a glide test:

    Then a powered maiden flight:


    it has 2.6m wingspan  and 30cc APS 4 stroke glow engine.     has plenty of power,  and I estimate fuel consumption to be about 500 ml per hour.     It has plenty of payload so I think it could get endurance of a few hours if required.

    It is a fully made up design, and built out of carbon fibre , blue foam and aluminum.     wing design is made up , but is a mix of CUB and Telimaster,  with 3deg dihedral, and some winglets from an old funjet...!

    These planes can take up a lot of time, but it is very rewarding to see them fly after so many hours in the workshop...!!! 





  • I am flying an X8 with 5800mah, 3 cell lipo and easily getting 1 hour flights will full autopilot and FPV gear. The complete weight, as flown, is 5 pounds, 6 ounces. This airframe would easily carry another 5800 pack, maybe 2 more. What i like is the unbelievable durability of the airframe and how it protects my equipment. I have spun the plane into the ground twice due to a slightly aft CG and once it hit very hard due to interference with my rc transmitter. No damage, not even a loose elevon hinge, nothing. If i were building a larger UAV for gasoline, i would look at 4 stroke ( honda) for fuel efficiency or a gasoline twin, for reduced vibration. My latest 10' span design will use the Hobby King 53cc twin. That span will carry any fuel tank I can put in it. Enjoy.
  • Been working on the MK802 iv. I see that the Linux perloaded OS is now available. I'm busy trying to do it myself with some help.


  • Hi John

    Just read most of you posts here. Great project you have going! I used to make my own foam wings cores for RC planes but as you noted they go from very light to very heavy really fast with epoxy and cloth. What I ended up doing was using 3M77 spray contact cement and believe it or not simple construction paper. What I found was it was fast and cheap and STRONG! Before the paper went on I would carefully cut a small groove for a 1/4" plywood spare that went about %15 of the way in each wing 1/2. I'd glue that in with epoxy. The only downside was the paper would not tolerate water from rain or snow or oil from my 2 stroke nitro fuel. However in my case I didn't care as I was simply trying to teach myself to fly without breaking a balsa wing that took forever to make. So it didn't need it to last forever and if I had a hard landing [ that happened a lot learning! ] it was no big a deal I'd just make another one. It occurred to me you might want to do what I did or similar and not worry about a top notch professional wing at least for the early phase of testing so you can concentrate on the other issues. If you damage the wing during trials its not a huge setback. Anyway good luck!!!!
  • 100KM
    for out of the box 3 hour electric performance, check out the techpod. I have already done a 2hour 50 minute flight.
  • I'm working on a solution for transmitting the PPM signals via cell phone signal without the need for a data connection . I'm hoping its possible and basing my hypothesis the "Audio" input and output on my Turnigy 9x transmitter connected to the Mic/Audio jack on a cell phone.

    I've found this which converts serial to USB for flying with a computer.

    There are several flight simulators which convert a PPM signal to a serial/auxilary for using a standard RC TX for flying a simulator. I'm hoping someone will have some in depth knowledge of this idea.

  • Ben or Tyrell ?

    Am curious?? do you, or have you, ever flown anything????

  • A recharging self start solution.


  • That's very impressive Tom. I'm forward to your blog post. How long are your flight times?

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