CAP UAV Project

My Civil Air Patrol Flight is interested in building a UAV for Search and Rescue purpose's

but we have little experience with UAV projects so I have come here to ask for help

we want a UAV that is:

Easy to construct

Is easy to find if it crashes

Can stand a crash with low damage

Easy to Repair

Has a live video feed

Has a good range

Must be electric

And has a low cost to build and operate

Thank You

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  • I'm the new Aerospace Education Officer at our composite squadron, and the entry-level path we're taking is to use the R/C STEM kit (check with your AEO for that), which includes a foamie trainer, r/c simulator (RealFlight), and a few transmitters. That'll give you and the cadets (and seniors) some entry-level experience in the aircraft itself, and basic flight.

    Once the STEM requirements are met, as far as I know, you can experiment with the trainer all you want, even turning it into a UAV project and continue on in that direction, adding an aircraft to the "fleet" while keeping the STEM (if it's still intact...) as a trainer for new operators.

    The great thing about that, is the STEM kits are provided by CAP, though I think they're targeted at Cadet squadrons. I'm not sure about the process to pick one up for a Senior squadron without cadets.

  • I recommend buying a Skywalker carbon fiber modded, modifying it for flapperons, installing an autopilot, and picking up several 4S 5000 mah batteries.  That should get you 5 mile there-and-back range along a transect.  Stick a few cameras in there and you'll be photomapping quickly.  Get four batteries, two chargers, and find somebody willing to donate their generator or marine battery w/ inverter, and you can fly basically continuously.  Keep a laptop at your base, and evaluate the photos from the previous flight while the next one goes out.

    The other option is FPV - which can certainly be useful, but may have trouble with regards to spotting details.  Perhaps it's a good idea as a supplement to photo mapping anyhow, just for safety's sake.


    I asked about the regulatory requirement because there are some significant restrictions in the US on UAV flight.  No commercial activity is legally allowed without excruciating licensing/planning requirements, and currently "recreational" flights are limited to 400 feet height and line of site per the "recommendations" which may or may not be mandatory.  Local/state government needs a special exemption to be allowed to do this.  Military UAV makers are, we suspect, less constrained, but noone's certain.


    While side-looking cameras are probably very useful, a transect from 400 feet is very small.  Also, the 'visual line of site' requirement makes longer range flights impractical, especially for SAR.


    Search helicopters and planes are one of the reasons it's unwise to break these rules.  Many people have had scary encounters with heli's because they fly so low, and the effect of a UAV strike could potentially extend from killing someone to the elimination of this entire hobby.  As such, it's probably wise to only use these in rural areas with no chance of air traffic.  Because of the value of a "drone flight zone - no pilots allowed" rule in an SAR program, a swarm of drones is probably worthwhile - you can cover a lot of ground at high resolution with a hundred planes in the air, and we now have technologies like Mechanical Turk that makes rapid data analysis practical.  Swarms are a complex subject, though - requiring different types of control systems.

  • @bogdan nedelcu

    Preferably from peices are starting budget is $0 so we want to try and keep down cost


    yes I understand I didnt quite think that crashing part through

    and the rest of that post I didnt really understand (sorry really new to the technical side :I)


    we well I think we would probably want an ELT training frequency (121.575Mhz and 243.2Mhz)

    and now that I think about that we could probably build it are selves (also reason for training frequency is we would probably use it for ELT training too)

    thinking about the range anywhere from 1-5 miles would be great 1 would be just fine since we shouldent be going that far from HomeBase


    *What regulatory environment are you flying in?

    Im not quite sure how to awnser this il reply once I find out

    *Does the CAP function legally as a military body, or as a private nonprofit?

    well both we are not military but we do receive comands and suport from the military but we are mainly a non-profit

    *What are your primary missions?

    you have no idea how many times ive said this

    the Civil Air Patrols main missions are:

    SAR (Search And Rescue)

    Areospace Education

    Cadet Programs


    I hope this awnsers all of your questions and thank you for the help


    Edit: and just to show you all what we have done so far here is the link to are balloon project we did in january

     Balloon Project

  • oh god EXTREMELY sorry forgot about this since weve been inactive latly trying to do recruiting things and so il try to awnser as many questions as posible
  • "Easy to find if it crashes" - We have long-range locator beacons in this circumstance:


    Will your UAV be operated from the vicinity of Carlsbad, TX, or will it need to operate nationally / internationally in varying terrains?


    "Has a good range"

    Please bracket this numerically.  What ranges are acceptable/useful?


    Some more questions:

    *What regulatory environment are you flying in?

    *Does the CAP function legally as a military body, or as a private nonprofit?

    *What are your primary missions?

  • You will be happy to know that most of your wants are easily accomplishable.

    The not easily accomplishable is "can stand a crash with low damage". No plane withstands a crash with low damage whtether its a 747 or an Easystar. If you come in at a bit of jaunty angle for a rough landing or the throttle dies with a 20ft drop most planes will survive but th EPO planes will be easily fixable. Those sorts of problems are mishaps :) Cruise speed and altitude with loss of control into the ground is a crash.

    Low cost is relative to be honest. If you want an autonomous plane with live video its cheaper than a commercially bought all in one setup then you've found a new home :) If you want a NG GlobalHawk for $1000 its not going to happen but we are doing our best :D

    Skywalker seems to be a good option for you. Live video depends on your control frequency and  telemetry frequency (what frequency is spare :D). Range is weird, 2.4GHz inherently travels less than 72MHz of the same power transmitter but with other technologies and limits imposed across the frequencies it gets murky. Pick one that other experienced people like and still fits your goals.

  • Hi,
    Do you intend to build it yourself from pieces or you are interested in a professional build system.

This reply was deleted.


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