Hi guys, 
 
I'm very new to all this so i apologize in advance if my questions are a little elementary., 
 
I'm investigating the possibilities of buying or constructing a drone to help my father monitor his farm. I got in touch with a few companies who offer drones ,marketed for agricultural use and was quoted a price of around 20.000euro. ,After recovering from my fit of laughter at the thought of companies thinking farmers have 20k lying around in this economy i decided to try build my own. 
 
The idea is to have a copter style ,UAV that can navigate around our farmland and give us real time footage of what it see's. We have both animals and crops spread out , , , 
Over a very large area of land, so the flight time would have to be as long as possible. 20-30 minutes if that is realistically possible. 
 
,My idea was to mount a high resolution IP camera on the drone and the extra batteries to power it so i would estimate the payload to be around 2 kg. The ability for it to fly autonomously around a specified route and the ability to switch to manual control would be ideal. 
 
My questions to you guys are as follows. 
 
Is there any Kit or model out there that would fit my requirements at a reasonable price? Around 20-30 minutes flight time with a 2 kg payload., 
 
Is it possible to have the IP camera video and controls for the device on a tablet? 
 
Is 20.000 to 45.000 euro extremely over priced for a copter style UAV or is this a fair amount of money for a company to charge? 
 
 
If anybody makes or sell's a device which could achieve these goals then do not hesitate to get in touch. I'm open to the idea of having someone build the device for me as I'm no engineer and i could not live with myself if my device fell from the sky and took out a horse.

Thanks in advance

John

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Farmer John,

 

You have the options of both helicopter, multi rotor types and also fixed wing. Looking at your average flight time and payload I would suggest you look at fixed wing aircraft. Do you have any RC flight experience? Get some, you will need it if you go the UAV route whether it is an airplane or helicopter.

 

The amounts for fully functional UAV "kits" are as per the market pricing, fair. They are not cheap. I believe you will find someone in your area who will be willing to help you getting started

 

Best of luck on your endeavor

what sort of distances are we talking ?

I'd consider a glider like the ones for sale at http://www.event38.com. They're not set up for video by default, but the airframe is called a Skywalker and if you google "skywalker fpv" you'll get lots of hits on how to set up the airframe for video. The event38 system would get you the autopilot and airframe and you'd have to mod it for FPV, but you could probably get the whole system going for less then $1,000. I'm still playing with the Skywalker, but from what I've read 2 KG is a piece of cake.

Regards,

- Mark

PS: If you hit a horse with a Skywalker all you'd probably do is p*** it off.

Putting together a system that fits the letter of your requirements for much less then €20K is possible. But, that does not include all the work, experimenting, programming and failures to get such a system to actually work like you need it to.

This is a DIY enthusiast forum and people reading you request will view it from a DIY/Hobby point of view, often forgetting that for other people a UAV can be just a tool to perform a certain task. And as a tool it has to "just work (tm)" day in and day out without having to fiddle with settings, solder electronics and learning how to program.

My point is that the price for a commercial system, does not necessarily reflect the price of hardware. But everything else has gone into the system so that it becomes a proper work tool.

Thank you for the input Monroe.
I had a look at some fixed wing systems. Swinglet i believe it was called. It seemed great for getting a general overview but what i need is something that can stop it's planned route if i notice something strange , go over and investigate and then continue its route.

I have no UAV experience at all and in reality it will be my father who will eventually be operating the drone, so keeping it as simple as possible would be important.

Thank you for the advice.
Hi John

You have an excellent project, and many of us here would find this really interesting and fun to build this as part of our hobby.

You have received excellent advice above. The main issue is if you do not have experience in the remote control hobby, and with playing with hardware and some software, this will likely turn out to be very difficult, frustrating, and surprisingly expensive (from mistakes and crashes etc).

So the question to ask yourself is do you have the time to devote to learning and enjoying this as a hobby over say the next 6 months and then enjoying keeping up and playing with RC to keep your skills. If the answer is yes, then you will enjoy a great hobby, and will be able to do what you are asking. If you do not have the time or interest in learning and maintaining this as a "hobby", the there are probably better and cheaper ways to do what you want (maybe ground based surveillance cameras around your property). I believe, even if you were to get a commercial product, RC experience will still be a significant asset as it broadens your options for products.

Two last minor points for you to consider: 1) for large spaces a fixed wing is faster and more efficient. It is much easier to build a plane that can stay up for 30-40min than a multirotor copter; 2) we currently do not have affordable high definition cameras that can transmit to ground for real time high definition surveillance. We have standard definition analog transmitted video, which may not have to resolution for you to see what you might consider relatively big objects from 200-500 feet up. But you can record high def for later viewing easily and cheaply

This is a great project - and I encourage to get into this, if you have the time and interest to view it as a hobby with ongoing time demands

Al

Just Work (tm) I like that alot ;-) John

I would say roughly 3km to go around the perimeter of the entire farmland. Everything is based to the East of our house so it would 1km to the end of our land and 1km back.

To do a complete patrol of the perimeter would not be needed but to go to three or four area's and investigate if needed would be ideal.
That is a very reasonable price. The problem with fixed wing drones is that i will not be able to investigate an area in detail as the drone will be on a continuous flight and will only show us what it saw at that exact moment it passed the area.

The idea is to provide peace of mind to my father so he can monitor the farm and not have to run back and forth around the farm all day. If images come back of an animal lying down we wont be able to tell if the animal is dead or just having a rest, then we will have to go and investigate anyway and it defeats the purpose. With a copter we can at least hover down for a closer look.

The device you posted is at a very reasonable price. Having it do a patrol and then using a smaller copter device as a response craft to invesigate could be an option.

Thank you very much for the help.

John

PS: There may be no physical damage, but the emotional damage could be endless.
Hi john,

Thanks for clearing that up for me. I can appreciate that a lot of these companies put a great deal of time and effort into creating these devices. I agree completely about the "just work" part. My greatest concern is how much maintenance and calibrating will be needed to keep the device operating each day. Having the peace of mind to not have to worry about this would be a tremendous relief.

If you go the heli route you will not have change from EU 30k

Don't discount a fixed wing, I think a Blixer and Turnigy radio costs about US $100 from Hobbyking.

Fly that first without any autopilots get the hang of it, strap a point and shoot camera to it and see what happens.

Once you have that experience you will understand better what you need and why it might cost lots of money.

First thing you could do is pop off an find flying model simulator (FMS) its a free sim for RC planes and works very well. There is probably a Blixer or Easystar model for it. 

There is no such thing as a click and go UAS system that requires absolutely no flight experience.

The big expensive ones are easier to fly but because they are so valuable and need to fly in controlled and special use airspace the pilots have to be licenced.

The small stuff here, has been hand crafted by its owner and sometimes might not work quite as advertised. That's why you need to be able to take over and bring the kite back in time for tea and medals.

So whatever option you take you need to do some training.

Nobody has yet pointed out that flight beyond visual line of sight is illegal in the EU without correct licencing. The civilians I know that are able to undertake these flights in the UK have ATPLs with EUROCAE WG 93 moving forward expect the rest of Europe to fall properly inline with the regs now.

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