Hi Forum, 

Some pictures to start... 


Thought some of you may be interested in this build as I intend to build an aircraft capable of 1 hour flights to map large areas in order to Create some Digital Elevation models for GIS mapping purposes. Initially i will be doing this for experimental purposes. I know there are a lot of rules and regulations in around commercial photography etc. 

I will be focusing on the following

  • Best Airframe for the job, including some brief build information
  • Suitable Cameras for the project. (Canon Point and Shoot cameras using CHDK)
  • Camera Stabilization - already made a basic pan/tilt gimbal for my Skywalker using the FY21AP
  • Ardupilot APM2 Learning with Trial and Error
  • Software to create the Digital Elevation models.

I know this is a highly specialized area, but i do have some of the above from asking various people on here (initially posted about this in my blog area, but that was wrong place, so posting here...)

Right where to start...


I have selected the Ursus Airframe for this build as it seems to have a large wing and space for enough batteries to give slow, stable flight for up to an hour or more in some cases. It has been talked about on here before

Some Stats...

Wingspan: 2200mm

Material: EPP and wood

I'll try and post more pictures than words.. .as they are more interesting to look at... 

Day 1

Airframe arrived, fuselage part assembled,


Day 2

Wooden spas glued into wings, Glass rods glued into tail booms


Day 3

Fuselage glued together, with, wooden wing joiners glued into place


Day 4

Wings joined, APM arrived, sticker stuck to horizontal stab.


Day 14

After a few weeks of tinkering, my APM2 has arrived, And with much help from Chris and Michael I have managed to get HIL mode running pretty well in Xplane 10. I have been familiarising myself with the MissionPlanner as much as possible. Learning how the PID settings work.

Servos implemented, Undercarriage on.


I have also been playing with the Canon CHDK (Canon Hack Development Kit) on an ixus 80 and Intervalometer. Which is how i will be taking the photos from the plane, I wanted to see how long it can take pics for before the battery dies, I took pictures every 120seconds, and it took 81. Review was selected though after each picture, And i will be taking pics quicker than that. I created a time lapse from the window. Not that interesting, but its all part of the learning curve.

Day 23

I have upgraded the nose wheel undercarriage to a more robust strut with steering as well. This should give plenty of ground clearance for the Camera Gimbal


Testing the placement of the electronics, need to decide where to put the APM2, R149DP Futaba RX and the Camera IMU. Plenty of room in here for 2 x 5000 3s lipos! AUW is currently 2.7kg!


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  • I am trying to build a similar aircraft. my question is how do you determine the location of your horizontal stabilizer when building a twin boomed pusher like the  one you have? Or How far away from the main wings GC.

  • Update - Flight 2 with the flying wing was a success. another 3 flights to go to make 5 successful flights on the APM in a row.


    I am mainly doing the flights to get a bit more confident in the APM2s ability to:

    • Maintain a good GPS lock throughout the flight
    • Ensure the IMu units stabilize the plane properly in wind
    • Test the 3DR radio and telemetry capabilities

    My 2.4m Twin boom design is going well over on another thread - I hope to have it complete in 4 weeks or so, and by then have 5 successful flights. 

    Parachute recovery

    I am also thinking about how I can build a parachute recovery mechanism for the 2.4m twin boom aircraft. Has anyone got any experience with this?


  • No Richard, I have no experience with the Canon Camera firmware hacks, I'm pretty much a newbie to all of this. I do want to get into the APM2 and 3DR radios. Also maybe mount a GoPro type camera. But I'm not so much interested in FPV. But before all that I'm designing a foamy myself. That means I'm spending plenty of time over in the RC Groups Foamy Scratch Build Forum. Eventually I'd like to take my plane on on cross country trips. So yeah, speed, tracking in a straight line,  and flight time will be important. But not so much areobatic or 3d qualities.

    I'll check out your build ideas on your other thread.


  • On your vibration issue and blurred pictures. There was one set of your pictures showing your large plane labled "tidying the wires" and "insuite camera". It looked like your camera was housed in a fixed internal box made with plywood or bulsa, with the camera pointing straight down through a hole in the fuselage. Maybe you could try to make that box a little larger and line it with bubble wrap, bottom, sides and top. Then lightly secure the camera with velcro straps over the top layer of bubble wrap.

    I guess it's worth a try. I can see where even soft foam, like weather stripping, or those sheets thin foam packing material, still may have enough mass and stiffness to transfer vibration. But bubble wrap has a failry small mass, coupled with air cushions it may act more like a shock absorber.  I'm speaking about the thin bubble wrap available at office supply stores as well as the post office. Two of the common bubble thicknesses are 3/16(4.5mm) and 5/16 inch(7.8mm).

    I'm not sure how a gantry can fix vibration and blurred pictures. It may keep the camera pointed straight down, but the vibration from the motor itself will still be transferred through the arms of the mount. Gyros can can make the plane fly smoother, or a camera point in the same direction, but they will do nothing to dampen motor vibrations that are happening at many thousands of RPM. This requires a true shock absorber. Of course, if the bubble wrap works as a shock absorber it should work equally well in the gantry configuration. Just use the bubble wrapped box to house the camera in the gantry setup.

    If pristine bubble wrap isn't working, experiment by poping every other bubble. See if that improves the shock absorbtion. Make a couple of boxes, and make them removable, so you can easily swap them in and out to test the different setups held in by the the single set of velcro tabs in both the fixed internal configuration...or mounted to the gantry.



  • Update - Things have been moving a little slowly as we've had some bad weather here in the UK, but i did have a successful flight tonight with my home made 66 inch zagi. with no crashes.... Had to do a spot of PID tuning at the field, but all in all it worked well... the 3dr radios are great, no more plugging cables in!

    Wing still in 1 piece...

    Thats flight 1 of 5.. if i get 5 successful consecutive outings and flights, i will consider moving the APM2 into a more expensive airframe.... 


  • APM2 maybe working, the pins have been straightened by a technically minded person! Hopefully it'll work, i've plugged it in and all sensors seem to be okay. Instead of wrecking another airframe,

    I have taken Gary's advice and am using a flying wing for now, i used to crash this all the time and throw it back i the air with no damage...

    The 3DR Radio is also installed and i will be using this form now instead of the USB Lead. If I can make 5 consecutive successful outings with no crashing, I will concentrate on the Airframe build.



    I will sort the gimbal issues out on that airframe once its built. I am allowing plenty of room for camera rotation.


  • Update.. Another Crash  :-(

    Well, not sure what happened tonight, but the Skywalker went into a spiral dive at a fair rate of knots whilst it was supposed to be following waypoints, it proceeded to go quite a long way in the wrong direction, I switched to stabilize, and it spiralled down and crashed good and proper, it was the first flight since the last repair. It seems there is a bit of a delay between switching modes, ie, from auto to stabilize. Anyway... It caused some serious damage... Unfortunately some of the pins are touching so i'm not going to plug it in,

    Skywalker, completely trashed this time... Around £90 with postage and taxes

    APM2 Board, £180

    Ixus 80 Camera, got it form ebay for £40

    5000mah battery quite badly damaged - £25

    1300mah battery quite badly damaged - £11

    Grand total - £346! 

    And some pictures of course...


    APM2 board - Pins quite badly damaged


    Anyway, not losing heart, I am going to have a fresh start with some new equipment....I think I will try to build 2 setups, as when one crashes I can continue with the other one, Here are my thoughts,

    New Airframes for testing purposes

    2 x Easystar 2's - Cheaper to buy them as a kit fro the UK, as opposed to hobbyking version as shipping is expensive. I dont intend to use cameras on these, they are purely for APM purposes.


    Not sure what new autopilot to buy, Is it worth buying an APM2 again? has anyone any thoughts on how to house it a bit stronger, it's the most valuable part of the setup, It will be a few weeks before I have saved enough to buy new stuff. Does anyone reckon from the pic any of the board is salvageable? like the GPS maybe?

    One step forward, 2 steps back! - Keep trying! 

  • The Skywalker is almost all glued back together, i am not sure it will take another crash! Thinking of making some sort of foam lined box for the APM and 3DR radios, should it crash again. I was fortunate that nothing broke. 

    I would like some advice from fellow skywalker users....

    Where do you mount the APM?

    Where would you mount the 3DR radio?

    And does it matter how close the 35mhz reciever is to the gps and 3dr radio? 

    I am hoping to fly her again tomorrow if the weather is nice... may make an emergency parachute system until i am confident with the autopilot, and my building skills! In parallel to this I am making a scratch build airframe that can accommodate a nice roll gimbal...

  • It did roll inverted and almost stabilized itself inverted as well, couldn't roll out of it with the sticks, note to self, set auto pilot at 200m minimum!

    The only trouble is the max altitude in the uk for rc is 400ft :-(. Fingers crossed I'll find the cause and have a few successful flights this week!
  • I am sorry to hear of you mishap/crash. You are past due for some good luck.

    In regards to the inverted event, did the aircraft roll to inverted flight? It sounds as though that was the case.

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