I've added this discussion in this category because I thought that in "Aerial photography" people would have more insight about payloads and different models.

I just have a few questions and maybe here is the place where they will be answered. I am a new to UAV but ArduCopter seems very cool.

 I would need a helicopter which would have an autonomy of 10 km of flight at a height of 150-200m maximum and which would carry a payload of about 4-5Kg.

All I found for this were military/research models with prices ranging between 35000 - 100.000 $, which is a lot of money for me. I will have at most 10 000 $ for this.. It is true that all models from that category were UAV's and came with their own software.

So, after all the research it seems that I couldn't find an affordable UAV heli to satisfy my needs. My questions are :

      1)  Would it be better if I bought separately the helicopter and I would configure ArduCopter on it?

      2)   Does anybody from here know and could recommend a few models of helicopters which would satisfy my requirements and integrate smoothly with ArduCopter? ( no surprises ) 

      3)  Is ArduCopter reliable, I mean is the development in a stage where ArduCopter is stable?

      4) What other options would you recommend?

I would like to use ArduCopter for establishing a waypoint mission for a traditional helicopter.

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Here's the problem, 4-5Kg (maybe 11lbs) payload is way too heavy for any normal RC equipment. Understand the the AMA http://www.modelaircraft.org/ basically has set forth the rules for RC aircraft (to keep the FAA out of our business) and thus kit builders and companies would try to stay within those guidelines. http://www.modelaircraft.org/files/105.pdf For the most part, the aircraft itself is limited to 55lbs all up wieght inlcuding any payload. You're talking 1/5 of total weight in a heli which has much higher requirements. The rotor disk loading alone is way too high to be pratical requiring specialized materials and engineering in the rotor blades. A 25 lb heli needs to generate more than 30 lbs of lift to even be remotely flyable. A 90 sized heli might be able to do 2 or 3 pounds but 11 is just trouble. Second, any aircraft that big is going to get some attention. Under the current rules, the UAVs we are building are for hobby/learning use. When you start carrying an 11lb payload, that's not a hobby, and thus you are falling dangerously into the FAA rules requiring a COA. They aren't exactly giving those out to Joe off the street.

Next, "10 km of flight", that's not line of sight where you could have visual on it and control it manually. Since we don't have any avoidance mechanisms and you don't have direct sight (FPV doesn't cut it here) you are talking just downright dangerous to not only yourself but anybody anywhere in that 10km radius.

Open source or not, proven APM tech or not, you need much higher level of equipment and technology to meet your requirements safely. Again, having somewhere near 10lbs of payload in a heli means the heli really should be more than double that so maybe 30-40lbs minimum with some amazing tech, or standard tech right up to the 55lb limit just to get off the ground. 55lbs out of control is just insane. That could level a house, crush a car, or definetely kill someone with a near miss, let alone a direct hit.

Your rated height 150-200m (492-656 feet!!!) is also outside of AMA rules, and really out of Federal rules. Max height for normal usage is 400ft about 120m .

Basically, just about every part of what you want to do is either illegal in the US or just impractical even from a technology mechanical engineering standpoint.

Thank you for your answer.

This is the reason I came with this forum, the advice.

I will do some further reading on everything you told me here, but you are right. I think I will just buy for now a T-REX 450 and start experimenting with that and keep doing research.


I disagree with much of what Vernon wrote.

First of all, the mechanics to do what you want are already available, almost off the shelf.  I'd suggest you talk to Bergen R/C.


I think the E-Observer would be a good way to go if it has enough range, I don't know.

Otherwise, the gas powered Observer EB or Twin should do the job.  These are in the range of $3-6000.

Unfortunately, that does not leave enough money in your budget for a professional closed-source flight control system (ie: DJI).  So you would have to rely on APM.  And I'm not going to lie to you, on an ambitious project such as this, I won't say "Yeah, it'll do it".  Theoretically it's possible, but nobody is doing it with helis, yet.

As for the safety and legality aspect, I almost guarantee you, people are doing things similar to what you want to do every day.  Chris Bergen has a full-time business building these things, and that wouldn't be possible if there wasn't a market for it.  And for there to be a market, must mean people are doing it.

From the Bergen website about the heavy lift gas twin.


The Bergen R/C Industrial Twin is a workhorse capable of lifting up to a 25 lb. payload or fly for one half hour on a tank of gas.  Flight times will be reduced the heavier the payload.

So, my point was basically still valid, 11lbs payload may get you the flight time but it seems close. 10km distance was the requriement along with the altitude will be pushing the payload fuel load tradeoff.

Further, looking at the options sheet, you either must supply a radio system or buy one from them, then they have certain autopilots they will install and APM 2.0 isn't one of them, and the baled options aren't exactly cheap either. Point being the $6K pricetag might get you in the air with no options and the 25lb payload capacity I sure requires good blades. The stated 10k budget is not going to get you a fully autonomous UAV.

And this statement:

As for the safety and legality aspect, I almost guarantee you, people are doing things similar to what you want to do every day.

That attitude is just the reason why they want to regulate this hobby. Just because some joker decides to do it doesn't make it right. Chris Bergen's business is based on money, and yes there is a valid business model for those willing to spend the money. The first time you have a conversation since every since one of these large birds is custom built, you can see the dollar signs in the options. Again, that $6K pricetag is not a flying heli, you must buy a radio, servos, gyro, battery and blades. The cheapest options exceeded $6k rather quickly from the stock 5.5k price. A more realistic number for a non UAV version is about $7k, no spares whatsover, no ground gear, tools or other stuff you should really have. I was trying to give good realistic advise and still feel that is true.

The guy telling you it can be done isn't spending his money.


Valid points for discussion.

20km round trip, in 1/2 an hour means a 40km/h speed which is very conservative.  It could probably be done in half that time.

I priced out a system at $6700, not including an autopilot, but I don't believe that is required.  Add $200 for APM, and you've got $3000 left for spares...

The guys doing this in the US are not all "Jokers".  There are professional film-makers doing this, and an unknow-able number of other professionals.  It's hard to quantify because they tend to keep their activities secret due to the grey area legality.

In any case, since the OP is talking about meters and Km, I'm guessing he's not in the US anyway so the whole discussion may be invalid.

I'm not saying the project is a slam-dunk.  But I don't think it's a dead duck, either.

Thank you.

Anyway, the altitude requirement has changed to 50 up to 100m. Also, to provide more information,

The activity we are doing isn't secret at all, and you are right, this project is for Romania, which is in the European Union.

I am a member of an organization (  Freies Europa Weltanschauung )  which handles many protected areas ( one of which is http://campiacareiului.ro/,  an area  protected by Habitats Directives (SCI) and Birds Directives (SPA) of the European Union ). With the protected areas being so large, we need a system on which we could mount a video system , and which could be sent in a waypoint  kind of mission ( around and trough the reservation ). The reason why the UAV needs to be silent is to preserve wildlife peace and quiet, according to European Union  requirements. 

Do you think that multi-rotor platforms are more reliable ( or less noisy) ?

So, provided all this, it wouldn't really present a danger for people as the helicopter ( or multi-rotor platform ) will survey a natural reservation, and not a public area.

Thank you

I don't think an electric heli, or multi rotor really qualifies as "silent".  Have you considered a fixed wing?  They would be quieter, and definitely give you more range and time in the air.

Hi Richard,

It looks like you've done a fair bit of research into the Bergen systems.  They're excellent choppers, the payload to weight ratio is crazy.  Can I ask in your research did you ever look at payload abilities at different altitudes.

Bergen doesn't have any performance charts or stats on what sort of payloads their choppers lift at say 3000ft or 5000ft above sea level.


I like the two opposing views in this discussion. Very interesting.


:  )

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