Search and Rescue and the Skywalker X8

Hello Folks,

Our SAR team runs the State of Florida and we are in the process of adding drones to our deployment list. We have chosen the X8 because of it being a stable platform. but we are unsure as to Motor/propeller combination. Auto Pilot/GPS/UAV system and video. I have read that many of you use for similar applications like power line inspections and such. Can you offer some advice? Our goal is to fly from bas camp to the desired search area, put on auto nav and search the area with the on board cam system. We would like about 1 hour flight time.


Any help would be greatly appreciated!





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  • Hi Michael, a few things:

    At this point in the technology development SAR searching via a real time video downlink isn't really feasible. The problem is that you're limited to standard definition video which makes spotting something as small as a human figure difficult (vehicles or downed aircraft have a better chance of being seen). The exception to this could be FLIR where you could come across a heat signature where there shouldn't be one.

    The way around this is to use an HD video cam or a large pixel count still camera taking images at close intervals. They would have to be reviewed upon the aircraft's return to the ICP. But this absolutely can work. 

    Australia is much further ahead than the US in terms of using drones for SAR. They have been running an annual "Outback Challenge" for a few years now where teams compete to locate a human sized manikin located somewhere within a given area. I believe last year's winners developed some image recognition software that they've since released to the public. Very impressive stuff.

    Outback Challenge

    At this point an APM is almost certainly the best flight controller for SAR due to its autonomous flight capabilities. I don't know how much you've experimented with the Mission Planner Software yet but it fits well with SAR needs. You can pull up an area of interest in Mission Planner, click at multiple points to draw a polygon around it, tell it what kind of overlap coverage you want and how high you want to fly, and it will automatically generate all the waypoints needed to cover the area, ready for loading into the aircraft. Very damned impressive!

    The X8 is a good aircraft choice as it's established. A potential newcomer is the Techpod, capable of 2 to 3 hour flights. It's more of a slow, gentle flyer with a very large equipment bay. I'm experimenting with a Techpod.

    A final concern would be the control and video RF links to the aircraft. You mention a hour flight time but also of importance is how far the aircraft will be from its control point. You generally need to maintain a line of sight to the aircraft, although this requirement can be lessened a bit if using lower frequency RF links. Fortunately Florida is pretty flat and you could concoct some sort of extensible mast to raise your antennas. It would probably give you many miles of range.

  • Hi

    If you aiming for really long flight`s, you could use 3g/4g GSM to transfer the Video stream and telemetry.

  • Hi Michael,

    take a look at where Stefan collects data of X8 configurations. I'm using a Hacker A30 10XL with a 12x8.5 prop. Using 10000mAh 4S packs you can easily get more than an hour of flight time.

    The other factors hugely depend on your budget. On the low cost end APM now is one of the best systems I have flown yet, comparable and even surpassing more expensive solutions when properly used. When you are willing to spend more there is an enormous variety of systems available which you will have to compare for yourself as the best combination of features and expense depends on your specific requirements.


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