Hi guys my first post here.

Me and a friend of mine is working on designing a low cost mid range drone for agricultural and law enforment use here in Jamaica.

The range we are hoping to achieve is 100km radius with a max altitude of 12,000 feet and a cruise altitude of about 9000 feet. Maximum speed should be about 100kph with a cruise speed of about 70kph and a stall speed of 25kph. The craft should be able to carry up to 8 pounds of payload including a gimbal btc 88r camera and 10x 50mm smoke grenades(for the marking of objectives for ground units during search and rescue). The system should also be able to transmit video signal along its entire flight radius to a semi mobile base

The specs we came up for this is the following:

23 ft wingspan
9ft fuselage length
25 pounds empty weight, 42 pounds full
An 8 hp engine running in at about 5 pounds in weight

I have a mockup drawing(done in paint and working to implement in cad) will post that at a later date.

We are planning to build a 1/3 scale model for testing starting July. The test model will have everything except the gimbal camera and should have a range radius of about 10km. We are planning to use a version of arduino for this but will use a more sophisticated autopilot for the full design.

What do you guys think?

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I think you are looking at the thick end of $1 million dollars to develop that. Best you get onto the JCAA and ask them what regulatory framework your platform would operate under. I would guess your pilots will require at minimum an ATPL. Still if folks don't have big goals we will never move forward. Will watch with interest.

Well the system itself would mostly be operated by JDF pilots and flown under either the army's, the police's or The Jamaica agricultural society's banner. The pre runner to the current group. Was able to secure a meeting with the head of the airwing here and he was deeply interested however the original design presented did not meet his standards as it used a jet engine and could not sufficiently carry out agricultural based missions. That group collapsed since the meeting( I guess they were so stuck on that idea they didn't c fit to continue after the chief asked for changes).

I had the drone idea a year before they presented and I hit on the plan soon after the meeting, I managed to get info on what the chief wanted to be changed and incorporated that into my thinking. We are now working on getting another meeting in January and hope to present every detail from cost to how much man will be needed to operate it effectively.

I am guessing a dev cost of about 3.5 million, that's if the majority of the parts came from the USA or outside Jamaica. However the airframe and everything except the autopilot, engine and camera will be indigenously developed, R and D etc will be mostly Jamaican supported by bits of info from external consultants. This will reduce the cost to a bit over a million or even less than a million.

I am aiming for a 100k USD price tag for each individual unit, anything far above that would be an issue because of the economic situation.

Main pitch will be its cost effectiveness when compared to helicopters which are the most commonly used surveillance platform. The aftermath of hurricane sandy was one event that showed the weaknesses and limitations of the choppers we have.
What you are calling for is neither low-cost, nor mid-range.

This would make the military proud!
@sgt ric

What price tag do you believe we would be looking at with such a system? I am really just drafting the prelim plans, the university will take up a lot of the dev work afterwards which = somewhat free labor :).

That's really how things work here in Jamaica, you have to get the idea off the ground before anyone will show interest.. And it's not like we are lax in innovative mind, it's just that the innovative minds are lazy at getting to it.


Why such a high ceiling for the mission... that camera is not really intended for that range and would perform poorly?

May I suggest for the stated mission a reduced height and mostly off the shelf components with research going into software and improvements on the air frame and engine.

Base unit and sensors something along the lines of:

Belite Ultralight configured and with engine $15,000

BTC101-R w/Photon FLIR (2X Zoom) $15,000

BTC-101 with Sony FCB IX-11 color camera (10x zoom) $7200

cruise 88kph

stall 45 kph

range 140km

available payload 108kg when fully fueled 108kg

if you doubled range by roughly doubling fuel you would still have 90 kg of available payload for 10 N130 series signaling grenades (3kg total) and whatever avionics / launcher you choose

there are several very good fully integrated large scale hobby autopilots which could handle this craft for under $2500 total cost but you may want to look into the pricing of OnPoint targeting and Virtual Cockpit software as they are already integrated with BTC series gimbles and fully supported by the manufacturer


just my thoughts though...

last thoughts

it would be nearly impossible to accurately mark a ground location from 9,000 feet with a free fall grenade

the costs above are for single item purchase... if you want domestic production you would simply need to license the air frame design for the aircraft... if you want to develop identical software/hardware integration as above 3.5M may be a low estimate for development costs

The problem I have with the Ultralight is the look and the general configuration of the fuselage... The purpose of the altitude is for cruise/transport and not for surveillance, surveillance will be in the order of 500ft above ground level.


attached is a basic drawing of the drone design drawn to scale, will soon get the completed CAD version.




I akm having problems uploading images here so access it at imageshack


I checked out the BTC price, got an invoice from the person involved in the BTC project.


The marking of ground will be done between 500 and 1000 ft which is the operational or mission altitude we looking.


I am still thinking about working on the airframe locally, checked out the cost for fiberglass and carbon fibre molding and it is quite cheap, basically the equivalent amount of carbon fibre that would cover the entire craft up to 5mm thck would cost a little over 1200 USD here... and we wont be using a complete carbon fibre frame.

well.. I am no a graphics designer but a tooling engineer... required performance (in this case, speed, range, mission, observational capability, cost) would make determinations in that realm... perhaps others could help with a visually appealing design... however, you will likely have difficulty obtaining an export permit for the BTC systems 

lol that is the very first mockup I made, i tend to like drawing with paint at the start then pass it on to the other person involved in the group for him to put it in CAD.


sketch it in solids and calculate the volume... be sure to assign that shell thickness .. i think you may need to re-evaluate your weight estimates.. it does have nice lines though :)

what brake thermal efficiency are you targeting with your engine and how much fuel do you plan to carry?

The estimates I have above are really goals that we are targeting and not really estimates. Thus we will have modification of the design as well go along, however the fuel capacity should be enough with the above airframe design to reach the 100km goal radius.


One reason for this goal is the fact that the crafts will mostly be based in Kingston, thus a 100km radius would for access to almost all of the island. if further range north of the island is needed it could be moved since the control system will be semi mobile, however this should be kept to a minimum to reduce cost as well as deployment time. So a 100km radius is the minimum we want within the target price and size.


Once we complete the virtual 3d model we will move to figuring out if all the targets can be reached and then modify as we get along.


This is a long term project, we are hoping to start next summer with a 1/3 scale but fully functional model(minus the gimbal camera). We hope to have this completed within a year for testing after which we will begin the work on the larger model if the smaller scale model does win over the JDF(win over for the design since the size wont be suitable for what they want).


So right now we are at the barebone stage, slowly building up, expecting to share alot with DIY drones as we go along over the coming years... and yes hoping to recieve alot of help from you guys in the innitial stage :).

I saw a reply from Gentry Staggs in my gmail inbox but when I clicked on the link I was told it was deleted...

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