Using Flying wings for aerial mapping

Hello forum, 

First of all some background...

Having spent a good 2 years playing about with an Skywalker, Ursus and a Canon camera running  CHDK, and designing my own uav, which actually flew recently ,I have come to the conclusion that flying wings may just be the best type of platform for short range aerial mapping tasks to create DEM, DSM models for GIS purposes.

The Skywalker was okay (but quite fragile, and now in pieces!), but I think it is too small to fit a roll gimbal on it. And I've found that if pictures are taken on a slight angle, it is very difficult to use software to tile them up nicely. this is my best effort, but far from perfect. The roads on the right do not line up as the camera must have been on a 45 degree angle when the picture was taken. (click for larger resolution) - It was taken using an ixus80 attached to an URSUS Airframe


Realizing that I need to use an airframe that can accommodate a stabilized roll gimbal, i started to design and build my own twin boom design. It took 6 months from initial design, to first test flight. It has a wingspan of 2.4m - AUW of 5kg, and a flight duration of around 30 minutes with 2 x 5000mah packs. However it needs a heck of a lot of room to take off and land, something i don't have in the areas i need to take photos. 

Picture of twin boom plane...


What are peoples experiences with using flying wings for this reason? I have the following types of flying wings, and wondering which one is the best to begin with?

  • jp-si 48" span Zagi
  • Scaled up 60" span jp-si Zagi (hot wire cut by myself)
  • x8 2m wing

I have been using the 60" wing to test the APM2 and 3dr radios. And was using the URSUS (now in pieces after a nasty crash!) as a test platform to practice with the Canon CHDK Kit.

Here's a few pictures of the wing and camera....(click images for larger version.)


My question is how straight forward do you think it is to fit a roll stabilized gimbal to any of the above airframes?

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    • Very nice design

  • do you have a video to share which has a aerial mapping done?

  • Any interest in a crowd-designed flying wing?

    I gave had an idea about designing a flying wing with a swappable payload module. I can do the aerodynamic design and even build some prototypes, but working out all of the aspects of the mechanical design would be too much work for me alone.

    The main features would be following:

    • composite airframe,
    • ~2.5 m wingspan,
    • landing flaps,
    • easily swappable payload modules.

    I can post some drawings later if there is any interest.

  • These flight times with the x5 sound great. I'd love to hear about the propeller, motor, battery setup on your aircraft.
    • Seams that I have to swallow my words there regarding the X5 and give mine another try.

  • Update: I just did a duration test with my RTD X5 and flew 1 hr 6mins, over 50km transect distance and resting voltage of 3.73 per cell on landing. Other than the last couple minutes of flight the mission was fully autonomous and ran actual mapping transects. The unit weighs only 2.64lbs so hand launching is easy.
    This X5 UAV is very, very good in high wind, a bit fast in no wind.
    • HI, thats very impressive. What camera are you carrying on this bird and at what altitude do you fly?

  • Hey Richard!
    Hope all is well. For those interested, you can find a 50 minute duration X5 mapping system here:

    I have tested my X5 long duration mapping set up to a max of 1hr 25 mins running a mapping mission in 30+kph wind carrying a canon s100. No Joke! resting V of 3.78 at end.
    With 2 batteries and no camera I have pushed it to 2 hrs 18 mins, traveling a total transect distance of just shy of 112km :) same resting V of 3.78 after landing.

    Much can be done with the X5 with just the right set up.
    • Wow! Those times are awesome. Can you share all the specs? What motor and batteries are you using? Thank you.

      • Moderator

        I'm using one of Brendan's builds (though not the wing). 1 hour and 11 minutes on its second flight, and that was flying poorly tuned and and landing with 3.7v per cell. I honestly think that I wouldn't have made as much progress as I have on this project if it wasn't for him. 

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