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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  • Hi Blog, forgot to post these a while ago, A friend of mine processed these on a trial of Photo scan, they came out quite well. I used the x5, sx230hs - The model was created using 417 photos. This piece of software has got to be the way $3499 though it's not cheap!





  • Hi Everyone,

    Here are a couple of orthos produced from our X8 platform.  The large photo ended up using 2327 images with a final GSD of 7.5 cm.  The accuracies in the XY of the orthophoto were roughly 15cm in relation to the true geographical position using 33 ground controlled targets accurate to within 2cm.  The smaller ortho had accuracies well under 10cm.3692894724?profile=original3692894739?profile=original

  • Hi Everyone,


    I have been following everyone's posts and it is great to see lots of people out there creating their own platforms.

    Have not been here in a while as I have been bus with my X8 development.  Gave up on the Maja as an aerial platform for photography.  Great flight characteristics when it was flying but stalls and falls out of the sky when you blink the wrong way and is the most fragile airframe I have every seen.  Our wings were getting cut to pieces landing in tall grass. Try landing the Maja in a cutblock and you can forget about the entire airframe as it will most certainly get completely destroyed.

    The X8 is proving very reliable with a 90 minute duration under ideal conditions with an AUW of 5.25kg.  Flying with the Nex5 or 7 and getting some great photography.  Can collect close to 1000 ha. per flight at a resolution of about 7.5cm/pixel.  I will post some ortho imagery at a later time.

    Here is a link to some of my takeoffs and landings while collecting data for ortho and topographic survey.  Very happy with the performance.  Needs about 25 meters to get into the air and clear any trees.  Tough to land when you have no clear place so we just perform controlled crashes.  The X8 can take it really well and when it does get broken up it just needs some Foam Tac glue to make it as right as rain again. :)











  • Hi Rich,

    It's been a long time. The new place looks amazing!

    I built up my first X5 mapping plane and man, it's fantastic. I'm running 4400mah (2200x2) and getting 40 minutes flight time with a canon S100 on board. It was surprisingly easy to set up and tune, it's easy to hand launch, and it tracks mapping missions very well in a variety of wind conditions.

    I just need to either install a servo driven camera lens cover or figure out how to shut the camera down via pulse value and CHDK script. 

    Keep up the great work!


  • This looks great. Do you have a higher resolution version of the image composite that I would be able to see?

  • Congratulatins Richard, great fligths from that pretty place :)

  • Hi Blog, thought i'd update you as it's been a while! 68 days to be exact!  that's what buying a house does to you!

    Besides smashing up fireplaces, painting and decorating, I have been working on my workshop, which needs another few weeks spent on it before Its functional....however it is coming along nicely...A bit better than a lounge in a small apartment! 


    I also have a testing ground about 10 ft away from the workshop!  (lower right hand side of photo)... I dont have permission to use the land, but i'm working on it!


    Anyway, i'm back on the case now, and will start resuming flights in the next few weeks... was hoping to get a few in this weekend, however the forecast 80mph winds could stall my plans! 

    Looking forward to making the new large twin boom UAV...I am considering buyingthis as well which looks good...

  • Richard,: finally I choose a Phantom from H king, I have to wait one or two months that arrives to my country, my idea is to take off with a catapult, now I have to decide how to install the camera for a safe landing; I'm going to report my progress.

  • Congratulations :). Do you think the x5 it's good for this work or 1,50 mts wingspan perhaps it's better if you have to choose again?

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