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 guys, i'm glad found this discussion.

    I manage to do an aerial photogrammetry survey using a multicopter with sony a5000 with a great result.

    Somehow i found a limitation within my multicopter. I have try a couple of different multicopter and success flew with 30 minutes of flight times. For the purpose of what i want to get, i need at least 1 hour of flight times with 10-15m/s of cruising speed. That purpose can be done with a multicopter but it will be a giant one which will not be portable to travel with.

    I'm now thinking of moving to an x-5 wing platform, the one from hobbyking interest me :

    looking forward for an advise from previous user of x-5 about the setup to make an x-5 for an hour flight with 10-15 m/s of cruising speed carrying a sony a5000 camera (similar to nex 5) with an apm or pixhawk fc.

    Any feedback are wellcome.

    • Hi Arga

      Aeromao used to sell a system based on the X5 that met your criteria, It was however marginal and both the Skywalker X5 and X8 are not ideal as UAV's as they tend to tipstall and are not overly efficient.

      I have a X5 and played around with it. It ended up having an endurance under 30min here at altitudes of 2000m.

      I would recommend that you have a look at the Taylon from XUAV. Aeromao also offer a nice package.

      We (my company Forest Sense based in South Africa) have a full composite airframe the "DeltaSense UAV" which would exceed your required flight envelope but might be too big (2m wingspan).

      With kind regards


      • Thanks for your feedback Wolfgang, would see that aeromao.

        I'm a builder so starting from a scratch is preferable for me to cut cost.

        2m of wingspan will be too big to transport i guess, 1 meter diameter of a quad could do the job as well but with a monster lipo. I read on some thread there's a person managed to fly an FX 61 (1.5m wingspan?) Could fly for more than 2 hours with just 6s-7.2 ah lipo. Has anybody done that?

        Also, since i have never flew a plane before, should i start with a simpler plane like bixler first?

        • Hi Arga

          Yes start with a plane like the bixler, or if you want to get something bigger and start doing aerial work, a traditional Skywalker. I have heard allot of good things about the FX61. The X6 from Skywalker is also a good candidate. I highly recommend that you first start flying planes on a simulator, then move over to something like a Bixler or Skywalker (same airframe used by 3DR for Aero), and when proficient flying these manually, then move over to a flying wing with autopilots.

          Greetings Wolfgang

          • Hi Wofgang

            It has been a while.  I hope everything is going well with you. 

            Are you no longer working with the X8?  We are still using the X8 with good success.  Take a look at our website for examples of all the work we have completed with the X8.  The site is  Lots of samples of various projects we have completed.

            What exactly do you mean by tip stall?  The only stalling issues we have had with the X8 is upon launch where it sometimes rolls to the left and does a nose dive.  I expect it always rolls to the left due to the centrifugal force of the prop.  If you launch it quickly however the elevons get enough wind speed to counter the roll.

            I look forward to hearing from you again and your progress on creating a mapping platform.



          • Hello everyone. I'll tell you my experience with fixed wings.
            As indicated by another user, I started with a simulator, in my case I used two, aerosimrc and aeroflyrc, using the model in which you are interested, in my case flying wings.
            In a second phase, when I had some expertise with the simulator (taking off, and landing, etc.), I bought this flying  wing model

            Comet FPV


            resistant, very simple and inexpensive, in RTF configuration.
            Finally, the last phase in which I am, I will buy the largest model, in which I will install the autopilot.

            I insist:
            1. Simulator.
            2. Small flying wing, resistant
            3. Last, big flying wing on which mount the electronic


  • Hows things going in this thread? all is a little to quiet :-)

  • Hi all,

    Some updates from my side:

    - after playing a lot with Canon camera parameters I think that I have found the right values;

    - cruise speed is around 65km/h;

    - using a 2200mAh battery(only 1300mAh consumed) , 12 min of flight can be achieved, 13km total length.


    I'm thinking to move to FX-61 wing (smaller cruise speed), anyone is using it ?

    • Hi Alex,

      Hope it's not too late :) , I have been using FX61 for mapping rainforest in Kalimantan (Indonesian part of Borneo) with the local community members. It performs very well for our needs. With our settiing (thanks to Nguyen, also in this DIY Drones forum) we are able to fly for nearly an hour (with 5,000 mAH 4S battery) bringin CANON S100 with CHDK cruising at 12 m/s (I guess around 45 km/h) at the altitude of 350 m AGL (at the moment no regulations / height restriction in Indonesia, but we definitely fly safe and always check and re-check again the commercial flight route in the area if available and so on). Let's say, in a week time of work, we are able to have around 5,000 Ha (minimum) of forest mapped by 1 Drone and we are going to go forward with this activities to register the customary and community forest for protection.

      I hope it's useful.

      Best regards,


      • Hello Rai,

        Thank you for the info. It is not too late :) , now I'm preparing a wood board to make a better layout of the parts inside.

        Can you please share your setup ( electronics , layout and the total weight ) ?

        I had some difficulties in choosing the best place for the camera , I'm interested to see how you have mounted yours.

        Thank you in advance.

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