Crossing the English Channel (France-England) and back autonomously



So after having made multiple autonomous flights, from my home to my parents (10km) and from my home to the rc-club (5km), Some clubmembers got my head crazy and kinda challenged me to cross the English Channel autonomously.  But heck, I want my plane back, so I'll be crossing the Channel AND going BACK.

The idea seemed crazy enough at first, but I couldn't get it out of my head and started doing the math (and the $$$ math).

I read about some long distance fpv flights, so there should be airframes capable of such distances.  After quite some thought, reading and consulting, the choise fell on the skywalker X8.  Total grounddistance to cover is about 70km, but to account for some crosswind and other unforseen circumstances, I wanted a range of 100km.



To make a long story short, my X8 covered a total distance of 102km in 1 flight a few weekends back, complete with onboard video, video transmitter for fpv, minimOSD and telemetry.  I still had a little juice left in the batteries when I landed.  This flight was for the most part flown with my rc transmitter off (simulated out of rc range).  Telemetry was always on (in range) but I have successfully flown with telemetry disconnected and groundmodule ID changed (simulated out of range telemetry)

Now the only thing keeping me from realising my challenge is legislation.  I'm a technical guy, so this is not my strongpoint.  Has anyone got some info how to tackle this?  Should I contact French and English air traffic authorities ?  Would I be likely to get permission ?

I plan to fly 97% over sea at an altitude of 100m.  At that height I don't think I pose a threat to any ships nor any airplanes.  Anything else I should consider regarding safety ?  I think the biggest risk I take is losing my plane, which is ofcourse a risk I'm willing to take, but any comments are welcome!


I've uploaded a Tlog file of my 102km flight to droneshare : droneshare 102km flight  

Please disregard the total flighttime on droneshare.  Flighttime was 90 minutes, not 229 minutes as is mentioned on droneshare.


I have found an online weather report for a calais buoy so I can check for a day where wind conditions are favorable (not to much wind and not too cross)


Ofcourse if anyone from England is reading this and is willing to lend a hand by standing watch and giving me a call when he sees the plane, or  maybe even have a pc with telemetry to follow the plane if it gets out of my range, I'll be happy to keep him(her) in the loop.  Maybe Martin from would be interested in giving me a hand ?


Any further advice to help me complete the challenge sucessfully is welcome !






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Comment by u4eake on July 29, 2013 at 1:29am

I'm planning to use standard 3DR 433Mhz telemetry modules, but with a yagi on the groundstation and a IBCrazy turnstyle antenna on the plane.

Comment by Jeff Zika on July 29, 2013 at 9:42am

This has been tried, and using an APM. Couldn't do it do to the French. They ended up doing a flight to an island that was the same distance. . It was all on TV done my James May (Top Gear). It's all on YouTube.

Oh, and they did it with a glider!

Comment by Andrew Rabbitt on July 29, 2013 at 7:06pm

Onya Jeff!  Thanks for carefully reading the thread before responding...

Comment by Tim Wilkin on July 29, 2013 at 10:00pm

Don't you just love that about the internet... you don't need to read everything before you're allowed to post something... now, if only we could find a way to force people to read, my job would be so much easier! ;)

Sorry to go OT! ;)

Comment by Bogdan Markovic on July 30, 2013 at 4:14am

Hey, 2m foamy wont make any problem for anyone. There are birds with that wingspan. What I suggest is to leave all that bureaucracie, paint your plane in grey so it wouldnt stand out in the sky and just fly. Put a camera on top, so if anyone gets your plane at least they wont find video that recorded ground underneeth. That would look like spying.

There are milions of UAVs that fly our skies, do you think they all ask for some kind of permission? I dont think so. I think of it this way. First its a small plane,so its not likely to be caught on radar (too small, and slow). Second non French or English officials are going to spend any money on someone`s toy that flown accros English channel. What ever you do you are not going to make such a big mess thet its gonna became an international scandal or problem. I wish you luck and good wind. Cheers.

Comment by Chris Austin on July 30, 2013 at 12:09pm
I have just read the whole thread and was going to make the same point as Jeff, the flight the BBC actually conducted was over water and similar in length. Admittedly not as cool as making an international flight. Severn or forth estuary I think?

It looks like you have built quite a flight, given its 'seriousness' have you considered using it as a platform to explore redundancy? There is a parallel discussion at the moment about failing airspeed sensors and the like. Perhaps this is a good opportunity to develop techniques on top of ardupilot to mux servo outputs for instance, from dual redundant APM boards.

I would be surprised if the UK doesn't have a way to detect something that small in the current climate. I go to the DSEi arms fair at Excel each year for work and some of the things they have are pretty far out. With the amount of drones on display last time I would be surprised if there wasn't as many counter-drone technologies on show this year. (It's coming up soon, perhaps we should go on a team outing)
I know for instance the RAF use helicopters to monitor rouge (ie lost) planes at relatively low altitude. Whether they would do anything about it besides telling you off I'm not so sure.
Comment by alex wong on July 31, 2013 at 1:00am

wish you success, let us know.

Comment by u4eake on July 31, 2013 at 2:35am

The BBC flight was great and it has served as an inspiration.  It was about the same distance, also over water and also used an APM.  And that's about where the similarity ends.  Does NASA say : okey we've been to Mars, let go play some poker now?  No they try to do better and send a bigger robot and eventually a human.

Redundant apm's has been tried before (my turn now :-p ) by Tridge : Two APMs one plane

If the RAF would want to use this as a test of how well their systems can detect an incoming drone (preferably without shooting it) they are very welcome!  

Comment by Chris Austin on July 31, 2013 at 2:41am

If the RAF would want to use this as a test of how well their systems can detect an incoming drone (preferably without shooting it) they are very welcome!  

You might be on to something there...

Comment by Gary Mortimer on July 31, 2013 at 3:06am

Lets be clear about this. Without the right bits of paper you will be breaking the law. I fully expect the UK CAA to be on your side but you must ask. They will not be all smiles if you do it and ask for forgiveness.

At very very least find the rules here is a place to start 

Your UAS is considered an aircraft when in UK airspace you will be expected to comply with the law. Ignorance of it is no excuse.

That was all harsh, George Duncan and co are very nice blokes and would probably come along to cheer. But people doing this sort of thing without permission would be potentially hurting the hobby side of things for 5 minutes of YouTube glory.

Yes I realise you could have already have done it and not told anyone. I have flown helicopters across the channel and we stay at low level 1500' and below there are plenty of aircraft going back and forth all day I can tell you.

Lets see your 100km flight over land detailed first and then you can have a 100km badge for starters.

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