134km/83.5 Mile, 4 hour flight with our Skywalker

I am excited to announce that on Friday, February 7th 2014, 3DR Flight Ops SD flew our modified Skywalker Airplane for over 4 hours (4:00:18 to be exact!) and covered a distance of approximately 134km or 83.5 miles.  This is a new personal record for flight time and distance, all accomplished over a few months of planning, building, and testing. Installed in this skywalker was the new Pixhawk Autopilot along with the new digital airspeed sensor, which performed flawlessly for us.

We have been testing some of the new battery technology in different configurations and we think we found the optimal configuration for the Skywalker. I have attached the KMZ and Screenshot of the flight. The tlog is 20+mb so it isn't attached at this time. We optimized for time aloft vs. distance, but we could imagine that a 100 mile flight would be possible with a slightly different flight profile. Note that this flight was performed in accordance to all DIY rules for safety, including a safety pilot in the loop and remaining within LOS at all times. The figure 8 pattern is exactly 1 mile in length, and also note that the kmz file only counts the mileage for the AUTO portion of the flight, with the remaining 2.5 miles being in FBW, Loiter, etc.


During the 4 hour flight we were able to capture some great air to air shots with our Y6:




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Comment by Sergios Zafeiropoulos on February 12, 2014 at 4:42am

Comment by Rui Costa on February 12, 2014 at 4:44am

Can you give us information about the configuration and the digital airspeed sensor? Thank you.

Comment by MarcS on February 12, 2014 at 5:12am

Just to put it in perspective:

Over ten years ago, the so called sunrise-sunset competitions (minimum number of flilghts for whole day of electrical flying) were stopped because they were no longer interesting: http://www.silentwings.ch/wm02/english.htm

Look at that times! That was without brushless and LiIon, I think. And manually flown (less efficient then autopilot). Probably a little help by thermals, but anyway...

So I wonder why we can´t easily achieve 10h. Better batteries, more efficient flight by the autopilot etc...

On the other side, whats the application for these flying times? I can´t think of much other then surveillance. For mapping, you don´t need it and it´s no fun...

Comment by John Arne Birkeland on February 12, 2014 at 5:34am

Those sunrise-sunset competition planes where all purpose built ultralight glider planes. Very fragile and not usable for anything but flying for a very long time under ideal conditions with help from thermals.

To get usable planes with longer flight times, you need to scale up.

Comment by Wojciech Batog on February 12, 2014 at 5:46am

John Arne Birkeland
From what I can see you are right about those planes.
And judging by the size of their hulls they were running almost entirely on thermal/slope power...

But with todays advancements in composites and foams you can make an UAV that wold not be at all fragile and yet had decent aerodynamics...

Platforms like bixler and skywalker are just horrible aerodynamically- wise
And yes to get more efficiency you have to get both bigger and faster... you cannot cheat your way out of Reynolds numbers...not yet anyway ;)
Anyway flying small and slow is not the way to go for long flight times...

Comment by Chuck Devaney on February 12, 2014 at 7:08am

Congrats! Amazing feat!!  Like others I would like to know more about your config,

Comment by Scott Fuller on February 12, 2014 at 7:54am

Joe and team awesome job! Next time let's pick a warmer and less windy day! 

Comment by John Githens on February 12, 2014 at 8:14am

The feat has been duly noted here

Comment by Mauricio on February 12, 2014 at 9:47am

configuration please   :-)

Comment by Joseph Aletky on February 12, 2014 at 9:52am
Not much more info to give out at this time, but keep your eyes on the 3D Robotics Store :)



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