DeltaQuad VTOL completes 100KM autonomous mission carrying a 1KG payload

This Saturday at DronesLab we achieved an important milestone in the final steps towards the public release of the DeltaQuad: A 100KM autonomous mission carrying a 1KG payload. This marks the achievement of the most important goal we have set when we started the development of this vehicle over a year ago.

The DeltaQuad is an electric VTOL flying wing capable of fully autonomous operation. It is driven by either the PX4 or AirRails flightstack in combination with proprietary safety and performance software. It is controlled through a tablet and streams telemetry (and optionally video) over an encrypted VPN using the cellular network. Most notably it flies without the need for an airspeed sensor. This improves reliability, usability and performance.

After extensive testing and hundreds of flight hours we knew it could achieve this goal in theory. But as with any theory it needed to withstand the test of reality. So we we started preparing for a mission that would do just that.

The mission

The mission was flown in a square pattern. It was setup to autonomously take off vertically to an altitude of 22m, complete 20 laps on a 5km circuit at an altitude of 30m, and land vertically near it's takeoff point. It cruised at approximately 15m/s. The mission took 1 hour and 50 minutes to complete. It was outfitted with a 23Ah 4s lipo and consumed 20.7A of which 19.3 was used for fixed wing flight and 1.4 for vertical takeoff and land.

The payload consisted of a 1KG box filled with dummy weight. The total distance was confirmed through a KML export of the mission loaded in google earth as you can see in the image above. 

The full log of the mission can be found here:

Whats next

The DeltaQuad will be publicly available this summer under a new label that we will soon announce together with the full specs and pricing. Additional options and modules will be released shortly after that. Although we can not yet release any more details we are confident that it will be one of the most reliable, scalable and affordable VTOL UAV's that is suitable for commercial applications.

** Update **

The DeltaQuad has been publicly released. Visit to find out all the details.

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Comment by Rana on April 30, 2017 at 12:07am

Certainly it's a big achievement, where is the flight video ?

Comment by Hugues on April 30, 2017 at 12:36am

Congrats. About good flying without an airspeed sensor, I have observed the same with Ardupilot flight stack (by mistake). So indeed, even full auto mission works well enough without an airpseed sensor (as long as GPS is working)

Comment by sander on April 30, 2017 at 4:28am

@rana the deltaquad was not outfitted with a camera for this flight. 

@hugues unlike Ardupilot the deltaquad employs a method for flying without an airspeed sensor that does not rely on GPS. Rather it factors in things like attitude, altitude and voltage.

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on April 30, 2017 at 6:06am

Nice achievement.  What were the wind conditions at the time?

Comment by Andrew Tridgell on April 30, 2017 at 6:13am

@hugues unlike Ardupilot the deltaquad employs a method for flying without an airspeed sensor that does not rely on GPS. Rather it factors in things like attitude, altitude and voltage.

Can you elaborate on this a bit more? I'm also not sure what you mean by the ArduPilot method. Perhaps you think ArduPilot uses synthetic airspeed for speed/height control when it doesn't have an airspeed sensor? (it doesn't)

I'm really curious how voltage comes into it!

Comment by Cala on April 30, 2017 at 6:46am

I´m building a Phantom Fx61, ardu plane quadplane without airspeed, that can be a problem? , I never use airspeed in standard airplanes and no issues.

Comment by sander on April 30, 2017 at 6:46am

@rob We selected mild wind conditions so we could achieve 100K over ground without the need to compensate for crosswind flight, the wind was approximately 10kph. 


I made an assumption that Ardupilot has a mode to fly on a fixed groundspeed based on the comment made by Hugues, if this is incorrect my apologies. The DeltaQuad is tuned with an initial throttle setting for level cruise flight, this is tuned specifically to the drive on the DeltaQuad From there it applies scaling based on roll, pitch and altitude setpoint but also voltage whereby it effectively maintains the watt's constant. We are currently finalizing our onboard software that performs both pre-flight and continues calculations to tune thrust based on it's mission, the weather conditions, the altitude and the air pressure.

Here's a graph for this effect from the 100k flight:
Blue: thrust, Green: Voltage, Red: scale factor (values are scaled for visibility)

Comment by Cala on April 30, 2017 at 6:47am

Nice build

Comment by sander on April 30, 2017 at 6:57am

@cala if you are flying manually there should be no problem. for autonomous flight you will need either an airspeed sensor or examine your flightstacks options for flying safely without one

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on April 30, 2017 at 7:01am

Ok, yes, I assumed that you used low wind conditions as most do for these tests.  How sensitive is the airframe to windspeed:  ie: how steep is the power/speed curve as it's flying upwind? 


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