Here's a semi-scale Predator. Pretty cool, but it's an ARF so I can't do too much bragging. I just modded an inexpensive ($80) Nitro Models kit with a AXI 2208 brushless motor and added some proper landing gear and an airscoop to cool the motor in the back. (BTW, Nitro sells two Predators. Get this one, not the similar camo version with a slightly smaller wingspan. That one's wings don't come off! I have no idea how you're supposed to transport it, short of a van).

But there's more to this Predator than meets the eye. It's not just a model of an Autonomous Aerial Vehicle--it is a UAV! How can you tell? Look closer.


This is a Pentax W30 camera, which is one of the smallest cameras to have a proper programmable time-lapse photography setting. Why would I want to strap a camera with a time-lapse function to the bottom of a R/C plane? Because it's not just a R/C plane!


Here's what's under the canopy, or at least the first layer of it. It shows the installation of a UNAV Picopilot GPS-guided autopilot. This makes the Predator totally autonomous. You can enter up to 20 GPS waypoints, and the Predator will fly to them and then return home afterwards. That, in turn, explains the time-lapse camera. It snaps a 7 megapixel picture every ten seconds while the UAV is following its programmed course. Which means that you can stitch those pictures together and create a super high-quality aerial view of any area you choose. They're WAY better than Google Maps resolution, and you can update the aerial views anytime you want to.

But how can you take off and land the Predator? The Picopilot can't do that. Fortunately, there's another layer in the Predator's electronics bay.

IMG_4203 Underneath the autopilot floor, there's space for all the standard R/C stuff: A Futaba 2.4 GHz receiver, a 1,500 mAh Li-Po battery and an electronic speed control. When the transmitter's gear switch is down, this lower layer controls the plane manually. When you switch the gear lever up, it transfers control to the Picopilot and the Predator goes into autonomous mode. Just like the real thing!

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Comment by Jeffrey Johnson on July 16, 2007 at 8:50am
Great Stuff Chris! So, would you recommend this as the first step for us as we try to start building one of these this week? Looks like our N95 is about the same size as your Pentax. I cant seem to find out how much this one weighs though. Any idea? ... BTW, we got the iPhone up in the air yesterday :) ... only one photo, but its a first.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on July 16, 2007 at 9:02am

I actually wouldn't recommend the Predator yet, mostly because I haven't flown it yet and can't vouch for its stability. (It does have great wow factor, however, if that's what you're going for!). While you're getting used to the Picopilot, it's best to have a really stable and simple high-wing three-channel trainer (the Picopilot can't handle ailerons well). Once that's checked out, then you'll feel more confident moving the autopilot to this cool bird.
Comment by rad man on November 21, 2007 at 6:38pm
cool i was pessimistic about the electronics controlling this because i thought they wouldn't fit so thanks for the post it really helped!!!
Comment by rad man on November 21, 2007 at 6:42pm
can you email me the installation process for the auto pilot? im not what you would say good at putting stuff together from scratch. also how long will this thing fly?

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on November 21, 2007 at 6:50pm

If you're not good at DIY, you're probably in the wrong place.

It will fly about 20 mins, depending on how big a LiPo you use.
Comment by rad man on November 21, 2007 at 6:52pm
well you have to start from somewhere so i guess measure 5 times cut once and double check well thanks very much! rad man
Comment by rad man on November 21, 2007 at 9:37pm
i just realized that since you have no "speed hold" what would happen if you went out of radio range?

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on November 22, 2007 at 8:12am

I'm confused by the question. It's *designed* to go out of radio range. That's why it has an autopilot.

And of course a speed hold has nothing to do with controlling what direction or how far it goes. It just controls the altitude.

Keep reading and learning about this. Everything you'll need it come up to speed is on this site or at sites linked to from here. This is serious robotics, so it's not easy, but if you invest enough time to learn you'll get there.
Comment by rad man on November 22, 2007 at 6:17pm
That was a dumb question and i think i got confused when you gave us that link to the auto pilot. i was exploring the site and compared auto pilot modules and one said speed hold and the one you used didn't have speed hold. Thats why i was wondering.

Comment by Gary Mortimer on November 23, 2007 at 1:14pm
Careful, attitude controls speed, power controls climb or descent.

If you hold the aircraft level and increase power, speed will increase. If you still hold the aircraft level and reduce power speed will decrease.

Lets put it another way keep the throttle at the same setting point the nose up aircraft slows down point it down aircraft speeds up.

Humm I'm not explaining this very well. Perhaps somebody ought to take over and either tell me I'm wrong or explain it properly.


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