I've had a lot of questions recently about the USA trip I'm planning, and thought I'd provide some additional details about what plane, FPV, AP, RTH, etc system I'll be using for the journey.

Basically, I'm planning on scratch building a twin engine airplane with a 6 -7 ft. wing span. It will fly at 60 - 80 MPH for as long as possible (hope to get an hour or more at that speed). I'll land it, replace the batteries, service the airplane, and take off again, repeating this until I reach the other side of the US.

I'll need a team of 4: a pilot, a driver (of the chase car we'll ride in), a navigator (works between pilot and driver to maintain proper proximity with the airplane), and an engineer (charges batteries, watches current airplane performance, etc.)

Planning on doing it in 2014. Why? I want lots of experience before attempting this, and, I need to save up some cash to pay for it all! Sponsors welcome!

Feel free to provide feedback!


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  • Yep the U2 had/has problems, but it is designed for speeds somewhat higher than the Predator type drones.

    I hang out at the local flying club, gliders and power, and some of the gliders, the so called "glass ships" can get up to speeds that makes your eyes water :-)

    When loaded with with a few hundred kilos of water, that is.

    Must be a reason why these designers stick to the conventional layout......

    For this proposed mission I have to agree, foam is the better option, for the rough and tumble real world, and repairs that might have to done in the back of a truck, or motel room.

  • I was under the impression that foam flying wings in the RC community were praised for their efficiency at high speeds, their wide speed envelope (ability to 'float' to a landing while still moving fast in the air), yaw stability in high winds, and most importantly their durability, at the expense of greater effort needed to keep them pitch stable in manual control, modest yaw stability in no wind relative to tail rudder designa, and somewhat lower low-speed efficiency versus slow sailplanes.

    The primary problem with low aspect ratio glider designs like, say, the U2 spy plane at one extreme, is their relatively small speed envelope between tearing the fragile wings off or inefficient fluttering instability, and flat-out stalling. Build a heavier sailplane with stiff materials like carbon fiber and fiberglass and you can get very far on the high-speed end of things, but then you will have an expensive, dangerous plane with a very tough time in hard landings. Reinforcement of the airframe also reduces payload capacity.

    Now, foam isn't perfect, and won't scale well past the 2-3m range, but IMO a foam flying wing is a reasonable compromise for all the requirements here, *if you can tune one to make a 2 hour flight*.
  • Airframe design........

    You would need the efficiency that high aspect ratio wings give you.

    That kind of limits you to a conventional, glider type design.

    Look at the USA Predator type long distance, long endurance drones.

    Yes, there are flying wing designs, but those designs are almost purely because of stealth requirements.

  • Sounds like you have a lot of great suggestions!  I might add that you could source this site for people with local knowledge of the area.  You clearly have a lot of people paying attention.  If you were to post your rough route (say, route 66 or interstate 40), I'm sure that you would get lots of feedback on potential landing sites.  Good luck,


  • I really think that a plane of your own design would be to your best interest.  This plane would really be a point design  - cruise at xx mph with a cruise altitude of xx ft to hold whatever payload you want.  Yes, your cruise altitude would vary, but you could get averages.  You would need to "box" your design accurately to ensure you can make those high altitude portions in the Rockies.  To maximize cruise performance, you want as high of L/D as you can get. High AR wings are the best bet for this.  BWB or flying wings could give good L/D as well.

    You may also want to consider the "landing" method of the Aerovironment Raven, which deep-stalls and crash/lands.  Seems to work well.  There are videos posted online if you google them.

  • At least three planes are probably advisable, aside from replacement parts. That gives you the leeway to launch while you land, to have everything ready for launch when you arrive at the LZ, and to have one plane under repair or in hot spare mode.

    You probably won't be trying to hand launch this... Unpredictable takeoff zone, a high payload fraction in batteries, a minimized climb capability to save weight, and faster thin-air operations at high altitude are going to conspire to make that difficult. A catapult is probably easiest, with a high start system as backup.
  • The above still applies even if parachutes are the first-run landing mode.
  • Preplanned waypoints with no known LZ, while convenient, would violate the 400' VLOS restriction and a conservative safety outlook by a wide margin, particularly without fpv. A traffic ticket would cause a likely crash. Loitering around a dynamic waypoint with a manual controller is consistent with best practices, we just need to get dynamic waypoints into common usage.
  • You need to consider the altitudes (ASL) that will be required to make that cross country flight.  Crossing the Rockies will have you in some very thin air.

  • I was just going to say you would ideally need to drive the whole route first.
    If you look at google maps, you can see what looks like perfect landing spots, but when you get there you discover there are 8 foot high barbed wire fences around it. Or the field is actually full of bulls.

    I've spent several hours before looking for a potential landing site on google maps on a long range planning mission and then drove out there to discover it was an old photo and there was now a large building there. It is very hard, especially in unfamiliar terriroty. Parachute landings may be a really good idea.


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