On the weekend I did a 425km flight with my Vigilant C1.

Setting a new distance record is something I’ve been slowly working towards ever since flying 301km with the Cyclops EPO plane in 2014 

John Smith and Gene Robinson of RP Flight Systems supported me by providing the Vigilant C1 airframe. It has a 3m high aspect wing and loads fuselage space making it ideal for long endurance missions.

In terms of flight testing the biggest performance gain was from tuning the powertrain setup. I tested two options, a 4S battery vs a 6S battery with the stock 300kVa motor. The 6S with stock motor won hands down with a performance difference of around 25%.

I also tested half a dozen different propellers, a couple of APM parameter settings, three different flying patterns and different battery payload capacities.

I tested each parameter by flying repeated circuits of an octagonal test lap and analysing the telemetry log files to work out the power consumption. I could calculate the watts used and the distance covered to work out the best settings. I could extrapolate those figures to see how far I could fly if I used the full battery load.

One dilemma I faced was concerning the flaps. With such an efficient airframe heavily loaded I wanted flaps to control the airspeed and glideslope for landing. But I didn’t want to power the flap servos and carry the weight for the whole flight when I only needed them for 30 seconds at the very start and end of the flight. In testing I gradually reduced the flaps each landing and was relieved that I could land easily with a long low approach. I did however have trouble taking off. I used a bungee that dragged the plane along the ground. Even though I achieve plenty of speed, the fact it was on the ground meant I couldn’t rotate to pitch up. With flaps I had enough lift to take off every time but without them I couldn’t.  It took three attempts without flaps the first time to get airborne and even then it only happened because I hit a bump that bounced me up off the ground. I decided to remove the flap servos and glued the flaps in place and I made a ramp out of some plywood sheets and used that for the first time for the record attempt. 

With the 6S setup I used a HobbyKing power module and the figures it gave in testing seemed too good to be true. I calibrated it against the amount of energy the charger put back in and that showed the power module had been underreporting the current used by about 25%.

I watched the weather and picked the best day I could have hoped for. It was very calm for the first half of the flight with only a light wind later in the day. I flew a large loiter circle (guided mode) with a 600m radius giving almost 2km per lap.

I tracked distance covered vs battery voltage and vs battery percentage remaining and found gave very consistent results that sat just above the 400km projection line all day.

I trusted the voltage reading more than the battery percentage remaining. I knew the Li Ion batteries would be 95% depleted when they reached 3V per cell so I planned to terminate the flight at that point.

All in all it was a big day, 425km of flying taking 7 hours, 48 minutes.

What I’m most excited about is the possibilities this milestone opens up. With an airframe like this the range limitations for tasks such as pipeline monitoring, mapping and search and rescue have just been moved to another dimension altogether.

Setup Details:

  • Plane Vigilant C1 V tail – fibreglass and carbon fibre construction with 3m wingspan.
  • Stock Vigilant C1 motor – 300kVa
  • Pixhawk autopilot
  • Panasonic 18650B Li Ion batteries. 6S 9P = 30600mAh.
  • Aeronaut CAM Power Prop 13x12
  • HobbyKing telemetry module
  • HobbyKing power module
  • Distance covered: 425km (264miles)
  • Flight duration: 7hr 48 min.
  • Average groundspeed 15.3m/s (55km/hr)
  • AUW = 5.7kg (12.5lbs)
  • Goteck DA2311T Servo
  • ZTW 65A Gecko ESC

 

Views: 6134


Developer
Comment by Andrew Tridgell on September 14, 2016 at 2:46am

fantastic, that is amazing range for an electric plane!

Comment by Jean-Jacques on September 14, 2016 at 4:11am
Great ! Did you try monoblade prop ?

100KM
Comment by Reto Buettner on September 14, 2016 at 4:42am
Hi Tim
Wow, congratulations! Well done, what an achievement!
Great to know what distances can be covered by a small electric plane.
Best regards
Reto
Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on September 14, 2016 at 6:56am

Amazing!

I don't think the monoblade prop is such a great idea.  I understand the theory on why it's more efficient, but in practice you will have balance problems.  You need not only a static balance, but a dynamic balance which almost nobody is doing.  And even if you achieve that, you will still be faced with vibration due to extreme disymmetry of thrust. 

Comment by Marc Dornan on September 14, 2016 at 7:06am

Bravo. Try a Mauch Power module. They come pre-calibrated and the current and voltage readings are fully linear. I have found they give a very reliable maH result.


100KM
Comment by Trung Nguyen on September 14, 2016 at 7:14am

Big congrats, Moglos!  A great achievement not only in powertrain optimization, but in support planning.  Almost 8 hours is a long time to keep ground equipment powered.  (unless you have the luxury of flying in your back yard)  Is there a reason you (or a buddy) don't just hold the plane for bungee launch?  

Comment by Alex Maltais on September 14, 2016 at 7:27am

Wonderful!

I wonder if it will be possible to find a camera that can take snapshots for more than 7 hours. And I can not imagine the duration of post-treatment.

Comment by JB on September 14, 2016 at 9:46am

Awesome stuff! Congrats!

Makes our 115km in a mini talon look a bit sad... :-( 

Comment by John Mitchell Smith on September 14, 2016 at 9:54am

RP Flight Systems Salute you Tim on this great achievement. Very well done indeed.

Maybe they will offer you a 400km Badge.

I love that ramp you made....worked out well.


MR60
Comment by Hugues on September 14, 2016 at 11:22am

Wow, just Wow !

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