So after having made multiple autonomous flights, from my home to my parents (10km) and from my home to the rc-club (5km), Some clubmembers got my head crazy and kinda challenged me to cross the English Channel autonomously.  But heck, I want my plane back, so I'll be crossing the Channel AND going BACK.

The idea seemed crazy enough at first, but I couldn't get it out of my head and started doing the math (and the $$$ math).

I read about some long distance fpv flights, so there should be airframes capable of such distances.  After quite some thought, reading and consulting, the choise fell on the skywalker X8.  Total grounddistance to cover is about 70km, but to account for some crosswind and other unforseen circumstances, I wanted a range of 100km.




To make a long story short, my X8 covered a total distance of 102km in 1 flight a few weekends back, complete with onboard video, video transmitter for fpv, minimOSD and telemetry.  I still had a little juice left in the batteries when I landed.  This flight was for the most part flown with my rc transmitter off (simulated out of rc range).  Telemetry was always on (in range) but I have successfully flown with telemetry disconnected and groundmodule ID changed (simulated out of range telemetry)

Now the only thing keeping me from realising my challenge is legislation.  I'm a technical guy, so this is not my strongpoint.  Has anyone got some info how to tackle this?  Should I contact French and English air traffic authorities ?  Would I be likely to get permission ?

I plan to fly 97% over sea at an altitude of 100m.  At that height I don't think I pose a threat to any ships nor any airplanes.  Anything else I should consider regarding safety ?  I think the biggest risk I take is losing my plane, which is ofcourse a risk I'm willing to take, but any comments are welcome!


I've uploaded a Tlog file of my 102km flight to droneshare : droneshare 102km flight  

Please disregard the total flighttime on droneshare.  Flighttime was 90 minutes, not 229 minutes as is mentioned on droneshare.


I have found an online weather report for a calais buoy so I can check for a day where wind conditions are favorable (not to much wind and not too cross)


Ofcourse if anyone from England is reading this and is willing to lend a hand by standing watch and giving me a call when he sees the plane, or  maybe even have a pc with telemetry to follow the plane if it gets out of my range, I'll be happy to keep him(her) in the loop.  Maybe Martin from http://www.buildyourowndrone.co.uk/ would be interested in giving me a hand ?


Any further advice to help me complete the challenge sucessfully is welcome !






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  • I don't know about the English-French cross border regulation.

    But I think the flight should be easier get the permit regarding that you'll only fly about 100m. I learne from this youtube link, that it is below the lower Class E limit, which is around 700-1200 feet (213-365m). The airspace that your X8 planned to fly is in the class G airspace which is an uncontrolled area by the airspace regulators. Of course you shouldn't lauch it near Calais Dunkerque airport, because that might be in the Class E airspace.

    That's just my opinion. CMIIW.

  • 100KM

    Stay in line-of-sight and you are fine.

    I recommend a chase boat. A chase helicopter is another option, but might be more expensive and complicated.

    Such line-of-sight crossings has been done publically several time over the Lake of Constance (20km) without any problems with the authorities.

    Here we flew over 100km (over 50km return) with a small electric UAV in 2011. Here over 125km (round trip) in 2012. We only used about 70% of the battery for those missions. We used Paparazzi, not APM.

    Good luck!

  • Moderator

    I really don't think you will have a problem with the UK side... Why don't you hop on a plane to the sun at Christmas and try the 100km challenge that happens here in South Africa every year...

    In fact maybe I will try 100km myself. I was thinking of a T3 where people fly orbits of that distance and earn 100km on their user names here. Who would be up for that?

    @Justin Tad spoke at our show yesterday his current platform is way cool.

  • Thanks @Tim (Great reference Reading the story on the Aerosonde UAV TransAtlantic Crossing

    and you will see the amount of permission was required in 1998


  • 100KM

    Thanks for all the enthousiam, info and even funding offers guys !

    The X8 has a NTM3548 900kv motor with a master airscrew 12x8 prop.  It's driven by a hobbyking 60A (4a ubec) esc and 5x 5000mAh 3S 20C batteries for the 102km flight.  APM is powered by the powermodule, servo's and cameras are powered from the esc's bec.  AUW is about 4kg.  Still  handlauches just fine.

    Before the 102km flight the X8 did several testflights and also 2 long flights (with only 4 old batteries as I didn't have more) and achieved 72km and 76km on those.  I also took the X8 to Austria on a slope soaring week.  It didn't soar as well as I had hoped, but it was heaps of fun flying it in the mountains!

    Anyway I have some options to explore now.  I know a helicopter pilot (used to be in our rc club) and will ask her what it would cost to follow the X8 by heli.  She's beautiful though, which will make it extra difficult to keep my eyes on the X8 ;-) 

    And there's a chief mechanic at a belgian airforcebase in our club too.  Gonna ask him how likely it is that fighters will be scrambled to intercept the drone if it flies alone.  Don't wanna risk losing my house :-)

  • Hi U4eak, I think doing an international flight without permission would have more than just the CAA after you.

    I operate commercially in the UK and suggest talking to the guys in the CAA. They are really friendly and very helpful. PM me for a good contact.
  • Can you provide some details regarding what motor and batteries you used?

  • What permission did that Swiss dude Yves Rossy have who crossed the Channel with a JetPac ? Just keep below 100 feet.

  • Actually, there is a precedent for this, at least from the UK side. In 1998 the Aerosonde UAV became the first fully autonomous aircraft to cross the North Atlantic, from New Foundland to the Outer Hebrides. This was done in concert with meteorological organisations on both sides. The aircraft was out of contact for most of the 26 hours flight as well. Obviously, 15 years later, the world is a different place... but take heart... it can be done if you get the right people on side.

  • I'm not full bottle on the legislation, but I would have thought from an aviation law point-of-view the easiest way for an amateur attempt would be to maintain line-of-sight with a support boat (or two, with hand-over) and be able to maintain control.  I'm sure that both France and the UK have legislative frameworks that allow amateur UAV/RC flight within certain constraints.  The trick would be staying within those constraints to avoid prosecution.

    The difficult legal point to cross might be customs and immigration/border protection.  I would talk to guys at the local aeroclub who fly between the UK and Le Touquet and see if you can use their experience in this regard.

    Another alternative might be to use airborne support and line-of-sight communication and then lodge the flight-plan for the route as a formation flight of two aircraft.  All the customs/immigration/Special Branch clearance could probably be dealt with in the normal way.

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