Check out the story on my project!

How’s this for an entrepreneurial spirit and a sharp mind? Evan Palmer, a sophomore over at Amherst High School, is currently developing a fixed-wing drone that will be able to survey crops in Amherst when it is completed. This particular drone will be paired to an infrared camera and 3D mapping software so that it makes life easier for farmers to identify crop issues.

This particular project kicked off after Palmer applied for a $1,000 grant from the Nebraska Farm Bureau, which was duly rewarded to him. Apart from that, Palmer also managed to gain the attention of other sponsors who have since done their bit to assist in the construction of the drone via donations. Palmer also gleaned wisdom from online forums to figure out the drone’s building process as well as required parts, and from there, he shared, “I started to get a basic idea of what I needed for the drone. From there, I started building a components list.”

Palmer further explained that he picked the fixed wing because it will be able to cover a larger area in less time, which is always a good thing where efficiency is concerned. A normalized difference vegetation index imaging system was picked to use infrared photos of crops as an indicator of their health status. This allows farmers on the ground to check out crop health from above without having to walk through their plantation all day long, and will also allow them to make decisions on the spot concerning crop health.

Nebraska Farm Youth of the Month


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  • I have not had a chance to maiden it. I took the advice of those who had suggested learning to fly with the Bixler. I do want to make sure that my CoG is correct as well. If you have any tips towards checking the CoG I would love to hear!
  • Mr. McCray,

    I purchased the Bixler as suggested, and I will do some flying with this before I start flying my X8. I have actually never heard of the AMA, I'm glad you told me about it. I definitely look more into this. Thank you for attaching the information for this. Thank you so much for your help!

  • Hi Evan,

    As Dries says above, the X8 is a very advanced airplane and "large" you really do need some actual pilot experience to be able to fly it successfully.

    And as I said you absolutely can not depend on autonomous capabilities, you need to know how to fly first and to be prepared to immediately take over manual control when (not if) something goes amiss in the autonomous modes.

    I would greatly suggest you join the AMA (American Model Association) and get in contact with your closest field which is only 26 miles from Amherst.

    If you tell them what you are doing you will get a ton of help, I am sure they would be thrilled with your project.

    Your closest AMA fields specs below.

    Black sheep Squadron AMA 11687 Richard Hansen Phone: 308/784-2327 AMA district 9

    I am sure they will be able to help you learn how to fly safely and reasonably.

    Best Regards,


  • I understand now. I will make sure to change this!

  • Re the camera position: he means that you have the camera orientated to take vertical photos relative to the direction the plane will be flying. That means less coverage horizontally in the photos and the plane will have to do more rows. Most people position the camera horizontally so you get a wider view, more overlap in photos and less rows required. Hope that makes sense.

  • What do you mean when you say to have the top of the camera facing forward? I am all for efficiency, so I would be willing to change this. I do like your idea of purchasing a bixler airplane also. I would much rather crash a $70-100 plane than the one I built! I will go through and check the CoG as well. I have the large battery a few inches behind the CoG with my smaller FPV battery much further towards the front to help maintain balance. I also thought that this would be an issue with the motor in the back with this large battery, but it balanced out after a brief check. I have yet to make any permanent placements of the front battery, but I will make sure to check. Thank you!

  • Hi Evan,

    Nice to see you are building your own mapping drone and share your experience. I have been flying the X8 for mapping since 2012 and must say it is an excellent plane for stable and long flights. Some tips which might help you:

    * Best to mount your camera with the top facing foreward. This way you have the maximum Field of View accross track which will make the mapping more efficient (less turns). Also image processing softwares are better adapted to this situation

    * This plane needs an experience pilot to operate. Best to buy a bixler airplane at hobbyking after your simulator exercise. If you manage to fly and land this one safely and in windy conditions, you are ready for this plane

    * Make sure to check the CoG. You have a very big battery at the back compartement which seems rather strange since I have all heavy equipment in the front to have my CoG right.

    all the best with your building and flying!


  • I never really though about any issues with the yaw due to the holder. I don't expect any effects, but I will make sure to note anything that I notice as a result of this and let you know. The parts that I attached, I just used the foam glue that I used for the rest of the plane, and it seems to hold well. I never seen these heat set inserts before, but I will make sure to try them out when I accidentally knock something off! 

  • I do not have any pilots to help me out unfortunately. I have used the Phoenix RC simulator to help me learn how to fly, but I'm not sure how realistic this is. I plan to use a launcher I built based off of pictures I found online: http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1806237&page=3

    I couldn't find any plans for this, but if anyone is interested, I would be willing to put together some plans based off of my build to share. After looking into how I would launch it, I found that there have been some serious accidents launching this drone. This is why I decided to build the launcher. I have tested out the launcher and it works really well, and also was very simple and cheap to build. I plan to integrate the Auto land and takeoff as well, but I'm not sure how soon I would like to integrate this.

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