I would like to show what we have done here in Namibia in developing Inexpensive UAV systems which we are beginning to actively use in conjunction with Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism, tasked with wildlife conservation in Namibia, and also for photography missions for the local quarry mines and Salt mines.








Shown , in order, are three aircraft, GUPPY,  fully designed from the ground up and built by me, HORNBILL, built from a semi built kit, the Lanyu-100, and the third, KIWIT, an electric flyer of unconventional wing design.


HORNBILL is fitted with an RF tag tracking system and antenna and flew many autonomous, beyond visual range flights tracking tagged animals, especially Rhino as an aid to the National Parks anti-poaching campaign. The next trial will be with an Infra-Red camera fitted to aid the detection of poachers at night.


Hornbill basic Specifications.

  • Wing Span - 2.4meter
  • Engine 55cc Twin Boxer.
  • Weight 15kg with 3liter gas
  • Max TOW - 17Kg
  • Endurance 1H 40minute with 0.5 liter spare @ 24m/s
  • Min safe speed 14m/s @ 16deg AoA.
  • Stall speed 10m/s @ 25deg AoA.
  • Max flight speed - 34m/s

it was a lot of fun! See the report: waterberg_report.pdf



 GUPPY was designed from the ground up, a full 3D model developed on CAD, and designed to be made from good aircraft grade ply. However, it was built with plain Marine ply in the end, as and exercise in cost reduction. It was designed to carry  a hi resolution camera , which was subsequently flown to create geo-referenced imagery for the Quarry miners, as well as for the Salt Works.  GUPPY has tremendous STOL performance and can land/takeoff anywhere.




















GUPPY Basic Specifications:

  • Wing Span - 2.8meter Clark Y 14%
  • Wing Chord 600mm +80mm for Junker Flaperon
  • 2 Flaperon per wing, each with own servo
  • Horizontal stabiliser - 450mm each half span Clark Y 12%
  • Horizontal Stab Chord - 220mm
  • Each stab half fitted with own servo
  • Engine 100cc Twin Boxer. (3W)
  • Weight 26kg empty
  • Max TOW - 42Kg
  • Max Fuel - 8.5liter
  • Endurance 5hours with 0.5 liter spare @ 35kg @ 24m/s
  • Min safe speed 12m/s @ 20deg AoA.
  • Stall speed 10m/s @ 25deg AoA.
  • Max flight speed 42 m/s



The electric flyer was actually two Aircraft, PiPiStrello, and KIWIT. Both share wing profile type, Jedelski,  and both are V tail. Both are made fully from composite materials.

 PiPiStrello has straight wings with dihedral, and was fitted with ailerons, not normal on Jedelski wings – resulting in  excessive adverse yaw so was canned…



KIWIT and its prototype flew many flights tool to verify the existence of a Vulture Chick in a nest in a tree out in the desert. We annually undertake a conservation mission where we currently fly in a Cessna 180, spotting Vulture nests in the Sparse Namibian desert regions. When we spot a nest, we fly closer to see if there is a chick, and if so we GPS mark the spot. Often the tree is among a dozen others, so the exact spot is 'close by'..but not easily found when we return in ground vehicles to capture, ring and tag the chick. So we used KIWIT to overfly the nearby area and find the chick again.




See the article in Raptor News - (page 2) Raptor_News.pdf




We have also perfected fully autonomous land and takeoff with KIWIT.

Have a look at these videos for the Auto Launch and land:



Kiwit Basic Specifications:

  • Wing Span : 2.4meters
  • Weight excluding payload - 3.5Kg
  • Max payload capacity - 1Kg
  • Endurance - 1hour
  • Cruise speed - 14m/s
  • Max speed - 20m/s
  • Stall speed - 6 m/s
  • Takeof in 3meters in still air.
  • All composite construction, cabon fibre and glass

And these videos for the flights of GUPPY and HORNBILL:





Have a look at the postings under Aircraft Platforms and Autopilot Hardware for more info. 

The autopilot fitted  to all these aircraft is called the 'NamPilot' and is based on multiple modules, namely:

AUTUPILOT: an AVR processor based module, 8 PWM inputs from RCS, 7 PWM outputs to servos. This module does the full flight stabilization and navigation/guidance for auto flight, and stabilization for manual flight with autostabilization - mostly used when tuning the control loops.

IMU -  Also AVR based, with 3 axis Gyro's, accelerometers and a Bosch I2C pressure sensor.

AIRDATA UNIT: Also AVR based, a smaller processor, with another Bosch I2C pressure sensor, and an analogue static pressure sensor ( Freescale) and a Dynamic pressure sensor for airspeed. (Freescale)

MAGNETOMETER: Also a smaller AVR processor, with a Honewell 3 axis magnetomet, configured in a balancing bridge circuit, ie, the null strap in the device is used to balance out the ambient magnetic field in a control loop. This gives VERY accurate performance, with almost no temperature drift at all, the bain of magnetometer performance!



 The Ground Control Station - This is a PC based system and can be anything from a simple, reduced functionality Laptop based system, to the one depicted in the PDF files listed below. This system interfaces to a datalink antenna, with optional autotracker for the antenna, tracking theUAV in flight. It also interfaces to a dual video receiver, built into the video RX antenna. The video from the UAV camera is available in real time on the GCS, and can be recorded. A dedicated configurable Payload control panel is on the GPS operator position, allowing control of the UAV stablised camera, steering, setup, etc. All flight plans are prepared on the GCS, with a map of the flight regime, and all flight paths are shown, as well as the track flown. Numerous flight patterns can be selected, figure 8, square, straight line,  circle, loiter, point to point flight plan, etc. Aircraft control loop tuning is also done in real time, during flight, from the GCS. 

 Take a look at these PDF’s for more info:

imu_flyer_full.pdf     autop_flyer_full.pdf     gcs_flyer_full.pdf





























This is far too much fun for just two people!!

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  • Hello Gary,

    We have not yet purchased the IR camera. Certainly the 9 Hz update rate is useless. Pity the USA is so paranoid in this regard - even bonafide users, such as I would class myself, have no access to better technology from the USA.

    However.... All they achieve by taking this closed attitude is to promote others to develope competing technology, and some good cameras are available from China, and from South Africa. The one I am looking at is from South Africa, is a 680X400 pixel uncooled sensor, a 60hz frame rate, and is about 300mm long and 140mm diameter. It has electromechanical zoom up to 15 times, which is more than enough; unless the camera is on a fully stabilized any zoom more than 3 or 4 times is useless anyway. It weighs about 2.2kg - big germanium lenses! I have a stabilization system on GUPPY, 2 servo mechanisms on pitch and roll, with the camera looking down rather than forward, and the servos are controlled by the autopilot, subtracting the A/C pitch and roll angles from the camera desired line of sight, thereby keeping it looking in the desired direction. This camera is in the region of $20,000US...


    A IR camera for use in a UAV, for hot-body detection in no-light conditions is not a simple issue! The sensor sensitivity is crucial. The time that IR energy has to 'excite' a pixel for sufficient energy to be detected is proportional to the A/C flying speed, the sensor sensitivity, its Signal to Noise performance, height above ground, etc. flying to low requires that you fly a closely spaced ladder pattern, more time in the air, etc. A wider field of view on the camera means wider spaced flight tracks, but less nett IR energy per pixel, and so it goes..

    That is why the really good IR systems are cooled sensors, high frame rates, cost upward of $40k to $150K US.

    Good luck!

  • Hello Stuart,

    Most certainly UAV's can be used for this task, but NOT quadrotor technology, at least not for the speeds and range you wish to achieve. I will try to defend this staement...

    We have done very similar to what you wish to do, but using KIWIT. KIWIT has a removable under-POD, which contains the batteries, Autopilot, Datalink and payload. We can swap Payloads by simply swapping the POD. We configured a POD to have a release capsule in the nose, instead of the camera, and used this to transfer blood samples from a remote rural clinic to the 'nearest' hospital analysis lab, about 25km away. KIWIT has about a 1.5 hour endurance with extended battery pack ( 4cell 8AH) , flies at about 40km/h for best battery consumption. At the target site, the sample is ejected with a small parachute, at 10m above ground. The sample is carried in a foam equivelant of a tennis ball, so survives fine. This all worked very well, except when there is wind, This excerise was done along the South African West Coast, where the wind comes up after 10ish in the morning, from the South-West, up to 6 to 10m/s. Kiwit flies @ approx 14m/s so into the wind the ground speed can be as low as 8 down to 4m/s. At such ground speeds the mission takes forever, and Kiwit has not sufficient endurance. The conclusion was that Kiwit would work in regions with little wind, but generally a larger, more powerfull UAV is needed, with a gas engine. You need penetration in the wind, and you need to be able to fly much faster (airspeeds)  to have reasonable ground speed in high wind. 

    A quad rotor type aircraft will not do the job.

    You will never have the endurance. Remember, a fixed wing A/C has an endurance multiplier, namely the wing lift it gets from forward motion. A rotor craft lift is obtained soley from the lift created by the spinning props, which are VERY inefficient, since they operate in stall almost all of the time. A conventional helicopter is somewhat better; the blades are in fact 'rotating wings' and do create lift when 'sliding' forward through the air, but still very poor. 

    I cannot recommend the use of multirotor technology for such an application, where long distances and extended endurance is needed, and where reserve endurance is mandatory to allow for climatic conditions...

    Thats my penny's worth!


  • really like this. diy at its best.

  • What a great post!  And great work! Did you already buy an infrared camera to look for poachers at night?  I recently purchased a FLIR EVSx for about $2500 and it works very well for detecting animals and other warm bodies at night.  The field of view is pretty good for aerial use and it auto-adjusts to keep  good contrast as the scene temperature changes.  It weighs about a pound and is sort of a brick, but the tiny LWIR cameras I've found cost much more.  U.S. export controls will limit it to a < 9 Hz frame rate.  


    This is a frame of video looking down on some small deer that are laying on grass at dusk.  The streets are still warm because the summer sun just went down.  I would be interested in any experiences you've had with other cameras.


  • Thanks for the post.  It's great to see a real world, practical, application of sUAS technology.  Keep up the good work and best of luck making the program successful.

  • Very good use of this technology.


    While others foolishly debate "safety" aspects, you are out in the real world getting real world results.  Animal tracking, poaching monitoring, and so on, you are doing positive work with this gear.

    For other people on DIYDrones, look to this as an example.   This is ground breaking work - you would do well to emulate it.



  • That's really interesting. Can I ask your opinion on the plans of the Matternet team? I am putting a fair bit of work into designing a quad tilt-rotor design for delivering medical supplies to remote villages and would love your opinion on whether you believe UAVs could be used for this? I'm aiming for 80mph cruise and 40mile range as a starter,probably 0.5kg payload. Thanks.
  • This is so impressive.

    How many people have developed this and how long?

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