Introducing the Albatross UAV project





Hello all,

Where to start... Well, My name is Justin, and aviation is my life. I grew up in a family with aviation in our heart and blood. Everyone in my family has been in some sort of aviation, whether it is Full scale helis, prop jobs, jets/airliners, hang gliders, or even home built aircraft. I solo'd at 18 yrs old with only 9 instructor hours, and continue to enjoy every aspect of aviation. I am currently serving in the USAF as an aircraft electrician, in order to finish my Aerospace engineering degree. (Which is not far from being complete!)

Onto the project! 

The albatross UAV project came to me one night while laying in bed (so original isn't it?!). My goal was to provide a high grade, inexpensive UAV platform with unrivaled performance.

My goals?

A standard 4-6kg+ MTOW

Plenty of room for sensors, batteries, and equipment

Easy 1 hour flight times, and up to 4 hours (which is the goal... of course we can't be sure to initial flight tests)

Breakdown, and transportation ease!

Wide flight envelope

Sexy and appealing looks

Last but certainly not least, EFFICIENCY!

Airframe introduction.

The wing: The wing will have a wingspan of 3000mm, and wing area of 68.38dm^2 (in other words, 118" span, and 1060in^2). It consist of an optimized foil, and a forward swept planform. The foil is designed to ensure low stall speed, while maintaining a high max efficiency, and large cruise window. The wing planform Utilizes this foil nicely. It is a relatively high aspect wing with a ratio of 13.2. I have found that this moderate aspect ratio is preferred at RC Reynolds numbers for numerous reasons. an Aspect ratio of 12-15 allows for easier, and stronger wing structure, it allows for slightly higher Reynolds numbers, allowing airfoil's to work properly, over a wider speed range, and allows for easier built in retract, and or component bays. Obviously, we want to achieve all of the above, with minimal impact on performance. Of course a Higher AR wing would be more efficient, but at a significant cost (both in actual price, and giving up benefits.) The wing will be built with built in component bays, allowing for RC rx install in one wing, and Vtx install in the other. Not only does this allow for more room in the aircraft, but it allows for proper separation between Vtx and RC rx. The wing is forward swept, which helps minimize the chance of tip stalling while on approach with your UAV, which may as we all know, be overloaded. (there is nothing as horrible as losing your beloved UAV platform and equipment!). The downturned style tips aren't just for sex appeal, they actually reduce drag and tip vorticites, as well as decrease stall, while improving stability!

The Fuselage: The fuselage is designed around the user. It is designed to have plenty of usable storage space. Whats this mean? Well why would you have a tall narrow fuse? This not only makes is a huge PITA to work in, yet it limits how YOU want to lay out your components! The fuselage is approximately 740mm long, 150mm deep and 200mm wide. To avoid excessive fuselage/wing intersection drag and interference the fuselage is built in a slight trapezoidal shape, only to an extent that wouldn't hinder storage capacity to much. This translates into a fuselage with more usable space than the popular SkyHunter. I haven't mentioned efficiency yet. Lets not forget about that! The fuselage is actually a very efficient shape, minimizing the drag left behind. (even though it will only get chewed up by a prop...). It is also efficient in cooling. It will be designed with a NACA duct in the nose, which is a high pressure region. It will consist of an exhaust right above the motor, which is the lowest pressure region. think suck and blow. While creating a pressure differential it actually pulls air through the airframe keeping necessary components nice and cool.

Tail/s: The tail is an Inverted V design. Why? Simple really, an Inverted V improves efficiency while decreasing drag. It is also naturally more stable in a banked, and coordinated turn. The Inverted V allows for twin tail boom design, allowing for a large diameter prop. It also raises the ground clearance of the tail on landing and takeoff.

Breakdown and transportation: The number 1 reason for keeping airframes small is due to transportation and storage. The Albatross is designed to fit into a box no larger than .35m X .5m X 1m. In reality the case could be much smaller. How does it do this? The fuselage is 740mm X 200mm X 150mm, needless to say, it was designed within the required specifications. The wing is 3m long! However, it simply breaks into 3 1m long sections. The twin carbon-fiber tailbooms are 700mm each. The tail will be hinged at the center, and consist of two 440mm halves, allowing it to fold into one 440mm piece. Not only does this make it easy for the end user, but it reduce's shipping costs to your door. No more paying as much as 50% of your aircraft on shipping alone!


My Short Term goal is to finish analysis and development. I am planning on starting a kickstarter to fund the initial molds and production costs. The current Design consists of a fiberglass fuselage, twin carbon fiber booms, and either a foam core/obeche covered wing, or an all built up wood wing. It will come with optional fuselage formers/inserts. These will be laser cut, allowing the builder the option of using them or not. These peices will consist of a retract mount (offset similar to an A-10c aircraft nose wheel, to allow for minimal effect on usable space) as well as numerous mounts and shalves for components and or batteries. Of course, as mentioned this will be up to the customer whether or not he/she will choose to install them. It also allows for some open source design in case anyone wants to improved upon, or create their own after market laser cut parts. This airframe would be available at a goal price of around $500 usd. This may or may not be achieved, but it is my GOAL. I consider this a reasonable goal considering similar aircraft such as Hobbykings UAV-3000 are capable of being produced around $300. I hope that my few added features are not enough to out-reach my goal.


Wingspan; 3000mm
Wing Area; 68.38 dm^2
Root Chord; 300mm
Tip Chord; 160mm
Fuse Length; 740mm
Fuse (max) Width; 190mm

My Long Term Goal is a Albatross Pro version. The Albatross Pro will have a slightly enlarged fuselage,  more wing area, higher MTOW, change in airfoil, fully molded wings and tail, and more precise construction. These changes would increase MTOW, and cruise speed/efficiency to a more specified range. It would also consist of a few ease of operation features such as built in Cannon-plug style connections for easy quick-disconnect assembly. This means that when you take off the wing, there is no servo connection to fumble with. It would also consist of some ease of assembly mods such as quick disconnect wings, booms, and tail, requiring no tools to use. (Think, Crutch/cane style push button. This would be located under the flaps.)


Albatross Pro:
Wingspan; 3000mm
Wing Area; 75.216 dm^2
Root Chord; 330mm
Tip Chord; 185mm
Fuse Length; 890mm
Fuse (max) Width; 230mm

Here is a more in-depth design log on my RCG account. The wing planform, and laminar foil research was originally from a previous project, before I realized its potential in FPV/UAV. Although the introduction of my UAV/FPV platform is fairly new, a lot (many years worth) of prior personally research has been incorporated.

I am currently in communication with a few different OEM manufacturers for an initial Hobby version, and a long term Pro Version. If you know of, or you are another OEM manufacturer feel free to contact me! It would be much appreciated!

Please, feel free to comment, discuss, and provide constructive criticism! After all, this is my first post on DIY Drones, so please be nice!

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  • I'm not sure what was sent, my bad.. What about a quadcopter that flys up and drops a glider?  I'm not sure where I was when I accidentally hit send but the application is finding and identifying whales.  We need both a glider and a quadcopter.

  • I like the glider. I'm making a quadcopter using the APM but have an application where I might need both - tracking whales. On one hand, you need more than 30 minutes in the air to find the whale, and then you need to get pretty close to do the identification. We also have plans to land on the water and lower hydrop
  • Trung, thanks for your reply.

    I do understand Reto's reply, and I agree that understanding the market is key. I guess I was simply trying to explain how this aircraft would fall in a "mid grade" market, which seems to be lacking. IMO you get many awesome small-ish EPO aircraft, and then there are the larger 3m planes such as the muggin, Penguin, and other high end, and expensive airframes. However, I have yet to really find a mid range medium to large airframce, between $500-$1000. This is where the Albatross falls in. I do feel the Cyclops also meets this niche, and seems to be the closest in competition. This is not a big deal as there has to be at least a few in the same market! The major difference is type of aircraft, type of flying, and the ability to break down. The Albatross will break down significantly smaller than any other airframe.

    I have many ambitious goals for this project, however as mentioned I would simply like to roll our the albatross hobby version. If it were to catch on, it may be possible to offer two different swap-able fuselage's. Or my my preference would be to release certain CAD files to the public and let the open-sourcing begin. It would be really cool to have a few different guys with either a dome mod, or different laser cut shelves, etc.

    Again these are just ideas. My main goal is to simply roll out the Albatross hobby version, and let everything else follow.

  • 100KM
    Very nice looking design. I've been following your thread on RCG as well. The laminar airfoil discussion is fascinating, but admittedly over my head.
    It always benefits potential consumers to have as much choice as possible, so having available airframes that occupy similar or overlapping niches is not a bad thing. Competition strengthens the breed. Of course, for a mfr finding your own niche makes things easier. To that end, I think Reto is just offering a basic methodology to visualize the market and your place in it. We do something very similar in our benchmarking projects in my day job. I'd like to see a few such charts comparing various airframes. I suspect Reto's already done this. It sounds like you already have a firm understanding of your competition. Best of luck with your project.
  • Hello Jay, I currently have no plans of email updates as most of the time I am not deep into designing software, I am usually posting any available updates on RCG and I will be keeping up to date on DIY as well.

  • Hi Justin,

    I am intrigued, and had I the time for systems integration I'd strongly consider this airframe.  I'd like to get email updates on the project (as by the time you've produced, who knows I might have more time), will you have a mail list to that end?  

  • Alright guys, I just got off work (I work 11pm to 8 am.), so it will soon be time to catch some shut eye. I will proceed to answer questions as often as I can. In the mean time PLEASE read the full blog post before asking a question, your answer might be in there.

    I am answering out of order, from easiest answer to hardest/lengthiest. To begin;

    Austin Laws, The price "goal" is listed on the blog post under short term goal, which is the Hobby Uav version which I am aiming for around $500 usd. There is no price determined, or set for a Pro version, Although I assume it will be well into $2000, if it ever comes to be. Again, the Hobby version is my main interest at this time.

    Stephane, thanks for the input, I will gladly contact you if I run into any snags.

    Mark, I am well aware of the cost and complications with composite modeling. I have helped My uncle build his Lancair Legacy, and I have been in the composites industry most of my life (bicycles). I will not be producing this aircraft, and it will all be sourced out to an OEM manufacturer. I am simply designing it. Currently I have a few quotes, so far complete moulds for the Pro version would be estimated at or around $7k USD. 

    Again, As mentioned the Hobby version will be considerably cheaper. The only molded component is the Fuselage, the wings will be built up obeche/foam and or full-traditional rib style built up wing. Carbon Fiber tail booms are often out sourced, and easily acquired. Yes, I know of Kennedy composites, and I have flown many of their planes, mostly their DLG's (Blaster 2 & 3 as well as their ELF). I have also spent time designing and flying sailplanes, and DLG's for quite some time. Estimated retail of pro version may be slightly over $2k USD. AS mentioned, my main goal as of the time being is to complete and market the hobby version, which is a much simpler, and more affordable build.

    Reto, I am having trouble with what you are trying to convey. From what you have posted it seems to me that you are just blanketing the UAV market as a whole. Obviously a Techpod does not compete with a Penguin in price or performance, so why throw the Albatross in the same mix? The Albatross is Designed with an MTOW around 5-6kg which is nearly double that of the Techpod. Again, Some of us prefer flying rigid, composite, and/or built up air frames. This alone puts it in a category of its own, however if you want to disregard this then It still doesn't fall into the category of the others. In my opinion the closest comparison would be Hobbykings UAV-3000, and the Cyclops. The UAV-3000 lack in efficiency and portability (as well as service and availability), and the Cyclops-C (composite) Is next in line. The Cyclops is what appears to be an excellent airframe, and it will be very difficult to compete with. There are some rather large distinguishing factors however, first of which is LG. I personally love LG, you can always remove them, but it is hard to add them. In my opinion if you are designing an aircraft, let alone an aircraft with an mtow of up to 6kg, it better at least have the option for LG. The Albatross features more internal capacity than the Cyclops, as well as the ability to break down into an equal, or smaller case. As for the RVjet, X-8, and skyhunter, not only are these all foam construction, but they do not have the storage capacity, landing gear, or the ability to break down for transportation. I will not acknowledge the AWK or Windex as these are Sailplanes retrofitted for the job, they do not break down in the same respect, and the Windex is still $1900usd, which would only slightly be cheaper than the proposed "pro" version, if it ever comes to be.

    This being said, in my opinion the only relevant airframe is the Cyclops, and we clearly have some similar ideas, and some very different traits.

    I chose to go with pusher, as this is a general purpose UAV/FPV airframe. I personally will be using it for FPV, and would prefer to not have a whirling prop in front of me. The airframe comes bare, meaning the end user has the ability to 3d print a forward mounted dome, or adapt the fuselage in any way they prefer. I feel, although a tractor has advantages in efficiency, it would severly hurt the popularity of a model intended for general purpose. This is a blank slate airframe, and is designed for you to install your camera gear the way you want to. I feel a tractor style prop would impede on the majority of everyone's uses, and would only benefit a few. 

    Reto, I also agree that price is in bulk, however it is still available elsewhere. Again, it clearly states in my post that the hobby version will consist of a fiberglass fuselage, and built up wings/tail, This is in no means an expensive way to produce an airframe. I am not saying that a fully composite will be available for that price, that is simply ridiculous. If you look at the $500 goal, it is not that far of a stretch. I am not advertising a price of $280 like HK lists the UAV-3000, I am at a reasonable goal which I am certain I can achieve of $500 +/- a few.

  • interesting but what price we talking here?
  • Justin!

    I designed and (partly) built an aircraft very similar to yours for my maintenance engineering project!

    3000mm span, twin boom pusher, 38cc gasser (still the best for range) and fully composite construction, although no molds were made, only foam plugs on which the composites were laid out, It all cost about 1500 usd to make, about twice my starting budget.

    Feel free to contact me as I would love to help and share some ideas!



  • Great project!

    Although couple financial points:

    If all made properly - aluminum molds will cost a fortune as well as materials per unit.

    Similar RC glider Graphite 2 cost around US$1,000

    Producing molded models require clean and safe environment which will add-up to the cost real fast.

    It takes a lot of experience on RC field to work-out construction details, proper construction loads etc.

    I'll be the first in-line to buy your glider!



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