Local Motors/Airbus VTOL UAV takes to the skies!


Hey everyone, 

I wanted to announce the successful first forward flight with the Local Motors/Airbus VTOL UAV. Powered by a Pixhawk 1 with Arduplane 3.7.1, weighing in at 54.85lbs!

I was called in three weeks ago to help them design, build, and fly all before 11/30/2016.  I showed up at the shop and they had nothing but some ESCs, Motors, and concept art. Well on Wednesday we made the attempt to transition, and it came back in one piece.

The full report and video of the flight can be found here:




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  • Developer

    Well done Joe!!!!

  • Hi Aaron

    I find the Local Motors UAV Delivery initiative intriguing in that I'm still uncertain what purpose it has. Initially I looked into participating as well, in order to facilitate the development of the platform for SAR/Medical use, but was hesitant due to the restrictive IP arrangements of the competition. It would seem it has gone full circle and once again the IP of the community is being leveraged to find solutions for commercial en devours, which I'm fine with, provided that the IP developed is also shared, and not locked up so the community itself can no longer benefit from them.

    Having a community style development program does not provide confidence that the development itself, once completed, might leave contributers empty handed. We've seen that before.

    I think the relationship should be a two way street. 

    Would it be possible for you to outline what Local Motors ambition and goals are with the project, for example if they wish to monetize the development internally for commercialization purposes, or if there is a component that will benefit the wider community, along with how the rights of community participants are protected by the IP arrangements and structure of Local Motors?

    From my perspective, I cannot justify the idea of UAV deliveries of any non-critical or non-medical supplies, and think that personal home delivery of goods is yet another man made solution looking for a problem. From a sustainability perspective, massive centralization with delivery to consumers is neither an environmental solution, nor a benefit to the wider community, as the resulting logistics, systems, efficiency and community impacts of UAV delivery methods offer no improvement whatsoever to the existing systems in use, which are bad enough already.

    Personally, I think feasibility cannot be measured in turnover of fiat currency, at the cost of the environment, and the people who are forced to adopt it because they have no other choice than to use the existing, yet faulty systems that come into existence, because decisions are made by a balance sheet, where our shared environment is an "off the books" item.

    It would be interesting to see what forms the basis of the decision to support the development of these ideas, and if the result is in any way an improvement, and in particular for whom. 

    Best Regards

  • @Patrick - thank you for your acknowledgement and very well said!  Yes it has been a bumpy ride, but we are stronger for it.  We absolutely agree that everyone can benefit by working together, and we hope this is a first step in doing so.  We also understand that the disbelief and anger is warranted, so our commitment to everyone is to rebuild credibility one post at a time with the goal of providing all communities an opportunity to play a significant role in interesting and challenging projects.

    @Andrew - thank you for posting a terrific write up on the flight logs.  Very helpful and you clearly are an expert at this type of analysis.

  • Aaron ,

    This step forward is a sign of openness and courage that might hopefully get our communities to work together.

    I can imagine what you have been through so far, riding on the  dragon tail, and it might not be over yet.This situation has created a lot of sarcasm, disbelief and sometimes plain anger within our walls when reading what the press was reporting about this subject. My wish is that we could turn the page and provide with what this community can do best; benefit from our most experienced users in a collaborative and constructive way.  


  • When Local Motors reset this project in early November we gave ourselves a 3 week deadline to start the build over and make the modified design fly. We also built a separate show/ display drone and designed and 3D printed a topology optimized model that replicates the original winning design.


    Bringing the fabrication and build in house aligned with the core competencies of our company, including 3D printing molds used for making the carbon fiber fuselage.  Another core competency is involving the community, and we re-focused our efforts on this as well by posting updates throughout each day and increasing transparency and engagement.

    We were introduced to @Joseph, who proved invaluable in helping us tune and configure the avionics.  He has a vast amount of UAV knowledge, understands what makes drones of all types of configurations fly well, is a terrific pilot, and is great to work with.


    Projects can quickly veer into undesired directions for many reasons.  We acknowledged our failure and were determined to be successful the second time around.  We were.


    What will the third round bring?  That is up to everyone in the Local Motors community!


    I invite you all to comment on our website and suggest a way forward.  Should we fix the current design and transition fully to forward flight?  Should we start over completely, and if so, what key changes should be made?



  • Moderator

    @Joseph yes I was at Farnborough but didn't report on that happening because the BS quota was off the charts

  • The one I have been helping with is 4m wingspan, but with a big gas motor, in a suitable location.  No problem with forward flight.

  • @Auturgy I guess so! I dont know of any larger ones flown with Arduplane!

    @Gary the winner got a trip to Farnborough Airshow and a sweet flight jacket. I told them I'm a medium and I'll need that jacket for my trip to France!

    @Rob I told them all of the same things people had mentioned in previous threads about this project, funny thing too because I only read about after I finished but it was identically to the comments I had. "Those who know don't talk, and those who talk don't know"

  • Gary, I don't even think it was solid enough to be a paper design.  Purely virtual rendering. ;)

  • Moderator

    I hope they give you a large chunk of the prize that competition really was all about the best CAD design, they should have only allowed flying entries, not paper entries. Well done for sorting it all out for them! Well done the Ardupilot team, older and wiser ;-)

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