Edit: Added plane photo's below.

I'm still using the original ArduPilot v2.7.1 & thermopiles mainly because I have them, don't like throwing anything away and they work pretty darn well now that they're setup properly after many, many test flights! I've also recently got my FPV (First Person View flying) setup sorted too so time to combine the two and fly a bit further away...

The ArduPilot gives a real sense of security to FPV as you have the stabilization option as well as the Return To Launch/Navigation function should anything go wrong (like getting lost, a real problem without a Ground Control Station or On Screen Display).


Sorry there's no video or GPS tracks (the GPS logger switched off after the first test flight!)


The plane is my own design electric twin boom pusher of 148cm span.

Battery: Turnigy 3S 1500mAh or Rhino 3S 2550mAh depending on duration required

Motor: Axi 2212/12 or EMax EF2812

Video system: BOB Fox 700mW (on 1080MHz), IBCrazy's Inverted Vee Antenna on Tx, supplied whip antenna on Rx, 7" car dvd screen and video goggles.

RC system: Hitec Aurora 9 Tx and Optima 7 Rx


I was a very nervous about doing the longer distances as the fear of losing/crashing the plane was quite strong. I had tested the Aurora 9 Tx to 2.65km on the ground so felt fairly sure of it, however I had had some interference from the video transmitter shortening the range of the RC system to around 40m which was totally unacceptable. After trying various frequencies of the VTx (1040-1280MHz) I settled on 1080MHz. Other changes were rebinding the Rx's with the video system switched on and moving the VTx out onto the wing of the plane. Now it seemed that the range problems were sorted I could go fly.


Out at a flying club north of Johannesburg we setup everything. I decided to do GPS navigated flights rather than full FPV to test both the AP and the FPV range fairly safely. We did a 750m "There & Back" flight at 100m altitude, no problems. Next a 1.5km flight, here the plane got very small and if you look away for a sec you can't find it again, however I had a friend watching the plane with binoculars and I watched the screen. The plane turned reliably at just over 1.5km and came home fine.


The camera (with wide-angle lens) was angled fairly level which caused a few visual issues as the sky was very bright, and the ground appearing pretty dark as the camera's iris closed down. Thus landmarks and features on the ground were hard to see.


Anyway next came the 2km (2045m to be precise) test. All went well although the turn was disconcerting as I got disoriented and wasn't sure the turn was successful and initially thought the plane was heading off in the wrong direction on it's own (perhaps it thought so too). After a few nervous seconds I determined that it was going the right way after all and then switched to RTL to test that. The plane came back fine and circled over home. What a relief!


Views: 3083

Comment by John Hestness on January 30, 2011 at 9:23am
What a great day at the flying field!  I hope to be doing the same thing in a few months, when it warms up in the northern half of the world. Would like to see a picture of your plane.
Comment by Gagarien on January 30, 2011 at 10:18am
Nice Graham! One thing you might consider is some thing like this GSM tracker to find your goods if things go wrong. I can't vouch for this but the price looks good.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on January 30, 2011 at 10:36am
Great story and well told! Thanks for sharing that..

Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on January 30, 2011 at 12:35pm


Yes, nice work! I hope to do the same with my Maja except over a longer course of about 1 mile square. So on the diagonal it will be about 1.414 miles LOS.



Comment by Ritchie on January 30, 2011 at 4:46pm
Very cool I'm hoping for some nicer weather to start testing again as I've upgraded the camera code and would like to test the range. Perhaps a similar flight would make it easier on myself. Nice to see the boundaries being poked

Comment by Rory Paul on January 31, 2011 at 8:56pm
Always nice to see posts coming out of SA! Well done did you have floats installed?

Comment by Graham Dyer on January 31, 2011 at 10:34pm

Thanks all for the comments.

@Gagarien, have an OSD on the way so hopefully no chance of getting lost :)

@Rory Paul (Condor), <chuckle> don't need floats just yet, thankfully the rain has stopped for the time being.

@NS Rana, I cannot feel any effect from the nose in wind, if fact the plane is extremely neutral in flight, full throttle and off, the plane flies very level, which actually has been is bit of a problem as AP uses throttle and no elevator to gain altitude. The nose is also more rounded than it appears in the photo's. Flights of 15 mins from a 1500mAh 20C 3S Turnigy packs are normal, which is an average of about 5.6A current draw or 60W!

Comment by Graham Dyer on February 1, 2011 at 10:56pm

Inverted vee antenna: http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showpost.php?p=13840402&postcount=8

the thickness makes no difference.

Comment by Sujith mathew on March 8, 2013 at 1:39pm

hey dude...can u tell me how u connected ur receiver to the ardupilot cuz its not responding it should be 1100-1900 when u move the throttle but it remains at neutral 1500 so pls help me out if u can


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