SurVoyeur, the Rugged Electric Flyer from NamPilot, Namibia

You may remember our previous posts of Guppy, Hornbill and Kiwit. Well, we now have a fully composite UAV, called SurVoyeur, in production.  This aircraft is a sub 4.5kg electric, able to carry up to 600grams payloads for up to 45minutes. It is also a fully autonomous system, with full autolaunch and autoland in harsh terrain. It has been extensively flown here in Namibia, mostly on land surveying missions, photographing up to 150hectare in one flight. We have fitted it with a Samsung 20Mpixel camera, giving us down to 2cm ground resolution on the resulting georeferenced ortho-images.

It is fitted with a Hacker A30-12XL motor and a 12x8 folding prop. 2 Lipo packs are used, 4 cell 5Ah each.

Takeoff in no wind is in 8 meters ground run, climb out at 7meters/sec @ sea level.

We have also fitted the FLIR TAU-2 IR camera and the FLIR QUARK IR camera and are currently busy with flight trials with a view to using the system as a further aid to the Ministry for Conservation here, for anti-poaching efforts.

Here are some pictures showing the path walked to get to the above result......

First the fuselage plug primed then painted :

And a bunch of wings cut and ready for vacuum bagging:

All these parts were designed on a CAD system with a full 3d Model created for all parts. Molds were made for fuselage, horizontal and vertical stabs ( and for the V tail stab) and for the many small parts that go into such a project.

Here are the horizontal and vertical stabs:

And the Vertical Stabs:

The Vertical Stab Molds:

Many Parts:

Here is a PDF of the system, for info.


And some videos:



Views: 11426

Comment by Robert Sinclair on June 26, 2012 at 3:08pm

looks fantastic, are you going to be selling kits?

Also looks like the PDF didn't make it, Did I approve this too soon?

Comment by Gisela & Joe Noci on June 26, 2012 at 3:13pm

Hi Robert,

Not sure what happened to the PDF - it was in my draft that I prepared - I viewed it before posting. How do I add it now? Shall I repost it?


Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on June 26, 2012 at 6:23pm

Nice.  It ain't pretty, but looks like it should get the job done. I REALLY like the construction methods. Very professional.

So, how come you went with front-engine?

Comment by Mark Bolton on June 27, 2012 at 12:41am


I would appreciate some info on what camera, lens etc that you are using.  How do you manage to maintain the focus of the lens?

Thank you

Comment by Gisela & Joe Noci on June 27, 2012 at 1:39am

R Lefebre - Pretty does not count in this environment. No place for delicate lace and bits...The target market is for land surveyers - they know little about aircraft and treat it as such - and also for bush use in anti-poaching. I would like to see a Pretty Predator stand up to that life.. This airframe has survived landings in the desert with thermals and air turbulance causing a descent rate of -5m/s at 'touchdown',  also a landing with a 6m/s tailwind, touchdown at 18m/s and then hitting deep gravel and small stones ( 6 to 10cm diameter), and cruising over it. It has landed (all autolands by the way) with a 7m/s side wind, and crabbed in at a 25deg yaw angle, touchdown, bounce over the center rut in the jeep track, and asked for more.. Local users here have used a commercial system - starts with a Ga...., a EPP foam flying wing, and it belly lands at 35 to 40km/h - wasted it after 9 landings in the Namib. Three SurVoyeur planes have to date completed over 146 flights, and 144 autolands, 2 landings were aborted and succeeded on second attempt. It works, and looks the business. And most important, it is easy to manufacture!

Front engine? are they not all in front??

Again, it by far simplifies the manufacturing process - no high mount engine, no twin tailboom to clear the prop, and we can land at 8m/s airspeed, with full flaps, with alpha=22degrees!!  No rear mounted prop ground clearance issues. An interested party has requested a hand-launch version - lands captured in a net, carrying medical blood samples - a rear prop is always interesting for hand launch...The hand launch version needs to fly 15km, would use only one battery, no landing gear, and would weigh 2.9kg.

Mark - Camera is Samsung NX200 - we used the 30mm pancake lens from Samsung, but have scrapped that lens- we ONLY use manual focus, set to infinity, to do our work, and the Samsung lenses are 'focus by wire' ( as are ALL the removable lens mini SLR wannabees these days). So when you turn off the camera, or it turns itself of after a no use period, it retracts the lens and so when re-powered it is not set at infinity. The camera is easily removed from airframe - takes 10 seconds, but it is a pain to remove, switch on - focus, make sure..., re-install it, etc, each time you use the system.

We are now trying the Pentax 21mm true manual focus lens with the Samsung/Pentax adapter - set up in manual focus mode, set aperture, and tape the focus ring down! Thats it. Will let you know how the tests go in the coming days. 

I looked at MANY cameras - the drivers were - manual focus capability and most important, able to take at least 2 photos per second using the snap button, ie, not in continuous snap mode. The latter narrowed it down to only two cameras ( well, 3..) the Sony NEX5 or NEX7 and the Samsung NX200. The NX200 is lighter by 80grams, is much cheaper ( 30%!) and give better perfomance. At least 2 photos per second are required to achieve the image overlap for the orthographic processing software.



Comment by hikkakaru on June 27, 2012 at 2:41am

I think what r_beflevre was referring to was why not use a upwards rear mounted motor/prop, like for example a Skysurfer or Bixler. Hand launching is okay with those types, and certainly cuts down on noise if you were to use the plane in an FPV configuration.

With that said, I like your current design. K.I.S.S. design is always good.

Comment by Gisela & Joe Noci on June 27, 2012 at 4:04am

Hikkakaru  - Yes, I guess you are right, but that was never the aim of this aircraft - it was designed as an autopilot flown photogrametric system , always fitted with either a downward looking still camera for orthographic purposes, or IR camera for night flights over bush. It is pure and simple a working plane....and like working horses, the motive power is always forward of the cart.. I think a lot of the UAV 'work' seen on DiyDrones are efforts by people having fun, or companies with large budgets, so the planes look pretty as that is part of the kick - SurVoyeur must just fly, efficiently, and take all the knocks. Bush repair kits out here contain hammers, pliers ( size-large..) and bits of wire!  

I wonder if there are posts on DIY drones of the IMU attitudes data for various planes that folk have integrated and flown? It would be interesting to have a Trust Time Trial for the smoothest flying plane keeping the tightest course!

Have fun, and Rough Landings!

Comment by Martin on June 27, 2012 at 4:52am

What is the price of your system?

Comment by Lorentz on June 27, 2012 at 4:58am


Thoughtful, simple and optimized design.

What material did you use to cover the styrofoam wings ? (just curious).


Comment by Gisela & Joe Noci on June 27, 2012 at 5:39am


Conventional method, painted Mylars, then fiberglass cloth onto that, and then sandwich the foam cores in all that, bag it and vacuum. LEdge has a wraparound layer of carbon, ailerons have a layer of thin carbon top and bottom for stiffness


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