Tricopters and Flying Wings for Forest and Island Mapping in Borneo

Hi All

We would like to share some pictures and stories from our work in Borneo using DIY Tricopter and flying wing with APM for mapping community forest (village forest and customary forest) purpose. We also aim at mapping the land use change at certain areas due to the establishment of large-scale plantation [mostly oil palm] and large scale mining [mostly bauxite and coal] which have impacted the state of the ecosystem [including the life of the people]. The longest river in Indonesia, Kapuas, has been impacted severely by such activities. We hope that UAVs might provide a solution to monitor the rapid ecosystem change thus might provide a little support to the decision making process towards the better condition [i.e. curbing deforestation] as well as provide a little support to the local community members to sustain their forests. 

Our Tricopters are able to fly for 17 minutes [hovering] with a 3 cells Lipo battery of 5,000 mAh [25 C discharge] with Canon SX 230 HS attached for taking continuous picture to be stitched. We have been able to map about 40 Hectares of an area with such combination. We aim at covering larger area with our flying wing. The area of community forests are usually around 1,000 to 5,000 Hectares. We use Mission Planner to plan our mission before we go to the mapping area. We aim at further encouraging the community members' participation in this process, while maintaining the safety of the whole project. We build our DIY tricopters and flying wings to minimize our cost as we are researchers without really support from some funding agencies nor from any other organizations.

We sometimes face difficulties with the landscape as some of the areas are very hilly [with some mountains around]. We haven't found perfect solutions for such difficulties yet, however we have already some ideas to overcome such challenges.But as you all know, one of the biggest challenges is the flight time [power] of the drone. We hope to have some supports [idea, etc.] to overcome such challenges. In the near future, we will start to map the islands of Karimata [West Kalimantan] to support the eco-tourism initiative which was established some months ago. We have managed to capture some videos as well as some aerial images [with GoPro 3 Black] of the archipelago which we will soon upload. One of the future aims is to map the reef cover in some of the islands and try to analyse the results. We are aiming at having kind of first overview on the health of the reef. We have no idea yet if it is possible, but let's see. interesting wind Wind is really the challenge in doing such work.

Thank you for all your share in this forum which have been the source of our knowledge and our inspiration [of course beside some of the youtube channels like rcexplorer, flightriot, the experimental airlines, mygeekshow]. Also thank you very much for the hard works of the MP team. Thanks for your time to read, we hope to have some ideas and inputs from all of you and to continue this work.

Best wishes,

on behalf of the team

Views: 1309

Comment by Tom Mahood on April 17, 2014 at 9:17am

That's a very impressive flight time carrying such a relatively heavy camera. Could you mention a little about what sort of components you used in your design? Also, I don't see any FPV gear. Are you doing all your flying autonomously? 

Comment by Rai on April 17, 2014 at 10:25am

Hi Tom,

Thanks for taking time reading the blog. We use carbon for the frame and multistar ESC and yellow brushless motor of 1000 Kv and 9x4.5 propellers. The weight of the whole system RTF (tricopter) is 1,1 kg. We don't use FPV for mapping, all is autonomous flight, however we fly FPV when taking video for eco-tourism purpose. I hope it clarifies more.


Comment by John Githens on April 17, 2014 at 1:01pm

Rai, thanks for sharing. A link to your blog post has been added to this page of UAS applications to help improve our environment. Since you mentioned the goal of assessing the health of reefs, you may be interested in this effort, and this effort. Best wishes.

Comment by Branson on April 17, 2014 at 3:09pm
Hello rai,
Great work, can you say which wing you are using?
Comment by Noli Sicad on April 17, 2014 at 6:27pm

Hi Rai,

I am very interested in using Arducopter (i.e.multirotors) for Aerial Photos Mapping with Canon P&S camera (e.g. sx260).  What altitude did you fly your tricopter? Would be possible to post a photo on your gimbal or a "rig" for of your Canon camera to body of your tricopter?

BTW, I like to build DJI F450 Arducopter (4 rotors), stock kit and attach canon sx260 for Aerial Photo Survey and Mapping. Do you DJI F450  with APM 2.6 + canon sx260 would work and get  decent aerial photos?  I like to fly at 150 - 200 meters attitude.

Comment by Rai on April 17, 2014 at 8:21pm

Hi Noli,

Thanks so much for your attention and interest. We flew at 250 meters and at 300 meters at the moment. However, we can always fly [at least we will try in the near future] at between 50 meters and 500 meters. We are aware that our mission in the "urban" area is a "risky" one if we set the altitude low [e.g. 50 meters] as there is always the chance of interference from wifi, telecommunication towers, etc.

We are going to post the photo of how our CANON camera is attached to the body of our tricopter very soon, hope you can wait a bit while.

Speaking about DJI F450 quad bringing SX 260 HS, plus APM 2.6 as an aerial photo survey platform, to my furthest understanding it is going to be fine as long as you maintain also some settings in the camera [e.g. shutter speed, etc]. Also it depends on how you set up your mission in Mission Planner or APM Planner [I suppose that you'll use either both]. Our first trials were quite helpful for us to set up the right setup of the camera and mission in a way that the image are in the good quality and have some overlapping [for further processing / stitching].

I would say, you would like to know first which area you want to map [how large, etc], and you would like to know as well [by testing first different kind of batteries] how long your quad can stay/hover in the air. Those are first thing to know before going to the mission.

Hope it's helpful and good luck and let's share our experiences.



Comment by Rai on April 17, 2014 at 8:40pm

Hi Branson,

Thanks for the attention. We are designing our "self-designed" wing with 1.25 meters wingspan. We cut some foamboard using the hotwire to shape the airfoil. Our criterion are: (1) cheap enough, (2) light enough, (3) able to carry SX 230 hs or SX 260 hs, (4) carry-able in the "tough" condition as we are going to work in a quite "rough" place like the rainforest of Borneo or some small islands. At the moment we don't have any name for the wing, we just call it FW 125. We would like to thank mygeekshow, experimentalairlines, FPVTrond for their inspiration. Thanks and hopefully it's clarifying enough. Please don't hesitate to ask more should you need more information.

Comment by mr9187 on April 18, 2014 at 12:49am

Hi Rai, 

Good work , could you please share the height , interval between photos , and shutter speed etc ,  i use SX 260HS i couldn't achieve good result with that . i get shaky images with the recommended shutter speed .. i have made more than 30 mapping flights , but none gave worth full result , could please suggest for further action .

my configuration 

skywalker X8

altitude 200m

camera: SX260HS

interval: 2sec

Comment by Muhammad Abdul Hadi on April 18, 2014 at 3:40am
Hi Rai, masha Allah nice work, and so near to home, Brunei. I just got in tri rotors myself and looking for a first wing. We, my friend and I, we discussing mapping. Thank you for sharing this. Looking forward to your developments. Best of luck. Insha Allah we will keep track.
Comment by Rai on April 18, 2014 at 10:29am

Hi mr9187,

Thanks lot for your attention and willingness to exchange experiences. We haven't been satisfied as well with the results as we also experienced shaky images [although it's getting less and less in number]. Some thought about these are: (1) appropriate / perfect shutter speed of the camera [we use 1/1200 or 1/1600 at the height of 250 meters and 300 meter], [2] the horizontal speed of your UAV [we flew at 30 and 40 km/h at this moment and it gives a reasonable results for further analysis], (3) the flight altitude [which might correlate with the focal length of your camera's lens]. We set 3 sec - 5 sec of interval between photos.
I would suggest you, as the first step, to slower down the horizontal speed of your X8 and try different shutter speeds until you have the non-shaky images. I really hope that my two cents is helpful.


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