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Ask Slashdot: Is a Home Drone Feasible? 274

dargaud writes "I live in an alpine setting and I'd like to be able to remotely view various remote valleys to check for ice formations for winter climbing. I wonder if there are cheap drones that could do that. Requirements would be: GPS guided on a preset route (no remote control necessary, and anyway there's no line of sight), at least 20km autonomy, 1 or 2 cameras on the sides to record valley walls, easy launching and autonomous landing (parachute?) at predefined point, ground detection to avoid crashes (if preset route is wrong or GPS echoes on valley walls as is often the case). Is there anything commercially available cheap enough, or any DIY that doesn't require a year of assembly?"
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Ask Slashdot: Is a Home Drone Feasible?

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  • DIY VS. Time (Score:5, Informative)

    by Osgeld ( 1900440 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @12:05AM (#39568473)

    Totally depends on your skill levels in meshing the brains together and fabrication. There is not enough information in your post to determine either, but based on the tone I am getting your best bet is money, and for the features you want with the durability just to survive the terrain while carrying a small load, it aint going to be cheap.

    Off the top of my head maybe model aircraft with telepresence would be the best mix.

    • by rHBa ( 976986 )
      I don't think autonomous is the best solution here. If you want to get useful footage of iced up waterfalls or to study the state of a glacier you'll want to adjust the flight path manually (as you don't know what's worth looking at until you get there).

      I'd suggest an RC motor/sailplane with a video hook-up. Aircraft like these have covered 90+ mile round trips climbing up to 9,000ft and easily have a 'distance from control' range of 15 miles (although in the UK there are legal issues further than 2 miles
  • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @12:06AM (#39568477)
    Dont see why it wouldn't be possible using Parallax Basic Stamp or another embedded controller that supports a serial GPS receiver. The platform itself may take a little fiddling as you would want something more stable then your standard RC helicopter. Something with coaxial counter rotating blade system or multiple sets of blades.
    • by Kenja ( 541830 )
      Something like this... []
      • by guises ( 2423402 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @12:24AM (#39568573)
        I don't think there are any quadrotors that have the kind of range he's asking for.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          Right, it would have to be a fixed wing, quite heavy to carry enough fuel, long range radio with regulatory problems, just for starters. My advice would be, stick to the playground just for now.

          • Radio should only be required if he wants live views/interaction. The whole thing could be engineered to be
            autonomous. Ditching policy will be a problem if it is going to fly in a populated area.

            I guess mountains will have high airflow so anything lighter than air or rotating wing is invalid.
            A large size (1m wingspan) RC airplane could be a starting point. Autonomous flight will mean that initially fuel will become an
            issue because engine management is quite complex to do (while keeping the thing flying unde

            • The problem with large RC aircraft is that they are large enough to cause serious injury. Letting a small autonomous flying bomb fly off by itself into the great unknown... maybe if you could find a completely unpopulated area with no danger of forest fire, otherwise think liability.

        • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @05:06AM (#39569521)
          I was rather encouraged to see other people following my own earlier train of thought. 20km puts a quadrotor out of the running, even if wind velocity did not.

          Also, for mountainous terrain, you would not want a glider-style wing plan. A flatter, more slippery design such as used for "slope soarers" would seem to fit the bill most appropriately. For the kind of fuel capacity needed, I will make a rough guess and say you would probably want something in the 1.5 meter wingspan range. X-country flight competitions in the 2-meter range have been around for years.

          The big obstacle here is the control of flight dynamics. There is plenty of open-source software out there for quadrotors, but I don't know about fixed-wings. I have seen some very expensive navigation implementations in the industry rags, but I suspect that if DIYers can do a quadrotor, they can do a fixed-wing as well. I suspect the main issue is that you need to make your craft steer toward the programmed flightline, more aggressively the larger the deviation, with buffering and without exceeding the design requirements of the craft. That last part is probably the trickiest.

          If this is really mountainous country then you probably need very accurate, 3-axis GPS (for altitude), or some kind of ground-sensing scheme to keep from running into a hillside. I suspect the more sophisticated GPS is probably the way to go. But that also requires carefully planned routes. You will want to stay away from hillsides, preferably routing it straight along the valleys between mountains or mountain ridges.

          The equipment is out there. Modern liquid fuel model engines are definitely available in any size you may want. They even make radial
          And finally: autonomous navigation via GPS is already out in small drones that are on the market, but they probably aren't in your price range. Not that they could not be... I think the current commercial builders are taking advantage of the topic's fledgeling status to gouge people.

          So what that all leads me to is, I would:

          (1) consider a fixed-wing plane in the 1.5m to 2m wingspan range.

          (2) Make sure it's a style and plan that can accommodate an engine large enough to make the range you are talking about. Keep in mind that you are working against the law of diminishing returns to a certain degree: the larger the engine you put on, the more fuel you will need for it, which requires a larger engine, which requires more fuel. In practice, there are solutions to such things, but I suggest always getting an engine that is at least a little more powerful than you think you'll need. Not a lot, but some. Otherwise you will end up with a sudden gust of wind slamming it against a hillside.

          Also, what I call the "Land Cruiser" effect can occur: if it is underpowered, the engine will struggle too hard to perform the way you want and thus use more fuel than an engine designed with that torque and rpm in the center of its range. (I hereby officially christen this effect after the old-school Toyota Land Cruiser, which had a huge 6-cylinder engine that struggled to do things that were well within the design parameters of the rest of the vehicle. But with a 3rd-party kit, the stock 6-cylinder could be replaced with a V-8 of close to the same displacement, which was not only physically smaller than the original, but actually had quite a bit more horsepower and ALSO got significantly better gas mileage. It was a win-win. The original Toyota engine was designed such that common U.S. off-road scenarios were at the fringes of its performance curve, rather than the middle where it was most efficient.)

          (3) You don't want realtime telemetry at a 20km range. That would be (a) way too heavy, and (b) too expensive. Instead, you will want your on-board cameras to record the video to storage for retrieval and viewing later. And there are ways to overlay not just the clock on the video, but on-board sensor readouts, as well.

          So y
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by entropi ( 2933 )

        Quadcopters and the like are generally fairly limited on flight time..10-20 min generally from what I've read. For your range, you might want to go with a air wing/rc plane..but diydrones would still be a good place to get up to speed on the capabilities.

    • The problem with coaxial rotor helis in the hobbyist market is that they're all fixed-pitch blade - so are completely useless for outdoor operation in even a light breeze. Although they're still fixed-pitch, quadcopters are much better at doing this. e.g.:

      Horizon Hobby Blade mQX Micro Quad-Copter with AS3X RTF & BNF Review []

  • ArduPilot (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mindscrew ( 1861410 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @12:14AM (#39568507)
    Have you heard of this? []
  • diydrones (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @12:18AM (#39568535)

    or for other options

  • Your not going to get anything pre-built ready to fly cheap (thousands of dollars), but if you build your own with arduino from a site like [], it becomes a lot more feasible (just choose an rc vehicle and follow the guide).
    • Kind of.

      You can buy a ready made cheap R/C plane and a ready made Ardupilot.

      You have to mount the ardupilot somewhere inside the fuselage, plug in the GPS unit, then plug in the servo receiver and motors.

      It's not 100% completely ready made but it will resquire basically not tooling to assemble.

      I believe that they even have a list of suitable planes somewhere.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    But here is the FAA's take on it...

    • A fair point: it's one thing to get the legislature of California to entertain self-driving cars. Getting the FAA to bless self-flying planes will be a harder nut to crack.
  • by Bananatree3 ( 872975 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @12:25AM (#39568579)
    It sounds like a straight-up cash purchase of a "turn-key drone" is your ticket. Otherwise, I'd recommend some kind of "DIY framework" - a drone platform that's taken care of the aerodynamics, controls and fuel tank and radio controls for you. Then you just tweak it to match your exact need.

    My advice: whether, you DIY it or buy it outright.... don't skimp. Walk into this knowing you're probably going to spend twice as much as your initial estimate, if you can budget it. A semi-autonomous LONG RANGE drone is NOT cheap. A 20km bare minimum range puts this project into a semi-professional to professional level. Most "hobbiest" drone projects or commercial products couldn't even spit at the kind of quality and scale needed to perform such a task.

    If you decide to buy something... look at commercial surveying drones. They have the range, the quality and the sophisticated integration already taken care of for you.

    Do your homework upfront, buy it right the first time, take care of it and maintain it properly and it will give you YEARS of little or no issue service.
    • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @12:38AM (#39568643) Journal

      Do your homework upfront, buy it right the first time, take care of it and maintain it properly and it will give you YEARS of little or no issue service.

      Oh, these must be the words of someone who is currently maintaining someone else's piece of crap.

    • by Kozz ( 7764 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @12:42AM (#39568661)

      I noticed that the person asking the question did not include any information to suggest what country (or even continent) they reside in. But let's assume he's in the continental US so we've got something to talk about (and just to piss off the whiners who complain every time this is assumed).

      What kinds of US laws are applicable for a "drone"? I thought the laws were basically the same as radio-controlled plans: under 1000ft, line of sight. Anything beyond that, and wouldn't you have to get some kind of commercial license, submit flight plans, or anything else?

      I don't actually know anything about this stuff, but I did listen to a podcast recently. That makes me an expert on the internet, right?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Pretty much yea, 1000 ft, line of sight.... which is going to be impossible for this purpose.

        There are ways around those rules... you can get exceptions from the FAA for stuff like this, but its not going to be cheap & you'd better have a reason more substantial than "i think it would be fun to do".

      • by martin-boundary ( 547041 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @02:08AM (#39568951)

        But let's assume he's in the continental US so we've got something to talk about (and just to piss off the whiners who complain every time this is assumed).

        Agreed. Let's also assume he lives in Minnesota, because he mentioned the alpine countryside, which suggests he's got Norwegian ancestry from the great mountains of Central Europe.

      • by dargaud ( 518470 )
        Well, I'm in France and have no idea of the legality of unmanned flying here. Anyway, a discussion centererd on the US is fine as once I know what the pitholes are, I can transpose to a different country with some research.
        • by phayes ( 202222 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @04:48AM (#39569475) Homepage

          There was a discussion that came up on /. about a year ago when a guy from Switzerland took his flying wing that sent back a "pilot's eye view" back. He had some very impressive videos that showed his wing flying nap of the earth around the Alps & even a trip to NYC buzzing around the Statue of Liberty (& NOT getting hassled for it which surprised many).

          One thing that came up is that there are indeed limitations on Line of Sight just about everywhere & France even outlaws piloting using pilot's eye view without a pilot's license (no surprise there - In France, you pretty much need a license to do anything).

      • I noticed that the person asking the question did not include any information to suggest what country (or even continent) they reside in. But let's assume he's in the continental US so we've got something to talk about

        What if he's in Afghanistan, and the remote valleys he wishes to climb are to smuggle heroin and guns across the border? Or maybe to spy on foreign troop movements? Surely this would give us even more to talk about :)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There's plenty of projects around that will do what you're after. An ArduPilot in a plane should do all that, although you'll likely have to land and take off under manual control. A hobby helicopter/quadcopter drone will have trouble with the range (20km is a fair way to travel, and i assume it's not a straight path). Sensors can deal with things like terrain avoidance and calculation of true altitude versus barometer altitude (to help prevent controlled flight into terrain).

    But you need to clarify. Ju

  • here you go (Score:4, Informative)

    by way2trivial ( 601132 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @12:35AM (#39568631) Homepage Journal []
    10km range

    only 50k

    (this should tell you are way outta budget line)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @12:36AM (#39568633)

    You can only fly them as if they were R/C aircraft, which means line-of-sight only and you must have a link to the ground. There are also ceilings and rules about keeping them away from buildings, people, and especially aircraft.

    The quadrotors that you see people putting cameras on are not UAVs, they are just remote controlled and someone on the ground is flying them in real-time. The FAA is moving very slowly on approving any sort of UAV flights (public or civil) although they are being forced by Congress to finally issue rules about how they might go about approving civil UAVs. Otherwise, right now UAVs can only be flown by the government, government contractors, universities, or in military airspace.

    There are no commercial options that a private citizen can buy, and the DIY options will require lots of work. This is an area of active research in the robotics community, and implementing any one of the features you mentioned would probably be sufficient to get you a Ph.D. right now.

  • Looking expensive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @12:38AM (#39568641) Homepage Journal

    The 20 km range excludes cheap electric model aircraft. Also your location requires something with a lot of excess power, due to the disturbed air over mountains.

    • by dargaud ( 518470 )
      In winter usually the air is pretty calm. Anyway the requirement wouldn't be to fly in _any_ conditions, just when it's best to do a recon. Anyway, I see plenty of good suggestions so far. Thanks all.
      • In winter usually the air is pretty calm.

        Not calm enough. Air which feels still to you can be moving at ten knots. When that ten knot flow goes over the top of a mountain it generates ten knots of sink. Good light aircraft climb at ten knots and regularly crash in the mountains. Normal model aircraft might climb at two knots, and that is without cameras and communications gear. Good luck!

    • The 20 km range excludes cheap electric model aircraft. Also your location requires something with a lot of excess power, due to the disturbed air over mountains.

      Small off-the-shelf quadropters depend on electric motors to control the speed of the rotors, so it's not trivial to drive the rotors directly off an infernal combustion engine. But you could have a small infernal combustion engine driving an alternator or dynamo, generating electricity for the rotors and control system. This would give extended range. Of course, you'd need to build it extremely light if an off-the-shelf quadroptor is going to be able to carry it, but using a model aircraft engine and a bic

      • The problem with the idea of using a series hybrid is the weight of the generator which is essentially wasted. If it could be built directly into the motor then you might have something, but I haven't seen anyone do that yet. Would be nice to have a microturbine that would do it. Then you could vector the microturbine for additional thrust with some servos and still generate electricity to run props to do the steering and so on.

      • "inTernal" combustion engine. "infernal" had me chuckling at this as I was reading.

    • by Fri13 ( 963421 )

      Does not..... As you do not need lots of electricity at all to fly over 100km ranges.

      Example of JÄMI model what is just about 50 euros have done records (what I know) of 115km range and it has just 107cm wing span.

      There are lots bigger ones like OH 2000 what has 178cm wing span and is capable to carry few hundred grams easily.
      So you can actually get a GPS, 3G, few cameras, auto control module, batteries and servos to that weight. And if neede, you can adjust the model to have even wider wing span if ne

    • by gbr ( 31010 )
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Helicopter avionics is my trade. I also fly stunt rc heli's for fun.

    Just of the top of my head, Your Alpine conditions are pretty much the most unfavorable to your expectations of cheap/simple/all in 1
    - I expect the winds could knock you out. Only powerful collective pitch heli can handle winds, ie not quadrotors (fixed pitch)
    - Heli's do not like high altitudes
    - Li ion batteries do not like cold
    - If you crash, im guessing its gone for good in the snow. im not aware of any consumer drones have tracking yet.

  • by gizmo_mathboy ( 43426 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @12:49AM (#39568691)

    An interesting part of the DIY Drones stuff. []

    Winds might be sort of a problem.

    I wonder how easy it would be to make a DIY drone using a powered paraglider.

    Well, it does look like it has been asked: []


  • by gavron ( 1300111 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @01:01AM (#39568735)

    This post belonged on 2012-04-01.

    There's nothing on Earth that can do what you want.
    Your requirements are self-defeating.

    I'm a helicopter pilot.
    I own 10 R/C helis.
    I've flown UAVs.
    I only own two R/C fixed-wing aircraft.
    One has one camera on it.

    Weight is everything. You want a 20Km range and
    2 high-def cameras. Those things fly at 160Km/H max.
    You're talking 15 minutes "there" and back. Not going to happen today.

    *puff the magic dragon*


    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This post belonged on 2012-04-01.

      There's nothing on Earth that can do what you want.
      Your requirements are self-defeating.

      I'm a helicopter pilot.
      I own 10 R/C helis.
      I've flown UAVs.
      I only own two R/C fixed-wing aircraft.
      One has one camera on it.

      Weight is everything. You want a 20Km range and
      2 high-def cameras. Those things fly at 160Km/H max.
      You're talking 15 minutes "there" and back. Not going to happen today.

      *puff the magic dragon*

      I'll just leave this here

      • by gavron ( 1300111 )

        Yes leave it there. No two cameras. No self-maneuvering. No GPS. No valley winds. The problem with the specs is you can meet one or more of them... but to meet ALL OF THEM at a low cost? Never.


        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Actually, that is Trappy's world record run, so:

          It had 2 cameras (A GoPro and a low res security cam).
          It has a GPS, return to home (self maneuvering), and a transmitter to send a live video signal back to someone on the ground
          He flys in a valley between two mountains. And can handle moderate wind.

          Total cost is less than $2000 on the plane, maybe $3000 counting ground equip.
          Of course, that is a world record... not an easy thing to duplicate. But the main difficulty is in the "live video signal back to the gr

          • by dargaud ( 518470 )
            Thanks. Since I don't have an RC background, at least it gives me an idea of what I'm up against, and if not doable now, what needs to improve before it is.

            Looks like ground avoidance would be the harder to match, so let's drop it and just have it fly higher. Then the autonomy, OK, let's do something closer. As for the remote control, I was thinking of leaving that out entirely for several reasons: lack of line of sight, no need to learn to fly, no need for $$$ ground equipment, saves weight on the plane (

  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @01:03AM (#39568747)

    Just program your household robot to control your flying car.

  • Short Answer: No (Score:5, Informative)

    by introcept ( 1381101 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @01:07AM (#39568763)

    I'm in the middle of writing my EE thesis is on embedded control systems for UAVs and this is as good a distraction as any, so here goes:
    The kind of specs you're talking about you'd be lucky to get for high-end military and commercial (mini) drones. You'll either be spending tens(hundreds?) of thousands on an off the shelf model or a lot of time developing, testing, crashing and fixing your DIY solution. There are hundreds of DIY drones on the net but I doubt any of them have the kind of reliable autonomy you're talking about.

    Autonomy is especially difficult, you'll need to learn a lot of control theory, kinematics, Navigation/AI and possibly computer vision. Then rememeber that you need to fuse sensor data from gyroscopes, acceleromters, GPS, compass, altitude and airspeed sensors, and that all of these sensors are unreliable/error prone. You need to be able to deal with loss of GPS link which means you need to have an alternate means of localisation(which is very difficult). Also, every commercial system I've seen requires an always on downlink and manned base-station for control, even if this isn't technically necessary, it's pretty much mandatory for safety.

    Making an autonomous UAV only makes sense as a learning exercise or for R&D but it's not a good way to get any work done. If your goal is to get aerial photos, stick a camera on an RC plane, get some video goggles, a long range radio and some flying lessons.

    • If I'm not mistaken, your basic iPhone has most of this built in. It's aware of its orientation and location, and it has a camera. Speed could be dealt with in a variety of simple ways, and avoidance problems minimized. He's talking about a pre-planned route, after all. And given a smart phone's "self-awareness" I wonder whether some kind of very primitive intertial guidance would work.

      It wouldn't be foolproof, but it seems to me that cheap and "expendible with regret" trumps building a poor man's cr

      • by koehn ( 575405 ) *

        The MEMS gyros in an iPhone are worthless for this kind of application. Various people have tried to use them for emergency attitude indicators etc in small planes and they simply don't have the stability required. The GPS is nowhere near accurate enough for altitude: you need WAAS (which isn't available in all parts of the world) or LAAS (which you'd need to build yourself). The accelerometers are also not up to any kind of inertial guidance task: it's not what they're built for. iPhones have an amazing ar

        • I would tend to agree - the iPhone (and most good android phones) have cool gadgets, but I would not rely on them for something like this. Altitude is much easier to accomplish with a static pressure sensor. HP Rocket folks have several sensors that might be useful. Featherweight Altimeters carries a model that is only a couple dozen grams that has a two axis accelerometer and barometer altimeter that's good to a couple of feet. It has temporary and latched relay outputs (good for about 30W and 10W respect

      • If I'm not mistaken, your basic iPhone has most of this built in. It's aware of its orientation and location, and it has a camera. Speed could be dealt with in a variety of simple ways, and avoidance problems minimized.

        One of my labmates did exactly this, on Android, for a project involving (IIRC) the Air Force (He flew the resulting drone at a nearby airbase, at least). The thing worked; he controlled it by sending text messages.

    • by jamesh ( 87723 )

      You need to be able to deal with loss of GPS link which means you need to have an alternate means of localisation(which is very difficult).

      But very important unless you want to end up with it captured by Iran and have them claim you were spying on them.

  • I recommend you FPV and I find it more fun than the drone. There are many ready to fly solutions for cheap. Here is the link to the proper forums RcGroups [] []
  • by mpoulton ( 689851 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @01:15AM (#39568787)
    For around $1500, you could have a radio controlled aircraft with one or more video links that can fly reliably over that kind of range. The price goes down to under $1000 if you can deal with shorter range. Basic autopilot functions (wing leveling and heading-hold) can be integrated for not much additional cost. All of this has been done before by many RC aircraft hobbyists, and flying by video is easier than flying by line of sight. However, you still have to fly the aircraft and it is not autonomous. Aircraft autonomy of the type you are requesting is very challenging and not available off-the-shelf. The cost and complexity required to achieve it will probably not be worthwhile for your application.
  • by element-o.p. ( 939033 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @01:31AM (#39568847) Homepage
    DISCLAIMER: IANAL, so this is not legal advice.

    Having said that, I am rather interested in DIY drones, and therefore, I have been following technical and legal aspects of amateur drones/UAVs/UAS' for a couple of years. I don't see any *technical* reason why what you want to do isn't possible. However, if you live in the USA, I don't believe what you want to do is legal. As I understand, the FAA requires amateur operated drones to be under line-of-site control at all times. Here are some links to help you figure out the legal restrictions for what you want to do:

    DIY Drones Regulatory FAQ []
    FAA Advisory Circular 91-57 []
    Electronic Code of Federal Regulations []

    • by Lando ( 9348 )

      I'll second this. Autonomous aircraft need a license from the FAA I believe and I don't believe they had them out to civilians. So the legal requirements are going to be harder to meet than the engineering requirements. Start by researching those requirements first I would say. The earlier post for is probably the place to start.

  • Not legal to fly (Score:4, Informative)

    by erice ( 13380 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @01:38AM (#39568863) Homepage

    The lack of line of sight is the killer. From one of many articles on the subject: FAA regulations developed in the 1970s to cover the amateur use of radio-controlled planes, which also apply to today's DIY drones. Those rules include restricting their altitude to 400 feet (120 meter), requiring them to always be in view of their controller on the ground and prohibiting them from being flown over built-up areas. []

    You could ask for a specific waiver. That is how researchers have been able to fly their drones. I am skeptical though that the FAA would be willing to issue a waiver for something is just a hobby.

  • It has to have a small missile for avalanche control at least, if not alien invasion counter insurgency!
  • This might not be a bookmark.
  • As a GA pilot (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Wednesday April 04, 2012 @04:13AM (#39569367) Journal

    As a general aviation pilot, who has had occasion to do mountain flying, please for the love of dog don't do it unless it has "sense and avoid" mechanisms you're positive work well. You can't rely on GA aircraft having transponders, either, in remote areas often they don't. It's all about see-and-avoid. So your drone needs to see-and-avoid too.

    I've almost had a mid-air collision with an RC aircraft flying where it shouldn't have been. Small RC size aircraft are hard to see from a full size aircraft, even a slow one like mine (115 mph on a good day). In the case of the RC aircraft, I think the aircraft was deliberately flown at us (we were a formation of 2 aircraft, so perfectly visible - it actually flew between us going the opposite direction).

    If you want to check out stuff from the air, then learn to fly and do it as pilot in command of an actual aircraft. Yes, it's expensive, but a PPL will probably cost the same to do as building a drone with the capabilities you need, and it opens up a whole lot of other fun, too.

    I also fly RC helicopters and fixed wing, so it's not like I'm some grumpy GA pilot who hates RC.

  • I own a few acres of wooded land and if i could buy a mini helicopter with a downward & forward facing camera (45 degrees) to keep an eye on my land from inside my home at my computer would be great! i would be willing to pay a few hundred for a system like that
  • Sounds difficult so maybe a different solution might work - say a tethered weather balloon to get high enough and some reasonably high spec cameras. Could probably at least get a good idea of conditions, even if there are a few line of sight type issues. Quick google indicates you can get ~ 1kg payload for $100 or so.
  • the requirement in the FA solutionised into some sort of airborn system. The actual requirement seems to be to get up to date pictures of various conditions up in the mountains from multiple locations without the need to travel there. My solution would be to setup a load of automated cameras at key locations and get them to send you a picture at intervals.

    I use cheapo chinese imported eBay "Little Acorn" cameras on my mountain bike trails. They are attached to trees and some of them have a SIM card in the

  • Do you guys still remember the "ask Slashdot with a sponsor" idea introduced some months ago? For one time there was a SourceForge dude commenting as a sidekick, but after that it seems to be ditched. Well, whatever.

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