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Forestry - Tree plantation management

3D photomesh and orthomosaic of bluegum tree plantation.

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Small Drone Mapping 101

The Aero Scout shares his experiences with UAV mapping and 3D models.

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Alkimos Beach - 3D Photomesh and Orthomosaic

Alkimos beach aerial survey to produce a 3D photomesh and orthomosaic.

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Chestnut Brae - Farm planning map

Demonstrating how drone imagery can be used as a base for effective farm planning.

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Small Construction Site - 3D Photomesh and Orthomosaic

UAV aerial survey of a construction site to produce a 3D photomesh and orthomosaic.

First flight with APM



First flight of the Skywalker X5 with APM
Today was the big day, the first test flight for the Skywalker X5 with the APM mounted ..... and it all went superbly! I didn't jump in the air once all the tests were complete, but I did let out a loud WOO HOO. Smiling face with open mouth

Firstly I took her up and re-trimmed her in manual, it was a little gusty but got there in the end. Once I was happy with the trims, I tested changing mode to 'stabilise' when I was flying into wind and at altitude. All went fine, there was some difference and she felt like she was definitely tracking a little better. After that I tried 'FBWA' mode and found that one a little un-nerving. The Skywalker X5 is a squirrely thing to fly and when I suddenly didn't have as much control authority as I am used to I got a little scared. Anyway the bank seemed to stop and hold at somewhere around 40 degrees I'd guess and similar with bank, so FBWA seemed to work.


All the gear needed, X5 with APM installed, laptop with Mission Planner, 9XR Tx and backpack
I then bought her in and had a break while Harry and I checked over everything. By this time Stu and Paul arrived at the field so at last I had someone who could monitor the Mission Planner while I flew. I changed the FBWA mode to RTL and took her out for another go. Oh, I made sure a new home point was correctly placed in the Mission Planner and loaded onto the APM.

The launch was a little scary (its ok I was expecting it) as I had just trimmed her for level flight. It was just a slight nose down launch until she got about a foot off the deck then she powered away and climbed just fine.

We went through the first 2 modes again to make sure all was right, and Stu was calling out the G/S, altitude, flight mode etc every so often, all seemed to be working well as what was happening in the air correlated with what was on the laptop screen. The Mission Planner did seem to freeze a few times, but within a few moments came back to life, still not sure what that's about. The time was right so I clicked the RTL (again on and upwind leg and at altitude) and guess what?...... she took herself back over to the position I had marked on the map and started circling! Absolutely exhilarating to watch but again a little un-nerving when you don't have to be hyper focussed on keeping the flying brick airborne. It was only a quick RTL test I didn't have the courage to let it go on for long and shortly after I decided to bring her in, "quit while I am ahead" is exactly what I said to myself!

A massive thank you to David DwgSparky from DIY Drones for all his guidance with setting up and tuning the APM, I really don't think it would have been a success without his help and also to Stu for his expert monitoring.

I'm guessing I'll be doing a few more flights just like this one to get comfortable with the different modes and confident the RTL is going to work correctly and for extended periods of time. This is turning out to be a very exciting adventure.


My trusty co-pilot Harry helping to do pre-flights

Saturday morning flying fun

The Skywalker X5 is still 'in the shop' while I'm setting up the APM and bench testing so no flying for her today. However that didn't stop us heading down to the field for a Saturday morning fly and some family fun.

Paul and Stu 'pre-flighting'

The boyz with one of Paul's AXN Cloudy 's canopy (with chunk out of it)  that has a habit of popping off on launch.
Keeping Poppy the dog well exercised

Stu with his new launching technique
Stu's sticker on Paul's AXN Cloudy
Haz and Max flying Dusty

Indian file on the way out of the flying field



Mounting the APM, config with 9XR and bench testing


APM mounted 270 degrees off Skywalker X5 axis
I installed the APM into my Skywalker X5 a few days ago. There was a little 'faffing' around getting it all to fit the rear bay of the X5, but in the end it seems to fit well. I have it mounted to the airframe on a small plywood board, the APM is stuck to the board using the 'anti-vibration' sticky foam pads.

So this morning I took some time to go through the initial setup of the APM, I found it quite straight forward, although I feel the documentation is still a little 'light on'.

First step was to hook the Rx into the APM. Usually I have throttle on Ch1, elevator Ch2 and Aileron Ch3. However APM needs throttle to be on Ch3 so I had to do a switch around, no big deal but I couldn't find anywhere on the APM Wiki that actually tells the user to do that. Is it common to have throttle on Ch3 and it's just me that is doing it all 'arse about'?

Initial Setup
The latest version of Mission Planner has nice little 'initial setup wizard', once I had my Rx talking to/through the APM I clicked on that button and ran through all 16 steps. I had to calibrate the accelerometer, the compass, the radio, set the flight modes, let it know what extra sensors where installed and more. You'll see a photo of my 9XR and the settings I have for it below, I hope it saves you some time.

The radio calibration proved to be the toughest to get just right ....

Flight Modes
Next I went through and tested the flight modes. For the first test I thought that I'd use manual, stabilise and FBWA modes. If all goes well with them I'll go to mode 'RTL' and then to 'Auto'. Manual mode worked just fine, all inputs were as they have been for the last few weeks. The 'stabilise' mode however was giving me some 'curley' results. The manual inputs (when in this mode) were just fine however the actual stabilisation was completely off ..........

PID's


Failsafe







Fully loaded circuits

Coming in for a landing with the Skywalker X5
Now that I have the Skywalker X5 at it's predicted full weight for UAV work (using ballast) I thought it was time to take her our for some circuits to trim her up and get her dialled in.

The new control rods and connections worked a treat, very responsive and I can definitely notice the difference.

Check out the video below;


Replacing the control rods

The new updated control rods and connections for the Skywalker X5
I have been chatting with David from Air-Vision-Air this last week or so and his biggest tip for setting up the Skywalker X5 well was to replace the control rods!

So I placed my order with HobbyKing, waited a week for it to arrive and today had the time to both switch over the plastic gear servos for new metal ones as well as upgrade the control rods and connections.

I may have gone a little overboard, it all seems to be very heavy duty now compared to what I originally had. That said, geez the control inputs are rock solid now, there is absolutely no 'slop', which is what I had previously. I'm looking forward to taking the X5 out now and seeing the difference.

Thanks David for your advice.


Rock solid control input now, now 'slop' between the servo arm and the elevon control horn

Loading her up

The 'mockup' of the Canon S110 camera I plan t use.
I felt it was time to load the Skywalker X5 up to the final AUW I expect for when she is flying with APM and camera. So today I created a mock camera out of coreflute, the same size and weight as the original and have mounted that in the Skywalker X5. It's AUW is now 1.25kg.

The 'mockup' camera fitted into position ready for test flight.
It was an anxious first launch now that she was an extra 200g heavier. However it didn't seem to make too much of a difference. We had an 8 knot wind from the SE but all went well.

I took her up for a couple of circuits to trim the Skywalker X5 out at the new weight. It didn't really need much at all, I'm guessing because I balanced her correctly before flight. A couple of extra hand launches and landings to check everything was right and I was happy.

One thing I did notice was that the Skywalker X5 was more stable in the air this time, she wasn't being bounced around like before. This extra weight could be a good thing.

The Skywalker X5 was super stable with the new AUW of 1250g
I only took her up for a few quick circuits as I had Harry with me this morning so we had 'other' more important things to do like run around the paddock and explore the creek line!

All up the Skywalker is launching and flying very well with a new AUW of 1250g.

Harry uncharacteristically shy during a photo shoot