While we’re seeing an increasing amount of aerial mapping being performed by purpose-built drone aircraft, a lot of people are no doubt still leery of remotely-piloting what is essentially a little airplane. With such people in mind, Canada’s Aeromao has recently released its Aeromapper X5. The drone is launched by hand, flies and takes photos autonomously, then parachutes back down to the ground.
The Aeromapper is a modified version of the already-available Skywalker X5 Flying Wing, a remote-control foam-bodied UAV. Designed for FPV (First Person View) flight, the Skywalker has a built-in “cargo bay” of sorts, for the installation of a user-supplied camera.
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Aeromao has taken that UAV and added features such as carbon fiber reinforcement rods, an Ardupilot Mega 2.6 autopilot, an air-to-ground telemetry system, a landing parachute, and a ground-facing 24-megapixel Sony NEX 7 camera with a pancake lens.
After programming in the coordinates of the geographical area that they wish to map, users just start the Aeromapper up and throw it into the air. It proceeds to fly in a grid pattern over the area, snapping geo-tagged shots at regular intervals as it goes. When the job is done, the plane returns to its take-off point, at which point its engine cuts out and the chute is deployed. During take-off and landing, the camera is protected by a door in the belly of the aircraft, that opens only while mapping is taking place.
The Aeromapper has a wingspan of 1.18 meters (46.5 in), weighs 1.4 kg (3 lb), and has a maximum cruising speed of 50 km/h (31 mph). One charge of its four 2,200-mAh batteries should be good for 25 to 30 minutes of flight. It can fly in winds blowing at up to 35 km/h (22 mph), and has an autonomous-mode range of 20 km (12 miles) – it can also be manually operated by radio control, but at a shorter range.
It’s an impressive little beast, although one that isn’t aimed at the casual hobbyist – a complete Aeromapper X5 package is priced at 4,700 CAD (about US$4,576).
The drone can be seen in action in the video below.