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Air superiority

I’ve just been reading that the government is looking at putting restrictions on model aircraft. I suspect they are worried about us building our own air force although with the current state of military funding they are probably looking at buying the kit themselves as an upgrade path.

Anyway it reminded me of a project I worked on a long time ago, before the UAV drones appeared we were working on using model aircraft for surveillance purposes. The limitation back then was the weight of the camera and the video transmission gear. It didn’t work out and we lost quite a sum on the electronics that were damaged in the evaluations. If only we had persevered but such is life.

Now of course, we have much smaller cameras, transmission gear is also smaller and more powerful and the flight controls for the aircraft itself have improved significantly. So much so that anyone should be able to build their own drones for surveillance without breaking the bank. Using these could give you an edge after an event in defending your retreat.

Imagine being able to gain real time information on enemy movement. Watch where they are attacking, their disposition, tactics, entry points and their weapons. Knowing this you can defend yourself better and prepare. Your eyes in the sky will give you vital real time intelligence.

All this from a ready built lifting platform, plane or helicopter, some modern video electronics and a real time video transmitter and receiver. The tools and equipment have been out for some time now and kids are able to build and fly these units out of the box. You can too. Fitting the equipment though will be more complicated but not beyond the skills of a handyman or modeller and the hardest part, flying the model is handled by the flight control computer now.

Model aircraft, including helicopter, engines though, like car engines are still primarily simple engines. The difference are they tend to be single cylinder, two stroke and they are small, only a few cc. Unshielded though they make a racket out of all proportion to their size. Electric engines can be bought now but the flight time depends on the batteries. Storage for fuel is smaller, the fuel weight reduces in flight and you can always glide it home when the fuel runs out, batteries weigh the same charged or not and when they run out you can also lose control unless you isolate the controls from the engine. Silence vs duration. How to choose?

Well in my view if you have more than one unit go silent, you can always put another up when that one runs out. Your launch and landing areas are compromised by the noise of the fuel engines. You can also charge your fuel supply via various methods. Silence is also your friend. On the other hand refuelling is quicker with fuel and the engines and fuel allow larger payloads.

Finally, consider that it is not too complicated to arm your aircraft either. Many model aircraft are bomb capable and demonstrate this at model aircraft shows. I watched one, with 4 large engines that looked like you could fit a person in it take off and dropped flour bombs several times in the 15 minutes flight time all within a few feet of a target. It wouldn’t be too difficult to arm one with real explosives.

This could be a nice project to tide you through the summer if you have the time and the funds. Although inexpensive compared to when we tried it the equipment is not cheap.

I was looking at doing something like this as a project but it seems they are now available commercially. So I’ll look at one of those instead and find another project.

8 comments to Air superiority

  • moosedog

    This isn’t cheap, and I don’t know how covert it would be in use, but this looks like serious fun!

  • Skean Dhude


    That looks like what we want in one package. The WiFI though limits the range to 50M though. Although that would be a massive assett after an event.

    I’ll wait for the Android version though.

  • Skvez

    Monitoring from the air is great if you’re *moving* (such as attacking someone else’s stronghold) but for static defence I don’t see the point. I think passive IR (like a burglar alarm) and fixed cameras wired back to a central monitoring position are much better.
    They don’t require fuel to work (other than electricity) and will last much longer.
    I think given the effort required to keep a plane in the air it’s unlikely it will be up there when you need it for defence.

  • Skean Dhude


    I agree with your stance on static defences. It is on the list but the point of mobile surveillance is it covers any routes that are difficult to monitor, say for animals, it also can alert you if your sensors have been bypassed.

    It is not the solution but an add on to a total system. The ground wired sensors should be your primary source.

  • half

    Dronepedia: A place to compile knowledge on the design, building, and usage of civilian unmanned aerial vehicles. From simple RC gliders and indoor helicopter toys to sophisticated survey equipment….

  • Skean Dhude


    Thanks for that.

    Look and ye shall find. More true on the Internet than anywhere else.

  • mike69

    there ws a report that the taliban were using radio control transmitters to detonate ied’s and you could effectivly make your own steerable anti aircraft aircraft if you know what I mean. After all a model aircraft flown into a ploice helicoptor roters would no doubt bring it down very quickly as they’re quite delicate things helicoptors…

  • Skean Dhude


    A model plan is awkward to aim in that manner plus it would easily be destroyed by a helicopter. They are not that delicate. Those blades would slice through it no problem. You would need to use explosives as well.

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