Greg's Mapping UAVs


For aerial mapping, UAVs made from R/C planes and drones are perfect. Repeatable, accurate flight makes them an ideal platform for near-ground mapping. The combination of today's high resolution cameras and inexpensive flying devices enables mapping at levels of detail never before imagined even for the hobbyist.

Here are some of my Mapping UAVs (circa 2018-2020)

MakeFlyEasy Freeman  

The MFE Freeman comes in 2100mm and 2300mm wingspans. It is basically a redesigned MFE Believer for VTOL. The wings and tail easy snap into the fuselage and the quad arms fold at 90 degrees angles so the rather large plane, which is designed for VTOL take-offs and mapping, can easily fit in the included portable bag. The Freeman is a well designed mapping UAV and flies great!

The fuselage bottom is designed for a Sony NEX camera but can be adapted to other cameras like my Cannon S100. The top and bottom decals provide better visibility and orientation in the sky when flying manually.

For more information on the Freeman VTOL Mapping Plane, visit the APM thread here

MyFlyDream Nimbus VTOL  

The MFD Nimbus 1800 comes comes as an 1800mm wingspans twin-motor plane. After converting it to a VTOL and adding some landing gear, it evolves into an excellent low-cost mapping UAV. Like the Freeman above, the wings and tail easy snap into the fuselage. However, the quad arms do not fold so the wings are more awkward to carry.

The removeable nose allows for easy battery swapping and an added video camera up front. The Air Speed sensor is also installed in the nose. My FrSky Horus transmitter using the Yaapu telemetry which displays the APM telemetry from the plane as well as the plane position at the flying field.

For more information on the Nimbus VTOL Mapping Plane, visit the APM thread here
For more information on the Yaapu/FrSky telemetry screens, visit the APM thread here


Volantex Ranger EX  

The Volantex Ranger EX 2-meter airplane is specially designed for Long Range FPV. It is quick and very easy to setup.

The Ranger EX is large enough to hold two cameras so I mount a GoPro H3 with a 3-axis gimbal under the nose and my S100 mapping camera under the belly.

For more information on the Ranger EX Mapping Plane, visit the RC Groups thread here


FireFLY6 VTOL Wing: (circa 2015-2017) 

The FireFLY6 is a VTOL wing designed by BirdsEyeView Aerobotics. It uses a Y6 power system configuration, hence the name, FireFLY6. Although it can use many different controllers, it was recently redesigned for Advanced Vtol Automation or AvA. Using a single Pixhawk controller for both hover and forward flight modes, this design is fully autonomous and can be programmed for missions using the on-board GPS system.


My FireFLY6 uses a Pixhawk controller and M8N GPS module that receives both U.S. and Russian satellites. The RDF900 telemetry link operates up to 25 miles. The R/C system is a 2.4GHz. FrSky Taranis transmitter and 16-channel X8R receiver. The customized Mission Planner (right image below) shows a GPS lock in my backyard for hover testing.

I mounted a Cannon S100 camera for mapping which uses CHDK for trigger control. This allows either the Pixhawk to control when the photos are taken or it can use a programmable timer set to a few seconds.

For more information on the FireFLY6 VTOL Mapping Plane, visit the RC Groups thread here

FireFLY6 Mapping Test 1 from Gregory Covey on Vimeo.


An easy technique for dropping altitude can be seen in the video below. It uses Loiter circles (waypoint 24) to gently glide down to a lower altitude for a transition and copter landing. The images above are from the mapping flight plan in the video. Also note that the rows can be skipped to allow for easier turns by the vehicle. Waypoint 23 is directly behind waypoint 24.

FireFLY6 Mapping Survey 2/a> from Gregory Covey on Vimeo.