UAVenture and Wingcopter Successfully Trial the Hybrid VTOL Mapping System in South Africa

Team members from Wingcopter and UAVenture traveled to a remote location in the north of South Africa to complete training and run mapping trials with the Wingcopter Mapping Package for Smops SA as they prepare to launch their mapping services across Africa.

The Wingcopter Mapping Package consists of a Wingcopter 178 Heavy Lift with a full-frame camera, such as the 42MP Sony a7R II, providing a GSD of 1.3cm and a high accuracy PPK system from Klau Geomatics. In a single flight the Wingcopter 178 Heavy Lift is capable of covering more than 500 hectares with a battery reserve of 30%. It is powered by UAVenture’s AirRails Hybrid VTOL flight control and Ground Control System which provides it with powerful terrain following mapping capabilities.

While previously employed as RPAS pilots by a Mozambican company, Robyn and Jacque, the co-owners of Smops SA, carried out extreme mapping jobs in very remote and poorly accessible locations with a conventional flying wing mapping system.

Robyn explained that “Fixed-wing drones perform adequately in completing large mapping missions, takeoffs and landings have proven to be hazardous due to the fact that small clearings or rocky areas are the only option available. The results were often catastrophic and the lifetime of these drones were limited, requiring frequent and expensive repairs. As a result they began looking towards vertical takeoff solutions that still brought extended flight times with moderate cruise speeds.

With the acquisition of the Wingcopter 178 Heavy Lift, Robyn and Jacque are now able to achieve automated vertical takeoffs and landings with as little as 5 – 10 meters clearance and safely transition to forwards flight. Stress free and with zero damage.

Due to the multi-kilo payload capacity of the Wingcopter they are able to carry a larger high quality camera (Sony a7R II) and acquire very high-resolution images with centimeter precision using an onboard PPK system. Their future-proof Wingcopter 178 Heavy Lift allows Robyn and Jacque to start surveying today with the option to upgrade to a 4kg LiDAR system when required.

The AirRails Ground Control Station complements Wingcopter’s AirRails autopilot, by providing a tightly integrated and highly intuitive process for creating sophisticated terrain adjusted surveys in a few simple steps. In addition to time and distance based camera triggering there is an option to automatically pause triggering during turns which excludes all unnecessary photos. This reduces both the processing preparation effort as well as the final processing time.

Once uploaded to the Wingcopter, starting the mission is as easy as the press of a button. Transitions from multicopter mode for vertical takeoff to fixed wing flight and back are fully autonomous, as is the rest of the mission, and the Wingcopter’s progress can be followed in real-time in 3D on the Ground Control Station tablet. Camera trigger counts and ground coverage estimates from each photo taken are shown on the map in real-time.

During the training period, Robyn and Jacque were able to complete the mapping mission and obtained high quality imagery, resulting in an impressive orthomosaic of the expansive rural property. Wingcopter and AirRails are ready to deliver a Hybrid VTOL solution to solve your challenging mapping needs.

Smops SA is a newly registered company run by two South African women who will commence commercial operations as soon as their RPAS Operators Certificate has been approved. For more information see their company profile, or contact them at or

For further details on the Wingcopter Mapping Package contact or visit the Wingcopter website.

To learn more about AirRails and how it can power your Hybrid VTOL product contact or visit the UAVenture website.

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