The Epitome of Non-Issues: Stay Solo, or go Anafi?

The Budgetary And Oversight Committee has deemed it acceptable for me to allocate a certain amount of funds towards sUAS equipment this budget cycle. The Committee has also allowed the applicant to keep the existing tools if purchasing new tools, but the applicant feels it is best to sell the existing tools to help offset the cost of any new tools.

My current setup:
3DR Solo
3DR Gimbal
GoPro Hero4 Black
6x OEM 3DR Batteries [Sketchy batteries at this age]
1x mRO Prototype Solo M9N GPS Upgrade with PPK-Enabled firmware

What I would need to get flying more with the above is aftermarket 10500mAh Li-Ion batteries + Li-Ion BMS by Jon Botherton and MadHacker, getting me about 22min/pack of flight with the full camera payload at the price of about $200 for battery+BMS.

I’m not sure how familiar people are with the Solo and it’s backpack, but this thing is absolutely massive. Just… Massive. So, I don’t often take it around with me.

My potential setup:
Parrot Anafi FPV

This comes with everything I need to get flying, and is a very small backpack (camera-bag sized) and the Anafi itself weighs less than a Solo’s battery alone, is pretty much silent, has a really nice camera, and is overall just a really competent platform.

What I am potentially missing:
I adore ArduPilot and the Solo. The openness, the control, the transparency of everything. The fact that 6 years on I can still reliably fly and use it due to community support is amazing. I’m not getting that anywhere else, I know that.

I’m not sure if the Anafi can do PPK or not. I’m also not sure if it speaks MAVLink and I can command it using things like Mission Planner, QGroundControl, and Solex. I do not wish to give up that level of control of my flight plans. Nope. Not happening.

This Parrot whitepaper seems to indicate that it does, and confirms my suspicions that the Parrot stack is a forked ArduPilot/PX4, but that’s besides the point:

If this budget cycle is anything like prior ones, I’ll just hem & haw and wring my hands and go another year without actually flying.

I no longer work in Precision Agriculture and my current employer does not see the need/value of any sUAS survey, so they will not fund work by me.

I am not a professional photographer or Real Estate/Insurance surveyor, either. These are purely for my own fun and data collection.

I think you will lose some control if you get the Anafi. Aside from building your own copter, I’m not sure which companies still sell open-source off the shelves friendly UAVs. I just don’t see many. Perhaps somebody else can chime in.

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Yeah, there is nothing like the Solo in the COTS arena. It was unto its own.

That loss of control is concerning me, but I think it is just standard consumer loss aversion. Like, I don’t do this for my job anymore… I don’t contract anymore. Shoot, I don’t even fly anymore. I could sell everything and it would have no material difference since I don’t use it anyway (COVID surely didn’t help)…

Do I NEED that control, or do I just feel like I do?

I think there’s value in retaining control. Maybe not right away, but three years from now when an over the air update breaks some functionality or reduces your hardware to a fancy paper weight or the mobile app that connects to it says your product is “discontinued”, if you retain control none of that can happen…

But it depends on how much time you want to dedicate. Keeping things open can be quite a time consuming endeavor sometimes.

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Those are really excellent points, and definitely a voice that remains in the back of my head through this thought process…

Further, if the Anafi gets EOL’d, what am I going to do about aging proprietary smart batteries? There are no aftermarket ones, and I doubt we’d get a solution like the Solo has…

On the other hand, being responsible for like 5lbs AUW and walking around looking like a Michael Bay Ninja Turtle with the Solo backpack on does kinda make me limit the where and when of if I choose to fly.

Biiig backpack:
image

My brother-in-law just went Mavic Mini 2 and is keeping it on his person all day to fly during quiet moments on the farm. I think the Anafi would give me that type of freedom as well.

Tiny Anafi backpack:
image

:grimacing:

If I keep the Solo, in addition to the BMS+Li-Ion pack above, I’d very likely want to add the following hardware into the mix:

ProfiCNC Cube Orange: 5V signaling to fix a hardware flaw in the Solo, also removes slew rate limiter for more power/faster responsivity (F3 and old sensors to H7 and much nicer ones doesn’t hurt, either)

uAvionix PingRX ADS-B Receiver: Give me better site/situational awareness, and optional sense+avoid
https://uavionix.com/products/pingrx

E-Max MT2216 810kV Motors: Replace my aging 900kV motors with newer/smoother motors with slightly higher torque to deal with the extra weight of the Li-Ion and other accessories

MikroTik R11e-2HnD WiFi Module: Improve the Solo/Artoo sensitivity and output a fair bit to increase link range and robustness

Alfa APA-M04 Panel Antennae: Get significant increase in link quality and range (at the cost of directionality)

At what point is this all too much? 🤷

Stretch-goal: LightWare SF11/C micro-LiDAR: Terrain following up to FAA ceiling!

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That micro LIDAR kit is so cool! I have no use for one, but the want is strong!! Must… Resist… Purchase…

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If you don’t need 120m, this one is awesome:

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