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I am looking for a drone which is able to:

  • maintain an RF link between 5-10km from the receiver
  • get easily modified to carry an external payload (assume another IMU+GPS) and transmit the payload data to be retrieved on ground by some kind of UART interface (~10-20kbps)
  • has small definition video just for FP navigation

No particular agility or battery life requirement.

I am able to implement this sort of systems, but since this is a test setup for something which will require much more effort to develop, I am looking for the quickest way to do that and I have no experience with drones.

Any recommendations are welcome, given the sea of available choices.

I guess the underlying question boils down to which drone is hackable the easiest.

I have looked around and could not find any which had a clear path to handle an external payload as part of the system, especially for these kind of ranges.

Edit: Apparently the DJI Mavic etc. have Transparent Data Transmission, which looks like it allows us to interface with one of the onboard UARTs for up to 4kB/s which should be enough. But the data is only retrieved on Android - isn't there a more direct way to obtain the data on a Linux PC?

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    $\begingroup$ Hrm, for now at least I think this is a relatively niche use case and will likely require custom assembly. There are some commercially available systems/platforms that will allow you to build a drone with these features, but they're all individual components. $\endgroup$
    – ifconfig
    Aug 21 at 20:11
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I doubt you can grab something off the shelf that can help you with your use case. In any case you will need to put your sensors and payload onboard and set up the logging and data transmission by yourself so it makes sense to DIY stuff to cater to your requirements properly.

For your use case, I think you should look into a 9inch or larger ArduPilot/PX4 Quadcopter/Hexacopter/Octocopter with ExpressLRS 900MHz for reliable control link and a long range FPV setup. Since you don't necessarily require the kind of agility FPV drones require, you can look into DIYing a FPV system based on OpenHD, since while it has high latency, you can make it pretty robust with proper part selection (e.g. multiple good quality Wi-Fi transceivers, high gain directional antennas) and it can display a lot of data over it too. You should ask around in the OpenHD community, they can help you with getting the payload data overlaid on the FPV feed.

You can also use 433MHz Pixhawk Telemetry for data transmission

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