Can I start flight out of Ground Station Range?

I would like to create a small skydive style drone that will not be in contact with the ground station until it reaches a set altitude.

So I’d like to know if ardupilot can operate without communication with either a ground station (mission planner ) or RC until it reaches a set distance ?

During the free-fall stage of its descent it will rely on an onboard camera’s Arduino library that will send servo signals controlling the direction & free-fall speed of the craft.

Oh & being a novice in this area I am wondering what’s the best flight controller to use ? I was thinking ArduPilot Mega2.6 or HKPilot Mega. Any thoughts ??

Any reply would be greatly appreciated before I go investing hard earned cash into this little venture

if you connected to the uav before leaving, then technicly MP would stay connected. and resume when ti comes back within range.

You have to configure the failsafe to continue with mission despite you have no RC signal. How are you going to launch it?

Can MP perform a mission of a direct free fall by setting the waypoints at the same location but with different altitude?

Thanks so much for the replies…

The drone will be launched after exiting the aircraft in free fall. It will be turned on before exit & calibration checks made to the camera for object recognition. The aircraft will return to the airport after the skydiver exits the plane so the ground station with MP will be on the ground, not in the aircraft.

Once in free-fall, the skydiver will release the drone. It will then track the skydiver till at a set altitude a prop will engage bringing the drone to a hover mode in which I hope MP will then guide it to its landing area.

Remember it’s falling fast, real fast, at 2000ft there really is not much time left for MP to make contact. … This is why I’m thinking let Ardupilot start the motor at a set altitude, regardless whether or not MP has a signal or not… This way it will slow its descent till a signal is achieved.

Does this sound plausible ?

So in regards to my shopping list… What would be required for this little project to take shape ?

I have the following
Loads of servos
Cmucam5 ( PixyCam)
Gopro3+ black
Spectrum DX6i RC transmitter.
Contra rotating prop & motor.
3D printer

So what flight management board shall I use & do I require the 3DR radio set or equivalent to take control via RC if required.

the Pixycam looks amazing, do you already have it? how do you plan to control the ardupilot with the camera?

Back to the skydiver drone, what form are you thinking of? is it a flying wing? delta? missile? it might fall faster than the skydiver so it wont be able to track him.

I don`t know how to configure the MP to set a trigger at 2000 ft to stabilize. Im sure you can but maybe not through the classical waypoint setup.

The telemetry has an “ok” range but definitely less than the RC antenna. The RC antenna might work well at 1 or 2km max, if you want more range use higher gain antennas or directed dishes.
Anyways, you don`t actually need any antenna until you are very close to the ground, the rest can be fully automatic using airspeed, pressure, video and GPS data.

If you have some sketches and storyboards or CONOPS that would be great.

We have a full 3D cad design &'animations but a this early stage can’t simply distribute the files. In time once we get a few flights sorted I will gladly post more details of design etc… I am a helicopter engineer by trade so fusingt hid with the skydive company I run will hopefully push free fall drones to the next level.
We currently use several parrot drones to capture footage of skydivers under canopy & swooping low over water ponds…it’s called " swooping".

The pixy cam should arrive any day now. I ordered it via Kickstarter campaign.

My main concern at this early stage moving from design to development is the acquisition & utilisation of Ardupilot. Is this a solid enough platform… I
Should I be concentrating more on Pixhawk as it’s more powerful flight management system… Yes ?? But it does not allow for arduino yes ??