Portfolio - Sam Sanford

Previous Projects


I've developed several FPV drone platforms with various specialized use-cases for film and commercial applications. These projects are outlined below in descending order of most recent. At the end of this portfolio I also showcase my experience designing a folding concrete canoe construction process that I created while I was the design leader for the ASCE Concrete Canoe Team at Portland State University.


The "Flying Squirrel" is an improvement upon the idea of disassembling a cinema camera and installing the PCBs inside the drone frame. This was a impactful development in the FPV drone industry because it allows operators to use a lightweight, powerful, and agile platform to capture stunning images with a camera that is well known and accepted in the film industry. 

This concept is best summarized visually in this short Instagram reel:




For a more detailed overview of the design progression of this product, check out my Flying Squirrel Rotorbuilds page.


On the opposite end of the scale from the Flying Squirrel, the "Vulture" is a drone frame designed to be as versatile as possible. Rather than utilizing only one specific camera, this drone can operate with payloads ranging from small action cameras like Sony RX0II, all the way up to 1.5kg cinema cameras like the RED Komodo.


For more details about specifications and assembly tutorials produced by me you may visit the Vulture Rotorbuilds page.


Some of my ideas never make it to the market and the "Viper" was one of those products. This drone was designed to fly a 1.5-2kg payload with as small of a footprint as possible and have propeller guard protection for safe operation around talent. This is a short reel depicting all the rejected drones I came up with in my efforts to create a version I was satisfied with:



I did end up building and flight testing version 7.2 and if flew better than expected. Acrobatic maneuvers were easily performed, yet controlled proximity flying felt comfortable. This model was never launched as a product because the BOM was too long with the numerous carbon fiber pieces and the assembly and serviceability was difficult. To see it's flight in action check out the video below.


La Mamba is a cinelifter drone with the main requirements being that it should "fly like a 5 inch" drone meaning, even with a 1.5-2kg payload, it is capable of diving tall buildings and pulling out at the last second, and many other freestyle tricks.

One of the most important benefits of La Mamba over other frames on the market at the time was its improved workflow features such as battery and camera quick release mechanisms which also doubled as C.O.G. adjustments. 


Le Pigeon was my best selling drone for two years and it was how I made my biggest contribution to the FPV industry. I was the first designer to launch a commercially available platform that utilizes a "naked" Blackmagic Pocket 4K cinema camera. With a sub 1.5kg AUW (all up weight) including camera and lens, Le Pigeon opened up new doors for FPV pilots with its unprecedented flight performance:


This drone concept was made possible at the time by my invention of the naked cage design that several other drone manufacturers would later emulate:

In addition to Le Pigeon, I also designed its little companion, "Le Puffin" which was perfect for flying in close proximity to talent without risk of damage or injury from the spinning propellers. Below is a more traditional in-depth design review of Le Puffin frame:


design drawings of folding concrete canoe

During my 3rd year on the ASCE Concrete Canoe Team at Portland State University as the lead designer of the vessel, I created a new hull construction method. Instead of using a smooth 3D mold that requires painstaking labor and many hours of finishing, I designed a folding structure utilizing flat triangles of concrete connected together with fiberglass reinforcement grid material.

Prototype panels for folding hull design concept

Prototype test panels were created using plywood to validate the beam strength and fold-ability of the assembly. The strength of the material exceeded theoretical calculations and the folding and grouting technique proved to be feasible at a larger scale.

construction process of folding flat panel concrete canoe

To construct the canoe, a two-layer mold made of melamine panels and strips was fabricated to contain the pour mixture. A layer of carefully selected fiberglass reinforcement material was sandwiched between both layers. When cured, the panels were folded around a simple plywood jig and grouted in place.

Collage of stained and sealed folding conreate canoe

The above photos are the final product stained and sealed, ready to go for competition!