Rain, Cold, Wind, Snow

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Any outdoor flying you can get during the Winter is a bonus. Needless to say, the weather wasn’t cooperating again this week. It was bitterly cold with snow and sleet for large parts of the morning.

On the plus side, this week I’ve renewed my BMFA membership, got another Drone Masterclass to run in February and finished the front section of my Autogyro.

 

Now I’m working on the tail fins, which weren’t damaged much, only half split along the grain of the wood. Given the extensive damage elsewhere, I might as well do things properly and take the film off completely so I can glue them back together and add strengtheners.

I’m also in the process of designing a 3D printed dragonfly quadcopter for the drone workshop, then I have to check out all the kit from the last one we ran to see what’s left after the kids destroyed everything. It looks like the only flying I’m going to get to do today is indoors checking out the 3D printed micro quadcopters.

 

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Constant, Light, Drizzle

I’m reminded of the bit in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where the lorry driver is driving through the rain and listing his 231 different classifications of precipitation [link]. Light misty rain that makes you wet but isn’t really rain at all is his least favourite and it’s also mine too. Today was one of those days when it was just soggy and those of us who wear glasses to fly can’t see because of the light mist that’s in the air.

It’s time to rebuild an autogyro.

 

The pictures above show the internal ply reinforcing plate for the undercarriage being glued in place. Once that’s dry (in about a few minutes now), then I can work on the top front section and most of the fuselage will be done. If you look at the pictures, you can see that I’ve used Gorilla Glue again by the amount that’s bubbled up through the cracks. Bearing in mind that the only glue was on the bottom floor of the fuselage, it has expanded by a prodigious amount. You can probably see that I’ve tried to wipe away the seepage as it’s drying, but not altogether successfully. It’s a real shame that the glue goes like this because it’s very good otherwise. You just can’t control how much escapes around the edges. Otherwise I would recommend it as its crack filling properties are excellent. Without being able to reliably limit the glue area to just where I want it on the joint, in other words hidden between the two bits of wood that I’m joining, I just can’t see how I can use it. I’m going to have to buy some of the Deluxe Materials wood glue as that’s excellent.

OK, so that’s all I’ve done so far this week, but I’ve got the rest of the afternoon and evening to make some progress on the autogyro. Also on my list of things to do is to pick up the flight simulator again, now that the opportunities for real flying are getting limited, build a dragonfly quadcopter and have a look at modifying a drone camera to capture an NDVI image to detect plant health.

Let’s hope we can get some real flying in next week before Christmas sneaks up on me.

Downtime

I haven’t been able to do anything flight related this week due to pressures of work again. There’s a presentation that I absolutely need to finish before Monday morning and it’s soaking up all my spare time. The weather outside was bright and sunny, although it turned cold yesterday, so it was close to freezing. I must be getting lazy, as the wind forecast was about 11mph and I would have had to cycle this morning, so I didn’t bother. The flying wing doesn’t go well in the wind and it would have been absolutely freezing. I spent the whole day working instead. I haven’t even touched the autogyro all week. It’s sitting there waiting for me to glue the top on, so the fuselage is almost done.

Oh, well, I’m looking forward to Thursday when some semblance of normality should return.

Perfect Weather

Brrgh, it’s cold, but it’s bright and sunny and there’s absolutely no wind for a change. The conditions are perfect for flying and when I arrived at the field this morning, there was already a professional drone pilot there practising with a new aircraft. I’ve know this guy for ages now and he usually flies an Inspire 1, but has now switched to the new Phantom 4 Pro which he says is a lot faster and more manoeuvrable. It’s a lot cheaper than the new Inspire 2, although the optics aren’t quite as good, but then it does have all the new features like collision avoidance. For the purposes of testing, we walked in front of the aircraft while it was locked in a hover just to see that it detected us on the screen and knew it couldn’t move forward.

After that we had loads of people turn up, mainly with drones, so it turned into a bit of an infestation. First, there was the Mavic, who flies the same route around the field a couple of times every week as he’s making a timelapse of the conditions over the whole year. Then the lady with the micro FPV drone, my friend on his electric bike with a FlyZone DR1 triplane, two large groups of friends who met up with a DJI spark and another drone, somebody else was flying an Inspire from about 50 metres away and another person with a Phantom in a backpack arrived and flew from about 20 metres in the other direction. There way also my friend with the Xeno flying wing and finally, my other friend with the Multiplex Easy Star from a few weeks back, but this time he brought his UMX biplane and a Faze(?) electric glider. I still don’t know what type of plane the biplane is, so I need to do a bit of research. It looks Czech to me and around early WW2. Unfortunately, in the walk across the field he had broken the fin and tail off it, so it was going to need some cyano before it took off.

As for flying , firstly, I had a flight with my RS352. I’m down to just two battery packs now as I think the 2 year old ones have puffed up and had it completely. My next flight was with the FlyZone DR1, which I absolutely loved. The first launch with the dud battery we’ll ignore, but I missed the post when it veered sharply right and landed fine. The real flight was better, but still down on power. I flew the whole flight with about 50% down elevator as the box kite wanted to loop on me. This is after pulling the throttle right back, so it wasn’t entirely happy aerodynamically. The red baron and me had great fun doing strafing runs on the drone pilots half way down the field. No, I’m joking really, they were so far away I could never get anywhere near them with 30 grammes of depron drag chute. The landing was a bit of an event as the motor cut rather abruptly and it glided a lot further than I anticipated. We all had to jump out of the way to let it past, but it was a perfect landing. It was great fun though and now I’m thinking seriously about getting my own WW1 biplane.

I actually managed to get four flights with the RS352, managing to charge each of my two good packs once. The aircraft was flying really well in the still air and I spent a lot of time practising cuban eights to get the centre point right in front of myself. Once you get into the swing, it’s all about timing. I do need to do some re-trimming with the aircraft, though, as inverted, if you push down into an outside loop, it screws out badly, suggesting that the elevators or some other part isn’t straight.

I didn’t take any pictures from the field this morning, but I do have an update on the ATOM autogyro.

 

As you can see, Pete the pilot is back in his office and everything fits back together very nicely. The two fuselage sides are stuck, but the firewall has yet to be glued in place. I’m going to make the holes for the motor wires before sticking it in this time around. Once that’s in place, then I can glue the top piece back on and the front fuselage will be all finished. I’m actually quite impressed that the original canopy still fits as well as it does. Although the tail still needs some work, that should be easy to fix. The most time consuming bit is going to be finishing the replacement rotor blade.

It’s Really Very Windy

It’s a building day today as the outside wind speed is around 25mph. I have been making progress with fixing the Atom autogyro this week though.

I’ve fettled the base, firewall and left fuselage side into perfect position and glued the left side into place.

 

It’s not easy fitting everything together at the front end, but achieving a perfect fit pays dividends in terms of strength. With the left fuselage side in place, the dry fit of the firewall and fuselage front top is very good. There’s also an additional plywood undercarriage strengthening plate that fits to the bottom front of the fuselage that you can’t see here.

 

I’ve even managed to make a new left hand half of the steering wheel, which I never recovered from the crash. This has been grafted on to the recovered bit of the steering column and glued in place to complete the cockpit section.

 

Now I’m just waiting for the glue to set on the steering wheel before fixing the cockpit floor back into the perspex canopy. I’m going to wait until the front fuselage section is finished first, as I need to check that it all still fits together.

As for the firewall and fuselage top, I’m not sure how I’m going to glue it at the moment. I have been using “Gorilla Glue” for the side pieces, but the expansion of the glue is such that it squeezes out of the gaps and leaves big blobs of hard glue behind. You can see this on the pictures of the fuselage side above. If I used this for the firewall, I would need to stick the top and internal ply plate at the same time. If not, then the glue would seep out inside the fuselage, where I couldn’t sand it away, and stop the ply plate from being fitted. I’m going to have a long, hard, think about this before I go ahead. I also need to start looking at the motor mounting and three ESC wires, as it’s still bolted to the surviving part of the old firewall.

 

 

There are plenty of building hours still left in the day, though. Let’s hope the weather improves for next week.

Fireworks!

Well, it is Guy Fawkes’ night, so I might see some fireworks later? This morning wasn’t exactly perfect for flying, but it was sunny so I went anyway. When we all converged on the flying site, we all said the same thing, “it wasn’t this windy when I left the house!”.

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That’s my RS352’s wing shielding the sun. Fluffy white clouds are doing about Mach one.

There was already the professional drone pilot keeping up his hours on his DJI Inspire when I arrived at the same time as my friend on his electric bike carrying his UMX Carbon Cub on the back. I think there was also a father and son in one corner of the field with a drone, but they didn’t stay long. A little bit later we had the drone lady with her micro drone, and her friend with a bigger aerobatic drone. The drone count was completed by another guy at a different edge of the field with a DJI Phantom, then another guy and his wife with the DJI Mavic and landing pad set up in their usual spot about 20 metres away. Finally, a fixed wing arrived in the form of a Hobby King Bixler belonging to a father with his two sons. They both did their first landings this morning, which was nice.

It was cold. We all agreed it was cold. And windy. My first flight was with my RS352, then I had a flight with the UMX Carbon Cub, which should never have been flying in this wind. I didn’t need the flaps, just keep it pointing into wind and it was hovering for most of the flight, or racing downwind at some speed. I wasn’t really settled when I was flying it and never got comfortable with the DX6 transmitter. Normally I hold it with my left hand, fly with my right and move the throttle any way I can. This time I ended up flying with my thumbs on the tops of the sticks, which is not how I normally do it. I don’t know whether my arm was tired as we’d been watching a video of his son’s Spacewalker on a portable DVD player just before. I was holding the player in my left hand for 15 minutes, so that might have been it. Anyway, it was quite an interesting flight in the conditions and the landing wasn’t too bad either after about 5 minutes. It will fly about twice as long, but I couldn’t manage it this morning.

My second flight with the RS352 was just as normal, then the third with the older LiPos was an aborted launch as I could hear the motor revs dropping rapidly. This pack has no power, just like its sibling pack that I retired last time out. Or maybe I retired the wrong pack? I will check this later, but I only have the two newer 1300mAh 3S packs left now, so I should buy myself some more for Christmas. I need to figure out why the others didn’t last very long first though. So I only got 3 flights with the RS352 this morning, after waiting for my first pack to fully charge after the first flight. This could explain the problems I had with the autogyro when it would launch and then stooge around the sky not wanting to fly and only doing one circuit before I had to land it? The flight when I crashed a few weeks ago was with the newer pack and that went up like a rocket (and back down too).

I’ve made some good progress with fixing the autogyro this week, as I really want to fly it again soon. Pete the pilot has had his head glued back on and I’ve got the base and one fuselage side stuck back on.

What you don’t see in the images is how the front section with the firewall, base, fuselage sides and top fit together like a jigsaw. This is why it’s taken this long to get the side on, because it all has to fit together very accurately and slot together. It’s been slow progress getting to this stage, but now the side is on and the bottom piece, side and firewall mesh together at the right angle, things should start dropping into place. The autogyro gets incredible strength from this interlocking design, which is one reason it survived falling from a great height onto the ground the way it did. When I was building it I thought the mast was the most vulnerable piece, but that’s all still intact.

That’s it for this week, I’ve got some more building to do.

An Extra Hour in Bed

We put the clocks back last night, so I got an extra hour in bed. Unfortunately, the weather has also changed as we had a very strong northerly wind this morning. It was marginal on whether you could fly, but the wind brought in a lot of rain clouds. I decided not to go flying and ended up taking the door off of a shed. It’s a long story, but the key broke off in the lock. Anyway, around 10am it got very dark and rained for a bit. About an hour later it was bright sunshine again, but I think that’s only because the now gale force winds had scared all the clouds away.

I’ve been progressing the Autogyro repairs this week as I really want to get it into the air again. In the end I decided that the base and sides were too shattered to stick back together like a jigsaw, so I’ve cut new pieces to graft in. Using templates taken from the plan, I’ve made two new sides.

 

The pictures show the template held up to what was left of the fuselage side. I cyanoed the bits back together first, before laying the side template over the balsa and deciding where to make my dovetail mark. After drawing on the template, I cut along the lines and laid it back on the fuselage side, allowing me to mark it and cut away the old wood. After that I used the other half of the template to make a new fuselage side, which slots into the dovetail joint after just a tiny amount of adjustment with some sandpaper. This was then repeated on the other side using the same template.

Now I have a kit of parts for a new nose, I can start glueing things back together. The main thing to be aware of here is to get everything square. As there is no full-size engineering drawing in the original magazine article, only 4xA4 pages of parts, it’s difficult to find any datum lines to match things up to. The best straight line is the one along the centre of the fuselage base, so I took this as my datum and matched everything up to it. The original pencil line still exists on the remaining piece, so I just extended that onto my new base section. However, I did run into one problem which I’ll have to come back to later. The pictures below show the new base piece being grafted in. I took a lot of care getting this exactly right in all three axes as the base forms my datum.

 

It’s not a bad fit, and most of all, it’s straight.

I was able to save the plywood undercarriage plate, which saves me a lot of time having to cut, drill and route a new one. This is where I discovered a bit of a problem, though. As I mentioned earlier, there are no full-size engineering drawings, so I took the fuselage base template from the plan and matched it up to the real aircraft. Now, I assumed that the piece went all the way to the back of the fuselage and positioned it appropriately. Unfortunately, this left me with about a 5mm discrepancy as I discovered when I put the ply undercarriage plate in place underneath the new balsa base that I had just glued in. Yes, sure enough the base was too long. The sides are fine, but the base doesn’t extend all the way to the back. Never mind, it’s easy enough to cut the offending extra bit off. I just like to get everything exactly right and this was a bit embarrassing. With a trial fit of all the front pieces showing that everything was now good, I glued the ply undercarriage plate underneath the fuselage base.

 

As a small aside at this point, I’ve been trying out a new type of glue. For the balsa fuselage base and the ply undercarriage mount, above, I used some “Gorilla Glue” for wood. They also make a cyano Gorilla Glue, which I’ve found to be very good, in fact I used it to piece together the fuselage sides, but I hadn’t tried the wood version before.

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The instructions say to make one surface wet, then apply glue to the other surface and clamp together tightly. This is because the glue is rather sticky and forms a layer between the two surfaces being stuck. I’m not really sure whether I like this glue yet, because the curing process involves it increasing in volume by about four times. This results in a sticky foam substance leaking out from between all the joints, which requires sanding off when set to achieve the desired finish. Have a close look at the pictures of the ply undercarriage piece being glued above and you’ll see what I mean. The excess foam from the glue expanding is visible between the pieces being joined. This can be an advantage if it’s something where you need good gap filling properties, but personally, for this job, I think I would use a regular Epoxy. The original Autogyro was glued together with Z-Poxy and a Deluxe Materials PVA, which both worked very well. I’m also quite partial to aliphatic resin.

That’s as far as I’ve got for this week, but later on I’ll probably glue Pete the Pilot’s head back onto his body. I need the top section of the fuselage back together for a trial fit before committing to glueing the sides and front back on. I don’t want to get it all back together and find that the canopy doesn’t fit on any more.

Let’s hope next week brings some better weather.

 

Life and Brian

We’ve got the tail end of a Winter storm called Brian this weekend, which has brought with it winds of 50 mph, so flying isn’t possible. I’ve been fixing my ATOM autogyro this week and looking at the video footage from last week’s crash.

Atom away! This is from the video of last week’s launch before things went wrong 26 seconds later. I’m not sure what’s happened with the white spots on the image, but they were both fine before I transferred the images to a Linux machine to upload to the blog.

These rather blurred images are blown up frames from the video as it wasn’t much more than a dot on the screen when the rotor failed. The image on the left shows it flying left to right normally. You can just about make out the tail (bottom left dark blur), fuselage (bottom right) and rotor (top). The image on the right is just after the point of failure when the rotor blades folded up. It’s still moving left to right, but has now pitched up about 45 degrees. The lowest point on the image is the tail (8 o’clock position), with the boom and fuselage visible, then the mast pointing up at 11 o’clock. It just fell to earth from there.

Now that I’ve had a chance to examine the wreckage in more detail, I would say that I was quite lucky with the impact. All it’s actually done is to snap off the nose, break the two booms and do some other superficial damage.

 

Looking at the bits, I think the point of impact was on the right hand side of the nose. That’s with the fuselage rolled 90 degrees right when the ground jumped up and prevented it falling any further. Neither the prop, motor nor undercarriage are damaged, ruling out a direct nose in impact and a wheels hitting first impact. The right side of the fuselage nose seems to have taken the most force and judging from the way it broke, I can see how it snapped. The LiPo exited via the left side of the nose and you can see the evidence of where this happened. I’m assuming that the tail then followed the broken nose into the ground, splitting the spruce 6mm square longerons, but doing very little damage to the fins.

Now, on to the repair and I had already set and glued the spruce tail sticks back together during the week. I used epoxy resin, fitting the split ends back together quite easily and binding them with tape and G clamps in a frame I rigged up to ensure I got everything square. The tape allows me to get some force on the wood to pull it back into shape to then put the clamps on without sticking everything up with glue. Once the glue has set, it can be removed as the epoxy won’t stick to it.

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After that I set about the fragmented nose section. In the end I decided to graft a new 6mm base section on the existing fuselage, along with some new front side sections. The ply firewall is unrecoverable, so I made a new one, but was able to salvage the ply plate for the undercarriage and the internal ply plate. The front section of the nose is a sandwich of multiple sections, which makes for a very strong construction, but complicates the process of repair. I traced the drawings off of the original plan, cut them out and used them as templates for the new pieces.

 

That’s my new base and ply firewall ready to be glued in place. Now all I need are the fuselage side pieces to graft in. I do find repairing aircraft a very satisfying experience.

That’s all for now, more to follow later.

Autogyro Days

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I wasn’t really planning on flying this week, but the forecast was for good weather with a 10mph breeze and I had finished the modifications to the autogyro’s blades. The shims are a little bit more than the only successful flight so far, so about 1mm where they were 0.8mm before. I was determined to test the autogyro again, but things didn’t work out exactly as planned.

I was the first one there this morning, closely followed by a UMX Super Cub with ailerons, flaps and AS3X stabilisation. This was my first flight of the morning, as I flew it for the owner in the very blustery conditions. It flew beautifully, with me pointing out from the launch that I wasn’t actually doing anything. It knew how to fly all on its own, which is impressive for something that’s not much over 30g in what was by now really turbulent windy conditions. After that another old friend who I haven’t seen in months turned up with his Multiplex Xeno flying wing. We had another guy who test flew his first aircraft the day before and showed us the evidence on his phone. It was a low wing stubby sort of a plane, which looked a bit like a lazy bee, but surely wasn’t suitable for beginners? We saw it roll along the ground, roll and yaw left, clip the left wing on the ground and turn over. It looked OK, but none of us fancied flying it. He said he’d be back next week, so that should be interesting. Other than that, we had a professional drone pilot who wanted to keep his flying hours up on a Mavic and a couple of kids towards the end of the morning who looked like they didn’t know how to fly a DJI Phantom.

OK, so after the Cub, I flew the Atom Autogyro. To cut a long story short, it crashed 26 seconds after a really successful hand launch. I have the video of the launch, plus my friend also filmed it on his phone. On my video, which was using the wide-angle runcam, you can just see the start of the crash, but it’s too far to really see and then the actual plummet to earth and crash is out of the frame. What I think happened was that one of the main rotor blades struck the prop, shearing the end off of the rotor blade and stopping the main rotor from spinning. From my point of view, it was a perfect launch, it drifted left a bit, gained height well, I turned right, went across in front of myself with the wind blowing in my face, got to the right hand edge of the box I was flying, went to turn right again to come back and something flew up from the rotor disk. I assumed a blade had snapped, but was then aware that the rotors had all folded themselves up and were no longer spinning. At this point I put the thrust to zero and realised that there was nothing I could do as the aerodynamic control is all through the rotor head. No spinning head, no control. The fuselage was heading towards the earth at a 45 degree angle and there’s no lifting surface, so it’s like when the wing bands break and the fuselage spears into the ground on its own like a javelin. Admittedly, I still had rudder and throttle control, but I can’t see that using the rudder to roll to a higher drag orientation would do less damage. I figured that 45 degrees into the ground with the nose and wheels taking the impact is the best option.

On inspection of the damage, it was evident that 11cm of the tip of one of the blades was missing. It had landed a long way from the main wreckage, so this was obviously what I had seen flying up off the aircraft in the air. We thought that the tail was the likely source of the impact, but there is a gauge out of the spruce leading edge of the blade and score marks which suggest a more violent impact.

 

 

The vertical fins are also fairly intact, although the impact with the ground has broken both of the spruce tail spars. The wheels have sheared off most of the front section, along with the motor and firewall. That will need replacing and strengthening with ply. Pete the pilot has also been decapitated, but he’s easy to stick back together. I might even give him some better goggles while I’m at it. So, basically, it should fly again, but the damage is quite extensive.

 

After the autogyro crash, I had three flights with the RS352. One of my four batteries has definitely had it, so I’m going to have to retire it after just under two years of use. Although I’ve flown the RS352 in some really bad weather conditions, it was surprisingly bumpy in the air today. On the first flight I actually switched out my flaps and flew without the extra camber, going a lot faster, but with down trim. My flying was really ragged today, or maybe it was just the conditions? I suspect the wind may have played a part in the autogyro crash, because, even with my usual aerobatic aircraft, it was a real handful today. It might be something to do with being right on the edge of ex-hurricane Ophelia, which we’re going to get the tail end of tonight.

Oh, well, I’ve got some building to do now.

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That’s the Xeno on the left (very small) and a bird on the right.

Autumnal Sunshine

It was quite a pleasant morning this week, despite a big black cloud making an appearance around 11 o’clock. Once that had gone it was back to warm and sunny.

It was really busy this week as there was one guy half way across the field flying a Phantom when I got there, plus another drone flier in the middle. As I was walking across, I did say to him that he could hang out with us in the middle, but he didn’t seem interested. After that we had the red UMX Taylorcraft arrive by bike, newly fixed from the time he took it out in the bag without any protection and broke it. My first two flights of the day were with this Ares Taylorcraft, which needed progressively more left rudder added as the flight went on. The power system was also a bit of an issue, but those 1 cell LiPos are always a bit variable. The aircraft is rudder/elevator only and I think the crease in the rudder was causing the control problems. It was perfectly flyable, but initially wanted to keep turning right. Left trim counteracted this, but if you slowed it right down, it would start turning right more as the speed decreased. On the second flight, the rudder had been straightened a bit more, so the trim was completely off again. It’s not all that agile anyway, so left and right trim changes aren’t that big a deal, but I did feel as though I was trimming a free flight model, given that it was sunny with very little wind.

After that, we had another guy with a Mavic and a 250 size racing drone. Then two people with the Skysurfer that I flew the other week and a new Blaze high wing “warmliner” type of aircraft. The Skysurfer had a bit of an adventure, hitting the ground hard on the first hand launch, but then climbing away safely. Later on, we all heard the thump as it hit the ground hard on landing, but it was still OK, so they obviously build those things of strong stuff. The next pair to arrive had a small helicopter, a drone and a Bixler, which is another Syksurfer clone. The Mavic had fun chasing the Bixler around for a while. Finally, just as I was leaving we had the guy who usually flies the Stryker F27, but this time he had a Rare Bear Reno racer Bearcat foam model. I never got to see it fly as I was out of time by then.

As for me, I had three flights of the RS352. That was two good flights with the new(ish) LiPo packs, then I was about to launch on flight three – and by this I mean actually going through the motion of pushing it forwards into the air – when the revs started to drop off. I think this older LiPo pack has either had it completely, or it just hadn’t charged properly. Either way, both of these older packs are badly puffed up. Flight number three was with the second of these older packs, which was more or less OK, apart from not having as much power as normal. The flight lasted 6 minutes exactly, at which point the BEC cut and I landed. Normally I would land before that point, but obviously the capacity is a bit down on normal. My charging regime for this week is to store the LiPos at 3.83v during the week, take them up to 4.0v on Saturday evening and then fully charge right before flying on the Sunday. This seemed to work a lot better than fully charging on Saturday as I had a lot more power available.

There was no autogyro this week, as the forecast was for almost no wind and I’ve still got to make some modifications to the rotor blades to try and increase the lift before I take it out again. Hopefully I’ll get the time to do some testing this week, but, as ever, work keeps getting in the way.

One final strange thing happened this week. There was a black van turned up, like a black transit, but probably a people carrier taxi type of thing? Then, at about 200m distance, it looked like they were getting a whole load of bubble wrap out of the sliding door on the side. As this came towards us, the bubble wrap was actually a bride in a white wedding dress with the rest of the wedding party. I don’t know whether it was a real wedding or a photo-shoot, but they wanted to photograph the bride and groom next to some deer. That’s never happened before.