Month: October 2016

FPV Mishaps


Learning to fly FPV is harder than it looks. I managed to break the frame of my custom FPV quad by hitting the wall and dropping it on its side from about 3 feet above a solid floor. I was lucky I didn’t break the camera and transmitter, but the Depron mount broke off and saved it. This was on about the fourth flight though. I think I should be flying in free space, not a 6 foot room, but as I tried to turn the quadcopter to fly back towards myself I drifted into a wall and decided that cutting the power was the best option.

It will glue back together easy enough, but I’m now thinking about a better design using foam. This 3D printed PLA stuff is too brittle and too heavy. I also need something that will protect the delicate 5.8GHz aerial as I did bounce it off the ceiling on one of the flights. It needs something that encases the whole thing in foam to protect it from contact with the floor. Either that, or learn to fly outside where there’s nothing to hit.

Foggy Halloween

I had to take the bike this morning and was in two minds whether to go or not. It was quite foggy and everything was damp, to the extent that you could feel it in the air. In the end I packed the flying wing into the ruck-sack and set off, but an hour and a half later and I was beginning to wish I hadn’t bothered.


The first problem was that there was a Halloween event going on and most of the roads were closed. OK, I thought, I’ll just cycle as far as I can and then cut across through the woods. This turned into a cross country hike, but I couldn’t see where I was going because, the closer I got, the thicker the fog got. In the end I had to admit defeat and accept that even if I did get to the other side of the trees, I probably wouldn’t be able to see the aircraft to fly anyway. On the way back, though, I did get one stoke of luck in my favour. They were just about to close the bridge because of an object sighted in the river. I could see the lifeboat out in the water looking for something and I was the last person to get across the bridge before the police closed it. One minute later and that would have been a huge problem and added at least half an hour to my journey home.

Oh, well, so I didn’t fly anything, but I’ve finished the trim on the autogyro:


You can see my old Wot4 in the background, which is where I got the idea for the star burst pattern on the tail from. The “ATOM” lettering is just cut out from solarfilm using scissors, but it looks very effective.

Also this week, we’ve got another “Done Master Class” to run at the end of November. This time it’s 16-17 year olds, so I’m thinking about using a live video feed from a micro drone in conjunction with Pix4D to do a 3D reconstruction from.


I’ve been doing some tests with the FPV camera attached to a Depron mount on one of the “H-Frames” that we 3D printed for the last Royal Institution session. In this setup with a 380mAh LiPo I’m only getting 2 minutes 40 seconds of flight time. After some testing, I’m fairly sure that this is down to the additional weight of the FPV transmitter, which weights a phenomenal 4 grammes. That might not sound like much, but it’s around 7% of the 56g flying weight. Ideally, I would like it to weigh around 40g, but we know that the 3D printed frames are quite heavy for what they are. We need to experiment a bit more to get the weight down. When I take the 4g camera off, but leave all the Depron mount on, the flight time increases to 4 minutes 26 seconds. The camera consumes 200mA of power, but flight times with the camera attached but not plugged in (2m38s), then with it running (2m52s), are almost identical. I’ve also ruled out the aerodynamics of the Depron mount causing problems, which was worrying me because the blades are so close to it. The only thing I’m not sure about is whether the high centre of gravity and aerial have much of an effect? My next step is to start lightening the frame to see if I can save the 4 grammes for the camera, then I’ll repeat the flight duration test.

My aim is to end up with something comparable to the new Blade Inductrix FPV, which looks awesome for indoor racing.

OK, I’m off to do some soldering and electronics. I need to sort out the external power for my FPV screen and figure out how to get the video input into the computer so Pix4D can read it.

Halloween Drones and Lost Models

It was a bit busy this week, despite the very windy conditions. When I arrived there was someone just leaving who I hadn’t seen for over a year. Apparently he’s been coming up and flying his foam beginners F3A style model and leaving before 09:30, so we’ve been missing each other. Then I got to do the maiden flight of an Ares UMX Taylorcraft. This is a lovely little aircraft, which flew straight out of my hand and handled the now quite breezy conditions very well. It’s just like the Champ I’ve flown, but feels a lot more solid in the air. We think it’s a bit bigger than the Champ and the motor is a longer can version, which should give more torque. Anyway, the flight was over much too quickly, despite finding time for a loop and a very bad roll with just the rudder. The landing was much better than my usual lightweight aircraft landings, actually rolling along the wheels before coming to a stop right in front of me. You usually don’t get that with this type of aircraft as there isn’t any momentum and once the wheels touch they just tip over.

Anyway, after that I had a flight with the RS352, which was followed later on by another two flights. I was mainly trying out knife edge flight and I’m starting to get the hang of the elevator/rudder coupling. I think the trick is not to try and go too straight as the rudder easily holds the nose up, but causes a curved flight path due to the pitch coupling.

After my first flight with the Taylorcraft we had a couple of drone pilots turn up. They had the idea of trying to drag a Halloween skeleton figure underneath the drone, which you can see in the video above. I’m not sure how successful this was as the wind was causing havoc with the control because of the huge sail that the drone was dragging underneath it. Landing was a bit of an issue as well. It looked rather fun though and reminded me of the DaVinci Aerial Screw, which was difficult to fly because of being top heavy. I really must make a bigger version of my prototype and try it outdoors.

The Multiplex Xeno arrived shortly after the Halloween drone had been abandoned and proceeded to fly as beautifully as ever in the gusty conditions. Then we had the Multiplex FunJet which proceeded to fly over and around us at breakneck speeds, along with the Hyperion Sniper II which got damaged the other week. A couple of guys with FPV equipped flying wings also turned up around this time, but it was at this point that the Sniper was lost over the trees on its first flight of the day. It had got blown downwind a long way and over the trees you can see in the drone video above. After that it was just an orientation and control problem which ended with it (we think) hitting the back of the tallest tree’s canopy. The three of us spent a good half an hour looking around in the trees, but failed to find any trace of the aircraft. We all thought that blipping the throttle or servos was our best shot at hearing it, but whether it was damaged, or the drone flying overhead was masking the noise, we never discovered. My opinion is that it was too high up at the top of a tree, or we were just looking in the wrong place. After going behind the tree, it could have continued to fly for quite a way if it didn’t hit anything, so it might just be sitting there now on the floor of the forest waiting for someone to discover it.

Rain Stops Play

It’s been raining hard since about 7am this morning. If it does ever stop then it’s going to be because the wind has blown all the rain clouds away, so that’s no good either.



So today’s going to be a building day, which is why I’ve included an image of the tail of my autogyro with its new starburst pattern. The blue and white looks really good and should be a great aid to orientation in the air. I just need to add the white lines and logo on the side and finish balancing and covering the blades.

On the subject of making the “ATOM” lettering for the fuselage, I traced the outline from the plan onto some white paper, cut around it with scissors and sellotaped the paper to a piece of solarfilm. Then I cut around the paper outline very carefully with scissors and the result was a very passable set of four letters. I just need to make sure I can tell which is paper and which is solarfilm when I iron them onto the fuselage. Solarfilm sticks, paper doesn’t. Seriously though, it did take a bit of manual dexterity, and cutting the hole in the “A” and the “O” with a knife, but it was very quick to do and produced four good letters.

I seem to be busy with too many other things at the moment, so the ATOM build is taking a back seat to work again.


Four Years Old

Unless I’m very much mistaken, my RS352 is now 4 years old. I managed to get in another 4 flights with it today in the sunny bits in between the wind blowing the dark menacing clouds over our heads. It didn’t rain until on the way home, which was good.

There were no Corsairs to fly this week, in fact I only flew my own RS352 this time. We had the EFlite Advance, the very resourceful “two aircraft in a snowboarding bag” Ben Buckle vintage lookalike and white foam high wing “almost a Cub”. In addition to this, there was a DJI Inspire that had a single flight and a photographer with a Phantom in a camouflage rucksack that also only had one flight. By last week’s standard it was very quiet today.

There are signs that I’ve gone over to the Dark Side this week as I’ve been experimenting with a micro FPV.

I bought a Hyperion Mini 600TVL Camera and transmitter a while ago and made some mounts out of Depron to allow me to attach it to the 3D printed H-Frame that we used for the Royal Institution project a few months ago. The flight controller is the HubSan one, but it flies and the FPV works very well together with a Black Pearl screen.

It’s really difficult to fly this indoors in the confined space I have as you can’t see its position and drift relative to other objects as well as if you were flying 3rd person. I couldn’t take it outside with me today as the Black Pearl screen’s battery is dead, so I’m currently running it off the mains. At the moment I’m looking to swap the HubSan controller for one of the micro brushed controllers that run CleanFlight (maybe a SciSky or F3 EVO?). That might give me some degree of control over it, then I can think about indoor FPV racing?

OK, so the ATOM AutoGyro should be my main priority, because I really desperately want to have a go at flying it now. If I finish applying the trim and do the final installation then I only have to balance and trim the blades. I’ve only been building it for about two years now, so that shouldn’t take long.

Swallows and Corsairs

I was standing all alone in the flying field this morning with hundreds of swallows flying circles around me. Keeping completely still, they came within a few feet of me at ground height, but, unfortunately, I couldn’t manage to get a picture. Then, just when I thought that nobody else was going to come, it turned into a really busy morning.

In the end I got three flights with my RS352, one flight with a UMX Beast and one flight with a brand new HobbyZone Corsair. In addition to this, we had the EFlite Advance, a profile 3D plane and a foam Stinson, a UMX Cub (with ailerons and flaps), a new Phantom drone and another couple of drones with a Spitfire, UMX Cub and Stingray.

The Beast seemed a bit low on power this time and I flew most of the flight between 75% and 100% power. This wasn’t how it was with the last flight where I was throwing it around the sky and really enjoying myself. The Corsair was a completely different aircraft and not at all like a warbird. If you want a beginner’s aircraft that looks good and flies fantastic, then this is it. After the owner tried to take off from the ground and nosed over, I asked if he needed any help. The “SAFE” technology had me slightly perplexed when I thought that the elevator was way off centre, but it turned out to be the angle that the aircraft was being held at. I’ve never seen this before, as the AS3X (as on the Beast I had just flown) tends to jump about so you can immediately see that it’s active. On this one, as you oriented the nose up and down, the elevator moved very smoothly and deliberately in an effort to keep the plane level. The same with the ailerons, to the extent that a control surface check was very hard because you couldn’t see how much control movement it actually had. Everything was being controlled by the computer. Then we worked out that the top left switch had three positions, which varied the amount of AS3X gain. Turning it down (not off), you could see everything checked out. My first launch along the ground wasn’t very good, ending up in a nose over when the wheels hit a bump. It has tail wheel steering, so ground control should be good if the ground wasn’t too lumpy for it to move. On the next attempt the owner hand launched it (difficult with the Corsair wing, which was why it was my second choice). The moment it was in the air it flew beautifully. I think the AS3X self trims it as all I had to do was add a bit of up elevator. It really was flying itself, so I handed the transmitter over to the owner after completing one left turn and achieving level flight. I actually took my hands off the controls completely as it felt so confident in the air. So, then he flew it, his kids flew it, some of them really young ones as well. At one point I was watching one with her finger on the top of the right stick, pushing it around into all four corners and the AS3X limiting the response. Warbirds aren’t supposed to be this easy. I did have to take over a couple of times when they got too far away or got disoriented. At that point I switched out the AS3X and did a roll followed by a loop. Aerodynamically it was just right, flying like a real aeroplane with the AS3X (almost) switched off. I wouldn’t mind having one of these myself. It’s only got an 1800mAh LiPo, so it’s not as big and heavy as the Hurricane I flew before, which was definitely a bit of a handful. Anyway, after all the kids had had a go I landed it. With a bit of luck we’ll see him again next week.

While I was flying the Corsair the Stinson had a bit of a mishap. I couldn’t see precisely what happened, but it clipped the ground about 100m to our left and apparently ended up crashing much further down the field as they were still retrieving it when I was landing the Corsair. I’m not sure how badly damaged it was, but it was a real shame as I’ve seen it flying so well week after week.

One final thing, but I built my first FPV quadcopter this week. It’s made from one of the H-Frames that we 3D printed and uses the HubSan flight controller until I can get hold of a SciSky one. I’ve added a Depron mount for the camera, which is one of the Hyperion 4 gram ones. I’ll follow up with a post on how it’s made later. The only other thing to say is that I’m adding the trim to the AutoGyro, everything works, so I’ve just got to balance and cover the blades.