Month: December 2016

Christmas 2016


In the dark it’s lit up like a Christmas Tree…


I flew the F3 EVO Brushed quadcopter for the first time today. This is my first brushed quadcopter running Cleanflight and it responds very differently compared to the HubSan ones. This one’s got some inertia, or maybe that’s just the default “safe” PID settings that I put in to start off?

The frame is 3D printed on a Makerbot Replicator 2 printer. It’s actually a FlexBot design which I downloaded and tried to print. Like all the Whoop frames I tried to print, this one also failed and it’s the wrong size for my motors and flight controller, so it has been extensively modified. Basically, I just took all the failed 3D printed bits and made a frame with what I had the old fashioned way. It works, but it’s not very well built. I really need to enclose the rotors and find a way of putting the FPV camera on so I can fly it around the house. Flying weight is 50g exactly, so it’s twice the weight of an Inductrix.

An F3 Evo board costs around £15 and the FrSky radio costs £7.50, so it’s not exactly an expensive setup. How you make the electronics work is the interesting part, so I’ll follow this up with a building article once I’ve settled on the design.

Happy Christmas and for everybody who just got a new drone, read the CAA drone code:

Just Me and the Crows

I thought it was just going to be me and the crows this morning, but round about midday a DJI Mavic turned up and also a Corsair and an, as yet unflown, Curtiss Warhawk (but this one didn’t have the skull logo). The crows were quite funny actually, as they kept sneaking up behind me when my back was turned. I think they were interested in the aeroplane, but they would walk to within a few feet of me before flying away. Then some guy let his dog off the lead to let it chase them and they didn’t come back for a long while after that.

Unlike last week’s bright sunshine it was dark and murky and almost foggy this week, so I’m not surprised so few people turned up. On the plus side, though, the air was completely still so you could do some fine-trimming flights. In the end I managed 6 flights with the RS352, probably because nobody else was there for the first two hours. I had another go at harriers, with the flaps switched back to neutral, not dropped as I normally fly. This does seem a little better, but the aircraft still won’t settle into a stable harrier. It’s like it’s just got too much power and not enough mass to do it. Other than that, it was a very quiet morning and I got lots of aerobatics practice in: stall turns plus down leg rolls, cuban eights, harriers, outside and inside loops. I managed to fly around with the Corsair for a bit, which looks utterly amazing in the air, but I had to leave before the Warhawk’s maiden flight. I saw it from a distance, though, so I know that it got up into the air without any problems. I was told that it had an AS3X system and panic button, so it knew how to fly without the pilot.

Anyway, that’s the last flight before the RS352 gets an overhaul. I’ve got four new EMAX ES08MA servos which I’m going to use to replace the existing HiTec HS65MG ones which I’m not happy with. They don’t seem to work properly with my Futaba R617FS radio, so I’m getting rid of them over Christmas. The binding problems I was having last week seem to have gone away, so it looks like the Mavic isn’t interfering with my Futaba FASST radio system after all. Also, I’ve been working on the blades for the ATOM which I plan to finish soon and there’s also a micro quadcopter using the EVO F3 flight controller which I’ve almost got to the flight stage. With the FPV goggles I should be able to race it around the house, which is tremendous fun.

That’s it for this year, as next Sunday is Christmas day and I have a break until early January.

Lost Props and Binding Problems

It was another perfect day this morning and there was already a DJI Inspire being flown when I arrived. Apparently the guy with the Mavic from last week had already been and gone, but it does look like the binding problems I’ve been having with my RS352 aren’t related to interference.

We had quite a busy morning with the Multiplex Heron, Fly Baby, Corsair, UMX Pitts biplane (see pictures) and an own design foam board flying wing that fitted into a ruck sack for carrying by bike. Finally, the family from last week with the free flight glider came back with it fixed, plus a 10 foot tow-line.

Now, it appears that my binding problems aren’t being caused by the Mavic as I thought last week, because, on flight three, the problem resurfaced. I connected the LiPo and, instead of the immediate radio link and green light on the receiver, it just showed red and refused to work. Having fiddled with all the connections for a bit and switched it off and on multiple times, I gave up and walked away. A little later with all the same equipment it just worked. Very strange.

Flight three turned out to be quite eventful as I lost the prop part way through the flight. It’s all those vertical manoeuvres and the prop hub must be a bit old and worn now, so I should really replace it, or at least use some thread lock. I saw it come off, but wasn’t sure it was the prop as I thought I could still see it on the aircraft, so I brought it down immediately while working out that the controls still functioned normally. Anyway, my spatial awareness is still very good as I walked out to where the prop came off and was able to find it almost immediately. This time there doesn’t appear to be any damage to the aircraft, because, last time this happened about a year ago, the prop sliced a bit out of the motor mounting foam and then went on to strike the carbon undercarriage. The aircraft still has the scars on the nose to prove it.

So, once I had checked everything out, flight three and a half took place to use up the 50% still remaining in the pack. Then flight four followed immediately afterwards. I didn’t push the aircraft with anything that would stress the prop hub this time, just some lazy aerobatics.

That’s it for this week, except that I’m still tinkering around with 3D printing a micro quadcopter to fly indoors. This is to put my F3 EVO flight controller in to so that I can compare to the modified HubSan kit I was flying before.

The pictures show some of the bits I’ve printed so far, but I’m not having a lot of success. The printer just isn’t reliable enough to print the whole frame, so I’ve ended up with lots of bits that I’m going to have to glue together to make a sort of hybrid. I might just go back to my original idea and try to design a kit that doesn’t require a 3D printer. We’ll have to see how it turns out, but I really like the idea of making flying machines out of junk.

Free Flight Fun and Problems with a Mavic


You can see from the picture that it was cold and clear this morning with the sun very low in the sky. I had my first flight on my own this week, then a family turned up with an old fashioned free flight glider made from balsa, tissue and dope. Apparently it was quite old and still yet to fly, so I lent him one of my metal weights to get the C of G right and they launched it into the sunshine.


It all went really well and they had about a dozen flights with it until it finally broke the wings. It’s easily repairable, so maybe it will be back? Anyway, as they were leaving, I had the second flight with the RS352. I also had a 3 channel helicopter that I bought on a bit of an impulse when shopping yesterday, but, despite working really well in the house, the wind was just too much for it and I ended up having to retrieve it downwind. It was only £8, though, and my first thoughts were to modify it for computer control.

I took a few videos of the free flight gilder, as you don’t see many of them these days:

After that, we had the EFlite Advance, plus three other people, all with drones. One was a vortex, the other I’m not sure about, but the third was a brand new DJI Mavic. As it’s new, I wanted to see how it compares to the Inspire, but my video missed the point of take-off.

Now, it’s important to realise that this is all a bit anecdotal, but it looked like the Mavic was causing a problem with my Futaba FF8, TM-7 and R617FS setup on my RS352. I didn’t get another flight this morning because of the problems I was suddenly getting with the radio. I switched it on for flight 3 while the Mavic was in the air and the radio wouldn’t bind. All I got was the red light on the receiver. Now, to put this into perspective, I’ve been using the Futaba FASST system for years and it’s never ever failed me. The aircraft is four years old, as is the equipment, apart from a servo change and new batteries. I have never ever seen a problem like this with Futaba FASST before. So, then the Mavic lands and switches off, I switch mine on a few minutes later and it works perfectly. I hadn’t actually made the connection with the Mavic at this point, as I was playing around trying to figure out what was causing the problem and thinking that I wasn’t happy flying until I had a definite reason. So I walked away to have a think and the Mavic went up again. My radio wouldn’t bind. The Mavic came down, my radio started working again. So then we tried testing with the Mavic and RS352 on the ground next to each other and found that we couldn’t replicate the problem. He put the Mavic into the air with the video transmitting, took it out away from us and still I couldn’t replicate the problem. So, that’s now left me wondering what was going on and whether there is any kind of problem. The only thing I can think of is that DJI transmit the video on 2.4GHz, so it must be using up a lot of channels. Add to that two other quads in the air and the EFlite Advance and you wonder whether maybe all the channels were being used? One further piece of anecdotal evidence is that the EFlite Advance pilot thought he had lost control when he was landing as it didn’t appear to respond to the rudder as expected. All I can say is that we’re going to have to do some more investigation.

That’s it for this week, except to say that I also saw a green woodpecker in the grass foraging for food. They’re really big and it’s the first one I’ve seen, although, apparently they’re quite common around there.

OK, I know, go and finish the Autogyro.