flying

Blowing the Cobwebs Away

Yes, there really were cobwebs on my aircraft as it’s been quite a few weeks since I’ve managed to get any real flying done. A tiny little spider thought he could make a web between the tail and cockpit.

[images here – can’t seem to upload images this evening, blasted thing isn’t working]

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As you can see from the picture, it was a perfect sunny Winter’s morning, dead calm and yesterday’s biting cold incessant wind and rain was just a memory. It was actually quite warm while the sun was out. To start with I was on my own, but then I had four people come over with FPV aircraft, then another, then two Mavics (one with his wife and two small children), then a guy with a Phantom at the extreme edge of the field. It was chaos and I really don’t find that style of FPV flying to be safe. At times they were whizzing their drones around at head height and sometimes skimming my head with a forward sweep FPV plane (ZOHD Dart).

Aside from that, with the problems they were having getting their video to work, one can only feel that the flying field has the same view as me. They were complaining of interference and each time somebody switched a VTX on, one of the drones dropped out of the sky blind. I had four great flights with my RS352 though. I only wish I could have brought the autogyro, but there really wasn’t any wind for most of the morning and it was a bit too busy. The RS352 is still going really well, but I noticed a weird thing when I was setting up.

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Something has taken a big bite out of both my wingtips. Neither was like that when I put it into the car, but on the grass, I could see that the right wing was missing a bit and the left tip was hanging by a thread. Now, I’m wondering where the missing bit went. Did I lose it as it moved around in the car, or was it coming down the stairs? I still can’t find the bit so it remains a mystery.

As for flying, my thrust line might be off as it seemed to want to climb as soon as I put the power on. I’ve been flying in such windy conditions that everything seemed slow by comparison this morning, but that’s how slow it should really fly. Four flights, no dramas, lots of cubans, rolls, stall turns, spins and flick rolls. I even tried a flick at the top of a loop, but it doesn’t flick around in place. It always changes direction, so I couldn’t complete the loop as I was intending. I also tried harriers again, but the plane just doesn’t want to do them. It’s so badly unstable you end up over-controlling. What I did this time around was to put the flaps back to zero camber (I always fly with a few degrees of down flap), but it makes absolutely no difference. Never mind, it’s just that I’ve got a 3D plane that likes big slow aerobatic manoeuvres and that suits me just fine.

Only one more flying day to go before Christmas now.

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Blowing a Gale

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The weather outside is horrible. We had 40MPH winds and rain last night, which has reduced to 20MPH this morning, with heavy showers. I’m staying inside, although, predictably, by midday the gale force winds had blown all the clouds away leaving a bright sunny afternoon. You just can’t stand up straight in the gale.

Anyway, I haven’t really done any flying this week, apart from flying the black HubSan X4 in the picture above. I actually flipped it twice as the front left prop kept coming off. The picture shows the on-going plan to film quadcopters indoors flying through my own Drone Racing League style course using Christmas tree lights. I’m trying to make the obstacles now using wire and foam board. The two quads in the picture show the two different ideas. On the left we have the Cleanflight, Taranis, FatShark FPV quad which I can fly around with the goggles, but needs some fiddly HDMI to USB video recording setup from the HDMI output of my Black Pearl screen. This is a pain, but the only way I can record the FPV from the FatShark is to use another receiver and a computer with a video capture card. On the right I’ve got the HubSan X4C, which has a camera on it that records directly to a micro SD card, but doesn’t allow me to fly FPV. This is the easier recording option for capturing some stock footage flying through a single obstacle.

I’ve been having problems making the obstacles because the Christmas lights are heavier than I thought. It’s all the cables actually, but where I’m trying to put lights onto foam board I can’t quite figure out a way to hold it all together. A hula hoop would make a good obstacle, but they are rather large. I want something more portable, so I’m thinking about 3D printing some rods and angle joints that can be fitted together. The rods could be made from kite sticks which would make the whole thing nice and collapsible. Either way, at the moment I just need something to do some tests with if I’m going to write the AI code for a drone to navigate autonomously around a DRL course by March. This was going to be my Christmas project.

Here’s hoping for flyable conditions next week.

On the Other Side

It was overcast and very windy this morning, with traces of rain on the windows. I would have had to take the bike this week so it didn’t seem worth the effort.

Things haven’t entirely resolved themselves from last week, so my weekend’s been a bit of a mess. However, we have a new drone project which I’m very excited about.

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It’s not a ring of fire, they’re only Christmas tree lights spread out on the floor. The new project is to make an autonomous AI drone which can fly one of the DRL racing courses with all the processing done on the drone itself. So, I figured, let’s get some Christmas lights, make our own course and fly some drones in the dark. It couldn’t hurt? And the video we record will be used for training the vision AI algorithm to hit the centre of the obstacle every time. Well, that’s the theory anyway, we’re currently a very long way away from doing that right now.

Hopefully, normal service will be resumed next week. You never know I might actually get to do some flying again?

Busy, Busy, Busy

It was grey and overcast and windy and looking like rain this morning. I probably could have gone flying, but I’m busy doing other things this weekend. Everything is working towards the finish of a big work project on Wednesday, then, if all goes well, I should finally be able to get my life back and start doing some fun things again.

Talking about fun things, I’ve got the possibility of a really exciting drone project for 2019, but I can’t say too much about that at the moment. It’s going to involve some fairly intense work from December to March, but only once I’ve got next Wednesday out of the way.

See you on the other side…

New and Old

 

New car, new phone, same old weather. The two images above show a picture from my old Nexus 4 phone (left) and my new Moto G6 phone (right). The only problem is that it was incredibly windy today and all my Nexus 4 images are blurry because I took them in a hurry and the wind was moving the plane around. Or it could just be that the Nexus always had a problem with the camera focus? I was never happy that it was working properly.

Anyway, when I arrived this morning there was one guy with a drone far off in the distance. Then I was on my own for ages until another guy with a drone showed up, along with his wife, daughter, baby, grandparents and dog. He was really nice, although his dog did chase his drone around the field for ages, then had a go at chasing my aeroplane. What we did was for me to call when I was landing and they grabbed the dog. Other than that the only other person was a mystery drone flyer over in the distance. We saw it go over our heads, but never figured out where it was being flown from.

I managed 5 flights with the RS352 this morning, but it was stupidly windy. The interesting thing is that I flicked my flaps mix out on flight 2 and that worked a lot better. Normally, I would expect a down pitch and have to fly around it as it’s not trimmed to fly neutral when the flaps are up, especially as I was flying it nose heavy anyway due to the wind. This time, though, it was flying much more neutral with no flaps and I wasn’t having to compensate with elevator trim. Strange, but it must have been the effect of the gusty winds, which were making it difficult to penetrate and causing the aircraft to balloon violently on the gusts. As you can probably tell, flying any sort of precision aerobatics was out of the questions, so I just threw it around the sky doing cubans, loops, flicks, rolls and stall turns badly. Any landing that worked I considered good, and, actually, I don’t think I did too badly, considering. I was more or less hitting the spot, although aircraft attitude and position on the approach was interesting. Everything was being used to get it back down safely. At one point during a flight, I would have said that the wind was well over 30MPH, strong enough that I could only go backwards and would never have been able to launch if it was like that a few minutes earlier. Needless to say, I picked my moments for the landings. Also, in one respect it is quite fun flying a 3D aerobat in these conditions, as I could turn the motor off and fly like a glider with a spinning propeller on the front, That was how windy it was.

So, I beat the elements this week. I had wanted to take the autogyro with me, but couldn’t fit it in the boot of the new car. On arrival at the field it was a lovely bright and sunny November day and I was really disappointed I left it behind. That changed within about 5 minutes, though, and I very quickly appreciated that it would have been impossible to fly the autogyro. The wind forecast for today was only 10MPH, well within autogyro limits, so I don’t know what happened?

Here’s hoping I can get all this new technology under control by next week.

Funny Old Weather

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I was close to not going out this morning. The anemometer on the building over the back from us was spinning round like a mad thing and brought in a load of dark looking clouds. Then all was calm and sunny again, so I decided to risk it. In the picture above, you can see the RS352’s left wheel isn’t on the ground. It’s not propped up on the flight box, that’s the wind doing that and I’ve had to restrain it from taking off on its own. Needless to say, the conditions were quite challenging to fly this morning.

There was already a mini F27 Stryker being unloaded from an electric bike when I arrived this morning. We never even got it out of its box, though, that’s how windy it was. Actually, it’s more correct to say gusty, because, one moment it was clam, then next minute blowing a gale. The wind was blustery and all over the place. We had a lovely chat with a lady on a horse while the wind was doing its thing to stop us flying. Next up, we had a couple of guys arrive with some FPV fixed wing aircraft. You can see a couple in the background of the picture above. I don’t really like FPV aircraft, whether they’re drones or fixed wing, because all they want to do is fly on their own without a spotter and out of range and close to things they shouldn’t because they want to capture some good HD video. They both got told off by a runner for flying outside the limits of the field. Good.

The only other flying this morning was a young boy and his family who had three drones: an AR drone (dead battery), a bigger lightweight one that I didn’t recognise (too light in the wind, not enough control and flat battery) and a 100mm size Revell one (trim way out, dud battery). His father was the only person I’ve ever seen arrive following an OS map. It was all a bit stressful as they couldn’t get anything to work, so I asked whether he would mind me having a go of his bigger one? It was weird to fly, all automatic, so you push the take-off button, fly, then push the land button. It wouldn’t tilt enough to cope with the wind, so all it was ever going to do was drift downwind. The battery wouldn’t get it more than 2 foot high either. I also had a go of his Revell one, but the battery was dead on that too. That was a shame, as I would have expected it to fly like the little HubSans, which we were always flying in completely unsuitable conditions, just like today.

As for my own flying, the first flight with the RS352 was fine, then on the second the wind was crazy. On flight three, I would have sworn that there was something wrong with the aircraft, landing with the expectation of finding a locked aileron. To be fair, on the first two flights I felt that the trim was out as it was wanting to fly with it’s nose in the air, but the conditions were very bad. On flight four, I still felt that the aircraft wasn’t right. It was as if things weren’t reacting as fast as they should be, or I was getting interference problems with the radio locking out. I do wonder whether this was anything to do with our two FPV friends who were using UHF 433MHz for control and mentioned something about 2.4GHz video, plus a switch for high gain? Who knows what power output they were using, but I’m going to continue using my Futaba FASST system which has always proved itself completely reliable? Time to invest in a radio monitor I think. Let’s hope for better weather next week.

The Clocks Go Back and So Does the Weather

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After last week’s perfect conditions, the weather this morning is unflyable. I took lots of pictures of clouds, which will get put into my flight simulator when I finally get around to working on it again. I cut my losses and just called it a work day today. At least that way I can get back on top of things for when the weather does finally improve.

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When the sky looks like that it’s a good idea to stay indoors. If I do manage to finish debugging and deploying the server that I need for work, then I’ll do some aero programming later this evening.

Confounded

Conditions are perfect. It’s bright and sunny, there’s just a tiny bit of wind and hardly a cloud in the big expanse of blue sky. And I’m stuck inside waiting for a plumber because the heating system has broken.

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All I have this week is a new set of cheap digital calipers to replace my (probably very expensive) swiss-made manual ones that I inherited from my grandfather. My eyesight isn’t what it used to be and the light is terrible, so I’ve been finding it difficult to read off the measurements that I need to make on my model autogyro in order to make a computer model. I’ll let you know how I get on with the digital ones once I’ve used them for a bit. Today would have been a great day to test the autogyro again, but there you go, confounded. October hasn’t been a great month for me.

Wild Weekend

The weather won this week. On Saturday we had the tail end of a hurricane and gale force winds, then on Sunday it was torrential rain.

This was the weekend last year when I was flying in quite windy conditions and one of the autogyro rotors hit the prop, the blades folded up and it crashed into the ground as an unguided projectile. I’ve only had a handful of flights since then as I’m a bit reluctant to try any more hand launches until I can be sure it’s trimmed correctly. Talking about autogyro bits, I’ve nearly got myself a finished 3D model for the simulator.

 

Put all these bits together and you have a computer generated autogyro. I’m quite proud of what I’ve achieved as I’m really not a 3D artist by any stretch of the imagination. I just need to finish off the head, tidy up the fuselage and add a motor and prop. Then it’s down to programming and computer simulation, which is something that I’m good at.

Anyway, I don’t have much else to say this week, apart from a slim chance that we might do another drones masterclass. This one could be tricky, though, but we’ve got a bit of a budget and I might have to add in some fixed wing creations for the students to play around with. We’ll have to see how this one develops.

Here’s hoping for less wet and windy weather next week.