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Posted by DismayingObservation | Mar 17, 2014 @ 12:25 PM | 11,647 Views
Tell you what: I've had more fun with this $40 gadget than some of my models costing ten times that much.

All is not unicorns and rainbows, but the bad stuff isn't bad at all.

My first Proto X coughed up its motherboard less than a week after I'd bought it. No need to return it, said Hobbico. A brand new unit arrived less than a week later.

One new Proto X meant that the faulty Proto X now equalled a bunch of spare parts!

I liked mine so much that my wife and I got our adult son a Proto X of his own for Christmas and he loved the heck out of it until one of the motors started acting up. Since he doesn't have soldering equipment and I do, I offered to fix it.

Out came one of the motors from the original unit and onto my son's Proto X it went.

Success! It flies like new, if not better.

Less than a week later, my replacement Proto X started exhibiting many of the same symptoms after heaven knows how many flights. Same deal. Out came a motor from the faulty unit to be remounted on the good one.

Again, success! Between that motor swap and an earlier battery replacement with one from Common Sense RC, my own Proto X is going to be flying for a long time to come.

I really like the thought of having repaired two units for a total cash outlay of zilch.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Feb 09, 2014 @ 09:56 AM | 12,416 Views
...a picture of my new DJI F450 Flame Wheel quad! It's a rather simple yet fun little beast with its KK2 board, Afro 30A ESCs, four 1800Kv D2822-12 motors (thanks,!) and four of APC's new 8x4.5 multirotor props. The radio, of course, is a DX6i and the receiver is a full-range AR600. That marvelous acrylic board mount, nylon standoffs and clear acrylic top cover were gifts from Chris Leroux at Armattan as a means of trying to mount the board to my old Rotor Concept HPQ1 frame.

Like I said, simple yet fun. It isn't anywhere near as nimble as my Armattan CNC 258, but it's no slouch with those high-revving motors.

Best of all, I already had the board, mount, male-to-male servo leads left over from the HPQ1, a new Deans Ultra-Plug, ESCs and receiver on hand. All I needed were the motors, props and frame and I got the latter two items at the local hobby shop.

Thanks go to multirotor genius "TheOne420" for fine tuning the board.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Jan 28, 2014 @ 06:46 PM | 11,965 Views
Well, almost.

I soldered up the JST receptacle for the voltage monitoring - after having to remove the bottom plate to get to some solder pads - and I started in with zip ties on the ESCs.

Although I hadn't finished tying everything down, curiosity got the best of me.

APC now makes multirotor props, but the 10x4.5 units I bought came without the customary APC prop adapters...and the darn things were just a bit too large for the motor shafts. Fortunately, I had some adapters which were enclosed with my spare props for my Armattan CNC 258 quad. Success! I've just found out something reassuring in that regard; the hobby shop has a package of prop adapters for a whopping five bucks. I'm picking up a pack tomorrow!

After a quick double-check of the controls on the control board's LCD display and a sensor calibration, on went the props, in went a battery and out the door I went.

There's nothing quite like seeing something you've assembled from a myriad of parts actually rise from the ground. Nice and smooth, too. The controls are in need of some fine tuning, but the fact remains the thing actually flew and in control! Once everything is properly strapped down, I'll get some pictures.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Jan 27, 2014 @ 07:34 PM | 11,429 Views
I sure do wish that my efforts last year to get my money pit flying once more were not in vain.

At least I can take some solace in knowing those efforts weren't entirely wasted since the components are coming together on a newer, better project.

I'd blogged about the attempted rescue on my part of a Rotor Concept HPQ1 quadcopter which had a burned out control board and for which I'd spent entirely too much hard-earned bread. It never did fly right even after a KK2 board and four Afro ESCs; a friend and quad expert told me that the motors weren't up to snuff since everything else indicated the board was working properly.

Fast forward to the last few days.

Chris Leroux of sold me four of the 1800Kv HiModel RC motors he uses in most of his builds. Just over ten bucks a piece.

Add to that a DJI Flame Wheel F450 frame and the custom acrylic control board mounting plate which Chris made for me for use on the HPQ1 and I almost have a new quad made entirely of affordable, discrete components.

Props, tie wraps and a JST plug for the board's battery voltage monitoring function are about all I'll need from the hobby shop.

This has been a fun project, so I invite you to stay tuned for a full report and some pictures of the finished product.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Dec 27, 2013 @ 10:32 AM | 11,100 Views
I'm writing in response to the gentleman whose blog appears just below this one. He ordered one of these as a Christmas gift to himself, but closed the thread before I could respond:

So, in the interest of good will toward men during this Christmas season, I'm responding here in the hope that others interested in similar helicopters might benefit.

Back in April, I reviewed a nearly identical machine. The link may be found here.

Helicopters like this are best flown in a large, enclosed, obstacle-free space like a garage or a gym. They steer through the air much like a surface model. Small 3.5-channel helis are fine for the living room, but these particular models are far too large, ungainly and imprecise for in the house.

In order to fly outside, the wind must be dead calm. By that, I mean dead. There are no servos at the main rotors to control cyclic; all of the forward and reverse motion is done via the tail rotor. So, even a slight breeze will mean that the helicopter will be at the mercy of the winds since there is no cyclic control and no pitch control found on regular variable pitch helicopters.

That said, I still fly mine in the garage every so often. I back the cars out onto the driveway, close the door and buzz around. It's a lot of fun for what it is, but it's extremely limited compared to my CCPM helicopters or my quadcopters.

Happy new year and have fun, gang!
Posted by DismayingObservation | Nov 09, 2013 @ 09:00 AM | 11,996 Views
This was on the "hot topics" panel a few moments ago:

If you wish to see a truly amazing bit of amateur filmmaking shot on a cellphone, this is a must-see, especially for WWII warbird fans.

I thought I'd share it here in order to help it get some more exposure; it's more than worth the time it takes to view it.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Oct 14, 2013 @ 09:54 PM | 12,716 Views
A review I recently wrote about the RC Aerodyne Beechcraft Duke B60 EPO electric twin can be found here:

Ironically, I had very little stick time on the model when one compares it to the time it took to compose the review, electing to give the maiden duties to my club's president. All I'd done was to circle it once around the pattern with the gear down which immediately allayed my fears of the thing.

This past Sunday morning prior to football fun was the time I'd decided to put some time on that airframe.

I had the two Mad Dog lipos from used for the maiden charged and ready. Once the wing was bolted in place and plugged in and after a quick check of the controls, it was off for a real flight.

One perfect takeoff later, it was up with the gear for nearly five minutes of smooth, scalelike flying.

I don't know why I was so intimidated by the model at first, but I'm here to tell you that any doubts I might have had about flying a big electric twin are utterly gone. Even the landing was as close to perfect as I could have hoped for, eliciting a few attaboys from the club members kicking it back in the pit area.

That was some of the most fun scale flight I've done in a long time. In fact, I can't wait to fly it again!
Posted by DismayingObservation | Oct 09, 2013 @ 02:18 PM | 12,476 Views
I had the pleasure a couple or so years ago to review the Yardbird RC Mini Su-30 pusher prop jet.

That little Depron ditty was one heck of a lot of fun.

Key word: Was.

Sadly, time and a few rough landings had taken their toll and I don't like flying glue bombs, something the Su-30 had devolved into, but all was not lost!

During the course of the review, I'd goofed the build after misinterpreting the manual. As a result, I wound up gluing the upper deck upside down across the bottom of the fuselage. I was able to rescue most of it with some cosmetic damage to the deck and more extensive damage to the sides of the fuselage.

Yardbird RC was kind enough to send me a new deck and a few other parts in order to properly complete the review, leaving me with nearly enough parts for a second model. Ken Young of Subsonic Planes now operates the company and I emailed Ken with a wish list of what I'd need to build a new plane, parts which he sold to me at a terrific price. I wound up needing new servos for which I paid full pop, an unexpected expense. No problem.

I used the original model as an assembly guide and before long, I had me a new/old Su-30! Even the slight cosmetic damage to the top of the deck was mostly hidden by the stickers and a Sharpie marker.

She flies like a dream and believe me, it's nice to have a Yardbird back in the hangar.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Oct 07, 2013 @ 04:02 PM | 12,104 Views
An ancient injury to one of the radials on the reborn HPQ1/T380 quadcopter was a lot worse than I thought it was.

The number two radial was loose and clearly somewhat fractured at the chassis plate; it's little more than a couple of CF tubes covered with unshrunken shrink wrap tubing.

And to think Rotor Concept wants nine hundred simoleons for the thing.

But I digress.

Thanks to a small eBay purchase from a US-based distributor, that radial is as good as new, frankly because it is new.

Genuine factory parts, low price.

When I took the old one off the model, I was amazed as to just how lunched those tubes were once I slid off the shrink wrap. I don't remember when it happened; I'm sure it was probably about the time the original ESC started spitting out IC chips like rotten teeth, causing a rather unexpected situation culminating in a sudden smack into an unyielding garage floor.

It was far, far worse than I had imagined. Not anymore, thank goodness.

I can only imagine what might have happened had the thing decided to turn itself into a tricopter during a flight!

Lesson learned!
Posted by DismayingObservation | Sep 16, 2013 @ 08:37 AM | 12,631 Views
All remains relatively well with the reborn HPQ1 with its shiny new HobbyKing electronics.

I say "relatively" only because the number one motor kept popping its endbell during yesterday's flight adjustments. I'd removed the endbells in order for the quad to fit in its rather nice hard-shelled case which is SOP for that model.

Swapping out the number 1 and number 3 endbells fixed the problem, so I've temporarily marked that number one endbell with a Sharpie until I can engrave it or otherwise label it. The 8x3.8 APC slow-flyer props generate more thrust than stock, something to keep in mind when replacing them.

Good old Chad, aka "TheOne420" did a superb job of setup over at the hobby shop, properly activating the auxillary channel so that I can now switch the self-leveling mode on the fly. He even got the battery voltage indicator on the KK2 to work by soldering the leads of a JST connector to a couple of pads underneath the board. The positive lead went to a pad marked "AREF" and the negative was soldered to ground, or "GND." Once plugged into the male JST pins on the power distribution board, success!

I still want a better frame and motors, but we'll see how this one works in the long run.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Sep 14, 2013 @ 05:05 PM | 9,457 Views

It took some time and effort, but the redone HPQ1 is a functional R/C model aircraft once more. This time around, the electronics are all state of the art except for the motors.

The new 8" APC quadcopter props aren't in the pipeline just yet, so I went with some APC 8x4.5 slow-fliers both normal and reverse. Good thing I'd kept the original brass bushings from the original props; no other prop I've tried will fit without them since the shafts are so tiny.

One of the Gemfan props which were on it met an untimely demise soon after I powered up for the first time. Seems that I had reversed the numbers 3 and 4 motors at the KK2 board. KER-BLAM! The quad violently flipped over onto its head, shattering the prop.

All is now well and the final fine tuning comes tomorrow thanks to user "TheOne420." Even with the initial settings, this thing flies better than it ever had with the old electronics.

On to the next project!
Posted by DismayingObservation | Sep 12, 2013 @ 09:38 PM | 9,690 Views
I've said before that few feelings are as truly remarkable as the ones felt when a project comes together.

It would seem that my attempt to resurrect, rebuild and otherwise resuscitate a dead Rotor Concept HPQ1 quadcopter was a success!

Recall that I have said less than kind things about a cheap little quad with a horrible radio still being sold for an insane and unreal $899 on the company's website...but hey, they'll unload one on you for $299 at shows.

Like they did with me.

Well, I'm glad to announce that the terrific HobbyKing electronics are installed and work great!

I'm waiting for a new set of APC 8x4.5 quadcopter props since one of the Gemfan props I was using was shattered thanks to my having switched the numbers 3 and 4 motors on the KK2 control board. This caused the quad to violently flip over, shattering that prop and chipping another. Only spare CCW prop I had was the right size, but a different brand. However, it worked well enough to get the thing airborne once I discovered the mistake. It's wandering a bit at hover, but I'm attributing that to the mismatched propellers.

When the props come in, I'm going to pick up a male-to-male jumper so that I can connect the auxillary channel and get battery voltage readings. I had enough of the original jumpers to connect the receiver to the board and get it flying, but without the aux.

I've promised photos which I'll post on the next entry. Promise.

I can also promise that if anything happens to this frame or motors, I'm getting some real motors and a frame, maybe from Armattan Quadcopters. I still love my CNC 258!
Posted by DismayingObservation | Sep 09, 2013 @ 08:21 PM | 8,371 Views
Between my day job and my tasks here on, I'm a busy guy.

Pleasantly busy and having a lot of fun, but still busy.

I figured that I'd been staring at a hundred bucks worth of still-bagged electronics from HobbyKing and a custom-built component mounting plate from long enough.

Today was the day I whipped out the soldering iron and some other small tools and got going on the resurrection of the Rotor Concept HPQ1 quadcopter.

I had a serious chunk of change invested in this beast before I'd learned more about quads; I wasn't about to let all that money go down the tubes.

It was admittedly interesting to solder twelve new male bullet connectors to the very tiny leads coming off each of the motors once each motor was unbolted from the frame and the wires cut to length; they're somewhere in the neighborhood of 22 AWG. Ridiculously tiny. What clearly made things worse where these motors were concerned were the rather long leads coming off of each motor. Since the original ESC was a sort of "4-in-1" unit mounted on the chassis beneath the control board, the leads had to be long enough to reach back. Why they couldn't have been made of heavier gauge wire escapes me, but that won't be an issue anymore save for the first two inches or so.

Perserverence pays off and did so earlier today with each motor sporting three new bullet connectors and each radial sporting a brand new Afro 30-amp ESC, each held in place with a single tie wrap for the time being.

I've taken some photos of my progress so far and I'll post them on the next blog entry.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Jul 19, 2013 @ 03:14 PM | 8,878 Views
A wonderful little cardboard box hit my PO box this morning! One HobbyKing KK quadcopter control board, one power distribution board and four Afro ESCs with SimonK firmware waited within.

I quickly learned this is NOT a project for the faint of heart. The electronics from the Rotor Concept HPQ1 which is going to receive all these lovely goodies have a wider mounting footprint than the standard 45mm spacing on the HK electronics. So, I have to make some sort of an adapter plate. I hope I can find a piece of scrap acrylic; that would just be cool.

That's the easy part. Less easy is the setup of the control board since HK's online manual is borderline gibberish. That's where my quad expert buddy comes in. First things first, so I'll get the new electronics mounted soon and go from there.

I might do a review of the components and the conversion over at The E Zone, so stay tuned.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Jul 17, 2013 @ 03:56 PM | 9,052 Views
...but still on the other side of the country!

It took less time for my HobbyKing order to go from Hong Kong to New York than it has for it to go from New York to Flushing.

Oh, well. At least it's moving. By this time next week, I might actually have the goodies in hand and installed on my quad frame.

Plenty to keep me busy in the meantime.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Jul 12, 2013 @ 08:58 PM | 8,870 Views
I tell you, when HobbyKing turns up the heat, the stuff gets here fast. My quadcopter stuff hit American shores today! OK, so it's in New York and I'm in California, but the goods are closer than ever. That will be one fun project!

Finding time for all the other projects I have in mind will take time, but it'll be time well wasted.

So, it's off to the next project!
Posted by DismayingObservation | Jul 10, 2013 @ 09:56 AM | 8,864 Views
At least it did long enough for me to order some parts. Kindly refer to my blog a couple of posts back.

I in turn refer to the Rotor Concept HPQ1 quadcopter I picked up at the 2012 AMA expo. Looked good to me, having had zero quad experience.

Besides, Rotor Concept sold them online for $899! They still do! So, a $299 show special with a radio, battery, charger, GoPro mount and aluminum case must be the ultimate deal of all time on the ultimate quad, no?


The radio was junk from the get-go and the onboard electronics proved to be junk later on. It's little more than a LotusRC T380 RTF which sells for about $250 via any number of Asian mail order companies. We won't even discuss the customer service nightmares associated with Rotor Concept.

One lives, one learns.

So, plunge taken in order to recoup my investment; see my post titled "To Wii or Not To Wii." A new KK board is on its way from HobbyKing as is a power distribution board and four Afro 30-amp ESCs, all nicely flashed with SimonK firmware right out of the packages. This is stuff which literally didn't exist back when I bought this paperweight and I couldn't have told you who SimonK was back then if you'd paid me. The whole enchilada set me back less than a hundred bucks.

Including shipping.

I'll be working with Chad Graham, the fellow who recommended the stuff to me in the first place and who posts here as "TheOne420." I'm kind of afraid to ask where he came up with that name...

Anyway, I might do a review of the conversion at for those looking to do a similar project.

Now to wait for the goods to arrive from Hong Kong.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Jul 06, 2013 @ 06:15 PM | 9,370 Views
Ah, summertime. Nice, hot and perhaps a bit too hot.

That didn't keep me from trying out the World Models P-51 with its new ArmSafe arming system earlier today. FYI, I talked about it in my last blog.

For the first time in all the time I've had the thing, I actually felt safe putting the wing and belly scoop on it with the battery plugged in. Small wonder, since the arming plug wasn't in place at the time. No chance of an accidental bump of the throttle putting an unpleasant end to the day.

It's also a LOT faster than I remembered and despite the very small ailerons, I actually got the model to roll for the first time! I even tried some inverted with it.

Problem: Trying to take off from short grass caused a noseover and bumped the motor slightly loose from its mount. The odd sound which I thought was simply harmonics later turned out to be a loose motor. No tools meant only one flight, but it was a beauty. That model's light wing loading even makes for some of the best landings I've ever managed to pull off with a model plane and today's was no exception.

All's now well with the mount and I do believe it's going with me to the field tomorrow if I do in fact go.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Jul 04, 2013 @ 04:45 PM | 8,250 Views
The ArmSafe kit now has a new home in the World Models P-51 as does an Airtronics receiver. I took the Futaba out of it to use in an upcoming review and the Airtronics receiver came out of one of the nitro models I'll be dusting off soon. I figured that I can simply share a receiver between the two.

That little Mustang is a delicate thing and with little room to work, but I got that kit installed. There was simply no place to put it to make it look reasonably attractive, but that's the way it goes. At least I can get it ready to fly without worrying about getting sliced into tender strips of meat with an accidental bump of the throttle.

Onward to the next project, assuming some money doesn't get sidetracked into a Blade Nano QX quadcopter.

I just HAD to go ahead and fly one of those little gems and I kind of wish that I hadn't!

On the other hand, some 15% nitro, a receiver battery and a starter battery will get my Great Planes Spitfire .25 back in the air. That innocent looking Spitty is one of the hairiest rides I have, so it hasn't seen action in awhile. It's small, fast and not nearly as forgiving as my souped-up Multiplex FunJET, capable of the same speed and beyond. The Spitty is about four years old and still looks close to new. The same model with the same O.S. engine is flyable on RealFlight 6.5; the computer shows 85 MPH (137km/h) in straight and level flight with power dives flirting with nearly 100 MPH (180km/h).

Decisions, decisions.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Jul 03, 2013 @ 12:37 AM | 8,642 Views
Well, I did it.

I went to the hobby shop and picked up an ArmSafe system for the little World Models P-51. I figured that I might as well get it installed while I wait for its new battery to arrive from Hobby Lobby.

Last time I checked the tracking, it had just left Nashville.

Sounds like a good name for a country song, but I digress.

That system will be installed tomorrow. The USPS tracking says the battery should arrive by Friday and if it does, that little sweetie is going with me to the club on Sunday, assuming the club's videographer will be there to shoot video of a couple of current review subjects for

I don't think that I have more than $125 in the whole thing and that includes the original $40 purchase price when I bought it from a club member complete with everything but a receiver. I'd transfered the original Turnigy motor to another project, but it was destroyed in a crash. The current SuperTigre setup consists of an extra SuperTigre .10 outrunner sent as part of a warranty claim along with a SuperTigre ESC. Both motors were fine; I just had to buy another ESC for use in the P-51. The timing is kind of high on that motor and no spare ESC I had on hand wanted to work properly with it.

Next up will be the E-flite P-47 and its paint touch-up. That'll be next week.