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jbeckett's blog
Posted by jbeckett | Apr 09, 2012 @ 08:29 AM | 1,623 Views
It's been awhile since I updated my blog. I still fly the Easy Star and Stryker C. These days much of my flying is ParkZone Ultra Micros:
  • Night Vapor - great for indoor flying. I use a stripped-down gumstick camera to take video from it.
  • T-28. Outdoors, this little bird will do more in more situations than just about anything else. Never leave home without it. Keep your eyes open for the $99 RTF model at LHSs. Full aerobatics in one box!
  • Micro-Stryker. Great performance in an unbelievably small package. Beware, it's not Z-foam!

Posted by jbeckett | Mar 23, 2011 @ 06:00 PM | 1,940 Views
Got a Parkzone Night Vapor and a camera to go on it. Goal is to fly around a gym when they're having a robotics competition, with video up on screens by the stage - just to amp enthusiasm.

Follow the fun at http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1321850
Posted by jbeckett | Jan 10, 2010 @ 05:10 PM | 2,654 Views
This is hopefully an answer to the question, "can I go FPV with stuff I have on hand?" I got a downlink setup a couple years ago and gave up on it too early. Found all the pieces, and here goes again.

I've hooked up all my electronics including the motor, and it works fine. No interference whatever between the motor/servos and the video. That Dimension Engineering switching BEC is great!

This (brushed) power train is what I used for much of my AP work in the past, so I know it'll be enthusiastic enough. I figure if it can handle an outside loop we aren't short on power.

I'll use the recorder function built-into the camera, to capture video. Bonus: No video glitches.

Only problem at this point, is that the MPVR has on-screen indication of duration and modes and such, which can't be killed so far as I've dfound.

Now to mount it all on an Easy Star. I think I'll put the video transmitter on top like kevinhines did.
Posted by jbeckett | Oct 06, 2009 @ 08:54 PM | 2,870 Views
Grab an airsick bag and check this out if you dare:

http://computing.southern.edu/jbecke...StrykerCam.wmv

No music, just the nasty sound of a motor and the wind going by.
Posted by jbeckett | Sep 20, 2009 @ 04:43 PM | 2,538 Views
Not the Easy Star's fault. It was having intermittent electrical failures, and I tried to test it out in the air. Bad choice. Suddenly no motor and no control, and being perfectly balanced it sailed off in a gentle arc to the West. The area is largely trees and buildings, so it's on top of something. Mercifully, there wasn't anything really valuable on board: my last 72 mhz receiver, a couple of old LiPos, and a brushed motor setup. Wouldn't mind getting the wings back, though.

My phone number was on it. Maybe somebody will call with good news.
Posted by jbeckett | May 05, 2009 @ 02:58 AM | 3,162 Views
Indeed, the Typhoon flies again. We were running 9mph of wind so I wasn't in a mood to do anything fancy, but did several circuits of the field and landed just fine. Problem with this "field" is that it has a wall of turbulence generators (tall trees) along the side so if you have wind things can get nasty or interesting depending on your perspective.

I'm still entranced by the 2400 mah batteries I picked up. No early LVC cutoffs (previous batts were 1250), consistent performance, long duration. The convenience of responding to trouble by punching the throttle and pointing the nose at the sky is something else!

Now to get back into learning inverted flight. I'm at the stage where I can handle all sorts of trouble right-side up, but the airplane and the air both have to be perfect if the wheels are pointing up.
Posted by jbeckett | May 03, 2009 @ 07:09 AM | 3,049 Views
Whew, it's been almost a year since I blogged! Newbies are welcome to be instructed and old salts may indulge in a chuckle or two. Others may find this all too familiar.

Current fleet:
- Easy Star with brushless from ParkZone Typhoon
- ParkZone Typhoon 2
- Stryker with 1600 kv E-Flite outrunner, 7x4 prop

Recently ordered new batts from cheapbatterypacks.com. Got a 2S 2400mah Air Thunder for the Easy Star and a 3S 2400 mah for the Ty & Stryker. Tested them out Friday afternoon. Amazing what new batteries will do - my planes fly like they're attached to roller-coaster rails up in the sky. The airplane simply goes where you tell it to.

Almost. The Typhoon is definitely perkier with a new battery. Loops, rolls, the usual. I was setting up for some practice time inverted when the sticks quit responding normally. The airplane was tumbling - sometimes doing what I commanded and sometimes not. I chopped the throttle as the ground arrived and walked over to view the carnage.

Turns out the firewall had parted company with the fuselage, and the firewall/motor/gearbox/prop was flopping around out front. It had taken a bite out of the leading edge of the starboard wing (found 15 feet away). All the electronics still functioned, including the motor.

This morning I mixed up a batch of Great Planes 30 minute epoxy (must be good stuff - it's the only thing that will stop our dining room chairs from squeaking) and glued everything back together.

This bird will fly again - Foam rules!
Posted by jbeckett | May 25, 2008 @ 09:25 PM | 3,846 Views
Newbie warning: Graphic language ahead regarding the fly/crash/rebuild cycle.

Since getting a brushless motor/ESC, my $15 Stryker-B has been through multiple - uh - hard landings. Lost its nose several times. 100% due to pilot error - the airplane itself has performed flawlessly. I was always able to find the pieces. At first I glued the nose back on, but now the nose is really 3M strapping tape with the pieces of foam inside to give it shape. I think it flies better this way. The latest impact (see below), the nose seemed to handle trauma better.

Anywhoo, the latest attempt was this evening, using an APC 6 x 5.5 prop (formerly 6x4). It's going faster. Instead of 40 mph on 8 NiMH, I'm getting 50.

Or did on the second pass or so. Tried for a confirmatory/better number. Note to self: RC transmitter in one hand and radar gun in the other is OK, but don't lose track of the most important thing: keep the airplane in the air unless you are landing it!

The Stryker bounced off a cross-road (leaving the prop behind in good shape thanks to a prop saver, blessings on those #67 plumbing o-rings), and came to rest upside down in the grass about 60' away. Major damage inventory:

1. Stripped the left servo. Alas, that was my last HS-81 so I'll have to replace both servos with units from the junk box.

2. The motor mount (which was not really a good adaptation for that motor anyhow) was destroyed. I just spent a half hour or so machining a replacement mount out of oak. I'll need some longer metric screws. Aha! These screw threads are the same as used in floppy disk drive mounts. Again, the synergy of computers and RC is demonstrated.

In any case, this Stryker will fly again, and without my spending money. And 50mph isn't too bad for NiMH, now is it? So we'll call this a successful flying session.
Posted by jbeckett | Apr 23, 2008 @ 07:44 AM | 3,732 Views
My old Stryker I got off a guy for $15 - and it looked like it'd been through a war - now has a 1600kv e-flite brushless motor. Yesterday I put a 3S1P LiPo on it (borrowed from the Typhoon 2). It doesn't quit go vertical, but flies like a dream - pretty much goes where you point it. If the motor and prop were a better match it would probably go like a rocket.

In a couple of landings the LiPo shifted forward without me noticing it. Flight became somewhat more sedate, but otherwise no problem whatever.

I think I'm going to like this airplane. The main problem will be tolerating it when I'm using NiMH. I see why LiPo flyers have an attitude about anything less.

Now to break out the radar gun and see how fast we're going. Two possible problems: 1) The radar gun may not even see that piece of foam. May have to tape pieces of aluminum foil to the wings. 2) I have this incredible urge to throttle back when it's headed right at me.
Posted by jbeckett | Mar 16, 2008 @ 11:00 AM | 3,812 Views
Wasn't going to go up to the field today because of wind, but my wife said the sky looked clear so why wasn't I flying? She's a keeper.

Got up there and I'd forgotten to bring my wind-flyer, the Easy Star.

Flew the Ty2. It went well. Learned that if the wind is above 10 mph, go ahead and land across the runway, you won't need the distance. In fact, a little up-elevator and it'll drift backward or hover.

Once when powering up the ESC made a horrible growl instead of turning the prop. I suspect this is a bad rotation sensor detection at boot-up (everything has a computer in it these days). Re-powered it and it performed just fine. (Edit: I'm suspicious that this is a loose prop. Will check it out.)

Tried a different wing on the Slow Stick: the wing from a ParkZone Cub or Decathlon, if memory serves - whatever the LHS had in stock. I've sawed it apart and glued it back together without any dihedral and with a 3/8" fiberglass stick inside for stiffening. Also cut some ailerons into the wing and put in servos.

First flight with this "medium Stick" the wind grabbed it, yanked it way over the clubhouse and I did well to get it down in one piece looking through the clubhouse picnic area downwind. The ailerons seemed to have way less effect than expected. No damage so it was a good flight, but what was wrong?

Inspection showed that the left aileron wasn't deflecting (thought I'd checked that but...) Closer inspection showed the red (...Continue Reading
Posted by jbeckett | Mar 13, 2008 @ 10:07 AM | 4,373 Views
Here is a comparison of the old and new Parkzone Typhoon transmitters

Old 5AP transmitter: Negative shift FM/PPM, 5 channels. The 5th channel is used to signal the receiver that we are going into "low rates" mode, which cuts the deflection on control surfaces.

Channel order: Throttle, Elevator, Ailerons, Rudder, Dual Rate

New ZX10 transmitter: Negative shift FM/PPM, 6 channels. The 6th channel is for the X-port control, and presumably could be used by any third party for an actuator such as bomb drop. Dual Rate control is done in the transmitter on this model, not in the receiver.

I haven't looked into what happens with the X-port at the receiver end. Presumably there is some connection for the X-port device to chop the throttle.

Channel order: Throttle, Ailerons, Elevator, Rudder, 5th, X-port

Notice that the channel order of these is different from each other, and different from anything else on the market (although it's close to Spektrum/JR - which is either positive shift or PCM depending on which model).

Interesting question: Can these two transmitters (I have one of each) be used to "buddy" together? Yes, so long as you don't expect dual rates to work. The new transmitter must be the master, since its RF desk switches on with the buddy cord. There is something I haven't figured out yet about the receiver: Apparently it senses what sort of transmitter you have at turn-on. So I've used this procedure (presuming the old is slave, and new is master):
1. Switch on old transmitter.
2. Switch on the receiver. Wait for it to beep and start working.
3. Switch off the old transmitter.
4. Switch on the new transmitter. Make sure it's working.
5. Plug in the buddy cord.
6. Flip the buddy switch (unmarked switch on left corner of the transmitter) on the new transmitter.
7. At this point the buddy transmitter should have control.

So far this works on the bench, but haven't had success in the air (need a good co-pilot).
Posted by jbeckett | Mar 11, 2008 @ 10:59 PM | 4,300 Views
The Typhoon 2 is fabulous. It goes where you point it. Much better than the Typhoon 1. It runs a long time on the LiPo. I'm still learning how to land it smoothly, and picking up a bit of aerobatics. Aileron rolls and loops are easy - just kick the stick in the right direction.

The Easy Star is still great for Typhoon-charging time, and of course it travels well in the box I made for it. Did some more AP the other day - piece of cake.

Need more time to fly!
Posted by jbeckett | Feb 26, 2008 @ 07:56 PM | 4,115 Views
Haven't blogged for a long time.

1. Gave up on video flying for the time being. It requires a spotter, and I generally fly alone.

2. Been doing AP video and stills. Love doing HD using a Canon TX1. http://computing.southern.edu/jbeckett/hobby

3. Replaced my deceased Parkzone Typhoon with the new Typhoon 2. They have hit the sore points:

- Stock battery is now LiPo, no NiMH option. Yes!
- Better servos. Way better!
- New radio has 5th channel in addition to dual rates, plus X-port.

Instead of struggling to do whatever you are trying to do and having stripped-servo problems, the new Typhoon just goes wherever you point it. Point it up, not down. Altitude is an advantage, not something to fear.

I pulled out the radio gear and stuck in a Spektrum to go with my main transmitter, even before the maiden flight. I'm happy with that. The Parkzone radio gear I have is now standing by for my 2-year-old grandson to be ready to learn flying.

The new Parkzone transmitter will buddy with the old green one - but the aileron and elevator channels are swapped. 10 minutes with a soldering iron and the old radio thinks it's a new one.

Playing with buddying, I found the new transmitter's RF deck is active if you use it as a student radio - guaranteeing a crash if you don't remove the crystal on the student radio. If the two transmitters are on different frequencies, you might accidentally find your student piloting two airplanes at the same time - which is somewhat more difficult than one.

I haven't gotten an oscilloscope on the new radio, so I don't know exactly what's up there. Behavior suggests:

- It's standard negative-shift PPM.
- The dual rate switch is probably firing channel 6.
- The "channel 5" switch is PPM channel 5. If you want analog control, replace the switch with a potentiometer. The "dual rate" switch is PPM channel 6. (On the original Typhoon there was no channel 5 switch and the dual rate controlled channel 5.)

I look forward to a lot of fun with the Typhoon 2.
Posted by jbeckett | Feb 04, 2007 @ 07:55 PM | 4,602 Views
Today I got started about 8:45. Cold, 10mph wind.

If you're alone flying by video, you have to make up your mind if you are going to look at the airplane or the screen. Barring a HUD, of course.

While flying, I started looking at the TV screen to see if I could steer by it. Suddenly I realized that when looking up at the sky I couldn't see the airplane. No choice: I had to steer by video. Turned the airplane around until I could see the runway where I was, and flew toward it. And flew toward it. And...some headwind up there! Finally got close enough that I had to be able to see it, and sure enough - but boy was it low!. Time to land. Hopefully I can post a video of this sometime.
Posted by jbeckett | Jan 24, 2007 @ 04:48 PM | 4,689 Views
Field report on this: It lifts just fine. Got up to about 400 feet altitude with no problems. Was stealing time from work, so I broke it off after confirming that flight feels pretty-much normal.

Motor: stock (well, Graupner's version of the 6v s400)
Prop: APC 6x4e
Battery: IBC 1200 7-cell from cheapbatterypacks.com
Camera: MPVR
AUW: 32 ounces
Transmitter: microwireless.net 200mw
Temperature: 48F
Wind: 4mph

I didn't have a charged-up power supply with me so the video receiver/recording gear on the ground wasn't working . Attached is a picture taken during this run.
Posted by jbeckett | Jan 21, 2007 @ 09:13 PM | 4,857 Views
Airplane: Multiplex Easy Star, stock motor, APC 6x4 prop.
Battery: CheapBatteryPacks.Com 7-cell NiMH IB1200 or IB1400
ESC: GWS 480
Radio: Park Zone, as used in Typhoon and F-17C

Now for the interesting stuff...
Camera: Aiptek MPVR
Trigger Control: Hexpertsystems.com
RF Downlink for camera: microwireless.net

Problems met and conquered so far:
1. Trigger control didn't work. Evidently it needs the trim lever all the way to the left. Can do.
2. RF transmitter had a power connector that plugs into a spare channel on the RC receiver. Problem: Sucks too much power, taking down the entire radio system. Solution: Built an auxiliary BEC out of a 7805 integrated circuit and a sawed-off heat sink from a 80486DX2-66 chip (same computer I robbed of a power supply to run my peak charger in the house).

At the moment it all works in the house. Took pictures in the guest room, dining room, and living room. Roared the motor and scared people.

It's all waiting for a nice day when I'm not needed at work. Stay tuned.
Posted by jbeckett | Jan 01, 2007 @ 11:21 AM | 4,897 Views
Today was for testing new things. Went up to the local AMA field at 9 or so. Wind was already picking up. Looked like 4mph on the ground. Sent the Easy Star up, and it flew like about the wind was 10mph from 50 feet on up. OK, time to get to work.

Fired up the Slow Stick. It now has the MPVR, the Prism IR control unit from hexpertsystems.com, and an RF downlink from microwireless.net. The other day I tested all this and ran into a problem: The ESC couldn't handle both radio/servo load and the downlink transmitter. So I attached holders for 4 AA batteries on the underside of the wing. The big question is, are we too overloaded? Word on the boards is that a Slow Stick is overloaded the wings fold up instead of lifting.

At the field, I had multiple problems:
  1. No RF output. Turned out it was AAA batteries that weren't fully in the sockets. (Edit: Also a problem with wiring. microwireless.net came through with info on how to solve this, even though it was out of warrantee. Kudos!)
  2. No IR control. Didn't figure out that problem. I've had it before using my "MPVR snapper", so I suspect this is not the manufacturer's fault. (Edit: It works better if you have the device plugged into the same servo channel as the stick is connected to.)
  3. Didn't have the batteries charged for the MPVR, which is a real bummer. I have two batteries, and my normal practice is to swap to the spare just before launch - but didn't have it along this time.
  4. Although the airplane was
...Continue Reading
Posted by jbeckett | Dec 17, 2006 @ 10:43 AM | 4,808 Views
...if the wind dies down, that is. Today is idea. Temp will peak around 70 F, wind around 5 mph.

Flying at dawn as usual. My wife went along, nice to have good company. Tried out the APC 6x4 prop. I'm also running a Graupner 6v Speed-400 motor. It's a little different with this rig compared to stock:

1. A bit more thrust. Less need to go brushless and/or LiPo.
2. Significantly more torque. I'll have to adjust the rudder because I'm running the trim all the way to the left, and having to kick the stick that way a bit as well. Right now it trims dead-straight with the motor off.
3. Seemingly less noise. Five seconds after launch, I hear nothing of the motor and it stays that way for the entire flight. I think the motor switch did some of that, and the prop did the rest.

Maybe more of the energy is going into propulsion and less into noise.
Posted by jbeckett | Dec 13, 2006 @ 09:52 PM | 4,821 Views
My prophecy about the Typhoon came true: Its motor/esc/battery kept giving trouble, and I got tired of fixing it only to have it bite the dirt yet again. I am successfully flying two other airplanes, so it isn't that I can't fly! I've dissected the Typhoon for the parts that are good (got some nice carbon fiber in there), and the z-foam went to the landfill today.

Not to say that the Typhoon is a bad airplane! Buy a new one, replace the elevator and rudder servos with HS-81s, go LiPo, make sure your ESC has lots of ventilation, and you're in the 3D business for well under $500 with a good community of fellow believers. The airplane and radio are fine - it's just the muscles that are weak.

Santa is hinting about another airplane for me over the holidays. One better suited to my skills (first year at 55+ years old) and interests (scale-looking flying, not 3D). Tower says a new box might be appearing under the tree maybe this week.
Posted by jbeckett | Oct 18, 2006 @ 03:27 PM | 5,313 Views
The manual is right: The Parkzone Typhoon isn't for beginners. Even though I have gotten a fair distance up the learning curve using the Multiplex EasyStar, the TY (my first RC airplane) has taken some lumps.

New-product reviews don't generally tell you what things are like 50 flights down the road. Here are some issues with the TY, none of which is a show-stopper and all of which can be solved relatively inexpensively:

- Poor servos. If you get a TY, replace the elevator servo with a Hitec HS-81 immediately. It will save you replacing the gearbox, cowling... etc. Cost: under $20.

- Poor connectors. Replace the battery connector with Deans Ultra. Cost: under $4.

- C.G. I looked in the manual today and couldn't find a spec on this. After learning a bit on the EZ, I realized one reason why the TY was hard to fly: the C.G. was too far aft. After the last crash/rebuild, I put some weight on the front (see picture). It flies much more solidly now. Cost: Under $1.

- Elevator hinge (related to frequent stories about stripped elevator servos). Give it some exercise before taking the plane out the first time. If you go full elevator-up and it returns back toward neutral deflection when you switch off the power, the hinge is too tight.

So for $25 you can make the TY into a decent-flying machine using NiMH. Get a spare battery from cheapbatterypacks.com (the IB1200 is good, no "upgrade" needed). Go LiPo and you can rip up some air, although that'...Continue Reading