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        Help! Can't feel the sticks

#1 fursale Jan 12, 2013 10:48 PM

Can't feel the sticks
Maybe I am in the wrong area but here goes.

I used to fly about 10 years ago and even owned a hobby/electronic repair shop.After having to retire due to health concerns I sold out.
Now a couple friends have opened a hobby shop and now I want to fly again.
The problem is that due to neuropathy I cannot feel the sticks properly and my finger slips off now and then.A buddy suggested that we build a interface unit that would have sticks the size of 6" broom handles controlling my transmitter.
After trying my best to do without such a unit I admit he is right.
I have thought about how to construct such a device but cannot wrap my head around how to do it.
If there is anyone who has the skills to give me some advice on how to build this.
My friend builds houses so he can handle the fabrication if he has some plans or ideas as to how to begin.
Thanks for any advice.
Jim New

#2 HELModels Jan 13, 2013 03:48 AM

It might get pretty involved, but I've seen a few DIY projects that use a joystick.

Here's one:


#3 ciurpita Jan 13, 2013 08:16 AM

i looked at a couple old radios and the rods coming out of the joystick mechanism are threaded. There are thicker, knurled and adjustable ends on the ends that can be removed.

i would think longer and larger diameter wooden dowels or aluminum rod can be drilled, tapped and screwed onto the joystick rods to extend their length.

I think some reinforcement around the end of wooden dowel attached to the joystick rod would be needed to prevent them from splitting, perhaps a ferrule or just wrapping with wire. This may not be needed if you actually use a broom handle.

#4 eflightray Jan 13, 2013 08:22 AM

1 Attachment(s)
A lot depends on just what you can hold and what preferred shapes.

Simplest would just be something like a short piece of broom handle with a knob on the top, that slips over the existing stick.

#5 richard hanson Jan 13, 2013 09:33 AM

The problem with those fixes is that the springing in the gimbals will not handle a lot of weight on the end of the stick- the feel becomes vary vague -quickly - this was a persistant problem with the single stick setups
for someone with reduced "feel" - the answer is changes in applied pressure
std finger actuated devices are typically 3-5 ls applied pressure
So build the stick extension but add a spring device which loads the new stick to the center.
This could be done with a rubber disc fit over the new sick and cutout to add pressure as the stick moves from center... it will take some fiddlin to get a feel which makes sense to the user.
The cutouts would likely be four large holes so that the completed disc looks like a four spoked wheel.
attaching the rim to the tx and the hub to the stick (glue) any stick movement would stretch/compress various spokes.
You can't calculate this one - it is a cut n try .

#6 BMatthews Jan 13, 2013 04:44 PM

Richard raises some excellent points on the issues with extending the control sticks. Since the extensions would reduce the ability to feel the spring pressure due to the added leverage you need to add something to the solution to get that ability to feel the displacement from center.

I'm also guessing that if you can't feel when your fingers are slipping off the ends that you also don't have a good feel for the spring tension indicating when you've moved the stick away from the neutral point and by how far. If this is the case then simply adding extensions isn't going to help a lot.

Another issue with extending the sticks is the added leverage you have to press inwards or against the side travel limits. The added leverage from the extensions, if they are more than only a little longer, is going to put a lot of excessive loads on the original stick and gymbals. At that point bending it by accident becomes a real risk.

Instead of trying to add stick extensions you might want to look into the flying chair that was produced some years back. The pilot sits in a cheapie looking deck chair and puts their feet on a stick and rudder pedals that closely mimics a real aircraft. The whole rig is attached to the Tx's control sticks that sits up by the pilot's feet. So the pilot then flies the model using regular full size style stick and pedal motions as well as a left hand throttle. The rig sits on a big lazy susan style pivot and a spare buddy "aims" the chair and pilot at the airplane.

Another quickie option would be to build a fully supported neck tray with side wings. Then instead of just jamming your thumbs onto the ends of the sticks you hold the ends pinched between your thumbs and forefingers with the heels of your hands resting on the side wings. This sort of setup is VERY popular in Europe and with a fair number of precision aerobatic pilots. It might be worth trying to see if it helps with your situation. Along with this possibly adding short extensions with fairly large ends that are about the size of a grape or cherry might also make it easier to feel when held with the two finger and neck tray option.

#7 kbozarth Jan 13, 2013 05:58 PM

There are some pretty big options already out there. Have you googled "transmitter JR Futaba stick ends"? I saw quite a few.


#8 fursale Jan 13, 2013 08:46 PM


Originally Posted by kbozarth (Post 23804441)
There are some pretty big options already out there. Have you googled "transmitter JR Futaba stick ends"? I saw quite a few.


Thanks for the replies.
Some interesting ideas here.
To get a feel (sorry) for where I am here I can feel a slight amount of center with the stock springs fully tightened.I tried using fairly stiffer gimbal springs which helps some with finding center,but causes more problems with the sticks slipping out from under my finger.Not a problem at altitude of course.I can land most anything 4 out of 5 times on the sim but that fifth time when I hear the sound of the stick flying back to center is not pretty :).
I have tried several unusual stick tops currently available but as I fly my thumb still works it's way off,requiring looking down often to re-center.
If I could find a larger gimbal system on which I could grip both sticks with my hands I could mount potentiometers from the tx or some with the same resistances to them and mimic the smaller sticks.
Then I could adjust spring pressures till I have a solid center without the worry of an accidental slip.
I believe this new type of control could be learned fairly easily and may even work as well or better than thumb control,who knows.


#9 BMatthews Jan 14, 2013 02:09 AM

If you're that close to managing I'd really suggest that you simply try a Tx tray that hangs from your neck. Look at the images in this link for pictures of the tray themselves and how folks are using them with their hands on the raised side wings and pinching the ends of the sticks between thumb and forefinger. If you don't need to get any fancier than this it would save you a heap of work and trouble that would be associated with feeding potentiometers that are outboard of the Tx case. Not to mention that you'd need to move the trim controls as well.


#10 eflightray Jan 14, 2013 04:44 AM

If you're a thumb on top flyer, how about a thin glove, (or just the thumb section), with a small patch of velcro on the thumb and on the stick top ?

Basically something that stops your thumb slipping off the stick, but still relatively easy to remove.

I always look for the cheap and simple answer, as that's what the wife refers to me as. :D

#11 Al M Jan 14, 2013 07:04 AM

Check with Bob Cook. He hangs out in the electric sailplane section. He uses a tray and big handles.

#12 Curare Jan 14, 2013 06:29 PM

I recall seeing a guy flying choppers with a modified TX, using long dowel like handles, as I think he had muscular dystrophy or something like that, and was unable to grasp sticks nomally.

Seeing the models he was flying certainly makes me think it wasn't any disadvantage.

#13 slebetman Jan 14, 2013 11:52 PM

It is possible to train yourself to fly without relying on the feel of the spring to give you feedback. I've flown like that several times using my phone as a trackpad to control aileron and elevator. It works for most planes provided that the plane is fairly stable, has no crazy tendencies and you're not flying crazy fast. And since you're flying mostly by sight alone a big plane really helps. I've flown both high wing and low wing planes like this.

So I wouldn't worry too much about the spring not giving enough feedback. The big problem to worry about is not feeling the stick slipping from your finger!

#14 Al M Jan 15, 2013 06:26 AM

With adjustable sticks, I always set the stick tension so the stick just returns to center when released. I like them as soft as possible.

#15 richard hanson Jan 15, 2013 07:34 AM

I believe the problem encounterd with poor sensation in the hands does require a different setup than stock sticks provide (tho I use a soft setup on my tx's)
In establishing the mins for stick tension , I watch for "crosstalk" common on mode 2 elev and aileron flying.
Typically the elev can be sprumg slightly softer than the aileron.
the hand tends to pull the stick at an angle and without good feedback - elev movement easily includes aileron movement.
switching to Mode 1 is not the answer - forget it - if you have been a mode 2 flier - youreally need a gimbal setup which has positive easily felt centering.
and respringing the gilmbals is simply a task some can't or do not want to attempt .
An external, flat plane springing arrangment . coupled with a larger handle is likely the best approach

The entire adaption stick and springplate) could be done such that it drops over the present stick (less the knob). then is attached to the tx face.

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