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Old Apr 15, 2014, 04:38 AM
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Bulgaria, Sofia-grad, Sofia
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Build Log
Firstar Pro Brushless PNF - full review and build log

This is a review and build log of the Firstar Pro by VolantexRC.

The full review, as well as a detailed parts list can be found in my blog: ArxangelRC.blogspot.com

I ordered the Firstar because I needed a suitable platform for my micro FPV experiments, and being a pusher it fit the bill perfectly. Furthermore, it only came in PNF or RTF configurations, which meant that I will not have to go hunting for electronics, and the price was more than acceptable. When it arrived I was pleasantly surprised by its no-glue assembly, and by the fact that a 200 gram plane is equipped with spars all around, and 9 gram servos!!! These servos would last a lifetime in this plane. To add to that, the plane flew beautifully with the pre-installed stock electronics, and a 2S 950mAh li-po was enough for a 15 min flight. Overall I am VERY impressed with this plane, it is absolutely perfect for beginners, and I would gladly recommend it to both beginners and experienced pilots alike.



SPECIFICATIONS
Wing span: 758mm
Length: 536mm
Flying weight: ~200 grams (actual achieved - 217 grams)
CG: there are markings on the wing, they are spot on

ARRIVAL STATE

The plane came well packed, nothing was damaged. Its parts are so light that it is near impossible for them to damage each other even if squished, kicked... etc.

WHAT I LIKE

To get an idea of the best feature of this plane, take a gooooood, loooooong look at the "Parts List" above. This is everything that you would need to get his plane flying, and I think that is great.
The next great thing about this model is its no-glue assembly. The tail bolts on...



...the wing slides in, it is a very tight fit, and it there are foam bits that help keep it in its place...



...and the plane has spars in the main wing, in the ailerons, and in the tail!!!! How amazing is that?! I've never seen that many spars on a model of this size. The spars are all pre-installed, so assembly is even quicker.





The electronics and velcro are pre-installed as well. Now that I've flown the plane, I can also say that I am very happy with the ESCs set up for this particular model, but more on that later on. The 9 gram servos are a nice touch, but a bit of an overkill for a model of this size. Still, its nice to know that they are probably the last thing to break on this model.



All push rods and clevises come pre-installed, you only need to install a few control horns and connect the clevises to get the model ready for flying.



WHAT I DON'T LIKE

As usual, there are a few things that bug me a little. First, its the fact that there are no bands for the clevises, and since a few of them were a little loose, unless you put your own bands, nothing is stopping them from opening during flight (although that still hasn't happened after 4 flights, even though I do not have bands on mine).
Second, there was no programming instructions for the ESC. Granted, the ESC comes very intelligently programmed for this model, but just in case you need to adjust anything, you'd have to go looking for instructions online, which could be annoying.
Third, the aileron servo is actually built into the fuselage, and replacing it will require splitting the fuselage in two to get to it. I know the 9 gram servos will probably outlast the plane, but there is always a chance that one might get a defective one, or can always find a way to strip it, so it would be nice touch if there was some easy access to it.



And fourth, the channel where the ESC to motor wires a routed is a nice touch, but should you need to change either one, a bit of effort will be required because there is no hatch there. There is a small opening that could be used for connecting and disconnecting the wires, but it would require the use of tweezers.





THE VERDICT

I do have to say that the negatives of this model are more of a small nuisance than a real problem. They can be easily overcome with a little effort, so I don't think they could be used as an argument against getting this plane. The plane is very easy to build, does not require glue, can be quickly disassembled to be put back in its original box or for storage, and because of its weight it is quite durable, which makes it perfect for beginners. The pushing prop configuration also means that it can't do any real harm if it hits anybody, because there is not spinning prop at the front. Breaking a prop would also be a hard thing to do.
I've done 4 flights already, and in my opinion this is an amazing looking and flying model that can be flown in very tight spaces if need be. The stock motor offers ample power even for some aerobatics. Tip stalling is very gentle and hard to achieve. I've had a lot of seasoned pilots ask me about this plane at the field, it really attracts attention.
At the end of the day, I think that this little jewel can bring many fun flight hours to both beginners and seasoned pilots alike.

THE BUILD, AND MODIFICATIONS

Lets get started on the build now.
First, I like to do the tail section. In order to get the horizontal stabilizer in, the two pieces of foam at the far back of the tail that join the upper and lower parts need to be cut away.



If you look closely in the opening for the horizontal stabilizer, you can see that there is a round plastic piece embedded in the vertical stabilizer. This is where the bolt that holds the tail together screws in.



The bolts is pushed in through the bottom of the tail.



I was actually stunned by how well the horizontal stabilizer fit in its nest, and even more surprised that bolt channels actually aligned perfectly!!! You will have to connect and adjust the elevator clevis, and it would be advisable to adjust the servo horn for that servo, as well as the rudder clevis and servo horn, even though it is pre-installed. Make sure the servos are powered and centred for this.



The wing has to be pushed into place, it is hold in place by friction as well as by the foam teeth sticking out of the wing.



Make sure you DO NOT install the control horns for the ailerons before you push the wing through the body. Mount the control horns AFTER the wing has been properly mounted on the body. Then adjust the clevises for proper length, make sure the servo is powered and centred for this.



The canopy mounts via an L brace at the front, and a large magnet at the back. Its mounting looks pretty secure, and I think it will be able to carry the weight of a micro FPV set up all on its own.



As usual, I installed the Orange Rx without the case, the ESC rests to one side of the battery. With the 2S 950mAh li-po the plane balanced perfectly at the CG markings on the wings.



It has been quite a while since I've built a small model like this one. All in all it took me about 1 hour to put it together and set it up, and that includes taking the pictures. The plane could be assembled in under 30 mins easy.



Now that the plane is ready, it is time to put on some stickers and go for the maiden flight.







And here is the full maiden flight. The plane is quite agile and very resilient to tip stalling. It flies very well inverted, which is surprising for this type of wing, and also looks very good in the air. The maiden flight was in some windy weather, and the plane held its track very well in these conditions.

VolantexRC Firstar - Maiden flight (10 min 25 sec)


Before I finish this off, I would like to turn your attention to the ESC. On the third flight I decided to test how long the plane can fly, and also to test how the ESC will behave when the battery's voltage gets low. I am usually very sceptical of stock ESCs, and I've had some issues with the old Volantex ESCs with the yellow heat shrink. These blue ESCs that currently ship with the PNP models are different than the old ones, and might just turn out to be better.
When looking at the specs of the ESCs, the voltage cut off just sais 65%?!?! I wasn't sure what that meant, but during the endurance flight I found out. When the battery got low, around the 16th minute of the flight, the ESC limited my throttle to 65%!!! So that's what it meant!! From there on it was gently reducing my throttle over the next 30 secs, so I had plenty of time to turn the plane around and position it for landing.
When I plugged the battery into the charger, the cells were around 3.65-3.70v each, which was a pleasant surprise. The charger put back around 700mAh out of the 950mAh in the battery (these batteries have seen a lot of abuse, so they do drop voltage sooner). This was such a nice surprise I could hardly believe it, this ESC was working perfectly and being programmed this way it is perfect for beginners!!! I have no experience with the larger ESCs, but this new 10A ESC is programmed perfectly for this plane. Well done Volantex!!! This is one stock ESC I will not be throwing out any time soon. Rest assured that I will be flying this plane every chance I get so I can see just how long the motor and ESC will last, IF they ever fail.
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Old Jun 14, 2014, 05:35 AM
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United States, NH, Dover
Joined May 2010
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Nice review. I just ordered one of these last night and look forward to learning on it. This will be my first plane but I do have several cp helis. I am suprised that it is so hard tomfind threads on this plane. It looks well built and has a great price tag on it.
Have you done any mods to this plane?
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Old Jun 14, 2014, 10:07 AM
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Bulgaria, Sofia-grad, Sofia
Joined Feb 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Helikevin View Post
Nice review. I just ordered one of these last night and look forward to learning on it. This will be my first plane but I do have several cp helis. I am suprised that it is so hard tomfind threads on this plane. It looks well built and has a great price tag on it.
Have you done any mods to this plane?
Yes, it was surprising to me as well that there isn't much more info on it, and it is not a new plane to be honest!!!

I have not done any mods on it yet, the plane flies pretty good as it is, the only thing that I will add would be a micro 5.8Ghz 200mW FPV system, I think I should have an update pretty soon.
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Old Jun 14, 2014, 12:48 PM
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Cool I look forward to it. I am anxious to get it here and start flying
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Old Jun 23, 2014, 07:04 PM
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Bulgaria, Sofia-grad, Sofia
Joined Feb 2012
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Update 1

It finally happened!!! After waiting for a while for a few components to make this happen at the right weight, it is finally a fact - the Firstar flew beautifully with the FPV gear. But first, a little background.

I got a few spare video chips, only the chip without the rest of the crap that you usually get on a standard Boscam video Tx. Then I also got a few step-down voltage regulators. Following the chip pin out schematic, I soldered everything up, and to avoid having to solder an antenna connector and using those heavy antennas that are available around, I build my own CP antenna that I soldered to the video Tx. The chip is rated at 200mW, I haven't measured it, but judging from the flight it might as well be that powerful. I soldered some power and video wires, set the voltage regulator to 3.4v (both my camera and the video Tx operate on that voltage), and was pretty much ready to test it out. I used some 0.8mm push rod wire for the antenna, it was very difficult to work with it as it is very stiff, but I did it. The weight of the video Tx + voltage regulator + antenna + all wiring is just 8.8 grams.
Here it is mounted on the plane:



I had to pair this with a small camera as well, so I used the one that I had mounted on the rudder of my V1 FPVraptor some time ago. I drilled a hole in the canopy and just pushed the camera in, I didn't even have to glue it on, it just fits so well that it stays put during the flight.



The camera's wires come through the hatch and into the plane.



This is where all the cables meet. It is a bit messy, but I will get around tidying it up a bit soon. Initially I ran the wires on the inside of the fuselage through an opening at the top near the Vtx, but the ESC to motor wires were causing too big of an interference to be usable, so I moved them to the outside. The interference is MUCH less now, but there is still some, as you will see in the video, so I will have to deal with it as well.



I have a few inductances and a few proper capacitors to make a filter, just in case the remaining interference is not caused by the ESC wires. I should have a solution soon. In any case, the signal is pretty good even now and definitely flyable since I did 5x 10 min flights this last Sunday.

And here is the video. Again, forgive the interference, will deal with it soon, so hopefully the next video will be free of it.

VolantexRC Firstar - first FPV flight with 5.8Ghz 200mW Tx (2 min 50 sec)
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Old Jun 29, 2014, 08:23 AM
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United States, NH, Dover
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Nice job. I like the way you mounted it. Eventually I will do a fpv with mine. Right now Im learning to fly it. Took it out for its maiden this morning. First launch didnt end so well. Didnt have enough power and she went down. Knocked the canopy off which took out the prop. Lesson learned, do a couple of unpowered launches to get used to the way it is going to react. After I broke the prop I did probably 12 unpowered launches. I have it figured out but now I have to find props.
I thought I ordered 4he bl version but I guess not. Looks like a future upgrade but for now it will get me going. Stickers didnt stick so well on mine so Im thinking about tossing a few orientation strips on one of the wings.
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Old Jun 29, 2014, 08:26 AM
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http://www.ebay.com/itm/5pcs-RC-Airp...item5aff4c0b33

I found these. They should work. Im pretty sure my shaft is 2mm. If not I can widen the hole
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Old Jun 29, 2014, 10:40 AM
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I am not sure why would anyone even stock the brushed version. This plane is a breeze to fly, especially on a calm day. I am very happy with its flight envelope.

The props from the link are the right size and pitch, just make sure this spinner can be removed and that you mount them on the right way.
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Old Jul 04, 2014, 04:09 PM
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fpv

could you provide a detailed list of the fpv equipment including its weight, and sources?
also, what pack was used on the video?
the video is amazing especially because it shows non stop and non edited that the plane flies doing all kinds of aerobatics and lasts that long.
a great review too. congratulations.
thanks.
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Old Jul 05, 2014, 04:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by phil alvirez View Post
could you provide a detailed list of the fpv equipment including its weight, and sources?
also, what pack was used on the video?
the video is amazing especially because it shows non stop and non edited that the plane flies doing all kinds of aerobatics and lasts that long.
a great review too. congratulations.
thanks.
Hi, sadly I can't tell you how much the video Tx weights because it is already all in one piece with the voltage regulator and the antenna. The Vtx together with the regulator, the antenna, and all wiring is exactly 8.8 grams. The camera is another 8-9 grams, so roughly around 18 grams. I made a filter later one, still have to upload the pics of that, so add another 3 grams, and we are up to 21 grams for the FPV system.

The battery I am using is a Nano-tech 2S 950mAh 25C li-po. If you visit the link to my blog at the top of the first post, you will see the full parts list.
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Last edited by Arxangel; Jul 06, 2014 at 03:31 AM.
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Old Jul 05, 2014, 11:33 PM
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where?

thanks for the input. the weighs mentioned are enough.
but i can't understand this:
you said:
If you visit the list to my blog at the top of the first post, you will see the full parts list.

could you please explain? or bring the list again here?

and where you got the components (supplier, part numbers)

thanks again.
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Old Jul 06, 2014, 03:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by phil alvirez View Post
thanks for the input. the weighs mentioned are enough.
but i can't understand this:
you said:
If you visit the list to my blog at the top of the first post, you will see the full parts list.

could you please explain? or bring the list again here?

and where you got the components (supplier, part numbers)

thanks again.
Sorry, that was supposed to read "link". Here it is: http://arxangelrc.blogspot.com/2014/...ark-flyer.html
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Old Jul 06, 2014, 04:43 AM
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fpv components

thanks. what i meant was the data on the components of the fpv system, like the camera, etc. where you got them, and their part number or name, prices.

regards
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Old Jul 06, 2014, 05:27 AM
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goggles or screen?

also, what are you using: goggles or screen?
whatever, could you provide more data?
your experience with that?
i ask because i already have a system that uses screen, from ibcrazy http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/member.php?u=103113 .
so i think that at least i can use the receiver's end for this (am guessing).

thanks
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Old Jul 06, 2014, 05:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by phil alvirez View Post
also, what are you using: goggles or screen?
whatever, could you provide more data?
your experience with that?
i ask because i already have a system that uses screen, from ibcrazy http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/member.php?u=103113 .
so i think that at least i can use the receiver's end for this (am guessing).

thanks
I am using a 9" video monitor, I get dizzy with the goggles, so I avoid them. I am very happy with the monitor, it works great, and I can always find my model in the sky.

This is the video Tx: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/New-Boscam...item2c7da3d841

And this is the camera: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/2813114945...84.m1423.l2649

The camera is not perfect, and I also need a better DVR, but it is light and has a large view angle, which is very nice on this little plane.

And here is my latest FPV video with this plane, this time with pretty much no interference from the power system. After the last time I added a few low ESR caps and a 2.2mH inductance between the battery and the video Tx, and now I only get very light interference at full throttle, which I use only for take off anyway. I am happy with the results.

VolantexRC Firstar - FPV flight without interference in the video (3 min 26 sec)
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