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ElectricFlights 92" HawkEye Flying Photography Platform Review

ElectricFlights' Hawkeye combines RC flight and aerial photography/videography in one easy flying, great looking package. Here's how to give your camera wings.

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Introduction


Wingspan:92"
Length:34"
Wing Area:2200 sq. in.
Airframe Weight RTF:2lb 10oz.
Camera Weight:8oz. to 2lb
Wing Loading:3.25 to 5 oz/sq. ft.
Rudder Servo:40 to 60 oz-in torque
Camera Servos:Hitec HS-82MG (2)
CG Shift Servo:Hitec HS-625MG
Transmitter:JR 9503
Receiver:3 to 6 Channel RX
Flight Battery:2200mAH
Motor:250 to 400 Watt
ESC:25 to 40 amp ESC
BEC:10 amp BEC (CG Shift Option)
Manufacturer:ElectricFlights
Available From:ElectricFlights
Flight Duration:10 minutes
Time to Build :8-10 hours ARF; 2-3 hours RTF
Price :$229 ARF; $449 RTF

What looks like an ultralight, flies like a trainer and carries cameras to new heights? The HawkEye from ElectricFlights! This innovative camera platform is the brainchild of Joel Scholz, a world renowned kite designer who loves to fly RC. I've known Joel for a number of years, and I can tell you that his designs are anything but conventional. The HawkEye project was an opportunity for Joel to blend his knowledge of the world of kite design and kite construction materials with his knowledge of EPP foam and RC control mechanics. I think you'll agree that the result is nothing short of amazing.

The HawkEye has become very popular among international photographers because it is so easy to fly. Until now, most aerial photography (AP) was flown by experienced RC flyers operating large high-winged aircraft (like Telemasters) or large helicopters. Most photographers were unwilling to invest the time needed to learn to fly a plane or a helicopter well enough to risk their high-dollar cameras. The HawkEye has proven to be so easy to fly that even first time flyers had great results and were able to learn to fly safely.







Kit Contents

The review HawkEye was delivered in the ARF configuration. ElectricFlights can supply the HawkEye in a number of stages of completion up to a RTF version that includes the complete radio control system.

Box Contents
Box Contents

In The Box:

  • EPP and plywood fuselage assembly with camera mount and rudder
  • Colorful nylon sail assembly
  • Sail protection/transport bag
  • Carbon spars and fiberglass sail stays
  • Hardware bag
  • 4-Page Assembly manual
  • CD Assembly instructions

Required for Completion:

  • Minimum 3-channel radio system
  • Electric brushless motor (250 to 400 Watt)
  • Electronic speed controller
  • 3-Cell Lipoly battery
  • 1 Rudder servo and 2 Camera servos
  • CG shift option - 1 servo 80 oz-in
  • Servo extensions (1 to 3, depending on your installation)
  • 5 minute epoxy
  • Camera

Assembly

Instructions

Although the HawkEye did build quickly, the CD and printed instructions were a bit brief and referred to earlier versions of the kit in some areas.

Sail Bag and Instructions
Sail Bag and Instructions

Landing Gear

Assembly starts with the landing gear. 5-minute epoxy was used to secure the mounting blocks and retain the wheels.

 Fuselage and landing gear parts
Fuselage and landing gear parts
 Front Wheel Blocks
Front Wheel Blocks
 Front Wheel Assembly
Front Wheel Assembly

 Wheel Retainers
Wheel Retainers
 Completed Wheel Assemblies
Completed Wheel Assemblies

Fuselage

My chosen outrunner motor had a shaft that extended past the "X" mount. The plywood motor mount area on the fuselage had a round cutout for the shaft extension, but EPP foam was glued behind the plywood and blocked the area behind the hole. I needed to drill out the EPP foam to provide clearance for the outrunner motor shaft. I also had to cut away the EPP foam on the bottom of the fuselage to form a pocket for the rudder servo.

 Motor mount area
Motor mount area
 Hole for motor shaft clearance
Hole for motor shaft clearance

 Motor mounted
Motor mounted
 Basic Fuselage Assembly
Basic Fuselage Assembly

CG Shifting Assembly

The review model HawkEye was supplied with the latest control feature, CG shifting.

The standard HawkEye used changes in motor power speed to descend or climb. Higher power settings caused the model to climb, and lower power settings caused the model to descend. Some modelers flew their models in higher winds and found that even with the motor turned off, their model would not penetrate the wind well enough to return to their launch site.

The CG shift option solved this problem. By moving the fuselage assembly fore and aft with relation to the sail, the CG was shifted such that the model would descend or climb even with the power off. The servo assembly for the CG shift system was mounted to one of the vertical support plates and used a heavy duty servo saver arm mount to prevent servo damage if the sail were snagged during a landing.

 Servo mount in place
Servo mount in place
 Servo with control arm and servo saver
Servo with control arm and servo saver

Prop Guard

Some owners reported that they were experiencing sail damage due to prop strikes. To address this problem, Joel designed a simple prop guard assembly and now supplies this with all new kits.

 Prop Guard in place
Prop Guard in place


Camera Mount

The review HawkEye came with a light-weight aluminum camera mount that held the camera tilt servo and the shutter servo. The mount was easily adjusted to hold almost any compact, point & shoot style camera. The shutter servo required some servo travel adjustment to get the servo arm to push the camera button far enough to trip the shutter without mashing the button too hard.

 Start with the Tilt Servo
Start with the Tilt Servo
 Tilt Servo arm setup
Tilt Servo arm setup
 Camera mount
Camera mount


 Shutter Servo mount
Shutter Servo mount
 Travel adjust to trip shutter
Travel adjust to trip shutter

With the advent of larger Point & Shoot and Digital SLR cameras, the HawkEye camera mount needed to be strengthened to support these heavier cameras. Joel supplied his new Heavy Duty Camera mount for testing on the review model. The HD mount used the same assembly process as the original mount except that the shutter trip servo mount used slots instead of preset hole locations. Because some cameras have the shutter trip button located forward of the camera back centerline, the shutter trip servo arm may need to be extended to reach the button. Servo travel adjustment was still critical to prevent over travel and possible servo or camera damage.

 Heavy Duty mount
Heavy Duty mount


Sail Assembly

Sail assembly starts with inserting the fiberglass sail stays into their pockets and folding over the hook and loop tabs to hold them in place. The sail leading edge is next. The end sections of the sail rods need to be plugged into the preinstalled front rod sections and then secured with the elastic loops on the rod tips.

 Sail Stays
Sail Stays

 Elastic Loops
Elastic Loops

The sail assembly is laid over the fuselage and the sail attachment blocks slip through the openings in the sail center section. The front sail rod slips through the sail CG loop, the sail front pad, and then through the front sail block. The front rod cap then installs, and the rod slips into the front sail pocket. The rear sail rod is then slipped through the rear sail pocket, through the rear sail block, and then inserts into the front sail rod. The completed rod assembly secures with the elastic loop at the rear of the sail.

 Rod Cap in place
Rod Cap in place


The sail spreader rods insert into the red angle brackets on the fuselage and then into the rod sockets on the sail leading edge. The sail tension cords route to the front of the spreader rods, and the cord clips attach to the metal tabs on the bottom of the fuselage.




Completion

CG Adjustment

The last step prior to flying is to set the Center of Gravity. The sail has a convenient loop sewn on top that is used to suspend the fully assembled HawkEye (including camera) and check the CG. The CG shift servo has to remain centered during the balancing process. The HawkEye needed 6 ounces of lead with the little Canon ELPH camera before it would hang slightly nose down. While the model was still suspended, I was able to check the function of the CG Shift servo. "UP" elevator command caused the fuselage to move back under the wing and the HawkEye pitched nose up. "DOWN" elevator command caused the fuselage to move forward and the HawkEye pitched nose down. Everything checked out, so it took to the air.

Flying

Basics

The review model was supplied with the "Spectrum" sail. Buyers can select from five different sail designs as shown on the HawkEye order page. My personal favorite is the Raptor design, but some buyers have reported orientation problems with sails that use symmetrical color designs. I did not have any orientation problems with the red and green sail design on the review model.

The HawkEye was designed as a stable platform for aerial photography, and that stability made it very easy to fly. Though it was primarily designed to be flown in calm conditions, the HawkEye flew very well in windy conditions when it was equipped with the CG shift option.

Taking Off and Landing

The HawkEye landing gear is pretty narrow compared to the sail wingspan and that made the model easy to tip over in a crosswind. If the model were lined up exactly into the wind, you could take off of the ground, but hand launching the HawkEye was a better choice. The model would almost fly right out of my hand. A gentle push was all that was needed to get the HawkEye airborne.

Downloads

Landings have always been the hardest and most risky part of flying a RC model. I've always heard that takeoffs are optional, but landings are mandatory. Well, the HawkEye proved even easier to land than it was to hand launch. All that was needed was to line the model up with the runway and cut the power. The HawkEye would almost land itself. As a matter of fact, I've seen Joel line his HawkEye up on final, pull back the power, and set his transmitter down, and the model would gently touch down to a perfect landing all by itself. While I don't recommend unguided landings, it was nice to know the HawkEye was that stable on landings. Using the CG shift to help flare the landings allowed the HawkEye to land in a very small area.

 Easy as 1...
Easy as 1...
 ...2...
...2...
 ...3!!!!
...3!!!!

Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance

I guess that some aerobatics might have been possible, but they are not recommended. The HawkEye was designed as a stable camera platform, and it flies straight and level and makes gentle turns very well. Several HawkEyes have been outfitted with video cameras and used for FPV training. Some photogs have even used FPV to line up specific camera shots for the still cameras. The ability of the HawkEye to lift heavy payloads has proven to be very beneficial.

Is this For a Beginner?

Absolutely. The HawkEye was very easy to fly. Many photographers have taught themselves to fly with the HawkEye, but I would still recommend that true beginners get some help from an experienced RC instructor if possible.

Flight Video/Photo Gallery











Aerial Photography

 Club Flying Field
Club Flying Field


 Golf Course
Golf Course

Downloads

Conclusion

The HawkEye is a very easy to fly aerial photography platform. I highly recommend this model for any RC flyer that wants to take aerial photographs or videos. It would also make an excellent FPV platform because of its gentle flight characteristics. The HawkEye is especially well suited for photographers that need aerial shots but don't have the flight skills needed to fly a full-house RC plane or RC helicopter. If you would like to see what others are saying about the HawkEye, check out the HawkEye thread in the Aerial Photography Forum here on RCGroups. While you are browsing the thread, be sure you check out the world class pictures that have been taken with the HawkEye.

Pluses:

  • Easy assembly due to low parts count
  • Several versions available from ARFs to RTFs
  • Gentle flight characteristics and great stability
  • Large wing area produces lots of lift for heavy camera payloads
  • Sunlight through the sail looks great
  • Takeoffs and landings don't need much space

Minuses:

  • Assembly manual and CD somewhat brief and some sections refer to earlier versions
  • Landing gear are narrow and may allow the model to tip in a crosswind

Thanks to Joel Scholz for his help with the flight videos and still pictures. Thanks also to Billy Hell for the tunes.

Last edited by Angela H; Nov 03, 2010 at 10:11 AM..

Discussion

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Old Nov 03, 2010, 04:39 PM
floyd
wxrc's Avatar
Raleigh NC
Joined Dec 2007
162 Posts
My next RC !!!
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Old Nov 03, 2010, 04:47 PM
We shall serve the Lord
kingsflyer's Avatar
United States, TX, Kingsland
Joined Sep 2005
4,825 Posts
For more options to operate your camera from your RC TX, check out these electronic goodies.

http://blip.com.au/CategoryPhotography.aspx

McD
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Old Nov 03, 2010, 06:38 PM
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cbcalhoun's Avatar
USA, OH, Newark
Joined Feb 2009
452 Posts
Very Nice! Just put my order in! I wanted a new FPV setup!
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Old Nov 03, 2010, 07:27 PM
Registered User
rpm3's Avatar
Pleasanton, California
Joined Nov 2000
708 Posts
Has a smaller version ever been considered?

These look fantastic....how about a smaller version for 5-8 oz cameras?
So many less expensive digital camera choices plus the quality has improved, as well as video on these cameras....just wondering...
thanks
Ralph Matile
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Old Nov 03, 2010, 08:29 PM
We shall serve the Lord
kingsflyer's Avatar
United States, TX, Kingsland
Joined Sep 2005
4,825 Posts
Ralph,
I'd recommend you contact Joel directly at skydelight@verizon.net and see what he thinks.
McD
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Old Nov 03, 2010, 09:05 PM
Registered User
Joel K. Scholz's Avatar
Kingsland, Texas USA
Joined Aug 2000
2,401 Posts
Rpm3, The standard Hawkeye will carry payloads as light as 4 oz. and as much as 20 oz.
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Old Nov 04, 2010, 04:11 AM
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Tom_1971's Avatar
Italy
Joined Jun 2008
365 Posts
Very nice. I've heard of people succesfully operating remote cameras with these stuffs:
http://www.gentles.ltd.uk/gentled/
may be an alternative to the servo that mechanically act on the shutter button. I'm wondering if the proposed approach (servo) may damage the camera and/or the servo due to uncontrolled pressure on the button and related feedback on the servo gears... I'd at least put a spring between the servo arm and the camera button...
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Old Nov 04, 2010, 05:44 AM
Stuart
srnet's Avatar
UK, Cardiff
Joined Dec 2008
3,073 Posts
One point, you dont need to add weight to balance the Hawkeye.

Without the COG mod, this is very easy and described in the instructions.

If you have the COG mod fitted, which I have, then you just need to adjust the fixing point of the COG server arm so that when the servo is at centre, the Hawkeys balances.

When its windy, however, a bit of extra weight up front does help, if you have a very light camera.
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Old Nov 04, 2010, 05:47 AM
Stuart
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UK, Cardiff
Joined Dec 2008
3,073 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by rpm3 View Post
These look fantastic....how about a smaller version for 5-8 oz cameras?
So many less expensive digital camera choices plus the quality has improved, as well as video on these cameras....just wondering...
thanks
Ralph Matile
I fly one of these with a 5oz camera, its just fine.

Not sure I would want a smaller wing, by the time its 1,500ft above your head and out the same distance, it looks awfully small.
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Old Nov 04, 2010, 07:18 AM
Registered User
Joined Jun 2006
1,065 Posts
I don't know who to congratulate first? - of course it has to be Joel himself as the brilliant designer he is (and the most helpful guy you could possibly deal with!). I have been flying Hawkeye from it's earliest conception two years ago and am still flying - my only problem finding interesting subjects in the North of England to photogrph and of course the weather here in the UK!
I must also say that the flying in the wind shown on the interesting videos here is pretty awesome considering the obviously windy conditions.
To sum up - If anyone buys Hawkeye they will be more than happy both with the product AND the back-up and courteous service from Joel himself.
Ted - Cheshire, UK
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Old Nov 04, 2010, 10:20 AM
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Joel K. Scholz's Avatar
Kingsland, Texas USA
Joined Aug 2000
2,401 Posts
Thanks Ted. Tom In the 21/2 years I have been making and flying the Hawkeye I have not heard of anyone experiencing camera or servo problens relative to the shutter.
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Old Nov 05, 2010, 06:25 PM
I Love My Ember!
Arroyo Grande, CA
Joined Jun 2008
1,099 Posts
It's like an RC hangglider/ultralight - I love the concept! I always wondered how cool it would be to motorize a kite. Looks great.
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Old Nov 06, 2010, 01:55 AM
Registered User
Beaver Dam.Wi.
Joined Jan 2003
304 Posts
If one has no interest in ever using a camera on the hawkeye,
is it still worth getting?
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Old Nov 06, 2010, 05:02 AM
We shall serve the Lord
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United States, TX, Kingsland
Joined Sep 2005
4,825 Posts
It's still a great flying airplane. Because you can break it down into a very small package, it is very portable and you can take the HawkEye with you to places you could never take a large RC plane. It can be flown as a glider in thermals or used to slope soar off a hill. I'd say it can be used for many things besides camera lofting.
McD
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