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Durafly SkyMule Review

Twin Engine MultiPurpose Airplane That Can Do It All

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Introduction


Wingspan:1500mm (59")
Weight:1860g (65.5 ounces)
Length:1095mm (43.1")
Battery:3S 11.1V 3000mAh
Motor:2 x BL4023 1100KV Brushless
ESC:2 x 30A
Price:$162.51 PNF
Available:HobbyKing

The Durafly SkyMule is billed as a utilitarian model that is designed to fulfill various needs or desires from an airplane. Want a great looking sport flying twin? Check. Want a killer FPV platform? Check. Want to fly off of snow or sand? Check. Want to drop some parachutes? You guessed it, the SkyMule has you covered.

The fuselage has so much space inside that you can practically do anything your imagination will allow. They even encourage it by throwing in some skis, and an extra front battery hatch designed for a pan/tilt camera. For this review, I'm going to stick to the basics and cover the SkyMule as a sport flyer. I am planning to add a full autopilot and FPV setup to it at a later date and write a second article on it as an FPV platform. Lets dig into the box and see what we have.

What's in the box

When I opened the box, I was greeted with well packaged contents. After I pulled the pieces out I was impressed with the paint job on the foam. It looks fantastic in person. The main airframe pieces are the fuselage, three piece wing, horizontal and vertical stabilizers, and two battery hatches. You also get the manual, props, landing gear, skis, some glue, a screwdriver, and some hardware. Not a lot of parts really and it looks like a fast build. I verified all the parts were there according to the manual and started the assembly.

Assembly

Manual

The manual is nicely printed in full color and well written. The assembly guide is only two pages and 6 steps. They cover the bare minimum in text and use some rendered photos to show each assembly step. Those who haven't built many airplanes may have a few questions, but by the time you are ready for a plane like this, you will have built a few planes already and won't have any trouble at all. It is really a simple build.

Landing Gear

The manual wanted you to install the props first, but I chose to do that last and instead started with the landing gear. The wheels are already installed on the struts and all you need to do is press them into the slots underneath the wing center section. Make sure the wheels face outward. There are two plastic covers that are screwed in place over the landing gear base to secure it. If your struts seem a little loose in the slot, you can wrap the strut with tape to get a better fit. Next you can install the foam landing gear covers. You'll need to cut off the excess foam from the covers and then glue them onto the struts. The included adhesive works great for this step.

Wing

Now it's time to install the outer wing panels onto the center section. There are two aluminum spars with slight bends in them. When you insert the spars into the center section, you want the spars to angle upwards to provide a little dihedral. The outer wing panels slide on and you'll need to connect the aileron servo lead into the extension at the root of the two panels. The outer panels slide in flush and you use four thumbscrews to secure the panels to the center section. This wing locking system works great and makes it easy to remove the panels if you ever need to. I love these extra details that make the user experience better.

Once the wing is in one piece, you can lay it on top of the fuselage and use the 2 mounting screws to secure it. I went ahead and installed my receiver at this time as well. The bay door on the left side of the fuselage is large enough to get your hand in and the front hatch is huge, so there is no problems getting to the wires. I used Velcro to secure the receiver to the back of the wooden battery tray, but that may need to be moved later when I install FPV gear.

Tail Section

Now you can install the horizontal and vertical stabilizers. I used the glue provided in the kit and it works great. It's a contact type adhesive and I see no reason to use a different glue. I laid down some glue to the joint where the horizontal stab goes and then put the stab into position. Do the same for the vertical and make sure you get the vertical stab fully seated into place for maximum adhesion. You'll want to work fairly quickly before the glue gets too tacky and makes it hard to get the parts in place. Once the glue is cured you can center the servos and mechanically adjust the plastic clevis for the rudder and elevator to center the control surfaces.

Finishing Up

To finish up I laid down some Velcro on the battery tray and installed a strap to doubly secure the battery. Then I installed the props. Since the motors are counter-rotating I checked the motor direction before I installed them to makes sure I put the correct prop with the matching motor. I first needed to tighten the back nut against the plastic backplate, then put the prop on followed by the last nut. The foam spinners just press right onto the prop with no glue needed.

I checked the CG and it was right on the money at 55mm from the leading edge of the wing. I don't normally follow the recommended control throws on a model like this, but they are in the manual should you want to do that. All I did was set about 20% expo on all surfaces and then I can adjust after the first couple of flights. Now it's off to the field to fly.

Flying

Taking off couldn't be easier, just pour the coals to it and pull back on the elevator. The counter rotating props mean there is virtually no torque effect, so it tracked straight down the runway with no rudder input. On my first takeoff shown in the video below I went vertical and was impressed with the power. There is more than enough go juice provided by the twin motors to do anything you want. The airframe is super light as well so when you combine a lightweight airframe with lots of power you get one peppy flyer, but only when you want it. Which leads us to the other great thing I like about the SkyMule, its so versatile.

If you're not into doing aerobatics and horsing around, just keep the throttle at half or below and you can cruise around the field like a pak flyer. Because it's so light it can fly extremely slow and just crawls in for a landing. With some descent wind, you'll be landing at walking pace or slower. You can really crank up the nose and milk it if you're careful to keep the wings level. The stall is predictable and recovers quickly. The twin 3 blade props also create a lot of drag so vertical downlines don't pick up too much speed with the power off.

The controls are responsive enough to do the job and I didn't experience any blowback on the surfaces and I didn't notice any problems with the servos not centering so I'm really happy with the electronics package included in this plane. I immediately felt comfortable flying it. It's slow, it's fast, it's aerobatic, it's just plain fun! I flew for around 6 minutes on the first flight and had roughly 39% left on a 3000mAH Lipo. That was with a lot of full power flying though, so I expect to be able to get around 10 minutes at cruise speed.

One thing I mention in the video below was that I was concerned with the landing gear. They are a little wobbly in the mount and I thought that might lead to stuttering when rolling out on takeoff or landing. I'm happy to report that after many flights the gear are holding up well and haven't given me any trouble at all. I also saw a video where Stuart from HobbyKing mentioned the same thing and offered up a tip of wrapping the strut with some duct tape before inserting it into the slot in the wing. That will stiffen up the gear and remove any wobble.

Photos

Video

Conclusion

I am thoroughly impressed with the SkyMule. Everything from the graphics to the electronics, to the extras included and the way it flys, all go into making this one fun airplane and a great value. It's definitely coming with me everytime I go to the field. The next step for me is to get an autopilot system and FPV gear to install and I can't wait to see what others come up with to utilize this airframe.

Pros

  • Excellent color scheme
  • Lightweight
  • Fantastic flyer
  • Great cooling for motors and ESC's
  • Cavernous fuselage
  • Counter rotating props
  • Includes skis and FPV cockpit hatch

Cons

  • Landing gear are wobbly in the mount without modification

Discussion

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Old May 01, 2014, 10:48 AM
RCGroups Editor
Matt Gunn's Avatar
United States, OH, Parma
Joined Jul 2009
5,061 Posts
greasy landing...


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Old May 01, 2014, 10:48 AM
RC Flying Rules!
Winchester, VA.
Joined Feb 2004
214 Posts
Great review Jason!

How is it on grass?

VRF201(Roy)
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Old May 01, 2014, 11:21 AM
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Jason Cole's Avatar
United States, TN, Nashville
Joined Oct 2003
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VRF201 View Post
Great review Jason!

How is it on grass?

VRF201(Roy)
It should be fine. I've only flown it off of pavement so far, but I watched Stuart fly his from the grass at SEFF and it was no problem.
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Old May 01, 2014, 11:33 AM
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WVrailfan's Avatar
United States, WV, St Albans
Joined Jun 2011
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I think the slop in your landing gear is because you installed the plastic plate upside down. The rib should go down to help hold the gear tight in the grove. That is how I installed mine and it is rock solid.

jim
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Old May 01, 2014, 11:42 AM
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Sonofagun's Avatar
Charlotte,NC
Joined May 2005
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Flat spin with differential thrust ??
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Old May 01, 2014, 11:46 AM
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Jason Cole's Avatar
United States, TN, Nashville
Joined Oct 2003
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WVrailfan View Post
I think the slop in your landing gear is because you installed the plastic plate upside down. The rib should go down to help hold the gear tight in the grove. That is how I installed mine and it is rock solid.

jim
I'll check that out. Thanks.
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Old May 01, 2014, 11:46 AM
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Jason Cole's Avatar
United States, TN, Nashville
Joined Oct 2003
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sonofagun View Post
Flat spin with differential thrust ??
That would be awesome. The ESC's are Y-Harnessed stock, but it would not take much work to put them on separate channels with a mix and be able to do that.
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Old May 01, 2014, 08:00 PM
RC Flying Rules!
Winchester, VA.
Joined Feb 2004
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Thanks Jason for the response back.

Vrf201(Roy)
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Old May 03, 2014, 07:52 AM
Moon Port Bomber
Joined Sep 2013
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Thanks Jason that was a good review. I have one on the way. I'm thinking of making it into a Fire Service airplane with smoke jumpers and maybe a water drop. I'm thinking of using a gas tank with a servo controlled valve.
Bill M.
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Old May 03, 2014, 07:03 PM
What goes up .....
Australia, QLD, Mermaid Beach
Joined Oct 2013
283 Posts
just a note on this plane. One of the guys at my flying field has the Mule. He has had both engine pods full off after a few heavy landings. They had hardly any glue holding them to the wings.
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Old May 03, 2014, 07:07 PM
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Sydney, Australia
Joined Jan 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seacondor View Post
just a note on this plane. One of the guys at my flying field has the Mule. He has had both engine pods full off after a few heavy landings. They had hardly any glue holding them to the wings.
I ran a line of thin CA around both motor pylons on mine. They ain't going nowhere.
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Old May 03, 2014, 08:13 PM
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United States, VA, Franconia
Joined Sep 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seacondor View Post
just a note on this plane. One of the guys at my flying field has the Mule. He has had both engine pods full off after a few heavy landings. They had hardly any glue holding them to the wings.
There have been several reports of this happening now.
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Old May 05, 2014, 09:50 AM
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Tom Smith's Avatar
New Bern, NC
Joined Mar 2001
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WVrailfan

I also noticed that about that plastic gear retainer. It seemed to be upside down. I only fly from grass and wobbly landing gear is not anything I want to start out with. Jason, have you since flipped that piece over, and if so, how is the gear after the flip. Are there provisions for flaps on this model? Tom
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Old May 05, 2014, 09:57 AM
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United States, WV, St Albans
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Smith View Post
I also noticed that about that plastic gear retainer. It seemed to be upside down. I only fly from grass and wobbly landing gear is not anything I want to start out with. Jason, have you since flipped that piece over, and if so, how is the gear after the flip. Are there provisions for flaps on this model? Tom
I assembled mine with the rib on the gear retaining plate facing down, into the groove. I've only flown the plane four times, but landed on our grass runway, that hadn't ben cut yet this year so it was rough, with no issues.

I think the gear will be okay as long as you install the retainer plate with the rib facing down to secure the gear in the groove.

Sky Mule at sunset (3 min 4 sec)


Jim
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