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Hobby Lobby's Predator UAV with Digital Camera Review

Easy to build and fly with the bonus of an onboard digital camera, the Hobby Lobby Predator UAV is great way to get going in the world of aerial photography! Ronnie Pope has this eye in the sky.

Splash

Introduction

The MQ-1 Predator is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) which the U.S. Air Force describes as a MALE (medium-altitude, long-endurance) UAV system. It can serve in a reconnaissance role, and it can also be weaponized and can carry and use two AGM-114 Hellfire antitank missiles. The aircraft has been in use since 1995, and been in combat over Afghanistan, Bosnia, Serbia, Iraq, and Yemen.

Hobby Lobby's Art Tech Predator UAV is a fast building, scale-looking aircraft that's a great way to get started in the world of aerial photography!


Wingspan:52 1/4"
Wing Area:225 sq in
Wing type:molded foam construction with carbon spar
AUW weight:22oz
Length:30 3/4"
Wing loading:14.51 oz/sq ft
Servos:2 – 9 gram micro-type
Transmitter:4-channel twin stick mode 2
Receiver:6-channel
Battery:8 cell 1000 NiMH
Motor:Speed 400 brushed
ESC:Brushed
Charger:110V AC wall charger
Camera:Micro digital
US distributor:Hobby Lobby
Available From:Hobby Lobby
Price:$148

Kit Contents

The review package shipped from Hobby Lobby and it arrived double-boxed and free of damage. Everything was secured inside the box and was well protected. The Predator UAV has a very low parts count and there are only a few assembly steps required to get the plane airborne. A small Philips head screwdriver and a pair of pliers are needed to complete the assembly.

Kit includes:

  • Fuselage with pre-installed speed 400 motor
  • Removable wing panels with pre-mounted wing spars
  • Hardware package
  • Heavy duty main landing gear and wheels
  • 4-channel 72 mhz transmitter with pre-installed 6 channel receiver
  • Assembly guide and instructions

Kit requires:

  • Eight AA-type batteries for the transmitter, and one AAA (included) for the digital camera.
  • Phillips head screwdriver and pliers

Assembly

The instructions are photo-illustrated, and the manual is easy to understand and follow. The written portion of the instructions have a few language errors but nothing major, and the photo-illustrations are a plus. All the assembly steps could be completed at the field with just a small Philips head screwdriver and a pair of pliers.

Wing

The two wing panels attach to the fuselage with four screws and a plastic cover plate. No gluing was required in this step.

Fuselage

The spring-loaded nose wheel comes already attached to the fuselage. The main landing gear is held in place with two nylon bolts that insert into the plastic wing cover plate, then bolt onto the fuselage.

Tail assembly

The tail assembly is attached to the fuselage with six screws. During the assembly, I noticed that a couple of the small plastic plates that hold each screw in place were not glued down completely, so I re-glued them with contact cement and waited a few minutes for them to dry before continuing. Last, I attached the adjustable clevises to the preinstalled control horns. There were several holes in each horn, which made adjusting the amount of control throw easy.

Motor, ESC and battery

The included 110V NiMH charger is a wall-type, and charging the 1000mAh battery took a little less than 2 hours. I highly recommend charging the battery the day before flying, then 'topping it off' just before each flight. A 'quick charger' and additional batteries are available from Hobby Lobby USA.

Finish

After 'warming up' the NiMH battery, I installed it in the pre-molded battery compartment in the nose of the fuselage. The digital camera was installed in the middle of the fuselage and a wire from the camera plugged into the receiver. The camera’s lens aims down through a small hole in the underside of the fuselage. The camera is operated by two small buttons; one serves as the power button and the other enables erasing of the camera's onboard memory after pictures are downloaded to a PC.

Flying

The CG location wasn't mentioned in the instruction manual, but the Predator balanced right on the wing spar so I assumed this was already worked out by the manufacturer. The molded battery bay did not allow any fore or aft movement of the battery.

After the NiMH battery was installed, the tiny digital camera was 'powered up' and ready to take pictures. The plastic nose cover is held in place with a magnet and small screw. The maiden flight was made on an unusually calm summer morning. The Predator UAV needed a fair amount of space for takeoffs and landings, so at least a large park or ball field is recommended for the first flight. The Predator can also be launched with a firm hand-toss.

Basics

The speed 400 motor provided good power. The Predator flew well at 3/4 throttle but full power was needed to gain altitude.

With its 52 1/4” wingspan, the Predator is difficult to stall, but can lose altitude fairly quickly when power is decreased.

Loops were smooth and large, and the wings flexed a little during each loop. The flat carbon strip inside the wing panels allows for some flex, though. The elevator was effective, especially after we adjusted the clevises to allow for more throw.

Take Off and Landing

The Predator UAV's stock brushed speed 400 pusher motor and 8 cell NiMH battery provides more than enough power for takeoff from a paved surface, but my club field is grass so we opted for a hand launch. After full throttle was applied, a short running toss was all that was needed to get the Predator in the air.

With an all-up weight of only 22 oz, the Predator still needs a little power to make a smooth landing, but the big wing makes it very stable and controllable.

The Mini Digital Camera

Although it's tiny, the Predator UAV's onboard digital camera will take up to 26 shots per flight and is easy to operate via the rudder stick on the radio by simply moving it all the way to the left or right and holding it for a couple of seconds. There is also an Auto mode that takes one photo about every 30 seconds if the rudder stick isn't used. The included PC software and USB cable make downloading photos after each flight a snap! There was no information as to the camera's resolution, but I'd estimate it to be one mega pixel or less.

As with all forms of photography, adequate lighting is the key to good aerial photography. The Predator UAV's still photos were taken over a couple of unusually calm sunny days here in Texas. To get the best performance out of the Predator's onboard camera, a bright, sunny day is essential and a light wind to slow the plane down a bit would also be a big plus. The sample photographs we took with the Predator were pretty decent, but a little wind would have helped slow the Predator down and make the photographs a little less blurry. These shots were taken after we had received record rainfall over a period of several weeks in north Texas.

Is this plane for a beginner?

The Predator is a 3-channel plane with v-tail mixing and is not difficult to fly. It is not, however, a slow flier and requires some 3-channel experience on the sticks. But if you've thought about getting into the exciting world of aerial photography, the Predator UAV's smooth flying characteristics, cool looks and complete onboard camera system make it an excellent choice!

Flight Video

Downloads

Conclusion

The Hobby Lobby Predator UAV with digital camera is a very scale looking aircraft that can be ready to fly in just minutes. The stock brushed pusher motor delivers good power, and its stable flight manners, great looks and excellent 'bang for the buck' make it an ideal choice for the first-time aerial photographer.

Pluses:

  • Exciting scale looks with factory-applied decals
  • Large, solid and stable in flight
  • Fast assembly
  • High-quality hardware
  • Good instructions
  • Excellent value for the money

Minuses:

  • The small plastic mounting plates that hold the tail assembly in place were not glued down completely.

As you can see from the photos, the Hobby Lobby Predator UAV looks cool in the air!

The Hobby Lobby Predator UAV is a solid flier and an excellent value. It looks terrific the air, is a smooth, stable flier and the onboard digital camera is simple to operate. It would be a great choice for someone wanting to give aerial photography a try. And it has a cool factor in the air of '10'! See it at your local hobby shop or at Hobby Lobby USA!

Last edited by Angela H; Sep 12, 2007 at 10:34 PM..

Discussion

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Old Sep 18, 2007, 04:41 PM
The sky is my playground.
Dora Nine's Avatar
United States, NH
Joined May 2005
7,754 Posts
What a cool plane. Those wings have got some flex to em huh? And glow heli's don't make pretty noises do they?
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Old Sep 18, 2007, 07:48 PM
zik
Autopilot guy
zik's Avatar
Australia, VIC, Kew
Joined Oct 2006
326 Posts
Nice review - thanks. I wondered what these Predator models were like and you've answered my questions perfectly.
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Old Sep 19, 2007, 02:01 AM
Registered User
Atlanta, GA
Joined Sep 2003
78 Posts
Thanks for the review of an unusual plane.
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Old Sep 19, 2007, 11:36 AM
"Have Glue - Will Travel"
dawnron1's Avatar
Ft. Worth, Texas
Joined Jan 2004
2,428 Posts
Thanks guys!

Ronnie
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Old Sep 19, 2007, 09:05 PM
Registered User
Joined Aug 2007
1,512 Posts
Given that this post is for UAVs and not typically R/C airlanes...who is going to be the first to put a small autopilot in this model?
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Old Sep 20, 2007, 03:23 PM
I think I forgot how to fly RC
cryhavoc38's Avatar
United States, WA, Woodinville
Joined Mar 2007
8,063 Posts
Those wings do a fair amount of flex to them. Thought it was an ornithopter for a minute. Flap flap flap.

Nice review by the way.
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Last edited by cryhavoc38; Sep 21, 2007 at 04:42 PM.
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Old Sep 20, 2007, 08:12 PM
Registered User
Joined Mar 2006
135 Posts
I like it! FPV and/or PicoPilot would be killer. Does anyone make a larger Predator that would handle Picopilot, Inspire OSD, Geko 201, Pandora Pan and tilt? I now am putting all this on a Twinstar 2.

Smitty
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Old Sep 21, 2007, 12:33 PM
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unklejman's Avatar
Daphne, AL
Joined Sep 2007
56 Posts
He he, I bet you could drives some tin foil hatters crazy with that. "Oh noes, the gub'ment is watchin us!"
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Old Sep 21, 2007, 12:40 PM
"Have Glue - Will Travel"
dawnron1's Avatar
Ft. Worth, Texas
Joined Jan 2004
2,428 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by unklejman
He he, I bet you could drives some tin foil hatters crazy with that. "Oh noes, the gub'ment is watchin us!"

LOL
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Old Sep 21, 2007, 04:44 PM
I think I forgot how to fly RC
cryhavoc38's Avatar
United States, WA, Woodinville
Joined Mar 2007
8,063 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by smitty505000
I like it! FPV and/or PicoPilot would be killer. Does anyone make a larger Predator that would handle Picopilot, Inspire OSD, Geko 201, Pandora Pan and tilt? I now am putting all this on a Twinstar 2.

Smitty
they are sold out at the moment but this Predator is larger than the HL one.

Predator 63"
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Old Sep 21, 2007, 04:54 PM
"Have Glue - Will Travel"
dawnron1's Avatar
Ft. Worth, Texas
Joined Jan 2004
2,428 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by cryhavoc38
they are sold out at the moment but this Predator is larger than the HL one.

Predator 63"

VERY nice! I'd actually like to see one modeled after the Global Hawk too

Ronnie
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Old Sep 21, 2007, 06:19 PM
Registered User
Norfolk, UK
Joined Mar 2000
47 Posts
Quote:
There was no information as to the camera's resolution, but I'd estimate it to be one mega pixel or less.
The manual pictured in the review has '300k pixels' on the cover.


Kev.
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Old Sep 21, 2007, 06:45 PM
Registered User
Minnesota
Joined Sep 2004
504 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheesy
The manual pictured in the review has '300k pixels' on the cover.
640 * 480 = 307200

307200 / 1024 = 300k (exactly)

Just a guess though ... could be 600 x 512, 1024 x 300, 612x502 ...
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Old Sep 27, 2007, 07:11 PM
tic
thunderscreech
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New Cumberland, PA. US
Joined Dec 2000
10,936 Posts
I'd be interested if the camera were better...
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