For the most part, I tend to enjoy casual, relaxing flights with my small planes; toss one up in the air, let it do its thing as it putts along on a cool morning. But every now and then I like to throw my brain a curve ball and raise my blood pressure and heart rate to unhealthy levels, all while flying yet another small plane, of course.
The Wasp, an insanely fun and insanely fast invention from the mind of Michael Hammer, helps me achieve such experience. At a whopping 12 inches, its small but it has all the traits of a guided missile. And, now it's available in the U.S. thanks to Manzano Laser Works, I think it's time for it to be built and flown and it goes fast in both those counts.
Letting it all hang out, even the receiver antenna, in one close pass for the camera. Even with throttle management, I usually get less than 10 minutes' worth of flying with this plane, but that's plenty to satisfy my need for speed.
|Wing Area:||107 sq. in.|
|Wing Loading:||8.75 oz/sq. ft.|
|Servos:||Two Hitec HS-55s, available at Hobby-Lobby|
|Receiver:||Castle Creations Berg 4|
|Battery:||VamPowerPro 3S 450mAh 25 LiPo|
|Available From:||Manzano Laser Works|
The instructions are not included in the base kit, and you can download them here. They can be also be ordered with your kit for an extra fee, however. They're extremely detailed, full of photographs and tips indeed, quite a nice treat.
The build process goes together rather quickly, and the kit can be ready for covering in just a couple of evenings. It doesn't even include (or need) plans, as most pieces are interlocking like a jigsaw puzzle, and the assembly-process is quite foolproof.
One of the greatest things I found about this kit (and which you won't find in that many other kits) is that it includes several building and pre-flight-checking tools. Amid the balsa and ply sheets, you'll find support pieces to set the dihedral, a balancing stand and a control-throws template, and they will all make your build and pre-flight checking much easier -a very nice touch, indeed.
Hammer Models is not a household name among clubs in the United States. But across the pond his name just may sound more familiar.
I spoke with Michael about where the idea of the Wasp came from, and as it turns out, it is a quintessential chicken-before-the-egg story. He said he started making his own CD-ROM motors in 2005, and used them on different models. He "set forth to design a model that would be the perfect match for a small brushless outrunner."
He wanted it to be easy to launch and land, aerodynamically optimized for speed while still strong and light, and he wanted it to be easy to build and affordable.
As far as the kit itself, he said he aimed for a 3D-jigsaw-like puzzle model, easy to build and foolproof, not even needing a set of plans. He wanted that the battery should be able to leave the plane without destroying the plane in case of a crash or hard landing" and that "special tools and gauges should be included with the kit, to ensure correct CG position and correct control throws."
But what about Michael himself? Who is he and what does he do? After all, he lives in Arhus, Denmark, so he's not a regular to fly-ins such as SEFF and Joe Nall.
Hammer is a 42-year-old who has been building model planes since he was 10, when he built a glider with his father. "Our first project was a scale glider," he said. "We measured the real thing and my father drew plans for it. Unfortunately our knowledge of aerodynamics and construction techniques left a lot to be desired, and the glider never took to the air."
"I still have the model, and it looks great. A very fond memory of my father," he added. "But instead of giving up on airplane models we bought two glider kits and joined a club, and from then on we had more luck with building and flying." He designed his first plane at age 16.
Now, working in the IP-telephone industry, married and with a 4-year-old daughter, he uses CAD and laser-cutting to design them, which has "resparked my interest in balsa models, and I work mostly with this design technique now."
A graduate from engineering school, Hammer enjoys scale models and has won a scale build-off competition on RCGroups with his Kyushu j7w1 Shinden fighter.
Given the fact that this is a delta wing, it goes without saying that the vast majority of your build is going to be in this area. So, let's start with building one wing, but remember to be careful and build a left and a right one (the markings on the leading edge will remind you, though).
The first order of business is to slide all the ribs into the leading edge, and then slide the trailing edge in. Once you're done, get your tip-equipped CA bottle, and set all the ribs in place. You might find that the smaller ribs near the wingtip might not stay in place too well so you might want to glue the rest of the ribs in place first. Once you're done, slide those in.
Next in line is sheeting the wing. Start up front first, and sand it gradually so it matches the leading edge as well as sits nicely on top of the ribs. Test-fit along the sanding process you don't want to end up with an uneven piece of of balsa atop your wing.
For this step, I opted to lightly moisten the sheet with some glass cleaner, since it makes the wrap-around process a lot less stressful. I also did it section by section, moving gradually toward the trailing edge, gluing and zapping it with some kicker along the way. Install the wingtips, and you essentially have the wing ready.
You have to build on an ever-so-slight amount of dihedral, but how do you know how much to sand? Here's the cool part: The kit comes with some balsa parts that help you prop up the wingtip enough to sand the wing center to the correct angle. Pretty cool and fool-proof.
After that, cut the rib "feet," sand the wingtip, add the center rib, and you're done. It's all the same, quick process for the other side, only backwards.
There's not much to be done over here other than building the center rib and the vertical stabilizer, then attaching it to the wing halves. The dihedral tools come in handy, and they'll help you glue everything just perfectly.
The pod (for lack of a better term) is made of vacuformed plastic. CAREFULLY trim it along its marks. It's better to cut progressively rather than regret cutting too much out of it, so trim in several steps and you'll save yourself some regrets and possibly a few bucks.
Once the pod is all trimmed up and ready to go, the upper half gets a piece of ply glued to it. The bottom half, however gets glued to the ply piece that's already glued to the wing. The upper half is removable while the bottom part stays with the Wasp at all times.
To keep both halves together in flight, the included pair of rare-earth magnets should do the trick, though I would have preferred bigger and stronger ones for fear that the pod may just eject at the most random of moments. I went with the provided ones, but I also now use some tape on the back of the pod just for good measure.
|Operating speed||(4.8V): 0.17 sec/60°|
|Stall torque (4.8V):||15.27 oz-in.|
|Dimensions:||.89 x 0.45 x 0.94"|
|Connector wire length:||6.29"|
|Gear type:||All nylon|
The two Hitec HS-55 that Hobby-Lobby provided go right on the wing, and I set them there for posterity with some CA glue. I tried low-temp hot glue, but they came loose, so I resorted to the next level of securing. They're not going anywhere any time soon, and there's little one can do in terms of centering them after the fact, so be sure to center them before attaching them.
Oracover. UltraCote. SoLite - as long as you can cover the wing, ailerons and vertical stabilizer, it doesn't matter what you use. I went with SoLite because I had it readily available. It wasn't a tough covering job a a sheet here, a sheet there, heat/pull/shrink, and next thing you know, your Wasp is covered.
For a bit of bling-bling, I turned to graphics guru and decal extraordinaire Callie, from Callie Graphics. She sent some cool graphics of the Wasp, and I accented it with some Ezone stickers and Castle Creations decals. It looks, indeed, sky-ready.
CASTLE CREATIONS BERG 4L
|Number of channels||Four|
|Size||.8 x 1.4 x .5"|
|Weight (with wires)||11 grams|
|Crystal||Berg micro only|
|Case||Full-cavity, injection-molded protective case|
|Available at||Castle Creations|
DUALSKY 10-AMP ESC SPECS
|Number of cells||Li-Po 2-3, NiCD/NiMH 4-10|
|Maximum continous amps||10A|
|Maximum burst amps||15A|
|Dimensions||1.10 x .71 x .24"|
The living quarters for the ESC and receiver are quite small but they do fit, one way or the other. Rest assured that they're quite protected by the pod fuselage as well as the surrounding balsa.
I could have used a Berg 4L and saved myself a respectable seven grams, but knowing that I'd be belly-landing this plane (only counting the planned ones) I opted for a Berg 4 which has a hard-plastic protective cover on it. If there's one thing you don't want to break its your radio gear, and the extra padding the Berg 4 provides is worth every single one of those extra seven grams.
As far as the motor goes, the kit comes with two different motor mounts. I happened to receive an early version of the kit, and the motor mount that came with my GoBrushless motors was too big for it. I simply added a small piece of plywood on top of the motor mount and was ready to go. I have been told that the newer ply mount does accept bigger mounts, though. Make sure you have not added any thrust angle to it, since that's the way it was designed to be flown.
My first couple of flights, albeit somewhat dicey, ended up with the motor mount coming loose. Liberally gluing it with Gorilla Glue nipped that problem right in the bud.
When it comes to setting up your radio, here's hoping you have delta-wing mixing capabilities. In lieu of that, you could always use a V-tail mixer, but that would be another set of wires crammed into this studio-apartment-sized fuselage.
Either way, a handy tool is included for setting up your control throws. It offers a nice gauge for how far each control surface should go, and it does its job phenomenally. Small add-ons like this are what set this kit apart from others.
And, speaking of trinkets, here's another handy one... the included balancer, which which you'll finish getting the plane ready to go airborne.
Balancing the Wasp could not be easier as long as you put the battery in the plane correctly. If you're not spot-on with it, push it forward or backwards a bit ; the balancer will show you when you're good to go. I secured mine not just with Velcro but also with a small piece of foam so it would not wiggle too much around the pod.
And so the Wasp is ready to fly. Let's see how it performs.
VAMPOWER 3S 450mAh SPECS
|Number of cells||3|
|Weigh t||42 grams|
|Dimensions (L x W x D)||12.1 x 31 x 56mm|
|Wiring||16AWG wire, E-Flite/CommonSense balance taps, JST connectors included and installed.|
|Maximum continuous discharge||25C|
|Maximum continuous current||11.25 amps|
|Maximum continuous output||118 watts|
|Maximum burst discharge||50C|
|Maximum burst current||22.4 amps|
|Maximum burst output||230 watts|
Here's a word to the wise: You might think this tiny plane can fly in tiny spaces, but such is not the case... at least for the first few flights until you get comfortable with throttle management. It will cover 150 yards before you can say, "Hey, look at this thing rip the skies!", and it will climb vertically until it becomes a speck in the sky and you say, "Hey, where'd it go? And which way is it even pointed?"
I added a healthy amount of expo, about 30 percent for both elevator and ailerons. I have mine set up without full the full throws, so it's a bit tamer. If you're going all-out with your travel throws, you may even want to ramp up the expo even more.
GoBrushless.com provided several options for powering this unexpected beast. I tend to be somewhat conservative when it comes to picking a system and usually opt for a tamer setup over the unrestrained-power option.
Again, I threw my brain another curve ball. I started with a rather tame 1600kV motor, pushing a 7x3.5 GWS prop, and I was a bit disappointed. Performance, while OK at full throttle, was still sluggish overall. The prop was too big, in my opinion, causing some serious torque at times, and it also made it for awkward hand-tosses (ask my thumb, since it has a couple of scars to tell you about it). The numbers from the watt-meter looked OK, but in the air, where it really matters, it didn't quite do its job.
I managed to detach the bottom of the fuselage pod from the rest of the plane. It only took a few unexpected landings due to underpowering for it to happen, but I would still suggest reinforcing it with a couple of extra pieces of plywood or thick balsa, as well as gluing any joints with Gorilla Glue or something similar.
So I went to the other end of the spectrum. I popped in a 4,100kV motor with a 3x3 GWS prop. It produces about 9 ounces of thrust, pulls almost 12 amps and clocks in a whopping 120 watts at WOT (now you know why a VamPower 25C pack is so important here). It's uninhibited power disguised in a tiny package, and I was ready for something completely different.
It was different, indeed. In a good way, so I stuck with this system.
There are many schools of thought when it comes to launching a pusher plane. Some like to throw it like a dart, some may choose to hold it by the wingtip. Others may go as high-tech as using a catapult. Myself? I like leaving the flying field with as many fingers than I arrived with, and I use whichever method helps me accomplish that not-so-lofty goal.
To each their own - as long as it's airborne, it's fine. I finally settled on holding it from the vertical stab, revving up the throttle a bit, and as I tossed it into the wind, giving it more throttle. It wobbles a bit on its way, but it will eventually straighten itself and zoom straight out and up, up and away.
Landing is a whole different story. Since there's no landing gear to speak of, belly-landing is the way to go or, if you're lucky enough to have tall grass in the vicinity, that's even better.
I like to kill the motor and let it glide, letting it land where it may. As long as you allow it to come in slowly and have the pod glide on the grass, you'll be in good shape.
Was the Wasp conceived for a leisurely stroll up and down the field? Hardly so. Even at half-throttle, it defies the laws of gravity and zooms right past you. It is a plane with two speeds: faster and fastest.
That said, it's surprisingly stable much more stable than my wobbly knees when I'm at the helm. After a couple of passes on its maiden flight, I had it all trimmed out, and at half-throttle it simply zoomed right by without any awkward tendencies. It flew straight (and rapid) as an arrow.
What happens when you jolt that stick all the way to full throttle, though? The plane quickly becomes a white dot in the sky, for it accelerates quickly and gains altitude even more quickly. Unlimited vertical comes naturally for the Wasp, and before you know it, it's time to turn right around for yet another high-speed pass.
The recommended travel rates provide plenty of maneuverability, yet they don't make the plane overly twitchy. It's still quite gentle in its flying characteristics. Rolls and loops are easy to do, though since I used rather small control arms on my servos, they were a bit on the slow side. Still, I actually preferred the scale-like performance of it long loops, easy rolls, wide turns and such rather than the roller-coaster ride that more throws could have provided.
The electronics worked like a charm. The GoBrushless motor provides ample power and then some, and I assume I'm hitting 90+ mph when I go full throttle. It definitely is a lean, mean, warp-speed-inducing machine. The Dualsky speed controller is nice and quite linear, and it handles the raw power without a problem and, from what I can tell, it doesn't warm up much. And, finally, the VamPower 3S 450mAh 25C battery provides plenty of juice and still lives to tell about it, even while being drained at the tune of 12 amps. Flight times are not huge even with decent throttle (about 6-8 minutes on average), and the battery does warm up a bit, but it's really been put to the test and giving it all it's got. It's a fine pack that fits perfectly inside of the pod, too.
Sorry, but the tiny pod-like fuselage and the lack of a rudder won't allow for a very good knife-edging experience. And, this being a pusher plane, hovering can be a bit on the tricky side.
Beyond that, anything's game: loops, rolls, even inverted flight if you've taken your blood-pressure medication. As for me, I enjoy the high-speed passes.
One thing that's extremely fun to do is the vertical climb while doing rolls. They're fast, they're crazy, and the plane disappears quickly while doing so.
And, of course, the best part about them is that, once you've got plenty of altitude, you can kill the motor, let it drop for a couple of seconds and then go full-throttle all the way down till you're 10 feet off the ground and zoom at insane speeds. Wipe that grin off your face and repeat. It's that simple, and it's that much fun.
Unless you're a prodigy pilot (congratulations if you're one of them), the Wasp is not for the faint of heart or the untrained at the sticks. It may be precise going straight at high speeds, but it also can go precisely where you point it and will not deviate from its path.
Simply put, it is just too fast a plane. Even with a buddy box, it needs the pilot's constant attention, and it just does not have the self-correcting characteristics a beginner plane must have.
Is it a second plane, or even a third? Hardly. I would recommend it only after you have mastered an aileron trainer and maybe even an acrobatic plane, and once you're comfortable with planes that tend to cover lots of ground in small timeframes.
Beware: What you're about to see may seem just like a moving dot in the sky. But, before you say, "Hey Napo, I just can't see a thing but a tiny speck in the screen! What's this all about?," let me tell you: That's an accurate representation of the Wasp in flight. It's a fast-moving airplane that will quickly disappear, and unless you know which way you're pointed, you're but a minuscule spot in a big, big sea of blue. And, frankly, to try film is up close it to miss it almost every time.
Another thing you'll find is that, powered by a GoBrushless motor, the name Wasp is elevated to a new level. It sounds just like one: High-pitch and, eventually, even a little annoying. But that's what gives it a bit of character.
So now, for your feature presentation...
As a frequent slow-flier kind of pilot, I must admit that I was a bit apprehensive about taking the plunge and flying such a speed demon. Would I crash it? Would I lose it? What would happen to the Wasp?
Well, I got stung by the Wasp and now I'm hooked. I have the need for speed, and in my airplane arsenal, only the Wasp delivers what I long for fast and furious, yet still manageable and fun.
I would like to thank the following people for making this review possible: Charlie at Manzano Laser Works for sending the Wasp kit along, Dan at GoBrushless for the different motors and the ESC tested on this review, Hobby-Lobby for providing the HS-55 servos, Castle Creations for the Berg 4 receiver and VamPowerPro for the 3S 450mAh battery that got the Wasp moving. And, as always, I'd also like to thank my wife, Sally, for the fantastic photos and video not an job for the faint of heart when the review subject is moving at more than 90mph!
The kit itself is amazing and the pre-flight accessories are a fantastic addition that will make this plane fool-proof in the air. It also accepts a wide array of power choices though I'll stick with the faster-than-fast option. And, in the air, the plane does not disappoint one bit, either.
|Jun 08, 2008, 06:04 PM|
Great review, Napo. I was surprised at how stable the Wasp looked in flight. Most "little" planes seem seem kind of jumpy, but the Wasp looked nice and stable.
Did the trailing antenna wire create any adverse Yaw effect by trailing out the one wingtip? Looks like a Spektrum style RX might fit in the wing and keep all the antenna wires inside.
I think Sally deserves a Gold Star for the Video. Keeping up with a small rocket is hard enough when you are giving the flight command inputs. When you are videoing, it's almost impossible since you don't know which way it's going next.
|Jun 08, 2008, 08:48 PM|
Thanks for the kind words much obliged!
Yes, it's a surprisingly stable. The day we shot the photos (not the video), the winds were gusting to 6-8 mph every now and then, and you could see the plane just wobble up and down ever-so-slightly, but you couldn't really notice it on the sticks.
I didn't really notice any odd tendencies because of the trailing antenna. A Spektrum AR6100 would fit nicely there for sure. I have a DX6, so I'm stuck with AR6000s, which would definitely not fit through the opening for the receiver. If you were to put it in there before the covering, you might be able to get away with it, though.
Yes, Sally gets all the kudos for keeping the plane in the frame at all times, no matter how small it may look. She was a trooper on this one.
|Jun 08, 2008, 10:02 PM|
Looks nice. I just ordered the Bristol M1C from them yesterday, and was looking at this little plane. Maybe I should have added it, since it's reasonably low priced. Something different from the usual to play around with.
I have a field just like yours with uncut tall grass at the local park. Beautiful for landing.
|Jun 08, 2008, 10:21 PM|
Yes, a place with tall weeds is the way to go with this plane. It's already durable, but the knee-high grass will take care of any potential mishaps. Just make sure you can find it afterwards! I've had to resort to using a wasp call i.e., revving up the throttle in order to find it.
And yes, it's something very different from the usual stuff.
|Jun 08, 2008, 10:24 PM|
I also use the wire to hang the Wasp from the ceiling for storage, though.
|Jun 08, 2008, 10:58 PM|
Joined Jan 2005
the motor is a 4100Kv version of the GBx Mini, we will soon have ready to run motors available but we will be changing the colors from red to yellow for the wire insulation. If you want one of the 4100kv mini's send me an email.
thats a 12A Dualsky ESC and they are also available from gobrushless but again send me an email until we get them on the website.
|Jun 09, 2008, 12:42 AM|
Joined May 2008
Great review! Looks like a cool little plane.
The Vampower web site has both the 10A & 12A Dualsky ESCs...same place you can get that battery. Speed controls are right here...
|Jun 09, 2008, 09:18 AM|
Dave and lv2fly22,
Glad y'all liked it!
Yeah, I noticed there's a 10A version of the Dualsky ESC. I recommend stepping up to the 12-amp one since you won't be getting a lot of airflow through it it's all tucked in the fuselage, so it could get a bit warm, and you're getting close to the 12-amp limit at WOT.
Either way, the 4100kV and the Dualsky ESC make for an awesome setup and that's coming from a slow-poke like me.
|Jun 10, 2008, 09:19 AM|
Glad you liked the review! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed putting it together!
Sorry, but there's little to no chance I'll be selling it any time soon. As a matter of fact, I'm turning this one into a slope soarer and making a new one for fast flying.
But hey, it's less than $50! And it's a great make-from-spare-parts plane, by the way. I'm sure you have two micro servos laying around, and a small ESC. All you need is a motor and it takes a variety of options. Stick a spare receiver, and you're in business.
I'll update the thread after I see how it performs in the slopes.
|Jun 10, 2008, 10:30 AM|
Lodi, CA, USA
Joined Apr 2008
Having watched the video, I would suggest for the next one you build that you use some other color scheme than white! I've NEVER had good luck seeing white or silver or gray or light blue basic colors against the sky, especially with smaller and/or faster models. I would suggest a dark color, at least on the bottom - dark red, black, dark blue, dark green, etc. You could still keep white or some other light color on the top to be able to tell top from bottom, perhaps with a couple of stripes or sunbursts for looks, but having a dark color on the bottom helps a great deal in keeping a model in sight, especially overhead. You might note that a lot of ARF sailplanes are now coming pre-decorated that way - solid dark color on the bottom and light on top with graphics. Just a thought!!
|Jun 10, 2008, 10:58 AM|
You do have a very good point there. And, as I mentioned before, I'll be building a second one not due to operator error, mind you! so it will get a different color scheme. Right now I'm leaning toward white on the top and translucent yellow with a couple of navy-blue stripes on the bottom. Or viceversa on the bottom/stripes.
I've flown foamie slope-soarers before, and it makes a huge difference, you're right.
Great point and thanks for taking a look at the review!
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