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Posted by d0uglas | Oct 05, 2017 @ 03:25 PM | 1,452 Views
Yeah, telemetry is addictive, I know. In addition to helping you get the absolute most out of your battery before having to land, you can get the core data a pilot would need, enriching the fantasy. When many of you buy batteries, you are mindful of their weight relative to their capacity. You do this because every gram counts, particularly when you're flying planes that weigh less than, oh, 2kg. The more weight, the faster the stall speed, the worse the climb rate, the more momentum and less agility, you may lose unlimited vertical and hovering, you may throw off your CG if you're not careful and your flight times could suffer if the extra weight is significant.

So to squeeze out the last drop of your battery before landing, you drop $50 on Spektrum's TM1000 (or similar of another brand) to beam down telemetry data including voltage, and, even though it's the voltage that matters, you also lay down $80 for Spektrum's current sensor that keeps a tally of milliamp hours of your 180g 2200mAh 3S 35C that you burned.

While in your Spektrum telemetry buying spree you also grab the variometer, the GPS module, the airspeed sensor and, why not, the Gforce sensor. Well before you slap all of that into your Valiant, Timber or Tundra, check this out: I grabbed my scale to weigh some of this stuff to see if it weighed anything. The answer is yes: If you add the aforementioned Spektrum gear inside your plane, it will weigh 75g more, almost three ounces, and it will consume...Continue Reading
Posted by d0uglas | Aug 13, 2017 @ 09:52 AM | 2,709 Views
During an early morning flight when no one was around I lost my signal or the receiver malfunctioned barely a thousand feet from me. Failsafes kicked in which kept the plane inside the park, not sailing into town, with a pretty wild landing:

RC Flyaway: Tragedy Narrowly Averted by Failsafes (2 min 36 sec)

As for the culprit, I range tested it and on low power it failed at 15 paces. I remembered I had added a capacitor to the receiver that came with the flight controller I had been using, I guess it's supposed to mitigate the risk of brownouts from power surges. I removed it and it range tested beautifully.

But to be safe, in case it were something else, before I fly the plane normally I will instead fly at low altitude early in the morning out to sea as far as I can and just do full throttle laps for at least several batteries, including raising the flight controller rate gains to induce oscillation to shake things up, so that if there's a flyaway I only lose the plane rather than risk killing anyone. I figure the more times I do that without incident the more likely the plane is shipshape and seaworthy for regular flight.

Range test after doing anything either involving your radio equipment or after anything noteworthy happening to the plane, and for good measure every now and then. Also program your failsafes to put your plane in a gentle spiral, if you want my advice. This could have ended very badly in many different ways, as far as being in a flyaway goes, short of a smooth landing, I got as lucky as one can get.
Posted by d0uglas | Aug 08, 2017 @ 10:16 AM | 2,062 Views
Just got a Tundra or maybe a Timber and servos froze or stripped on your maiden? So your next move is searching the forum for mentions of alternative metal gear digital servos, you find a good deal and buy six. Along the way you pick up a flight controller and a TM1000 (telemetry). I've been there buddy. No big deal, right?

You preflight the plane, run it full throttle on the bench, wattmetering, it all seems kosher. The guys in the forum didn't report problems with the servos, the site from which you bought the stuff has a good reputation, and you range checked after installing the TM1000, so what could go wrong (other than forgetting to turn off your AS3X now that you've added a stabilizing flight controller)?


Your ESC, if it's a common type, in addition to feeding your motor power from your battery, it also feeds, and at a different voltage and maximum amperage, power to your receiver, which in turn powers your servos, your flight controller and that TM1000, all through three tiny servo pins. The ESC Horizon picked out for that plane was likely designed to be as lightweight as possible while delivering just enough power to the plane without failing.

Now when you switch to non-stock metal gear digital servos, even if they don't have higher torque and speed, there's a decent chance they will draw more power, and a moderate chance they'll draw significantly more power, and a noteworthy chance that they'll collectively spike and eat up more amps...Continue Reading
Posted by d0uglas | Jul 17, 2017 @ 10:49 AM | 3,534 Views
The attached picture is the latest batch of stuff Horizon product support mailed me. Two 30A ESCs, three 40A ESCs, three AR636A receivers and an AR9350 rx plus a remote satellite receiver that had a saltwater encounter. This was in response to my mailing them the same items I had broken myself, not defects, mostly from saltwater, and with the AR9350 because I reversed the polarity when plugging in the voltage sensor leads (and I noted on the form that this was all my fault, but maybe you could replace the antennas I managed to sever, etc).

That's $540 worth of stuff (well, retail) in this last package.

They've done this sort of thing numerous times to the point that I'm feeling guilty when sending something in knowing they'll most likely give me a freebie, or repair an out-of-warranty classifieds-purchased DX9 for cheap or for zero dollars, or in just one case decline to fix a motor that had glue on it but offer me a good discount for a new one. Other freebies, again all my fault, were two or three other AR9350s (all stemming from the same first purchase, I kept screwing up the replacements), numerous telemetry sensors -- I can't even keep track!

On the $0.00 invoices they write "in the spirit of customer service." Yes, though it's also good for business, securing such a reputation and customer loyalty. And it's not just free replacements: When I send in a transmitter for something like a busted switch, not only will they fix the superficial problems, they will always do a thorough radio integrity check, flash the latest firmware, above-and-beyond work for which they won't charge me. The fellas in the Tundra thread have convinced me to try Frsky, and not just because the prices are comparatively amazing. But this is a tier of customer support I have only found in Horizon and HeadsUpRC. And the tier brings a tear to my eye.

Thanks, Horizon. And my man Jesse at headsuphobby, an outfit that deserves its own, separate post.

Posted by d0uglas | Jul 14, 2017 @ 11:23 AM | 5,204 Views
So you made another boring twenty minute RC video, but because you're a nervous girly-man the camera was shaking a lot and before you post your perfect little clip you want to add optical stabilization (even though your camera probably already added stabilization).

What does youtube's stabilization do, how good is it? Here are two versions of the same video, the first stabilized with my phone camera's own stabilization but is still shaky, the second stabilized with both my phone's stabilization plus Youtube's stabilization, so double stabilized. The camera's stabilization I'm guessing uses its accelerometers, youtube uses optical stabilization. Click play on both fast and mute one so you can compare not just the stabilization but also the video quality, psychadelic warpiness (the "jello effect"), compression artifacts (a tad worse in the second version, but only if you're looking for it, most won't notice).

Silky smooth RC seaplane landings in Darien CT (2 min 51 sec)

Silky smooth RC seaplane landings in Darien (stabilized) (2 min 51 sec)
...Continue Reading
Posted by d0uglas | Jun 18, 2017 @ 02:35 PM | 4,079 Views
I'm a float addict, but I only have access to saltwater. Nasty skanky saltwater with untold concentrations and varieties of poop.

It doesn't take much wind when taxiing to capsize a Timber, Tundra or E-flite Valiant, and steering the Valiant with moderate wind is difficult. Corrosion-X is good stuff, but this salt and bacteria is a formidable opponent, and it's cost me a lot of electronics. I could just not fly on days that aren't calm, but I have an addiction to feed.

So I embarked on a RCG and Youtube trek to find a plane that would promise less vulnerability to wind. I wasn't looking for a hotrod or something sexy like the ICON A5 (and I have no need an amphibious plane), just something to let me get airborne when wheels aren't an option due to too many people being outside. The Dynam Catalina struck me as having potential due to its wingtip floats but I had bought another Dynam plane, the Beaver, and was very disappointed in the assembly process, perhaps spoiled by Horizon. Also the Catalina was a bit large, and those I asked advised against it for my purposes.

I went to the waterplanes forum on RCG and ordered it by most views/comments, and by far above the rest was the ICON A5, kind of a sexy plane by Horizon, also scale, long flight time, decent sportiness and maybe wind resiliency. I asked in the thread if it were for me, and some nice fellow pointed me toward the Flyzone Tidewater.

The Tidewater has wingtip floats, a water rudder, and a following of...Continue Reading
Posted by d0uglas | May 14, 2017 @ 07:38 PM | 4,415 Views
If you lose a plane to sea and it takes a one to two week voyage before fishermen fish it out and return it to you, and you just finish giving your Valiant a full-body facelift and need a receiver with telemetry, and you discover that your saltwater plane's Lemon RX w/ Telemetry receiver appears to be working, ... Listen, it was only thirty or forty bucks, just order another and use one of your receivers without any adventurous, salinized stories behind it, and use a three dollar alarm and/or a stopwatch like most others.

Why not trust the seaworthy receiver? Because, after getting a little unlucky, you might rebound into the luck I just had yesterday. Spoiler alert: She sustained zero damage, but provided a valuable lesson on using sketchy radio equipment. And yes I'm pretty sure it was the receiver after an ambiguously-inconclusive basement post-mortem. You might think it's the ESC, but I think it was the receiver.

By the way, in terms of shortness, excitement, dramatic music and dialog that makes no sense, this may be my best video ever.

E-flite Valiant: Lost Thrust over Water, Flying Upwind (0 min 53 sec)

Instead of continuing to fly, I took her home, I yanked the Lemon out, resoldered my tips for good measure, popped in my AR9350 with satellites and with AS3X disabled (due to reversed channel hell) and preflighted the hell out of the thing. Though I have this slight hunch the right aileron servo might not be as good as new, I do have two ailerons, so I'll probably be okay.

Posted by d0uglas | May 05, 2017 @ 02:02 PM | 4,642 Views
When you show up to your RC club for the first time and start hearing the dos and don'ts, you'll likely hear someone likening the business end of your plane to a gun and a horror story of someone losing a finger and another guy dying. They're trying to scare you straight because it really is easy to mess yourself up if you don't take basic precautions when going near your propeller, and doing so every single time.

They're trying to spare you from having to learn the hard way, which is what I'm in the middle of right now. I saw my bone. If there's a god, I believe he did not intend for us to see our bones. When the ER doctor was looking at my fingers, he explained that due to the angle and rotation of the propeller, what I had looked like a hand-in-blender injury. I'm on antibiotics, got to rebandage and dump saline on it all the time, and I'll have my third hand doctor session Monday to find out whether or not I'll need grafting (I didn't show up to the ER with all of my flesh).

E-flite Valiant: Propeller vs finger incident (0 min 10 sec)

Though that propeller was a Master Airscrew, those suckers mean business, I got off easy.

But grafting from my understanding is a pain in the ass, and whether I get it or not, when needing to give someone the finger, instead of their getting offended by my hand gesture, they might instead become curious what happened to my knuckle. I'll have to explain I'm obsessed with those toy airplanes and I got close to the prop without turning on the throttle cut switch and hit the throttle with my knee yada yada, and the rancor I tried to introduce into the mood will vanish.

So pay attention when someone gives you the safety schpeel, and for the sake of others as well, not just you. Also, lipo safety warnings, listen to those too.

Posted by d0uglas | Apr 14, 2017 @ 03:01 PM | 5,181 Views
At one of my favorite spots the landing zone is mostly surrounded by trees making a gradual and extended glide slope impossible. When flying the Timber, a giant air brake, I could come in to land in a nosedive, hit the flaps and stop on a dime. Not so easy with the E-flite Valiant which has relatively little drag.

Turns out there's a technique actual pilots of small aircraft use to lose substantial altitude without gaining airspeed, the Forward Slip to Landing: Pull back the throttle, apply aileron in one direction and rudder in the opposite, balancing the two to preserve your ground track which will no longer match where your nose is pointing, flying slightly sideways (slipping), creating drag and reducing lift. I'll test it out on my next flight.

How To Forward Slip an Airplane (5 min 18 sec)

I'm interested in other such "scale" maneuvers, like the various methods of landing in a crosswind (like crabbing), in part because being able to do that will help me pretend I'm an actual pilot, or at least fantasize that I'm no longer a beginner RC pilot like my club members call me (that stings, fellas, massage the language a bit please).

Edit: Though it wasn't that pretty, I tried it in the Valiant, and it works nicely.


Originally Posted by grant22
If u need to bleed off speed in a short distance, have u tried doing some S turns?
Works well for me.
Originally Posted by RyoOhki1701
Yes, S-turns or even full 360°'s before the runway, when there's room to spare and I have the landing circuit for myself.
Rookies.. :)
Posted by d0uglas | Mar 19, 2017 @ 02:44 PM | 5,568 Views
My club manages to enjoy a good relationship with the town, a few irritated dog walkers notwithstanding. The club has been flying at a beautiful park since the seventies, though our reputation is still bruised by an incident from several years back when a drone flyer, not a member of our club, crashed his drone into the park's public pool, almost hitting a kid. It feels to me like we are one such incident away from expulsion.

The town police, who knows we tend to fly responsibly, has a drone problem of their own dealing with the usual mischief they cause and the complaints they generate. They approached my club's leaders and asked them if we would help recruit these guys into our club (as well as the AMA), give them a nice but isolated spot to race, and indoctrinate them to fly safely, enforcing the AMA's rules as well as the club's (no FPV without a spotter for example).

In spite of my pessimistic predictions, it has been a success, a success for the town, the police, the residents, the drone flyers, and for our club, demonstrating that we can and have contributed. Kudos to law enforcement for some out-of-the-box thinking.

Posted by d0uglas | Mar 02, 2017 @ 10:51 AM | 6,301 Views
With the weather heating up, there are too many people everywhere, and it is both dangerous and unhelpful to the hobby for all of us if you fly over or near people. Especially helis and drones. But waiting for the next winter takes too damn long, we need to fly!

So to remediate this, I finally tried slapping on a pair of floats onto my E-flite Valiant, it was much easier than I thought. Now my access to acceptably-uncrowded airspace is abundant. Here's my maiden both on floats, with this particular plane and a maiden of flying with no AS3X -- and I am a beginner!

E-flite Valiant: WATER MAIDEN! (Landings only) (4 min 16 sec)

Further, I suspect when people see you putting a seaplane into the water before flying, it differentiates your fixed wing further from drones, there's a certain romance to it that people seem to appreciate. Taxiing out before taking off keeps the sound down and dogs and dog walkers don't freak out and call the cops.

You might think flying with floats will weigh you down, kill your flight time and neuter your plane of its acrobatics. Though I never flew her with wheels, here I am tearing it up with floats, so far each time landing before running out of juice.

E-flite Valiant: Some Sloppy Sea Stunts (1 min 54 sec)
...Continue Reading
Posted by d0uglas | Feb 13, 2017 @ 04:47 PM | 5,866 Views
Thank you IntegrityHndywrk for advising me to use isopropyl alcohol on my Runcam2 that I fully submerged in the Atlantic when trying to fly on floats for the first time. It worked, she's as good as new (as is the chip); helpful especially because just one hour before the incident I asked the Amazon camera insurance plan tech lady if I'm covered yet for water damage, and it would have seemed suspicious to file a claim that same morning.

Here are his instructions which may work for other electronics victimized by salinized water:

Originally Posted by IntegrityHndywrk View Post
I dropped my quad and my RC2 right into the Atlantic ocean. After rinsing everything with distilled water and 99% isopropyl alcohol. The only thing i couldn't salvage was 1 of my 4 ESCs, which somehow became way more corroded than the other 4 by the time i could get the quad apart to cut open the ESC jackets and rinse them.

As far as the RC2 was concerned. I opened the case, removed the battery and then rinsed throughly with distilled water. Then i submerged the whole thing in isopropyl alcohol and swirled it around for a bit. Even after rinsing, there was a lot of particulate matter falling out to the bottom of the cup of alcohol. The remaining distilled water from the rinse will get washed out from the alcohol (hopefully) and alcohol dries very fast compared to water. So this step is very recommended. In-fact you can probably skip the distilled
...Continue Reading
Posted by d0uglas | Feb 09, 2017 @ 01:55 PM | 5,856 Views
I just maidened my Tundra floats with some extreme snow-laden driveway taxiing, runcam2 mounted on the plane, with me holding my phone and transmitter trying to get more video to add in when editing. I was excited, so the phone video was too shaky. Upstairs I've got my main machine with Premiere and a serious processor, but my wife's there, she's moody and I don't want to deal with her now, so I've got my Chromebook in the basement to work with in spousal tranquility.

Running Debian Linux (on top of Chrome OS), using kdenlive (poor man's Adobe Premiere/Final Cut), I can cut and splice these videos together and do some PiP stuff, but rendering a stabilization effect that might be crappy anyway on this rig would either take forever and severely slow down or crash the machine.

In a continued bid not to get my balls broken because I'm stabilizing toy airplane videos in Premiere instead of job searching, I uploaded the phone video from my phone to Youtube as a private unpublished video, telling Youtube to stabilize it and do its auto color magic. Once it's done, using youtube-dl, I can get the stabilized copy, albeit transcoded with a reduced bitrate, and then work with it in kdenlive. Works also for color correction and other Youtube effects.

While waiting for Youtube to crunch all the numbers I can "job search" on my Chromebook, if you know what I mean. So, especially if you have a huge amount of video and you want it stabilized (optically) and don't own a liquid cpu cooler and your irascible wife finds your career status irksome, just freeload Google's CPU megaflops!

Posted by d0uglas | Feb 06, 2017 @ 05:43 PM | 6,189 Views
I found a lovely beach today to maiden a new plane. Just one lady, not so young, was walking on it, enjoying serenity. She didn't have a dog, she was well out of the way of my intended flight path, odds were she wouldn't make a retaliatory cell phone call. But a Tundra might have sullied her afternoon, so I felt obliged to approach her, particularly given the negative perception of flying toys by the public since the drone explosion.

It went like this:

"Excuse me ma'am," "Yes?" "Would it bother you were I to fly this thing here?"

"Not at all, have fun. And thank you for asking me first. Though I bet you'll crash!"

Forgive my preaching, but if more of us made a habit of such interactions and consideration, especially to dog walkers, whether on an AMA-sanctioned field or going rogue, there would be fewer 911 quickfingers and a slower race of towns to ban all RC flying.

That said, politeness from the fixed-wing crowd may be no match for what you get from most of the drone flyers.

No, I didn't crash.

Posted by d0uglas | Jan 31, 2017 @ 05:24 PM | 5,872 Views
Just entering the hobby and enjoying SAFE mode? Pretty easy to fly, right, kind of like a drone? Kind of like some X-box game?

Buddy, you are setting yourself up for eventual frustration and busted airplanes as one day it will dawn on you that flying with banking limits is not even for the birds. Once you're tired of flying around in circles, you'll switch to no-SAFE mode, and contrary to your assumption that SAFE mode has trained you to glide into no-SAFE mode flight, that is not at all the case; you will have to re-learn how to fly from scratch, and it will be a most turbulent and expensive episode.

I believe that SAFE mode has cost me thousands of dollars' worth of planes and many, many hours worth of flight with less fun, as well as accrued scorn from the elders of my club.

My strong advice is to get that AMA membership and join one of the sanctioned clubs. The two I've joined have plenty of skilled pilots who are eager to help, whether it's teaching you how to solder or teaching you how to fly. "Buddy box" with an instructor (that's where you run a cable to his transmitter, giving him the ability to hand off and then take control of the controls as needed) who will ease you in to un-SAFE flight fast.

Don't want to go that route, but don't want to crash either? Get a good simulator for your computer with a cable to hook up your actual transmitter to your machine. Get comfortable with that, including flying with gusty winds, to hedge your odds of...Continue Reading
Posted by d0uglas | Dec 08, 2016 @ 01:48 PM | 6,141 Views
For the record, I'm finally managing to fly both without SAFE/AS3X and also without crashing very frequently. I just tend to upload the crashes. But for the record, here are some consecutive touch-and-gos, almost without incident:

Perfect RC flights (for a beginner)! *Extended cut* (4 min 38 sec)

And here I am on my second non-SAFE flight, going for over 23 minutes but condensed down to five minutes of the highlights.
Note the knife edge at 2:26. (Extended version here)

Beginner RC Flight Log: Stunts in Stamford CT + Google Earth (5 min 59 sec)
...Continue Reading
Posted by d0uglas | Aug 19, 2016 @ 08:35 AM | 6,318 Views
Maximize this puppy. Greenwich CT, staying within the baseball field's boundaries and getting sweet footage until the frickin' voltage telemetry sensor shorted at 2min mark. Using Runcam 2 (badass).

Pic related.

E-flite Timber crash caught on Runcam 2 1080p 60fps GPS Google Earth (4 min 59 sec)

Posted by d0uglas | Aug 06, 2016 @ 10:50 AM | 6,192 Views
Well, I'm on my third Timber now. Flying gently yesterday, E-flite battery, nothing in the plane not made by HH or not intended for the Timber. Suddenly no power and she spirals down to the ground.

I approach the Timber, busted gear springs again (naturally), and funky smelling smoke is pouring out of the grill underneath. Woah.

I rip out the battery which wasn't what was burning thankfully, it continues to smoke for another few minutes. Put it in the trunk, went to the LHS, they said it would cost $168 to repair everything (I trust these guys) and the ESC is on backorder until forever, might as well buy another plane. I'm addicted, they had a coupon for me, so I had to. Fresh plane, though my wallet's thinner (these guys prefer cash for some reason) and my car still smells like burnt ESC.

When my last Timber's ESC died spontaneously it did so less dramatically. Presuming something shorted, perhaps wires rubbing against the motor, maybe the RPM leads, wouldn't ESCs have some sort of mechanism, like a fuse or whatever, to shut itself down and not begin to melt the foam when sensing the extreme resistance of wires crossing?

Obviously with the nose falling off and chopping itself up and these two ESC situations and a busted aileron servo which was broken just from transporting it which led to another crash on top of having to substitute duct tape for shock absorbers I'm an anomaly, still, I wonder why the ESC and servo would be on backorder, and gear springs now listed as a new accessory on pre-order...

Though I wish they had a pre-order-two-get-three offer, I'm still a Timber and an HH fan. If you're wondering what happened to my finger in the picture, well, the next time someone warns you about propeller safety, listen. I've had my share of finger versus propeller incidents but this one hurt, blood actually splashed up my arm. But the doctor who stitched me up, though stingy with the lidocaine, had a nice butt.


(cross post of this)
Posted by d0uglas | Jul 23, 2016 @ 10:52 AM | 6,885 Views
The AMA has secured from the FAA the authority to set limits of how high we can fly (modelaircraft.org). All other rules remain intact, including maintaining line-of-site, having registered your model aircraft/sUAS with the FAA (link), not messing with manned aircraft, not flying while on either LSD or PCP, the airport distance yada yada, and, again, being a member of the AMA.

As for the AMA, don't know how they'll decide on a limit, or limits plural, or if they'll just take a good long time to impose one or leave it up to the individual clubs being as some are under flight paths and others aren't. For example, club is underneath a holding pattern of an airport where planes may fly as low as 2K feet. So instead of setting a fixed limit, maybe it would make more sense for the AMA to say you must fly X feet below any official flight paths and leave it at that. Perhaps the feds are doing this as an incentive to get this genius to register their plane/drone, go through the AMA, to get insured, to get rules and common sense sort of tips, and maybe get him into a club that doesn't fly into Manhattan skyscrapers.

Drone Crashes into Building 4:00min Full Footage - Grand Central Manhattan Drone Crash (4 min 7 sec)

From the AMA (full text here: http://www.modelaircraft.org/aboutama/gov.aspx, PDF of the actual FAA letter attached):
Today, our members have yet another AMA government advocacy victory to celebrate. There has been confusion among our members as to whether
...Continue Reading
Posted by d0uglas | Jul 15, 2016 @ 03:38 PM | 7,002 Views
After three Timber flights during which I only broke my gear springs again I just discovered something helpful the hard way called failsafe. As I was packing her up, with the battery still in (no power switch), I turned the transmitter off, and the prop started spinning, cut my finger deeper than usual. Used an envelope as an improvised tourniquet.

I believe the reason for this is called failsafe, that an RC plane in the event of losing signal will do certain things your transmitter tells it to when it binds with the rx. Those things will either be factory default settings or things you define, and you should either define them or at least know what they are. One purpose for example, preventing runaway planes. At least with the Spektrum radio equipment I use.

While this cost me a few band aids, it's worth it as now I'll try to program mine to go onto a gentle spiral descent, and I'll keep my fingers away from that propeller, being as HH won't send me replacement fingers. I've accumulated enough cuts of varying age on my hand that this lady I need to give a computer lesson to tomorrow will think they are deliberately self-inflicted.

To give you an example of the process and a better idea of failsafe, attached is the failsafe instruction page for the DX7s. Your tx may be different, so obviously don't use these instructions for any other transmitter, and be sure to test signal loss to make sure your programming worked. Also note that your ESC might have some funky behavior too. And maybe your receiver doesn't care about failsafes, I don't know, rtfm bro. Good protip though, right?

Stupid Timber gear shock springs....