Shop our Airplanes Products Drone Products Sales
DismayingObservation's blog View Details
Posted by DismayingObservation | Apr 11, 2017 @ 09:09 PM | 1,358 Views
One man's trash is...well, you know the rest.

Last year, I blogged about an E-flite UMX F-16 which I witnessed on its maiden flight and maiden crash at the club. Conditions were kind of windy and while the little EDF did a great job of handling the conditions, a loop too close to the ground resulted in that dreaded smack of shattered foam on the runway.

The gentleman who owned it decided to toss it out and buy a new one rather than rebuild the wrecked model. I discovered that fact when I walked by a trash can and there it was! Not only did I take the wreck with his blessing, he also gave me the box and the rest of the accessories less the batteries.

A quick test at home via my Spektrum DX6i showed all of the electronics to be in perfect working order; had they not been, I wouldn't have set it aside in anticipation of rebuilding it.

Last month, I decided to take the plunge despite the exorbitant cost of the parts. I saved some money via the loyalty program at my local hobby shop, so the overall cost wasn't too bad and even with the purchase of two new batteries - I used an existing UMX battery for the tests - I was into it for less than a third of the cost of a new one. No way I was going to use a factory decal sheet, however.

I've had the pleasure over the past few years to have cultivated a wonderful working relationship with Callie Soden, the driving force behind Callie Graphics, the preeminent provider of model graphics and believe me, anything you might have heard about Callie, her incredible products and peerless customer service are absolutely true.

Callie was able to take her existing "Thunderbirds" scheme, shrink it to 1/32 scale and the results are just below.

I haven't yet maidened it, but I will soon. Fact is, anyone considering this model would do very well to drop Callie a howdy and get a set of these fantastic decals.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Mar 03, 2017 @ 02:16 PM | 2,558 Views
"Finally" is right!

The little Thunder Tiger Bearcat RTF foamie I'd purchased at the AMA Expo about three years ago finally flew its first successful flights. The original gearbox, brushed motor and four-blade scale prop didn't have nearly enough power to even get it off the ground. That radio and electrics were given to an other RCG member.

From there, I went to brushless power...and it crashed on takeoff due to poorly taped ailerons from the factory. Minor crash, so I purchased a new cowl, repaired the fuselage, installed CA hinges on the ailerons and elevator (it's a three-channel) and touched up the paint. Ready to fly once more.

The motor was a no-name generic of uncertain Kv rating...and I managed to burn it out in flight due to too much propeller, although it flew very well despite being incredibly touchy due to my use of a simple sport radio. It happened rather fast and I didn't have time to shut it down and bring it in. Lesson learned.

An inexpensive brushless outrunner from a subsequent AMA Expo was next...and when the landing gear caught on grass as I was ready to take off, the motor shaft was sheared off!

What to do, thought I. Then, I had an idea.

I had an almost new Turnigy 1050Kv Park 450 outrunner and an APC 8x6E prop on hand from another project. The motor is larger than the ones I'd been using and I thought I'd try it out before shortening the E-flite stick mount since it stuck out a bit too far for my taste. I plugged it...Continue Reading
Posted by DismayingObservation | Feb 19, 2017 @ 07:11 PM | 2,606 Views
My, how things have changed in this hobby in five years.

It was January 2012 when my review of the Extreme-Flyers X350 5A2 coaxial helicopter was published here at RCGroups. Since then, Global Hobby Distributors have, sadly, ceased operations and the X350 seems to be all but discontinued through other outlets.

Time hadn't been particularly kind to my X350. I spent more time crashing than flying and I turned my attention back to standard CCPM helicopters and early quadcopters, not to mention a lot of airplanes. Since long before moving from the place where I'd written the review and taken the photos, the X350 had been sitting in closets in both my previous house and my new house ever since.

After five years which included a great deal of flying a variety of models, I thought it was time to look at this chopper once again through the lens of history and some more polished flying skills.

I had everything I needed to get airborne again with one exception. I couldn't find the transmitter. I checked some boxes in my garage without success and that's when I thought to look where I'd once stored a couple of other oddball transmitters. Bingo. Still wrapped in the plastic grocery bag I'd used to protect it during the move. Even the transmitter's batteries were OK.

The original li-po had long since been discarded; I had one which I'd gotten as a gift from Max Ettinger at Park RC Models. It was almost totally discharged from lack of use, but I was able to get...Continue Reading
Posted by DismayingObservation | Feb 17, 2017 @ 09:54 PM | 3,237 Views
When I reviewed the JYU Hornet S RTF quadcopter last summer, I lamented the lack of documentation and firmware updating software in English. I did find out that their customer service is excellent when the flight battery wouldn't connect with the charger. Kitty Zheng at JYU forwarded a new battery and charger and all is now well.

JYU is getting their act together with very good online documentation and, thankfully, some good software and new firmware updates. The key word is "getting" since the firmware updating procedures are not too well documented. I sure found that out when I went to upgrade the firmware in my model and transmitter much as I'd normally do in an open source program like Cleanflight. My Hornet went from one of the sweetest flying quads I own to something, well, not so nice.

The fun part? These here interwebs. I found a video on YouTube where a user followed the thread started by our own SeByDocKy which can be found here. By the way, SeBy also shared a way to make a wiring harness which allows the flight battery to be charged via a standard computerized charger. Although the original pack won't allow for balancing because of the internal issue, it charges just fine without balancing. So, I have two batteries!

It seems that unless things are followed in a certain (and seemingly undisclosed) order, the thing simply isn't going to work. This is where this video becomes invaluable:

JYU Hornet S - Firmware Upload, Calibration
...Continue Reading
Posted by DismayingObservation | Feb 12, 2017 @ 04:22 PM | 2,731 Views
In addition to the resurrected Twister Police Helicam converted into a Blade CX4 presented in my last blog, these six micros are also refurbished and flying once more. The Skyartec Wasp Nano CP helicopter at left and the Helizone Thunderbird to its right are previous review subjects. So too was the green Cheerson FX-10 nano quad.

That Estes Proto X was my first ever micro quad and it's been rebuilt a few times over the years. Only the frame is original; I gave its transmitter to my son to replace the missing unit from his own. I'm flying it on a discarded transmitter given to me by my local hobby shop. Everything else is brand new and it flies like new as well. Once those motor mounts get tweaked, these little quads won't fly properly until they're replaced.

What looks like an orange FX-10 started life as an Estes Proto N used as a demo sample from that same hobby shop. It was less than a year old per the transmitter's date code, but it already had a burned out battery, a broken shell, three burned out motors and three missing propellers. At least it had a working transmitter with batteries and the FC board worked perfectly. That was given to me as a possible parts source for the green FX-10 and while the motors and props are available as service parts, the shells and flight batteries are not. I got those from overseas as well as a new shell for the actual FX-10 once it needs its battery needs replacing.

The little Helizone coaxial chopper was in need of...Continue Reading
Posted by DismayingObservation | Feb 08, 2017 @ 05:32 PM | 2,657 Views
OK, so resurrecting a coaxial helicopter isn't that big a deal, but dang, was it fun.

To wit, this centered around a "what if" thought I had when I dusted off my rebuilt Twister Police Helicam coaxial helicopter per a previous entry. That made me think of the incomplete model I'd purchased several years before but never operated.

A check of the freezer bag in which I'd stored it revealed a like new frame, all electronics except for the receiver (removed in order to test another model soon after I bought the helicopter) and all of the accessories including double-stick tape pads, tie wraps, screwdriver, used blades and a new, unwrapped set of blades. Since the Blade CX4 hadn't been released prior to the model being stored, I didn't have a US-based parts source, so away it went.

My worry was that the 3-in-1 mixer unit might not be working; I don't recall ever powering up the frame. To my utter delight, everything worked once I reconnected the receiver!

A very small infusion of money for the fuselage which I bought for half the retail price on Amazon plus the battery tray, skids and fuselage mounts from the local hobby shop resulted in the little green beauty pictured below. It is literally a brand new machine and I figured it deserved the new blades instead of the used ones. Naturally, it flies like a coaxial helicopter. Easy to fly and hover indoors; impossible to fly outdoors in wind.

I should have done this ages ago! Next on the list is another battery. For now, I'll enjoy the battery I have.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Feb 03, 2017 @ 05:37 PM | 2,831 Views
The new Blade CX4 fuselage in bright green arrived today! Like the old Twister Police Helicam fuselage, the new fuse has LEDs both front and rear which plug in the same way as the light system on the previous fuselage. Mocking it up to the frame this afternoon showed me this big buzzard of a coaxial helicopter is going to look really, really nice. It will be a brand new indoor/outdoor model for a total outlay of about $25. From scrap to superb, as it were.

Problem: It didn't come with the mounts. They're sold separately.

The good news is, they're still in stock. My hobby shop ordered the mounts today and they'll be here on Tuesday.

True, this is an incredibly simple rebuild as if it were being rebuilt after a crash. It's just that it had been returned to the original retailer for whatever reason, cannibalized for some parts and discarded. For nearly six years, it sat unused, but no longer. I'm even going to get a second Lectron Pro battery for the three models!

It's as I'd written; there's a great feeling taking a pile of parts - any pile - and turning them back into a fun, functional and like new model!
Posted by DismayingObservation | Jan 30, 2017 @ 02:13 PM | 3,055 Views
In this latest series of blogs where I repair, rejuvenate and otherwise re-fly some older models, I decided to do something to which I alluded in my previous entry.

That's where I mentioned that I had "two and a half" Twister Police Helicam coaxial helicopters. One was for an official RCGroups review and the other was given to me and subsequently repaired.

Ah, but there's that niggling "half." That was the nearly complete "parts" model in the box I'd purchased and later cannibalized a bit. I'd removed the receiver from the 3-in-1 mixer and put it in another plane. Flew it all of once. I'm glad I didn't do any more flight testing since the radio is not a full range unit!

The mostly complete frame plus a few spare parts had been stored in a freezer bag and boxed up when my wife and I moved. I'd forgotten about them until I dug out the model in the previous blog and I started going through some boxes. In that freezer bag along with the frame were one set of new blades, one set of used blades, the flybar, zip ties and double-stick tape, hardware and even the original Phillips screwdriver. The transmitter had been stored separately and I knew where to find it. Missing were the battery tray, camera and landing skids, but I know where the camera is. Not gonna use it.

As far as the battery tray is concerned, please read on.

I don't recall ever powering up that incomplete model before yesterday, but with everything connected, it...Continue Reading
Posted by DismayingObservation | Jan 15, 2017 @ 02:07 PM | 2,704 Views
A bit of an introduction is in order.

First of all, the Police Helicam has been discontinued in the US for quite some time and so has its cousin, the Blade CX4. Second, the model and radio in the photograph are not the items I used for the review, although I still have them in the original box and the model remains in perfectly good, nearly new and flyable condition.

After a quick online search, I found that British hobby company J Perkins Distribution, Ltd. in Lenham, Kent still carries the model! J Perkins was the original worldwide distributor and the model may now be found here.

My original review published February 22, 2011 can be viewed here.

What this is is the totally rebuilt damaged model given to me by Eddie Tucker at the now-defunct Ground Control Hobbies in Yucca Valley, California. Eddie took it back in as a warranty claim (read: pilot error) and he later gave it to me, radio and all. The story - and some photos of its original condition - are in the review.

What isn't in the review is what came a short time later. Just before I moved from the area, I'd paid Eddie a visit and I noticed yet another Police Helicam box just inside the door of the storage room. This had all of the parts I needed to complete the damaged model including two fuselages, a third radio system and the all-important battery! Forty bucks later, it was mine.

Now came the task of reassembling what I knew to be a working machine. Per the review, I'd test flown...Continue Reading
Posted by DismayingObservation | Dec 19, 2016 @ 03:46 PM | 3,708 Views
Syma X5UW RTF Quadcopter with 720P Camera from (2 min 45 sec)

Whenever I’ve been offered the opportunity to review a Syma quadcopter, I’ve always taken it and for good reasons. The brand simply makes some of the best flying entry level RTF quads available at very affordable prices.

So, when offered up the model I’m about to review, I couldn’t help but say yes.

I’m very glad that I did.

Up for review is the brand new Syma X5UW RTF quadcopter with a 720P camera boasting both onboard audio and video recorded onto the supplied 4GB micro SD card and/or via a Wi-Fi link to any smartphone. A lot of features including barometric altitude hold and automatic takeoff and landing are packed into a model which sells for $83.75 ready to go.

It’s available here.


As with all Syma quads, the X5UW is a complete package with the following:
• Fully assembled model with six-axis gyro
• Four-channel 2.4GHz radio
• 500mAh 3.7V lithium polymer battery
• USB charger
• Spare propellers
• Propeller guards
• 720P camera
• 4GB micro SD card and USB reader
• Smartphone retaining clip
• Phillips screwdriver
• Illustrated instruction manual

Needed for operation:
• Four AA-cell alkaline batteries for the transmitter

Syma does a great job on their packaging not only in the looks department but in how securely everything comes shipped in the...Continue Reading
Posted by DismayingObservation | Dec 19, 2016 @ 02:39 PM | 3,222 Views
The little AM/FM pocket radio kit from continues to work beautifully. Since my grandson and I completed the build, all I've had to do was to remove the back to solder a battery lead which had worked loose from a battery terminal.

It proved difficult to get the stations to line up with the dial, but I got it fairly close. Sound quality is a bit tinny given the size and depth of the speaker, but it's remarkably clear thanks to its Mylar cone and very loud. Here's a radio running on two AA-cells with a speaker driven by a transistor instead of an output transformer and it cranks!

AM selectivity could be better, but it picks up the local stations just fine, especially since I live in an area that isn't too RF friendly. Still, this is about the most fun you can have for all of $6.62 with free shipping. It's available here and I have to thank Banggood for honoring my request for one of these kits....Continue Reading
Posted by DismayingObservation | Oct 27, 2016 @ 06:44 PM | 3,544 Views
Just over a month ago, I posted this blog entry regarding the assembly of a small AM/FM pocket radio kit from

Without instructions, at least in English.

Thankfully, the instruction sheet had a schematic and the PC board was marked in English. I also had some online help in the guise of a time lapse assembly video, linked on the original blog.

I'm truly pleased to say that this grandfather/grandson project actually works! It didn't at first, but when you have a friend who happens to be a broadcast engineer, it didn't take long for him to find my one wiring mistake. I'd simply soldered the negative power wire to the wrong pad.

Pictures on the way soon! In the meantime, here's the Banggood ordering page for anyone wishing to do something truly fun on a wet afternoon:
Posted by DismayingObservation | Oct 24, 2016 @ 03:14 PM | 3,537 Views
It wasn't long ago that full hobby grade RTF quadcopters were a real rarity, let alone those with brushless motors.

Today, it's my pleasure to send us all back to October 14, 2013 to revisit the groundbreaking Skyartec Butterfly RTF quadcopter from Max Ettinger over at

Back then, $219.95 would net the lucky buyer a fully assembled, fully tested, fiberglass framed quad with four 2200Kv outrunners, all guided by a seven-channel Skyartec NASA701 radio.

It had been quite some time since I'd last flown this fun little machine and I'm glad that I dusted it off for a quick indoor sortie.

With its original 1300mAh li-po battery charged and ready, I armed the model, remembering not to move it while powered up. That, as I found out during the review, "confuses" the gyros. Since the Butterfly has an external power switch, arming it at its takeoff point is easy.

Despite its size and power, the Butterfly is an excellent indoor flyer if one remembers to keep its rather touchy throttle response in mind. It's possible to go into the radio's settings and adjust the expo, but doing so remains a mystery. Max, however, is a master at setting the NASA701 should one wish to tweak the factory's memory preset.

Since the original review went live, Max sells the original Butterfly at a closeout price of $129.99. A new version, the "S," has replaced the original with the capability of running three-cell batteries as opposed to the two-...Continue Reading
Posted by DismayingObservation | Oct 17, 2016 @ 06:01 PM | 3,669 Views
I thought I'd repost a request a bit further up thread.

I'm on the lookout for a "dead" LiDi or RC Leading brand hexacopter with a good transmitter. I have a LiDi L6 with a bad transmitter and nothing visibly wrong with the model's FC.

I'll post on the "wanted" page as well. Thanks for the help and please feel free to PM or email me.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Oct 08, 2016 @ 05:29 PM | 4,208 Views
I think the problem with that LiDi L6 hexacopter is with the transmitter. The antenna lead may have been shorted to an adjacent pad at the factory. That or I did it when I was fiddling around with antennas. I found that when I took apart both the model and transmitter and soaked up the solder with desoldering braid.

After removing nearly forty small screws on the model in order to open it up, I was able to ascertain that nothing visible was wrong.

There's almost no control range; it's literally about three feet! Works perfectly when the transmitter is nearby (less the props). It goes into signal loss mode and shuts down as the transmitter is moved away.

Does anyone have a "dead" LiDi or RC Leading brand hexacopter with a good transmitter with which they'd be willing to part? Or, if someone out there has figured out the radio protocol, I'm all ears. Thanks, everyone!
Posted by DismayingObservation | Oct 06, 2016 @ 08:50 PM | 3,928 Views
It certainly wasn't for a lack of effort.

The router antenna on the transmitter of the little Li Di hexacopter didn't solve the problem and actually made it somewhat worse.

I had no problem getting the transmitter and receiver to bind, but unless I literally brought the transmitter within inches of the model, it wouldn't enter flight mode. When I pulled back, nothing but blinking lights.

Disconnecting the ground lead and replacing the antenna with a fresh bit of micro coax didn't help.

All is not lost since I'll hang onto the model in the hope that a flight control board will someday be offered. Or, maybe I can find a different board and transmitter from a similar model.

Better still, I reestablished a relationship with GearBest! Adam is one of my earliest contacts and he told me that Elliot, my prior contact, is still with the company in a different capacity.

Adam, bless him, has offered up some new quads for review here on the blogs, so watch this space for more.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Oct 05, 2016 @ 05:47 PM | 4,349 Views
By that, I mean that the new transmitter antenna for the Li Di L6W hexacopter is in place per my previous entry.

What's more, the model is responding to the transmitter. However, I couldn't get it to lift off. The units bound fine, but the motors wouldn't spool up and the onboard lights were flashing. The problem was simple; I thought I was using a charged battery and I wasn't.

Time didn't allow me to charge up a battery and test fly the model, but I will tonight or tomorrow and give it a shot.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Oct 04, 2016 @ 07:51 PM | 3,975 Views
Continued experimentation with the little Li Di L6W hexacopter didn't quite turn out as I'd hoped.

As it moved away from the transmitter, the loss of control returned. It first loses yaw control and then flops to the deck, motors running.

I'd once experimented with installing a 2.4GHz router antenna in place of the very short length of coaxial cable which served as an antenna. That didn't seem to work and neither did replacing the coax with the one from another "toy" transmitter I'd successfully modified with another router antenna. That transmitter had the shield attached to ground even before I modified it.

Only the center conductor of the coax is soldered to the board which is another very likely culprit and I decided to try that setup once more with a new antenna I had on hand. Enter my friend the broadcast engineer! I told him exactly what I'm telling everyone now and he suggested grounding the shielding to the ground plane of the transmitter's PC board.

He cheerfully modified the router antenna's coax with a ground wire and plenty of exposed center conductor to solder in place. The job is, quite simply, beautiful and a continuity check with his Fluke multimeter showed it to be working perfectly. I'll get pictures and report back with the results.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Oct 03, 2016 @ 02:29 PM | 4,153 Views
Some explanation is in order before I begin.

I'd received this little entry level hexacopter from Elliot, my contact at GearBest, for an official RCGroups review some time ago. This is the ordering page:

Unfortunately, it didn't work properly. Elliot said they'd investigate and he said to go ahead and keep the model in the meantime.

It would work fine for a few moments and then it would become nearly uncontrollable and crash, even indoors. That's why the caps atop each prop - and one of the props itself - is kind of "doinked." Lots of unintended upside down landings will do that.

I figured a bit of troubleshooting might be worth the effort since this model has received some good online reviews. Off the shelf after months of no use and out of the box it came, still looking for all the world like a Christmas decoration rather than a hexacopter.

No other "toy" multirotor transmitter of mine shared the same radio protocol, so a flight test with another transmitter was out of the question. The only other option would be another battery, one with a name brand and a high discharge rate. As I nurgled around with the model straightening out one of the soft plastic props, I seemed to remember that the supposedly 800mAh flight battery came down kind of hot. Six brushed motors equal a lot of current draw...and inexpensive li-pos are sometimes a bit overrated. Another similar pack I had on hand yielded...Continue Reading
Posted by DismayingObservation | Sep 22, 2016 @ 01:21 PM | 5,543 Views
...but not one too far removed from what we enjoy on this site.

Since my final RCGroups review went live, I've been busy doing some other things including some magazine work. I'm also working hard on launching some professional projects.

That said, I've had the pleasure of doing informal reviews for the good folks at right here on the RCG blogs. Not only do they have a lot of fun flying things, they have other electronic items of interest.

As part of the most recent review I did on their behalf, I requested a rather cool and inexpensive item which arrived yesterday under separate cover.

It's a pocket radio kit!

I really wanted to do this as a project with my grandson and so we will. I'll cover it here on the blogs as time permits. Since the instructions are in Chinese, I'd followed a link to a YouTube video on the Banggood review page. Lo and behold, a time lapse assembly sequence!

Classical Soldering - AM/FM/TV Radio Kit - #0047 (26 min 46 sec)

This is going to be fun.