DismayingObservation's blog - Page 2 - RC Groups
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Posted by DismayingObservation | Jan 15, 2017 @ 03:07 PM | 7,895 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 @ 04:46 PM | 8,972 Views
Syma X5UW RTF Quadcopter with 720P Camera from Lightake.com (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 Lightake.com 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 @ 03:39 PM | 8,211 Views
The little AM/FM pocket radio kit from Banggood.com 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 @ 07:44 PM | 7,984 Views
Just over a month ago, I posted this blog entry regarding the assembly of a small AM/FM pocket radio kit from Banggood.com.

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 @ 04:14 PM | 7,359 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 ParkRCModels.com.

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 @ 07:01 PM | 6,996 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 @ 06:29 PM | 7,230 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 @ 09:50 PM | 6,260 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 @ 06:47 PM | 6,494 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 @ 08:51 PM | 5,899 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 @ 03:29 PM | 5,531 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 @ 02:21 PM | 6,847 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 Banggood.com 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.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Sep 10, 2016 @ 12:22 AM | 4,848 Views
That, of course, is a good thing where we hobbyists are concerned.

A couple of other posters here on the blogs have highlighted the new Eachine E010 micro quad and man, is this thing ever fun.

They were selling for all of $10.99, at least when they were in stock. Not only do they fly surprisingly well, especially indoors, but there are already threads right here on RCGroups on how to turn an E010 into a budget Tiny Whoop!

Here's one:

According to the ordering page, the price has gone up to a still amazing $15.99. My suggestion: Get one while you can. They're really that good, although outdoor conditions should be at or near dead calm. The E010 won't lose its composure in breezy conditions, but as fast as it is, it doesn't quite have the power or torque to overcome a breeze, at least in stock configuration. In calm conditions, it's as much fun to fly as anything in this ridiculously low price range has a right to be.

Here am I flying the E010 both indoors and out. The model was provided by RCGroups user "BG Well" at Banggood for review and critique.

Eachine E010 Micro Quadcopter from Banggood.com Indoor Video (2 min 7 sec)

Eachine E010 Micro Quadcopter from Banggood.com Outdoor Video (1 min 59 sec)
...Continue Reading
Posted by DismayingObservation | Aug 28, 2016 @ 06:15 PM | 4,067 Views
I was certainly busy last night.

Lots of 2200mAh 3S li-pos were making their way through my charger in preparation for some fun with a favorite plane, another I hadn't flown in more than a year and some quads.

The planes were the FMS F3A Explorer pattern plane from Force RC (originally Diamond Hobby) and the other was the Parkflyers RC Corsair from Parkflyers.com.

My grandson is a big Corsair fan and I hadn't flown this Art-Tech based model with its upgraded motor in quite some time. So, I charged up a couple of 1300 3S packs. It wasn't without its problems; the tail on the Corsair is extremely delicate and sure as heck, I managed to bump it hard enough to snap off at the base. Some borrowed 15-minute epoxy and a bit of borrowed CA later and the tail was stronger than ever.

While it was setting, up went the amazing Explorer. The original spinner cone was damaged by thread locking compound and the original prop was damaged in a noseover landing. The replacement APC prop is a huge improvement over the original! It's quiet, fast and makes this already fantastic model even more fun to fly, but I had to use the backplate of the spinner in order to mount the prop to the motor. It goes about its business to near perfection, doing every kind of loop, stall, hammerhead, Immlemann and knife edge I could throw at it. The tips of the propeller had gotten a bit scraped on a previous noseover, but it still pulls the Explorer with authority.

The little Corsair was a model which I'd originally described as underpowered, but the addition of the Parkflyers RC "Power Star 3000" motor turned this sweet flying but somewhat slow little model into something much more befitting of its subject.

Plenty of power on tap meant some wonderful rolls and large, accurate loops. It's also one of the easiest landing models imaginable; it practically floats in with very little power.

The original 2013 review of the Corsair may be found here and the original 2015 review of the Explorer may be found here.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Aug 27, 2016 @ 03:56 PM | 4,222 Views
In my last blog, I mentioned that a review of some wonderful new Hitec multirotor motors was on the way.

And so it is.

Here's the result of the combination of Hitec Energy Propel 2212/20 motor/ESC combos, a DragonFly 32 Pro FC from site sponsors Multirotor Mania and an Armattan CF-355 frame from site sponsors Armattan Quadrocopters.

It all makes for one of the most fun sport quads I've ever flown and I highly recommend these motors and support components. Keep an eye peeled for the official review on the electric flight page!
Posted by DismayingObservation | Aug 17, 2016 @ 01:09 PM | 3,639 Views
As the summer labors on, I try and think back to the last time I flew an airplane.

The last time I was at the field was more than a month ago when I got video of the HobbyKing Super-G autogyro and before that, I honestly can't remember flying a plane at the club in recent months. It's been too hot, too windy or both at the club.

However, this crazy hot weather with its almost daily heat warnings continues to provide the opportunity to revisit old multirotor and helicopter friends either in the house, at the park or out front.

That said, I just flew my XK EC145 helicopter from Tmart.com and the neat little JJRC H20 nano hexacopter from Gearbest.com. I reviewed the helicopter in January 2016 and the hexacopter in October 2015.

I guess I've been spoiled with mini multirotors; the EC145 takes a more determined hand to fly it, even with the six-axis gyro engaged. Breezy conditions didn't help, so it was back to the living room to run out the batteries. Much better.

Once the initial charge drops off a bit, the model becomes a lot more controllable. It isn't difficult to control by any means, but it's both CCPM and small. The flybarless system does its job well and the scale look is just unbeatable. Add to that Futaba S-FHSS compatibility, brushless power and good parts availability and the little Eurocopter is one of the biggest bangs for the buck in micro helis. If one were to bind it to a Futaba radio, the possibilities of fine tuning are limitless.

The...Continue Reading
Posted by DismayingObservation | Aug 11, 2016 @ 07:27 PM | 3,843 Views
And hoo boy, is it ever a fun one.

The good folks at Hitec RCD have concocted their own version of multirotor motors with integral ESCs and they are, in a word, fantastic.

The upcoming official review of their Hitec Energy Propel Systems 2212/20 motor/ESC combos will feature some of the best products in the hobby, including an Armattan CF-355 quadcopter frame and a Multirotor Mania DragonFly 32 flight controller.

I hope to get video of this contraption in action on Sunday and share the review soon after. Jason Cole's original news report on these motors may be found here and Hitec's info page is here.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Aug 05, 2016 @ 03:30 PM | 3,734 Views
Lately, as I've mentioned in previous entries, I've been dusting off a lot of models, especially small ones.

While these aren't previous review subjects, I still thought it'd be fun to share.

The now-discontinued three-channel Blade Red Bull BO-105 CB CX RTF coaxial heli was a model I'd purchased new from an RCGroups user for a whopping thirty bucks. Similar to the Scout CX, it flies much like driving an R/C car. Throttle simply makes it climb and descend while the right stick adds pitch and yaw. It's as steady as a rock and is about as much fun an indoor flier as one could imagine.

The odd little Xieda 9958 fixed-pitch heli was a real bargain a couple of years ago. I picked it up at a booth at the AMA Expo for $20. Brand new. With a battery. It's clearly a clone (to some degree) of the Blade mSR. It isn't as good a flier as the mSR, but for twenty bucks, it's hard to beat. It suffers from twitchy radio controls and a not-too-stable tail. Flown gently, it's a blast, especially for the price.

The real deal, the Blade mSR, still ranks among the most popular little fixed pitch helis in hobby history. After Horizon Hobby discontinued it, they brought it back a few months later! This is another rock solid flier both indoors and out and on low rates, it's as gentle as can be for indoor sorties. In fact, I bound it to a transmitter specifically designed for the Blade SR. I'd bought it used off of eBay a few years ago to experiment with the attempted resurrection of...Continue Reading
Posted by DismayingObservation | Jul 31, 2016 @ 08:09 PM | 3,763 Views
XinLin X118 RTF Quadcopter from Gearbest.com (4 min 4 sec)

Monsoon conditions here in the desert equal some really sticky, nasty weather. I call it nine months of paradise and three months of purgatory.

It's given me some time to fly some quads indoors, ones I hadn't flown for some time in many cases.

Nicely tucked away in my closet was the XinLin X118 quadcopter provided by Gearbest.com for a September 2015 review. That review may be found here.

Since I'd recently done a casual review of the Eachine E5C quad here on the blogs, it didn't take long for me to realize just how similar the X118 happens to be. Very similar, but not alike and the radio protocols are different. To my delight, the batteries are the same!

I remember being somewhat lukewarm over the X118. It's a good if somewhat larger than usual indoor flyer with one heck of an LED light show. The FPV function is pretty good with a large, hooded screen and a micro SD card slot for the supplied 4MP card.

During a brief outdoor flight, I remembered just why I wasn't too crazy about the X118. Low rates are unsuitable for outdoor flight and both medium and high rates are on the touchy side. There isn't a lot of power on tap and I quickly remembered that the model should be landed immediately when power drops off. The low battery warning lights only come on when the battery dumps and sends the quad to the ground.

That said, it remains a good beginner's machine, but with no spare parts support even a year after Gearbest stated on the ordering page that parts were temporarily out of stock. However, it's very similar to the Syma X5C, so wear and crash parts like motors, props, prop shafts and landing skids are likely interchangeable.

I may have to yank the camera and skids and give this little quad another go and report back. Some "weight loss" ought to put it nearly on par with the Eachine H5C.

In the meantime, please enjoy the YouTube video from the original review at the top of the page.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Jul 30, 2016 @ 11:53 PM | 4,894 Views
WLtoys Q282G RTF FPV Hexacopter from Tmart.com (4 min 3 sec)

Back around Halloween 2015, I had the opportunity to review a neat little machine from Tmart.com and I figured it was worth revisiting.

The WLtoys Q282G was the first micro hexacopter with a 5.8GHz FPV system and onboard video capabilities. At the time, I asked if the Q282G was a sort of heir apparent to the still popular V911 fixed pitch helicopter.

I said that despite the fantastic flight characteristics, the surprisingly good video and a battery powered FPV screen worthy of a more expensive model, there was a big bugaboo.

The radio range.

Try as I might, the model wouldn't fly out more than about 40 or 50 feet - if even that - before it lost signal and crashed. Some discussions here on RCGroups regarding truncated radio range on WLtoys transmitters led me to pick up a pair of 2.4GHz router antennas from Amazon.com for the princely sum of about seven bucks, shipped free thanks to Amazon Prime.

That did the trick after a bit of soldering and slicing of the phony antenna stub. I thought it would be fun to dust it off and give it a whirl since I hadn't done so since the successful test flights after the antenna mod.

Tmart.com had forwarded two additional li-pos for the model; one was still in the wrapper! I charged it up, powered up the little hexacopter and took it outside for a real boogie blast on both 80% and 100% control rates.

Not only will it go from full speed to turning around inside...Continue Reading