Choosing a plane - RC Groups
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This thread is privately moderated by klaw81, who may elect to delete unwanted replies.
Aug 23, 2012, 02:00 AM
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Choosing a plane

There are heaps of planes available these days which could be used for FPV. Making a poor choice could make the hobby rather frustrating, and make the whole exercise expensive and far less enjoyable.

Choosing the right aerial platform for FPV can be a pretty bewildering, with a massive variety of sizes, styles, construction materials and prices. And many of the models also come in different "stages" from kits to ARFs and RTFs too.

My own choice of plane came down to three simple criteria:

I don't have the space to fly anything larger than a quadcopter in my back yard, so I needed to be able to transport my chosen FPV aircraft aircraft to my regular flying spot in a small sedan - preferably with room left for some of my other aircraft.

This narrowed my choices considerably, since many of the larger planes wouldn't fit in the car and would be highly impractical. However, many models have detachable and/or split-wing designs that make them much easier to transport.

It had to be relatively cheap, or I wouldn't be able to justify it. After all, I do have 7 planes already. Anything over $100, including any extra parts needed and the cost of shipping, was judged too expensive for my budget. I'm pretty tight

Proven ability
I had to rely on the experiences and opinions of others for this one, since I wasn't able to test them all myself. There are a few aspects to ability:

Firstly, I needed a plane that was easy to fly. I am quite confident with line-of-sight RC flight, having had a couple years of experience with a variety of models. But for FPV, I wanted something that was stable, able to glide well and had a low stall speed. This should give me the best possible chances of having successful flights in the early stages.

In addition, I was looking for a plane that could handle the extra weight and bulk of an FPV payload and a large battery. This requires a low wing loading, a sufficiently powerful and efficient drivetrain, and a large cockpit area.

Finally, I wanted a plane that could handle "unscheduled landings" without falling to bits. I suspected my first few flights will not end in an entirely planned and controlled way, so I needed a plane that would not be easily damaged and would be easy and cheap to repair.

After a lot of reading, I narrowed my choices down to a small number of popular models:

I have previously flown the AXN Floater Jet, which is a close cousin of the Bixler, and found it to be a very stable, hardy aircraft which almost flies itself. It is also rather cheap, and the Floater Jet comes highly recommended by Bruce at RCModelReviews for FPV. However, the cockpit is quite cramped inside and there's not a lot of room inside for oversize batteries and extra gear.

The Skywalker (in its various forms) is clearly one of the most popular FPV platforms out there - its size, durability and ability to carry a heavy payload are undisputed. But the wing is quite long, making it hard to transport even when detached, and I simply couldn't find one inside my budget.

I also considered the EPP FPV from HobbyKing, which has a 1.8m wingspan and a cockpit purpose-built for stowing lots of gear inside. However, I read many reports of this aircraft being rather heavy and ponderous, and not very manoeuverable. And its wing is simply too long to fit in my car.

The FPV Raptor was also considered - it's quite large, but the wings can be removed in 2 parts for easy transport so it's also quite practical. The roomy plastic fuselage makes it hard to damage, and the provision for flaps is appealing. But the price is rather high once you factor in shipping costs (there were none in the local warehouse) and it's even higher once you replace the stock ESC which is apparently not up to the task.

The Bixler/Easystar/SkySurfer was always on my radar - it's a very popular choice for FPV noobs such as myself. It has all of the good points of the AXN Floater Jet (which was my original favourite) but has the added advantage of a more spacious cockpit and a massive range of proven, FPV-specific modifications and spare parts. It's easy to fly and hard to kill, it can fly slowly and flaps are possible with a simple mod. Moreover, it can carry a decent payload without problems and the wings can be removed in 2 parts for easy transport And it's really cheap - $85 for a PNP kit delivered to my door, including an upgraded ESC!

The Australian HobbyKing warehouse delivered a brand spanking new Bixler to my house less than 3 days after the order was placed. It's so pretty!
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