Common Sense RC Predator Jet
|Weight:||1.8 oz (53g)|
|Construction:||Expanded polystyrene fuselage; carbon fiber radials; plastic propellers, motor mounts, battery door and wheels; steel landing gear|
|Transmitter:||Proprietary 2.4GHz four-channel with LCD display and USB charging socket|
|Control Board/Receiver:||Proprietary quadcopter with three-axis gyro system|
|Battery:||500mAh 3.7V 1S lithium polymer with Team Losi micro connector|
|Motors:||Four 6mm coreless|
|Propellers:||Two 55.5mm standard rotation; two 55.5mm reverse rotation|
|Typical Flight Duration:||5 - 7 minutes|
|Operator Skill Level/Age:||Beginner, 14+; may be operated by younger children under supervision|
|Available From:||Common Sense RC, Post Office Box 3546, Chatsworth, California 91313 USA|
|Price (USD):||$79.99 plus shipping and tax where applicable|
Talk about a "gee, I sure wish I'd thought of that" moment.
When I saw this product appear on an RCGroups banner ad, I just had to investigate further and I'm honestly glad that I did.
Meet the new Common Sense RC Predator Jet RTF quadcopter from Kenzier Lemmons and the crew at Common Sense RC of Chatsworth, California USA.
Or, if you'd prefer, the Sanlianhuan F2 Super Fighter Predator Ultimate Edition, model number 6048. Personally, I prefer the former.
Regardless of the name, what I'm about to share with you involves an incredibly easy-to-fly quadcopter surrounded not by the typical futuristic helicopter or UFO fuselage but rather an EPS foam representation of a Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, the most advanced stealth fighter jet in history with a top speed of 1,498 MPH (2,411km/h).
That's where the "gee, I wish I'd thought of that" moment kicked in. Not only would such a model have the potential to be marvelously entertaining in flight, it would have the added benefit of crash damage protection both to it and its indoor surroundings. The Predator will fly outdoors as I would soon discover, but conditions must be calm for one to do so.
Common Sense RC has been a longtime sponsor of this site as well as supporting the authors' forum with batteries, motors and the like. It's my pleasure to present my first all-Common Sense RC review on their behalf.
Very little is necessary to get the fun underway, so let's begin.
Almost everything needed to get airborne is included:
All that is needed to complete the model are:
The display box is actually rather attractive, down to some cool holographic printing. The clear plastic window, for whatever reason, was glued to the outside of the box, but no matter. Everything behind that window looked great.
The manual was hidden behind the tray, so I thought it best to take a look to see if there were any specific instructions for freeing the Predator.
What I found might well be the strangest instruction manual in the history of model aviation.
Oh, it'll help a new user become acquainted with the Raptor, that is, if one can get through it without laughing too hard.
For here is a machine translated manual which is nearly incomprehensible in places. It's unintentionally funny to be sure, but misspelled warnings like this are what make it all the more amusing:
If any leakage arouses from the battery,and electrolyte comes into the eyes, please don't rub your eyes,use clean water to rinse the eys, and then immediately go to hospital for medical treatment, otherwise it will hurt your eyes.
In short, it's the Plan 9 from Outer Space of manuals.
The only assembly step is to insert the main landing gear into its slot on the battery door; it was found taped to the rear of the tray. This is something which the manual fails to acknowledge, but it's just one of those obvious things which doesn't need mentioning.
Less obvious - and unaddressed - was the need to first charge the flight battery. Also unaddressed was a simple safety precaution, i.e., charging the preinstalled battery outside of the model. It seems to indicate that the battery should simply be left in the model while charging.
That's where the little magnetic-tipped phillips screwdriver comes in. It's used to remove the very small screw securing the battery hatch. The hatch is hinged, so it won't break like a bent credit card after a few cycles.
I decided right then and there to get into the habits of replacing the screw each time the battery was removed along with setting the screwdriver next to the Predator.
As for the battery, it's a nice 500mAh 3.7V unit with a reverse-polarity Team Losi micro connector, so it can easily be charged with one's existing banana plug-equipped charger. The supplied USB-powered unit did a good job of charging the battery for its first flight, but it took well past an hour to do so; a later charging session took nearly two hours. The plug itself lights up as does an LED on the charger. The light inside the plug extinguishes first followed by the one on the charger.
I'd been using a combination of the supplied charger powered either by my computer or an AC adapter along with one of my computerized chargers. I'll jump ahead just a bit to say that charging via the transmitter means first having to turn the transmitter on in order to send power to the charger. After about 90 minutes, the lights still hadn't gone out.
Beginners, now might be the time to invest in a good charger, or to at least free up a USB port on the computer.
Six AA-cell alkaline batteries must first be installed before all of this magic can happen; once the hatch's retaining screw is removed and the hatch popped off, it's obvious as to how the batteries are inserted.
After flipping on the power, I was met by a remarkably comprehensive LCD display which included a voltmeter as opposed to a simple battery level indicator. Both the dual rates and the menu are activated by the switch on the upper left of the transmitter. A similar switch on the right operates the forward and reverse trims while the rudder and bank trims are placed beneath their respective control sticks.
With the battery back in place, on went the transmitter, in went the battery connector and on came a pair of decorative color-changing LEDs beneath the wings. There isn't anywhere to put the flight battery leads given the fact that the leads from both the battery and the control board are routed up through the hatch's door, but such is life. A flashing red indicator light on the transmitter accompanied by an audible beep were indicators that the units were automatically bound to one another, so all that was left to do was to fly the Predator.
By the way, some of the funnier parts of the manual may be found on page one. It describes the transmitter as "infrared control" and describes the antenna as the "transmitter." It would also seem to indicate that the sticks can be swapped between Mode 1 and the default Mode 2 operation, described as "2 mode" and "4 mode." How? Simple!
When adjusted to 2 mode, with a Left and Right Flying; tune 4 mode,with the direction;
Since the Predator is touted as primarily an indoor model with some outdoor capabilities, the first flight would take place in my living room.
Throttle up and we're airborne.
Once it cleared the ground effects and was hovering at about eye level, the first thing which struck me was how remarkably stable the model was. By stable, I mean "hung from a string" stable with virtually hands-off control. Most helis and quads necessarily require a bit of stick input to hold a hover; the Predator was rock solid in a way I would never have imagined.
The other thing which struck me was how totally weird it was seeing something shaped like a fighter jet sounding and hovering like a quadcopter.
Because of the ground effects - and possibly because of the rearward rake of the main landing gear - the Predator actually wants to roll backwards during takeoff, an interesting phenomenon which is shown in both videos linked below. I should point out that with a bit of practice and some experimentation with the trims, I was able to do some fairly convincing rolling takeoffs.
Forward, that is.
Speed was a different story. In the low rate setting, the Predator flew some rather leisurely trips around the living room. Coordinated turns using the rudder meant a lot of rudder input.
In high rate, things were somewhat better. I now had considerably more forward cyclic, but about the same reverse cyclic and exactly the same rudder response. Coordinated turns at the higher speeds meant giving the Predator full rudder in order to bring it around.
This is by no means a bad thing unless one were to purchase a Predator in the hope of doing flips and such. It isn't that kind of machine. Instead, it's squarely aimed at beginners, especially younger ones. I intentionally flew it at nearly top speed toward my TV; the Predator simply bounced off and rather gently, I might add. So, while the Plan 9 from Outer Space manual shows a cutesy drawing of a carelessly flown Predator taking out a flat screen TV and a couple of overhead fluorescent light tubes, in reality, that isn't going to happen.
I really threw a lot of nasty stick input at the Predator at the high control rate and it simply shrugged it off. It had a tendency to lose quite a bit of altitude coming out of some of these torture tests, but that's typical of any quadcopter; there's not a huge reserve of power on tap to immediately compensate. It's such a gentle and easy flyer that it is quite literally impossible to tilt it into such an attitude as to have it rocket away out of control.
That isn't to say that it won't knock valuable items off of shelves, so common sense (no pun intended) goes a long way when choosing a flying area.
Quite a bit of time may be spent enjoying the chosen flying area; I averaged nearly seven minutes per flight indoors and for testing purposes, I ran the battery down as far as it would let me.
This is where a bit of clever engineering plays a role. Naturally, it's time to land when performance drops. The Predator will protect its battery by landing itself. The control board gently pulses the motors which in turn brings in the model for an equally gentle landing.
Beginners, please keep in mind that while the model won't allow the battery to become overly discharged, it's wise not to fly it down to the battery protection mode each time in order to preserve battery life. Charging the battery via my computerized charger showed a reading at just over 3.7 volts prior to hitting the start button, so there's little chance of hitting the critical 3V mark if one lands immediately after the protection circuit kicks in.
Indoor flight was truly fun, but outdoor flight presented a different story.
Quadcopters generally do well in windy conditions. Among the reasons is there isn't much of any kind of surface for the wind to push upon, let alone anything aerodynamic.
The Predator has something for the wind to push on, namely its fuselage. It did pretty well the first time I tried to fly it outside, although it had a marked tendency to want to wander with the breeze; the gentle control settings and modest power certainly played a role. A second attempt in a slightly higher breeze didn't go as well. The gyros were wildly struggling to maintain the Predator's attitude and, as before, it lacked the power to overcome the situation.
In short, the fun might best be had indoors unless the wind is dead calm.
Absolutely! Although the manual suggests the operator be at least 14 years old as what seems to be the case with virtually all RTF model aircraft, I would have no issues whatsoever giving the controls over to a younger child under supervision. My guess is that most young children will get the hang of flying the Predator within minutes.
Short of a simulator, I can think of no better method than a gentle model such as this to learn the basics of quadcopter flight.
Here's the official Common Sense RC demonstration video. It perfectly demonstrates the flight characteristics as I experienced them:
|Common Sense RC Predator Jet Quadcopter (1 min 44 sec)|
This terrific video was produced by Dave Herbert, science director of the AMA and is featured on the Common Sense RC website. Dave did a magnificent job of showing the Predator flying outdoors:
|VTOL Micro Jet tested by NightFlyyer and Previews of 2 other flying Machines. (5 min 30 sec)|
With its gentle flight characteristics and fun visuals, the Common Sense RC Predator Jet is one of the most fun beginner's models I've ever flown. In fact, I predict it'll be a hit at family gatherings. What's more, it has the backing of one of the most well-known and trusted names in radio control. If I have any gripe, it's the price point, but that's only a small gripe and I'll explain why.
It's true that for a few dollars more - or less - once can get a faster and more maneuverable, responsive quad. On the other hand, a completely raw beginner may likely have more success flying this model than practically any other on the market including the models I'd mentally compared it to, thereby making it more than worth the investment. It's not only very forgiving with the kind of over-control a beginner will almost inevitably put any model through, it's nearly indestructible. The savings in replacement parts alone will easily make up the difference after a couple of the kinds of crashes which might damage another quad. That said, I give it two thumbs way up.
I've had the distinct pleasure of working with Common Sense RC's Kenzier Lemmons on other reviews here at RCGroups.com and I simply can't thank her enough for arranging to send this model my way for the benefit of our worldwide audience. My wife Lilli has become accustomed to such marvels as the Predator flying about our living room and she's the one who snapped the pictures of the model in hover. I can't go without thanking Angela Haglund once more; Angela is the administrator who keeps these reviews flowing.
Of course, thanks must go to you, our audience. You're why we do what we do, so please enjoy your stay here at RCGroups.com!
There are actually quite a few pluses:
As for the minuses:
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