The MQ-1 Predator is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) which the U.S. Air Force describes as a MALE (medium-altitude, long-endurance) UAV system. It can serve in a reconnaissance role, and it can also be weaponized and can carry and use two AGM-114 Hellfire antitank missiles. The aircraft has been in use since 1995, and been in combat over Afghanistan, Bosnia, Serbia, Iraq, and Yemen.
Hobby Lobby's Art Tech Predator UAV is a fast building, scale-looking aircraft that's a great way to get started in the world of aerial photography!
|Wing Area:||225 sq in|
|Wing type:||molded foam construction with carbon spar|
|Wing loading:||14.51 oz/sq ft|
|Servos:||2 – 9 gram micro-type|
|Transmitter:||4-channel twin stick mode 2|
|Battery:||8 cell 1000 NiMH|
|Motor:||Speed 400 brushed|
|Charger:||110V AC wall charger|
|US distributor:||Hobby Lobby|
|Available From:||Hobby Lobby|
The review package shipped from Hobby Lobby and it arrived double-boxed and free of damage. Everything was secured inside the box and was well protected. The Predator UAV has a very low parts count and there are only a few assembly steps required to get the plane airborne. A small Philips head screwdriver and a pair of pliers are needed to complete the assembly.
The instructions are photo-illustrated, and the manual is easy to understand and follow. The written portion of the instructions have a few language errors but nothing major, and the photo-illustrations are a plus. All the assembly steps could be completed at the field with just a small Philips head screwdriver and a pair of pliers.
The two wing panels attach to the fuselage with four screws and a plastic cover plate. No gluing was required in this step.
The spring-loaded nose wheel comes already attached to the fuselage. The main landing gear is held in place with two nylon bolts that insert into the plastic wing cover plate, then bolt onto the fuselage.
The tail assembly is attached to the fuselage with six screws. During the assembly, I noticed that a couple of the small plastic plates that hold each screw in place were not glued down completely, so I re-glued them with contact cement and waited a few minutes for them to dry before continuing. Last, I attached the adjustable clevises to the preinstalled control horns. There were several holes in each horn, which made adjusting the amount of control throw easy.
The included 110V NiMH charger is a wall-type, and charging the 1000mAh battery took a little less than 2 hours. I highly recommend charging the battery the day before flying, then 'topping it off' just before each flight. A 'quick charger' and additional batteries are available from Hobby Lobby USA.
After 'warming up' the NiMH battery, I installed it in the pre-molded battery compartment in the nose of the fuselage. The digital camera was installed in the middle of the fuselage and a wire from the camera plugged into the receiver. The camera’s lens aims down through a small hole in the underside of the fuselage. The camera is operated by two small buttons; one serves as the power button and the other enables erasing of the camera's onboard memory after pictures are downloaded to a PC.
The CG location wasn't mentioned in the instruction manual, but the Predator balanced right on the wing spar so I assumed this was already worked out by the manufacturer. The molded battery bay did not allow any fore or aft movement of the battery.
After the NiMH battery was installed, the tiny digital camera was 'powered up' and ready to take pictures. The plastic nose cover is held in place with a magnet and small screw. The maiden flight was made on an unusually calm summer morning. The Predator UAV needed a fair amount of space for takeoffs and landings, so at least a large park or ball field is recommended for the first flight. The Predator can also be launched with a firm hand-toss.
The speed 400 motor provided good power. The Predator flew well at 3/4 throttle but full power was needed to gain altitude.
With its 52 1/4” wingspan, the Predator is difficult to stall, but can lose altitude fairly quickly when power is decreased.
Loops were smooth and large, and the wings flexed a little during each loop. The flat carbon strip inside the wing panels allows for some flex, though. The elevator was effective, especially after we adjusted the clevises to allow for more throw.
The Predator UAV's stock brushed speed 400 pusher motor and 8 cell NiMH battery provides more than enough power for takeoff from a paved surface, but my club field is grass so we opted for a hand launch. After full throttle was applied, a short running toss was all that was needed to get the Predator in the air.
With an all-up weight of only 22 oz, the Predator still needs a little power to make a smooth landing, but the big wing makes it very stable and controllable.
Although it's tiny, the Predator UAV's onboard digital camera will take up to 26 shots per flight and is easy to operate via the rudder stick on the radio by simply moving it all the way to the left or right and holding it for a couple of seconds. There is also an Auto mode that takes one photo about every 30 seconds if the rudder stick isn't used. The included PC software and USB cable make downloading photos after each flight a snap! There was no information as to the camera's resolution, but I'd estimate it to be one mega pixel or less.
As with all forms of photography, adequate lighting is the key to good aerial photography. The Predator UAV's still photos were taken over a couple of unusually calm sunny days here in Texas. To get the best performance out of the Predator's onboard camera, a bright, sunny day is essential and a light wind to slow the plane down a bit would also be a big plus. The sample photographs we took with the Predator were pretty decent, but a little wind would have helped slow the Predator down and make the photographs a little less blurry. These shots were taken after we had received record rainfall over a period of several weeks in north Texas.
The Predator is a 3-channel plane with v-tail mixing and is not difficult to fly. It is not, however, a slow flier and requires some 3-channel experience on the sticks. But if you've thought about getting into the exciting world of aerial photography, the Predator UAV's smooth flying characteristics, cool looks and complete onboard camera system make it an excellent choice!
The Hobby Lobby Predator UAV with digital camera is a very scale looking aircraft that can be ready to fly in just minutes. The stock brushed pusher motor delivers good power, and its stable flight manners, great looks and excellent 'bang for the buck' make it an ideal choice for the first-time aerial photographer.
As you can see from the photos, the Hobby Lobby Predator UAV looks cool in the air!
The Hobby Lobby Predator UAV is a solid flier and an excellent value. It looks terrific the air, is a smooth, stable flier and the onboard digital camera is simple to operate. It would be a great choice for someone wanting to give aerial photography a try. And it has a cool factor in the air of '10'! See it at your local hobby shop or at Hobby Lobby USA!Last edited by Angela H; Sep 12, 2007 at 10:34 PM..
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