Christmas lights for night flying - RC Groups
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Nov 03, 2007, 04:43 PM
Lee
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Christmas lights for night flying


Now is the season to buy Christmas lights for night flying because Christmas lights are hard to come by any other time of year.

I bought glow wire and I bought some glow tape. Both are cool but not extraordinarily bright. I know LED lights are brighter and I am in the process of doing some testing to set up a LED light system......but......as I was walking through W-mart I saw some battery operated Christmas lights.

Each set had 10 bulbs in parallel and ran on 2 C batteries. I bought 5 sets for about $2 each and started to do a little testing.

Bulbs come in different voltage ratings. I am testing the different bulbs and will make suggestions as we get a little more experience.

Looking at the bulbs they look the same as bulbs that you would get on a long house set of Christmas lights. In other words you could do all kinds of configurations with a simple set of lights for your house that are quite inexpensive and readily available this time of year.

The 10 bulbs in each set are wired in parallel. To run 2V or 3V lights on the set with a 12V 3S pack is a problem. To use these bulbs you have to wire the sets in series to control the voltage.

Late note: I found 12 Volt Christmas bulbs at both Wal-Mart and K-Mart. They are the easiest to work with in this configuration. The lights in these battery sets are wired in parallel so 1 or 10 or more 12V bulbs can be used with a 3s battery. Put a battery plug on the end and replace the 2V-3V lights with a 12V bulb in each socket and you have simple inexpensive flying lights Look at later posts.

Back to the 2V and 3V bulb tests.

Just for the sake of testing I wired 2 sets of 10 in series and then 3 sets of ten in series and tried them on first a 2S battery then on a 3S. In other words, I left the sets of 10 wired as the manufacturer designed them I cut off the battery box and made a loop with a battery plug wired with one end of each set and the other end of each set soldered together. On the 3 sets of lights I wired that set between the other two without any contact with the power plug.

The pictures don't do justice for the lights but they are much brighter than the glow wire or tape. Just for the testing purpose I had one set of 10 white or clear bulbs in each test because they would have the highest visibility for the longest distance.

2 sets of lights are brighter than 3 sets because the third set increases the resistance so it decreases the amount of power that will flow through the wire.

The lights don't need straws to diffuse the lights. They are already designed to do so. This decreases the weight and complexity of installation.

They don't need a special power supply if you get the parallel and series thing right and you can put as many lights as you want in a set. This really saves weight.

Christmas lights if wired as shown don't need any resisters in the circuit making wiring very easy and saving weight.

Most of the weight is not from the bulbs but the wire harness they are plugged into. It would be easy to drop the weight by 75% just by soldering the bulbs directly to a double wire capable of a mere one amp.

It is no big deal to change a light if one burns out and one bulb burning out doesn't make all the lights go out.

The power draw on this light set is low enough it wouldn't affect the function of the plane's motor unless you are really marginal with your battery capacity.

I can design a light set up with far fewer or more lights depending on how much power I want to use or how big my plane is.
Last edited by Lee; Nov 25, 2007 at 01:45 AM.
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Nov 03, 2007, 04:49 PM
Lee
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Another discovery

Walmart sells 12V replacement Christmas light bulbs 10/$1. This is the best set up so far with the battery operated 10 light set that I mentioned before. I pulled out all of the 3V lights in the 10 light set and replaced them bulb by bulb with the 12V lights. The 12V bulbs in the battery light set 10 light circuit are in parallel. These bulbs are designed to work in this voltage range. The nice thing is that if one bulb goes out the rest of the bulbs stay on.

You can also use any number of bulbs you want, even it it is only one. These bulbs could easily be soldered on a lighter weight wire. Each bulb uses 0.07A so 10 bulbs would be 0.7A and 20 bulbs would be 1.4A of bright white light.

It has white light at 0.7A and cost $3 for the whole set up. It took 15 minutes to wire and trade out the bulbs. I think I will put just a tiny spot of goop on each bulb to make sure the bulbs don't vibrate out.

I could only find them in white/clear but I also found out that a permanent marker can color the clear bulb to what ever color you want.

These lights are not directional like LEDs and very bright They are prewired for the electronicly impared. They can be taped to the plane and wired through a 2S or 3S flight battery. So far I not had light failures.

Walmart also has some 10 bulb strings of light weight Christmas red/white/green LEDs on 3 AA cells for $3.50. I couldn't resist.
Last edited by Lee; Nov 14, 2007 at 12:00 AM.
Nov 04, 2007, 09:57 PM
More Combat Please!
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So where'd you get all this stuff? Those 12 volt bulbs were only 98 cents? That's pretty dang cheap.

And I've never seen that glow tape. Is it electric, or is it literally just tape that glows in the dark? It's as bright as the glowire, but so much more visible due to the width. Please post links for this stuff, if you have them.

I honestly thought that flying combat wings in the night with glowire was one of the most enjoyable RC experiences I've had. I was only ever able to get a couple of guys (Christian and Tony) to do it, but those few times were a real blast. There's something about throwing a plane up into the night sky that's really invigorating, like flying in fog. Thrilling.
Nov 04, 2007, 11:19 PM
Crash happens! :)
...
Last edited by Arrow; May 15, 2008 at 02:02 PM.
Nov 05, 2007, 05:48 AM
Lee
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Read this site. They have better pictures and some videos to show what they can do.

https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/show...25#post8491591

and this site for glow wire and glow tape.

https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=755305

I will also post a message I got from Darth (Cliff) about bulk LEDs that are very effective.

Darth are there other sites????

Here are some links to glow wire.



http://www.thatscoolwire.com/store/i...=WY%2DP9L%2DN2

http://www.glowire.com/

http://www.elbestbuy.com/

http://www.vibelights.com/








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Last edited by Lee; Nov 08, 2007 at 12:11 PM.
Nov 05, 2007, 05:52 AM
Lee
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Here is a note I got from Darth after I asked a few questions.

Originally Posted by Lee
I ordered 4 of the glow wire strands and am anxiously awaiting their arrival but I am still interested in the LED lights. How hard are they to wire?

Darth's reply



It wasn't as hard as I expected. I can send you some close-up pics if you want of my slow stick. The design I used puts them in parallel circuits, with one resistor to each LED. Here's where I got the design, on a thread started by a guy who lives about a block away from me. Ironically, I never met him until I flew my lighted slow stick for the first time on my street; and he saw it, came over and introduced himself.

Thread: https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=438925

I got the LEDs cheap from this guy on eBay. I split 100 white LEDs with a co-worker and got 10 red and 10 blue. My total for 70 LEDs was $13.50, including shipping. I have enough to generously light 3 planes. I used 15000mcd white and about 5000 mcd red and blue, all of them 5mm. If you use buy-it-now, he sends you a free resistor for each LED.

eBay store:
http://stores.ebay.com/Chi-Wing-LED-...Q3amesstQQtZkm

100 white LEDs for $21.00 incl. shipping (16000 mcd) (looks like he's not selling any 15000 mcds right now):

10 red for $1.50:

10 blue for $2.00:

If you search his online store for flashing, you'll see he's got some cool ones that flash through all the colors of the rainbow, but they come out to about a buck per LED.
Last edited by Lee; Nov 13, 2007 at 11:38 PM.
Nov 07, 2007, 06:44 AM
Lee
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I'm trying light sets now for the first time but in the past I have done my night flying with light sticks. They work well without some of the hassles of an electrical system. Some of the new short duration sticks are amazingly bright but will last longer than you would ever fly.

Light sticks come in all colors, sizes and shapes. I use the thin laces most of the time. Even with an electrical system I will still put a light stick on the plane just in case the power system fails so I can find my plane.

The light sticks are not as bright but they are so simple and cheap that they are a good way to get started. I always fly away form city lights when I'm flying with light sticks but they work great as long as I have a dark sky.

At one fly-in I got twice as much flying time flying with glow sticks as those flying with the glow wire because I had so little hassle with the light sticks. They did well and don't consume any of the battery power. They were still glowing the next morning in my shop.

We give everyone at the flying field a light stick bracelet and had them wear them as halos or necklaces so no one will get hit as we make approaches for landing. The kids have a blast.

The dollar store often has the thin necklace packs for 5-10 for $1 of different colors. I found packs at some of the grocery stores too. (Macys)

http://glowrus.com/22__bulk_necklaces.html

http://stores.ebay.com/GlowUniverse

http://search.ebay.com/_W0QQsassZmarkwol17
Last edited by Lee; Nov 14, 2007 at 12:48 AM.
Nov 07, 2007, 04:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lee
Darth are there other sites????
Nope, you got 'em all. Good idea setting up this thread. Thanks. Speaking of those sites, and specifically that eBay site with the cheap LEDs, I just got another order in of 200 LEDs that I split with a friend of mine. It only took 8 days for the order to arrive. That's three orders I've successfully received from that seller. Now I just have to figure out what to do with 100 LEDs.
Nov 07, 2007, 10:03 PM
Lee
Lee
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I flew the Roswell delta tonight with the Christmas lights. I put 3 light sticks on the plane in case the lights failed. The light stick in the center is an ultra bright green.

I flew at a local school that had a fair amount of surrounding city lights but a dark sky. There is no question that the white Christmas lights are brighter and easier to see.

The Roswell Delta was easy to see and I was flying at a full 60+ MPH without difficulty. I did knock on of the bulbs out on a landing but amazingly did find the bulb. I now put a small dab of "GOOP" glue to hold the bulb in plane and I also tape the bulbs to the plane so that they won't fall out. I was thinking of hot glue but didn't know if the bulb got hot enough to melt the glue.

The Pinata flying wing will roll 3x second and flies fun and fast not like alot of the slow night planes. It is easy to see with the Christmas lights against city lights. I can tell there is some added weight but the plane flies so well it isn't a problem. I still can do unlimited vertical and the plane has been clocked at 70 mph+.

It isn't any harder to fly at night than during the day if you have the plane well lit so you can see it from all directions. When I first started flying I thought it would be more difficult to see and stay oriented than it is.

The 10 light 12Volt set adds about 0.7A to the draw on the battery. I have heard that some people are routing their power through their receivers on one of the unused channels but in that I am using as much power as I am I did a direct battery connection to protect the ESC.

In the pictures the lights are poking up. I changed the way I'm doing things. Now I tape the lights directly on the leading edge to improve the light seen from both the top and the bottom sides of the plane. and that the plane has lights that can be seen from the back as the plane flys away from you. This is especially important becuse I tend to do loops and rolls in flight and it would be easy to get confused.

It is important to also make sure you set up the lights so you can tell the top from the bottom of the plane. I also discovered that if you use a permanent marker you can color one side of the bulb so the same bulb is a different color from different directions making it easier to tell top from bottom. For example: some of the front bulbs on the Pinata are colored red on the bottom.


.
Last edited by Lee; Nov 14, 2007 at 06:27 AM.
Nov 07, 2007, 10:37 PM
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That looks great, Lee!
Nov 08, 2007, 12:33 AM
Utah Flyers
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Tis the season.....

I cant wait to get some lights setup like that. Darth I might want to buy some of those LED's off of you. Do you also have capacitors?
Nov 08, 2007, 12:55 AM
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Originally Posted by natetanr
Tis the season.....

I cant wait to get some lights setup like that. Darth I might want to buy some of those LED's off of you. Do you also have capacitors?
Each LED comes with a resistor that's matched for a 12 volt power supply. I tap directly into my lipo before the current goes through the ESC. If you want to run the lights through a receiver plug, you'd probably have to get some different resistors for 5 volts or whatever a receiver plug is.
Nov 12, 2007, 02:33 AM
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Lee, here's a few of the details you requested about my LED circuits.

MY SOURCE FOR LEDS (matching resistors included)
I've bought three orders of LEDs from this seller on eBay: http://stores.ebay.com/Chi-Wing-LED-...Q3amesstQQtZkm. The prices are still pretty close to what Lee summarize back in post #6. They average between about 15 to 21 cents per LED, depending on color, and that price includes shipping and a matching resistor. You get a better deal buying quantities of 50 or 100. But it's only slightly more expensive for quantities of 10.

I use 5 mm LEDs for all colors. I get 15k to 18k mcd (brightness) on white and I get the brightest available on the colored lights (ranges from 5k mcd to 15k mcd, depending on what he has in stock.) When you use buy-it now, you get a matching resistor for each LED. The resistors are matched for a 12-volt power supply parallel circuit, which works perfectly for powering your light system off a 3-cell lipo. I tap into my ESC leads, in between the battery and ESC, but some people put on a small lipo and use it as a dedicated power source. If you buy your LEDs somewhere else, and have to pick up the resistors separately, or if you want to get some resistors that work with a different voltage (powered from a 2-cell lipo or a receiver port or if you want to put more than one LED on each circuit), you can calculate the resistor you need here: http://led.linear1.org/1led.wiz. If you're calculating for LEDs wired in series instead of parallel, make sure you use the designated calculator for that.

SLOW STICK
Here's the thread where I got the design for the LED circuit that I use: https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=438925. Following the design in that thread, I set up my slow stick using three parallel circuits, one on each wing and one on the tail. You don't necessarily need to read the whole thread, but I recommend reading the first 20 posts or so, especially the posts of the two co-authors of the thread, Delorno & Chimaera.

For those who don't want to read that thread, here's a basic summary of how I put mine together. See the picture below for a simplified diagram showing the basic parallel circuit. I shorten one lead on the resistor and the positive lead on the LED and solder them together. Then I can work with it as one unit, which is more convenient. The positive lead on the LED is the one that's slightly longer. I hot glue the LED where I want it with a dab of hot glue. Then I solder the side with the resistor to my positive wire and the other lead to the negative wire.

I put 7 LEDs on the bottom of each wing, 4 LEDs on the elevator, and one on each side of the rudder. The LEDs on the wing light up the undercambered wing, so there's quite a large area illuminated. This is very easy to see in the air, but I'm going to add a few more LEDs to the top of the wing, and maybe a couple to the side of the fuselage, just to give better visibility from a few discrete angles where visibility is the lowest (like directly behind when the plane is climbing away and I can't see the bottom of the wing).

Originally, I made a pass-through connector out of ultra-deans plugs, so I could bypass the LED circuit altogether for daytime flying. I have since put on a switch instead, but I uploaded a picture of the plug so you can see how I wired the 6 wires out of it (3 positives and 3 negatives). Just to minimize my chances of a solder break (which would make all three circuits go out), I twisted the wires as well as soldered them, so I had the additional mechanical contact for strength. I estimate the total amp draw at about .25 amps. I get 20 to 30 minute flights with the LEDs on, depending on throttle usage, with a 2000 mAh 3-cell pack.

Color scheme of the lights is largely a matter of personal preference. I put three colored lights at the wingtips of each wing to help with orientation. Some people light up the left wing all one color and the right wing a different color.

GEOBAT FLYING SAUCER
On the geobat flying saucer, I used two parallel circuits, one for each half of the plane. The colored lights on top point outward, and the bottom leds point inward, lighting up the bottom of the plane. I used magnet wire on the Geobat, as I did on the Slow Stick. I taped the magnet wire down wherever possible to prevent the resin coating from scraping off by rubbing against metal or other magnet wire. Some people use the wire out of old printer cables.

LINKS TO PREVIOUSLY POSTED VIDEOS OF BOTH PLANES
I've previously posted videos of both the Slow Stick and the Geobat flying at night. You can find them on my blog or here are the direct links to the individual posts:
--Slow Stick https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/show...9&postcount=1;
--Geobat https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/show...14&postcount=1

I'm sure I've left something out, so if there's anything else you want to know, let me know.
Last edited by Darth_Elevator; Nov 12, 2007 at 03:13 AM.
Nov 15, 2007, 04:36 PM
Jeremy D Stott
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Awesome Idea With The Christmas Lights!!!

I've got to get started!!
Nov 15, 2007, 04:47 PM
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Originally Posted by flyingj
Awesome Idea With The Christmas Lights!!!

I've got to get started!!
Jer, if you find them, will you pick up an extra strand for me? I haven't seen them yet in my local Walmart. I figure for $4 bucks I can't go wrong to have a set on hand.


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