Monday, November 19, 2012

FPV flying wing development starter

FPV if you didn't already know means First Person View. In this case it means we fly a remote controlled aircraft from a view as if we are in the cockpit of the aircraft. In this article we will develop a series of scratch built FPV systems. The first is a low budget small version. Built to take abuse that will be present in the learning sequence of flying your first FPV aircraft. It also had to be small to be portable enuf to be transported on my bicycle side bags. I designed the S3 flying wing just for FPV operation. so that's were I already started FPV as you can see in the development of the S3 in my other article. See: for more details about the S3 wing and how to build one. The S3 has now passed preliminary flight tests without FPV equipment installed and is now ready to be a stepping stone to try FPV. I just ordered a minimal FPV video transmitter with video cam and pair of Fatshark Goggles and a minimal OSD from to give it a try. included in the list of parts ordered is: Fat Shark PredatorV2 RTF FPV Headset System w/Camera and 5.8G TX product id: 253000014 HobbyKing E-OSD product id: E-OSD Turnigy 500mAh 2S 20C Lipo Pack product id: T500.2S.20 total cost $321 You could start a bit cheaper if you didn't start from goggles but for me that's a must as I can't carry a video monitor on my bicycle. It has to all be small and portable for me to be able to use. I expect to receive the package from Hobbyking in about 10 days. I will add to this article when the parts come in and we start to flight test it with FPV. I did add a spread sheet CG calculator into the S3 docs that will be used to determine were we can mount the added transmitter, battery and camera when I get them and measure how much they really weigh. I hope to at least partly embed the added parts into the wing of the S3 to keep it clean in the air stream. I also want to put as much separation from the r/c remote receiver antenna and the 5.8ghz video transmitter as possible to prevent RF interference and yet still keep the wing as stable flying as possible. This first FPV will have very limited range to maybe about 1000 meters from the operator. I'll try to keep it within 600 meters or less when I operate to be seen by a copilot that will be watching the plane without goggles. I have two friends here in Pattaya that I met at our local field (names Tom and Nick) with more experience with video transmitters on 5.8ghz than myself and I hope to get some consultation and assistance from them in setting things up and testing. As I will only have one full system setup if anything fails it would be hard to isolate what's at fault without a second set. Thanks to my fiends we should be able to isolate between transmitter and receiver problems and fully test each part individuality and compare performance to what Tom and Nick already have in there inventories. Tom has already pushed his max successful video link to about 8 km or more, 8 times what I presently hope for in this first project. I think there will be a learning curve as to being able to fly with this new perspective. I'm not sure how hard it will be or how long it will take to learn. I think maybe I'll setup an FPV flight school to teach new pilots how to fly FPV. This will provide people with a chance to try before they buy new equipment and prevent damage to persons and property by people with no experience jumping in without knowing the risks. It would also be like an adventure ride for people to enable them to see things that they only dreamed possible. I think today FPV is like hanggliding was in like the year 1977 where you would build or buy a hangglider and jump off a cliff to learn how to fly it without ever having a lesson from an instructor. We would read in the news paper about another fatal crash in a hangglider every few months. I later learned how to fly hanggliders by the way, WITH a teacher. So that's why I know the importance of flight school. If your interested in FPV flight lessons let me know so I can get a count of the number of people interested in my aria to see if we can make it possible. Ok that's it for now check us out in about 10 more days when hopefully we get the needed parts from hobbyking. Update Dec 12, 2012 5:33pm: It took longer than expected to receive the order but today it's come with the parts listed above. So all I had to do is charge up the batteries and plug them into the goggles and transmitter and it just instantly worked. I also did a quick test of video input from my satellite video box that puts out standard PAL video signal from an RCA jack (the fatshark package came with the RCA adapter plugs and cable). The image looks fantastic both from the satellite TV tuner and the video transmitter. I will later do a ground range test to get an idea of how far it can go. I will first put together the transmitter with 500mah battery and the camera into some kind of foam padded box structure, just so that it's one part to test on the ground. I guess I could make this box aerodynamic so I could just pop it onto any plane but for now we just want a quick test. I will also need to find out how long both the batteries in the goggles (1000 mah) and the transmitter cam battery (500mah) last with continuous power on. As far as my airframes go, both my present planed FPV aircraft are out of service. One has a bad motor and burned ESC (the big M2 wing) , the other smaller S3 wing just needs an ESC. So I'm totally out of ESC and will need at least one to get one of my planes in the air. So we will take care of that tomaro morning. I already was offered a 40A ESC from Nick for 300 baht so hope to see him tomaro also. Paul also offered me a used ESC for 300 baht so I hope to pick up those two and maybe one more from my local hobby shop that want 320 for a crappy 30A mystery brand. OK That's all I got for now. I'll bring back range numbers measured with my gps later today. The other thing is that the video transmitter channel dip switch is covered with the plastic covering. So I think I'm stuck with channel 1 unless I cut the plastic back. I will live with this until I find a reason to change it. Update Dec 14, 2012 5:45am: Before my first flight with the help of Nick the now certified instructor, we did a ground range test of the S3 wing with the video transmitter turned on. Nick wiggled the elivons as I walked out to about 1500 meters. He then wiggled the elivons faster to signal that the video signal was getting noisy. So that sounded good enuf to flight test as that's farther than I normally fly my R/C plane. Also Nick said that it will get better range from the air than from the ground as there are less abstractions. My first flight with FPV goggles was harder than I expected. My first flight with the S3 with the video camera I launched it in normal R/C mode and got it up to about 150 meters or more directly over head. I then put on the goggles and started flying for about 10 seconds. It seemed OK for a bit but then I started loosing it so I decided to remove the goggles and bring It back. That was much harder than I expected. It took me another 4 seconds to have a clue were the plane was. By the time I found it in the sky it was only 20 meters off the ground. I was able to recover and land it OK. So that when I realized I wasn't going to do this alone. So lucky I had Nick to help me. The next flight I had Nick just track the plane as I flew it with the goggles and he would just provide verbal feedback as to what I should do this ended up worse than the last flight as I lost perspective I tried to remove the goggles and by the time I found the plane it was only 2 meters above the ground. It ended up not being able to recover and crashed out in the bushes. I went and recovered the wing that was about 100 meters from where I was flying and found it had found some nice soft tall grass to land in with no damage at all. So that was lucky. So the third flight this time I had Nick fly the plane as a standard R/C and I just watched with the goggles as he flew it. I would then just take over the controls for a time as he continued to track it and provide me with verbal feedback as to the direction he wanted me to steer to keep it within visual range. When I would loose it I would tell Nick and he would simply take over the controls and bring it back. This seems to work much better. At least I'm we aren't crashing. But it seems I have a lot to learn with many more flight before I get it handled. One problem is the S3 wing is a bit small and unstable for a beginner to learn on. The video equipment makes it even more unstable in it's present method of mounting as a pod and the added 90 grams of mass. The CG is pushed a bit more forward and the glide is bad. Later I also broke the spare in the S3 when I was flying it as a normal R/C from a high G turn so I didn't get any more flights of FPV today. So from what I learned I will try some computer simulation that now hooks to my present R/C radio to see if that helps my skills . I also need to get the M2 wing that is bigger and more stable working. Also if I expect to be able to train myself without Nick or someone else helping me all the time, I will need to get the autopilot system installed , tested and working. So I could also test the autopilot on the S3 wing before I get the parts presently needed for the M2 wing. With the autopilot in the S3 I could also try the fly by wire mode that might help to learn to fly FPV. With fly by wire the autopilot can control the altitude and the human just changes the direction with the stick. Problem with the S3 and the autopilot system plus the video equipment is that the added wing loading might be pushing the limits of the S3 wings ability for stable flight. To get the M2 wing working as FPV we need a bigger motor that I can't seem to find in the local shops here. I've been asking people at the field like Paul if he had one to sell but nothing yet. So I may need to setup another order with before the M2 becomes flyable. On an added note for some reason I couldn't see the video transmission from Nicks FPV aircraft. He says he's on 5.8Ghz but I scanned my Fatshark 5.8ghz goggles across the spectrum and see nothing. He also uses the spironet antennas that I presently am not using yet that are polarized differently. I'm not sure if that could be why I don't see him or maybe his system has a wider range of frequencies in 5.8ghz that he is now set to. We never tested to see if he could pick up my video signal on his receiver. Later in the day I was able to see someone else's video signal from a new small RTF quad that one of the Thai guys at the field just got that operated on 5.8 ghz band.

Friday, October 19, 2012

My Dreams of Flight past, present and future

This morning I awoke thinking back over time of all my dreams as far back as a child when I dreamed about flying. I can only remember one bad dream about flying when I was about 4 years old. I had it about when my dad said the day before “ if you don't eat your pancakes your going to dry up and blow away”. That night I dreamed I dried up and blew away flying high above the houses I looked down calling for help. My mom heard me and went and called the fire department that came with there ladder trucks to try to recover me as I was spinning in a swirl of wind around our house. The big ladder trucks put up the ladder but it was already too late I was much too high for them to reach. As my dad on the ground tells my mom “see I told him he was going to dry up and blow away if he didn't eat his pancakes”. The dream ended as strangely as it began with no real ending as I guess most dreams do by some how blending into the next dream that you may never remember or broken from an awakening. I had much better dreams of flying as one I remember I could flap my arms very hard and I could get off the ground about 6 feet or so but soon I would tire and had to land after only 5 seconds. I showed my friends Donald and Steve in my dream look I can fly and I would show them how to do it but they weren't able to fly only I was. And that was the end of that dream as I must have awoke. Later as I grew older the dreams became day dreams when my dad brought an old tube tester home when I was about 10 years old that must have had 1000 knobs and dials and gauges that we could see and turn and touch. So that was it this looked to me like the controls of my new airplane. I got the wheel barrel and put a two by 6 board on top of it that must have been in my dad's wood scraps pile for the wing and set our new control panel (tube tester) on top and set it on the edge of the hill in our yard between the next house next door. Me and a few of my friends Walter and his brother Brad at the time sat and played with the knobs and dreamed of take offs and landings and a few crashes were our plane would fall over. Later as the years went on in high school when I must have been about 15 years old a friend of mine Zackery told me they had started to make hang gliders out of bamboo and plastic sheets and could fly them at the beach by tethering them to ropes and pull them up in the wind like a kite. I later saw some people fly one similar to it in Kailua Hawaii not far from our house from a small 200 foot hill. I climbed up the hill with them on one of there next flights and watched them fly from the top of the hill. I looked at how simple the design was as a very simple Regolo wing and I thought sure I could build one. I told my dad about it and he went out with me one day to this hill were we saw one land and we took down the measurements of each of the tubes in this wing. So that was it I had almost all I needed. I knew not far from our house in the forest of a cluster of bamboo growing. I hiked out to the bamboo field and cut down the raw material needed for the frame of my new glider and dragged it home. I also wanted to use as much of the same material as possible of what I saw them fly at the hill that looked like sail boat sail material (Dacron). So I put up an add on a board at my dad's club at Kaneohe Yacht club for anyone that had some old used sails they could part with. I soon got a call of some member of my dad's club that had lots of old sails they he was glad to give me to use and offered them to me for free. So with that and some steel cables that my dad used on his boat for the mast stays and the bamboo I had collected, me and my dad went and built my first Regolo hang glider. When it was done I took it to a hill near our house in a cow pasture. I attempted several flights with it but Luckily it broke before it ever got airborne. Here's what a regallo wing that built looked like: remind you this is not a picture of the one that I build as mine never got off the ground. but from that failure the dream continued to grow. It took many years after that before I really got into Hang gliding around year 1991. I had taken a few lessons before 1991 but finally went all the way and got a used wills wing harrier II glider for $900 and got certified in Marina beach hang gliding school that was located about 200 miles from where I lived at the time. I later got rated to fly off Kagel Mountain by Joe Greblo that was only 45 minuets from where I was living at the time in Los Angeles. I have now collected about 1000 or more hours of airtime in hang gliders over the 10 years that I flew them. Even before I got into hang gliding I was into remote control gliders as that's what kept me from getting started in Hang Gliding for a time. That started when I was on my way home from work on a road next to the beach not far from where I lived at the time around 1986, where I saw one guy flying a remote controlled glider off the small 20 foot sand dune near the beach. I couldn't believe how it could continue to fly with no motors. I ended up talking to this guy Steve for some time asking all I could about how it worked and were I might get one. I ended up getting a used 2 by 6 foot standard polyhedral glider I found in the news paper for $100 with all the radio servos battery and charger. I soon ran down to the beach and attempted to fly it and broke it in only 4 short attempted flights. So I took it home and fixed it and the next day I took it to the hill where I saw Steve fling at the beach again. With Steves help I was able to glide my new r/c from the dune with no problem and later with Steves help and over time was able learn to keep it over the hill and keep it in the air without crashing. From that I went crazy with remote gliders and later moved to fly from a bigger hill in Redondo beach that had more lift and where I met other people with much faster and better gliders that also flew there. I soon had a faster ridge glider but soon moved up to a smaller even faster better glider that had a 43 inch wing span that I flew for a few years with only small changes mostly in stronger heavier wing construction using fiberglass instead of balsa sheeting. I found a photo of a wing shaped like my old siliwet but not the one I really flew back in the day here: . We would fly at Redondo beach and also later off the cliffs in Palos Verdes that had a perfect shape hill cliff with lots of lift where we would fly 3 pound 53 inch wingspan gliders at close to 100 mph. Another era came with the event of the Zagi flying wing glider. With no fuse and no stabilizers it was much harder to brake even with a hard crash. It used a soft EPP foam on the leading edge that made it bounce off objects and reform to it's original shape without breaking the wing or the objects they hit. This started a new fun sport of airborne flight battles between 2 or sometimes up to 4 or 5 other wings at the same time. The goal was to be the last one still flying. Normally nothing would get broken when you were forced to the ground or worst case we would strip a servo gear that only cost $2 to fix and would happen maybe once per month if you were lucky. I see on youtube a group of people (not me) that still play the aircombat with zagi like aircraft as seen here: . fun as hell I might add. I even tried to get this combat working again with electric wings but it's not at all the same and not as fun with motors. We also when not in battle mode we would try to fly very close to each other at times to the point of a gentle touch of each others wings and also formation flying was fun. When I got into Hang gliding I had mostly left my remote world behind. But a return came when the electric zagi flying wing appeared. With these we could fly our electric zagi after we landed our hang gliders opening a new world of powered electric flight. When I moved to Thailand in the year 2002 I brought one of my remote control receiver transmitter sets with me and one of my old zagi motors and a speed controllers. I left the zagi wing behind as it was to hard to transport to Thailand and I knew I would be able to build one from material I could find in Thailand. I later researched how to build my own zagi like flying wings on the Internet. My first was a close to the same shape and size as my original zagi I had in the states, so that I could use my original zagi electric motor to drive it. My first prototype wing I used an MH45 airfoil that I thought would be a bit faster as it was a bit thiner than the zagi airfoil but that ended up being too unstable in flight so my second prototype I used a standard zagi airfoil that I also found on the Internet, that ended up flying very well. I was able to soar it from the ridge lift of the top of a 17 floor building that I lived in at the time located in Jomtien called the view talay #2 building. I later adapted it with a motor pod with my original motorized zagi motor, batteries and speed controller. With that I was able to fly at the beach. But I only had 3 500mah nicad batteries that even when they were new only provided for a 4 minuet flight at best. Over time they no longer could hold a charge for even a 1 minuet flight. I also couldn't find replacements here in Thailand or at least not in Pattaya for these batteries. so I went for years without flying my planes due to lack of battery power. I did design one smaller version of a zagi made as a glider that was easy to transport but I never found a good hill to fly it from on a regular basis. The years clicked by when one day a guy named Paul appeared on the beach of Pattaya around July 2012 flying some electric planes and one electric flying wing. I hooked up with him and his friend Adam showed me a new hobby shop that had opened near Pattaya that had a whole new world of electric flight parts available the likes I had never seen before including lipo batteries and new improved powerful 3 phase motors and speed controllers and some very good propellers. With these and a few other new parts I could not only get my plane to fly again. I could get them to fly much faster and better at closer to and later including vertical flight was now possible and with even longer flights on a single charge. With these new advancements I designed another slightly modified version of one of my smaller planes that I now call the S2. At present it's my favorite plane that flys at almost 100mph at full speed level flight and has thrust capable of almost unlimited vertical flight. Part of this was also possible with some new material I found in the new hobby shop that included carbon fiber tubing. This enables me to make very light stiff airfoils that can withstand up to 10G forces in flight with only a 530 gram aircraft including a 2200 mah battery. In my absents from the R/C world there have been other new tech items I have recently found on the market that I now have plans to get involved in including FPV (first person view). FPV is so cool as you fly a remote aircraft as if you are riding inside it by a visual view that is sent from the plane over a video transmitter link to a pear of googles that the pilot wears to view what would be seen as if sitting in the cockpit of the aircraft. I plan to design another flying wing suitable for a set of this video transmitter equipment as one of my next projects. It's hard to say were things will go from there as you might see some video's of other peoples amazing video creations shared on made from FPV aircraft to get an idea of what is now possible. I have added a few links of these video's to my favorite links article for others to see what I speak of. I hope to share some of my own creations of recorded FPV flights some time in the near future. I also have interest in this new Quad prop vertical flight aircraft. Similar to helicopters but simplified thanks to inexpensive optical gyro chips that are now available to stabilize the flight of this type of vehicle. These new aircraft can also carry FPV and photo equipment to very cool locations to view some really cool things. That would be another step that will require new skill to fly this new aircraft in both FPV and visual mode of flight. I also have ideas of building another plane or flying wing big enough to carry a single person into flight using electric motors and lipo batteries designed for R/C aircraft. The goal is to design a very inexpensive ultralight aircraft that almost anyone can build from easy to obtain inexpensive materials with a total price of material to be around $2000. The first flight at that price will only include batteries to fly for about 10 minuets but will be designed to carry up to 30 to 60 minuets of battery power for future flights if successful. As I have done more research on this project it starts to appear that it might not be feasible without more help from others. But at this point it's just another dream and part of the fun is sometimes just dreaming about it. With time I can only hope that more of my dreams will continue to become realities as they have in the past. As time and technology continues to move on, the list of things that we can see and do continues to grow. Remember all of this started with just a dream. So keep on dreaming. Written by Scott Carlson (c) 2012

Monday, July 23, 2012

Scotty's first return to RC after more than 10 years

I have finally got some new batteries for my remote flying wing to get it airborn once again after 10 years in the closet.   Thanks to Paul that was visiting Pattaya and brought a bunch of remote toys with him, got me hooked back up to the information needed to find some of the missing parts that had put my toys in cold storage for a time.   With Paul's info and the added motivation after seeing Paul's toys fly (and also thanks to Adam our Thai freind),   I ended up getting  a new electric 3 phase 2200kv motor, 30A ESC electric speed controler and a needed Imax B6AC battery charge system for the new lipo batteries that include qty 2,  2.2 Ah 3 cell and a 3.0 Ah 2 cell lipo to experment with.  The total added expense of the flight hardware upgrade is now totaled at about 3500 Baht.  I’ve since also created a pod that caries my Acer E120 android phone that I already had that acts as an airborn video recorder, camera and video/camara RF remote transmitter that sends imaged data over wifi down to the ground while in flight.  With some of the captured image flight data so far I’ve created some videos of some of the test flights that can be seen from the google links bellow: firstflightf.mp4 flight2d.flv photo's captured in flight2 in high res 2000 X 1500 pixals seen flight3_rotated90deg.mp4 flight5web.mp4 My collection of still albums that are mostly RC releated   Each of the flights above are just tests flights to see what can be done and what type of images can be captured while in flight. Firstflightf.mp4 is a combination of some video that my friend Claus happen to give me when he saw me during the first flight test.  Added to what Claus gave me I added what was seen from the plane as it flew that day with the Acer E120 android camera phone while in video capture mode.  I also added a sound track of some Moby song to add some spice to the video and to learn how to use the new video editor I was working on. Flight2d.flv is a test flight that is with the Acer E120 android in time lapse photo mode to capture an image every 2 secound during the flight.  After the flight I converted the series of photo's into a video stream with ffmpeg and edited the video with the Pitivi video editor on a Ubuntu 10.04 system.   I also added a sound track of a song from ?? flight3_rotated90deg.mp4 is a short test flight of a the E120 in video mode with a mirror that redirected the image to the camera tword the front of the aircraft.  I also found that the image that was captured from the mirror caused the image to rotate 90 deg so I rotated the video with ffmpeg counter clockwise 90 deg to try to fix it.  The sound track is just what was captured on the plane in flight and on the ground before and after flight. Update Aug 3, 2012 flight5web.mp4 is the longest flight on record that was a total 18minits 55 secounds in the air. I used Tina Time lapse set to capture 1 frame every 3 secounds on the E120 android. ffmpeg was set to playback at 2 frames per secound so it plays back the sequence at about 6 times recorded speed.  I was able to walk from my house at Soi 13 and land at the Hard Rock Hotel on Soi 6 that's about 700 meters and was able to fly at least 100 meters away in each direction so we covered about 900 meters or more in total max point distance in flight.  This was also an experimental mirror flight that was pointing 45 deg from front view but as you will see the mirror fell off in flight so was in some ways a failure but is still interesting to see.  As far as mirrors I still feel pointing forward is the best to date.  only thing not tried yet is pointing to the rear but may have problems with the propeller.  This video is mostly uncut from flight setup to tear down and has an added audio track of Jerney's trouble child. From the experiments above I found that video that points down is only useful if flying at higher altitudes.  any low flight of video pointing down is just blured and has little of interest in site.  On the other hand when the mirror is added to point forward then video at low altitude looks much better.   The picture mode that captures images of 2000 by 1500 pixals takes very good clear shots even at low altitude images are not blured and look steady.  But I thought at the 2 secound capture rate it would become more like a video in high speed but the plane moves so far in 2 secounds that you mostly see very little in common with the last shot in most cases.  So I think to better use the photo mode that I should just stitch a very big image together to make one big high resolution image of the ground at the time of flight (not done yet).  Also to be done is to try the mirror redirection in pointing the camera to the side of the aircraft and also point to the rear of the aircraft in both photo and video modes.  When that's complete we need to try to do a cross country flight as far up the beach as possible on a single charge to create the big high res beach photo.  Also with the mirrors added in side mode a low flight up the beach to get a big side shot of the beach to be stitched together.  I find that even my short flights I collected about 600 Mbytes of picture data I guess that would make a very big detailed picture.   Maybe I can sell the data to google for there google earth database?  Oh the phone also has a GPS in it that in some of the pic modes auto adds the lat long data to the jpg image info.  The GPS can also find out what the max speed the plane can fly and other cool stuf.  Add to that there are also acelerometers in the phone that can find out what the max stress figures in flight to better design the next aircraft when we know what loads are to be expected in flight.  Wether any or all of this can be done before the plane crashes and destroys the camera and the plane is hard to say.  I already note that my flying wing has some signs of weakness in the center section of the wing that shows compresion of the foam that can't be corrected with any more spars.  What is needed is a thicker 12% thick wing that will fix two problems including making stall recovery quicker and enable the plane to carry about 50% - 100% more load without causing problems in the airframe.  I also have another bigger flying wing that is about 6 feet long that I would like to try with the cams and added lights for night flights to capture pics in the dark.  I think the bigger wing might require a different motor and slower prop and some method of launch like a bungee or something to get it airborn. In all this is a fun toy that adds things to do even when you can't just fly.  It also opens a method to show others the fun your having doing it.  It combines my interest in flight, remote control, Remote presence, computers, photography, videography and writing.   I hope my sharing  brings in more people to play, as it's always more fun with more friends to play with.