Aerodynamics? Super Honey Badger Don’t Give A @#*^@!


[Arron Bates] is a pro R/C Pilot from Australia. He’s spent the last few years chasing the dream of a fixed wing plane which could perform unlimited spins. After some promising starts with independently controlled wing spoilers, [Arron] went all in and created The Super Honey Badger. Super Honey Badger is a giant scale R/C plane with the tail of a helicopter and a soul of pure awesome.

Starting with a standard 87″ wingspan Extra 300 designed for 3D flight, [Arron] began hacking. The entire rear fuselage was removed and replaced with carbon fiber tubes. The standard Extra 300 tail assembly fit perfectly on the tubes. Between the abbreviated fuselage and the tail, [Arron] installed a tail rotor from an 800 size helicopter. A 1.25 kW brushless motor drives the tail rotor while a high-speed servo controls the pitch.

[Arron] debuted the plane at HuckFest 2013, and pulled off some amazing aerobatics. The tail rotor made 540 stall turn an easy trick to do – even with an airplane. Flat spins were a snap to enter, even from fast forward flight! Most of [Arron’s] maneuvers defy any attempt at naming them – just watch the videos after the break.

Sadly, Super Honey Badger was destroyed in May of 2014 due to a structural failure in the carbon tubes. [Arron] walked away without injury and isn’t giving up., He’s already dropping major hints about a new plane (facebook link).

Watch the control surfaces move in the videos. It’s worth noting that Super Honey Badger carries no gyros or flight stabilization systems. The plane’s every move is in direct response to [Arron’s] control inputs.

50 thoughts on “Aerodynamics? Super Honey Badger Don’t Give A @#*^@!

  1. As graceful as a drunken monkey with the dry heaves.

    Seems oh so cheaty if you can’t do the maneuvers with just the aerodynamics of the airplane.

    Whatever floats your pontoons I guess.

    1. I agree. Graceful is not the term I’d use here. If it’s the maneuvers he’s after, why stop at putting a tail rotor on the thing? Why not use some thrust vectoring EDFs on the wing tips? Maybe throw in a set of rotors in the wing so it can hover in place. Put ’em on gimbals and tell gravity to bite it.

      Despite the drunken monkey, Arron is an incredible pilot. He’s well respected within the RC community. It’s nice to see someone stepping out of the box and getting creative. There’s a ton of Hackaday worthy creativity that happens in that world that we don’t see often here.

      1. “Why not use some thrust vectoring EDFs on the wing tips? Maybe throw in a set of rotors in the wing so it can hover in place. Put ‘em on gimbals and tell gravity to bite it.”

        Shut up and take my money!

        1. As Arron points out elsewhere, EDFs wouldn’t work well here. I tossed it in there to be a bit snarky. I feel a sheepish now that Arron has responded directly to some of things I was being snarky about. I think what he’s done with the Super Honey Badger is fantastic.

  2. Pretty nifty… I don’t think this would have much of an affect beyond a very low airspeed… In ‘natural’ (|| to ground) flight, that huge rudder would have far more influence as a result of the required airspeed. Still makes for some interesting 3D.

    1. It’s a big industry. Professional RC pilots help sell RC products the same way professional skateboarders help sell skateboards.

      Though if the FAA gets its way, making a living flying RC aircraft directly, or even indirectly, will be considered criminal:

      The FAA’s definition of “flying model aircraft” is so vague that even NFL players should be concerned that their livelihood is at risk of becoming illegal.

      Read more here:

        1. Pilot in the article is Australian, but currently living in the USA. Until the new rules are sorted out, the USA is rather permissive about what people can play with.

      1. My understanding is that 3D is basically unrealistic flying. A real plane flying compared to a 3D RC plane, pretty much confines the real plane to 2 Dimensions. 3D flight involves rapid turns along all axis.

          1. No…. Any normal plane willl have to be flying forward for the wings to generate lift to stay in the air. You can do without lift for a while by setting up a parabolic trajectory or stall the plane and fall for a while, but to keep from crashing you need airspeed to keep the plane in the air. given you have airspeed, you then have 2D control over the direction. up/down, left/right.

          2. FAR 91.303 states: “[…] aerobatic flight means an intentional maneuver involving an abrupt change in an aircraft’s attitude, an abnormal attitude, or abnormal acceleration, not necessary for normal flight.”

            Nothing about that specifies the type of aircraft. Granted those maneuvers are impossible in nearly all manned civilian aircraft, but this “3D flying” is still a form of aerobatics.

  3. Haters gonna hate, but I’ve never seen anything like that. I just read a NASA book about some early-mid 90’s high angle of attack research with the x-29, and I was like, whoa. Then I saw this.

    Smooth out the aerodynamics, make the controls stabilized, and this could be really cool platform for all sorts of UAS (nee drone) hilarity. Properly tuned I bet you could SVTOL in a pretty tight landing zone.

  4. This is a cool-as-hell build and some serious pilot chops, but I’m going to argue an academic point here…

    What’s really happened here is that you’ve taken an airplane and turned it into a high power/weight ratio maneuvering vehicle that no longer really relies on the wing to provide lift – a “quad copter” with the main lift power in a single reciprocating engine/propeller and maneuvering in the other rotors.

    This opens a real can of worms – why not:

    Get rid of the tail surfaces altogether and rely on 3D vectored thrust back there (two sets of rotors matrixed into intuitive rudder/elevator controls. Maybe do likewise with a big chunk of the wing since the ailerons are barely useful at low speeds. Since the wing is stalled most of the time, why bother at all? Just hang it on the engine and use rotors on three axes to maneuver.

    Wait…four engines…matrixed for power and maneuvering…we’ve seen that before.

    1. Good try at being a smart-ass, but this thing can obviously do things a “quad copter” can’t.

      Besides, why must we continually go through the, “why bother…,” routine on this site?

      1. Yeah, poor smartass skills, but the thoughtspace is open – when you start blending helos, conventional aircraft and quad-copter technologies, what fun you could have and likely it would evolve into something very cool.

    2. Hear Hear! I too am tired of people calling anything with a plane shape an airplane. Most, if not all 3D “planes” use symmetrical wings. Hence they are no longer using the fixed wing as a primary lift source and therefore no longer qualify as an airplane. At best it is a badly misshapen helicopter, or a “rotary wing device”

      True airplanes are a work of art in the engineering and design necessary to get them to fly.

      Adding “grunt in the front” to get a toaster off the ground does not make the toaster an airplane.

      1. I fly RC aircraft that have symmetrical airfoils (which I think is what you meant when you said “symmetrical wings”) that most people would identify as an airplane.

        Is it fair to say that you think if one removed what you consider to be the primary source of lift, that airplane wouldn’t fly?

        Here’s my real world experience with symmetrical airfoils. If I removed those “non-primary lift source” wings, the model wouldn’t fly. I could throw the model off a cliff and even with an elevator, rudder, and prop at full throttle, there’d be nothing I could do to save it from a dirt nap.

        Sure, I could use a motor and prop combo large enough to overcome the force of gravity, but my RC aircraft with symmetrical airfoils aren’t setup like that.

        Now, let’s say I took the propeller off and left the wings on the same plane from the first cliff toss scenario. Would the results of tossing it off the cliff resemble the first cliff toss?

        Nope. Without question, it’d fly by any reasonable definition of flight and behave like most people would expect an airplane to behave. I’m not theorizing either. I’ve lost throttle power enough times while flying planes with symmetrical airfoils to know that when the the propeller is spinning and producing thrust, they’re not “badly misshapen helicopters.”

      2. um, AllenKll, you apparently don’t really know what airplanes are doing; symmetrical wings still generate lift, they just use an attack angle to do so. they are only symmetrical so that being upside down is the same as the right way up, but don’t kid yourself that they don’t create lift. if they didn’t need the wings, they wouldn’t be there.

  5. Why so much hate on this project? The guy is a pro r/c pilot, he probably owns more ‘traditional’ r/c planes than the average hobby shop. He wanted to make something different.

    I think it is pretty cool, he can fly it like a normal plane or do crazy low-speed maneuvers.

    1. I agree – I thought the vid / plane was awesome. Was bummed to finish reading up on the article and discover the plane later was destroyed/crashed :( Can’t wait to see what he comes up with next :)

      1. ’tis the hobby. if there was a CarFax for r/c, you would know something is sketchy if the model hadn’t been crashed… i’ve completely rebuilt my heli at least twice now, and my r/c truck at least 5 times, maybe more..

  6. There is nothing wrong with it – just an experiment. Does it make sense ?? Not really allows just spinning it in one plane and it increases mass and reduces overall aerodynamics. Personally I think he should experiment with thrust vectoring

  7. Totally happy that it’s been posted to Hackaday!

    So hard to respond to all technical details as posted in comments. But in short I’ll try to cap off a few:
    – EDF’s wouldn’t work, I could spiel many details as to why, but in short they are horrible for static thrust vs weight.
    – the drunken monkey flying is mostly my fault, not the planes. the latest revision is even better however. The plane is able to perform all typical maneuvers well and with precision, parts of the flights in the video show this. This project is about expanding the maneuver envelope, simply to be able to more than is typical.
    – the plane is able to do more than I have yet discovered, that much will take more time and practice.
    – thrust vectoring, other people are doing that. I will add that the badger can do more than they can due to a number of factors, but even with argument, it is a different set of maneuvers/envelope.
    – making it a quadcopter etc, would be too heavy, prevent it from flying properly as an aerobatic fixed wing plane, etc etc.
    – and no, regretfully I don’t get to live off being an RC pilot, but am happily sponsored.

    The summary for the project is that this was all basically done without adding much weight at all. The goal is to keep a highly aerobatic and capable aircraft that can still do what it originally could, just add more.

    For anyone offering up the suggestions on how to improve on it… I encourage you to build one and give it a go :)

      1. Many thanks for the kind words!

        To answer your question… there are two classes, small indoor foamies (which get an advantage because they have no real mass or inertia), and larger planes which have their mass to contend with.

        Of the small foamies, I’m good friends with some of the best pilots of that type; RJ Gritter, Devin McGrath. Youtube search for those names, some astounding flying, they are right at the top of the game with respect to this type of model.

        For larger planes, variable pitch with thrust vectoring, there was one attempt a few years ago, but the person that made the pitch control system went off to play UAV’s.

        More recently however, Markus Rummer from Bavaria (do a search for him on YouTube, some of the new videos are great) has the full setup of variable pitch plus vectoring. His work is very cool, a very nice setup, and he is getting a lot of practice and some interesting things are coming out of it. However, his plane’s biggest issue is its mass. To get the most effect out of the vectoring and VPP, the plane needs to be moving backwards, which is hard to stop the mass of a 30lb plane and back it up… so all the interesting maneuvers you will see the plane come to a stop before anything of the vectoring happens (the reversing flat spin is awesome though!).

        The Honey Badger only needs to get below the pitch speed of the rotor which I can get to happen more easily, especially with the latest version of the badger which has an active crow-breaking system. They both have the pros and cons, and very different ways of working. I enjoy watching the videos by Markus.

        For sure we haven’t seen yet everything that these planes can do…

        1. Wonderful contraption!

          While watching the video I was also thinking variable pitch main propeller, mostly so you could have a common engine drive all of it at a semi-constant speed. If not for anything else then just for the sound of such a thing :). I’m also thinking a slow high-angle of attack close flyby backwards of that semi-large plane would look interesting.

    1. The next version is flying, and pushes things even further. When I can gather some more content for it, I’ll post an update somewhere.

      Hopefully the update wont be too boring for people here on Hackaday (the comments are so very encouraging :P) , but will see how we go…

      1. Arron, thanks for the reply. I’ve been flying since I was old enough to build my first Wanderer-99 (at some point in the late 70’s).
        I’m following you on Facebook and am eager to see video of the next version in action!

        But I’m sure that most of the flame-posts here that are knocking your innovative work were posted by people that’ve never built an aircraft (R/C Model, or Full-Scale), and probably know little about aerobatic flying… or aerodynamics for that matter (maybe just Hollywood crap they’ve seen, but we all know how accurate that is…) .
        Not to mention there’s the added headache of scratch-building components, and re-engineering an existing design.

        —-Alan S.

  8. It’s quite disheartening to see that the amount of dismissive or outright negative comments far outweighs anything positive.

    This guy’s airplane is legitimately cool and looks like a crap-ton of fun, not only that…he’s created a hybrid aircraft from parts from 2 different aircraft that use entirely different modes of operation…

    If that isn’t hacking right there, I don’t know what is.

    I’ve been visiting Hackaday steadily since it’s inception, and have seen the steady decline in the quality of comments, to where now it’s mostly just a dick measuring contest rather than a forum for fostering creativity and collaboration.

    Inevitable, but still a shame.

    I, for one, absolutely dig the bejeezus out of things like this, and find that these sorts of projects inspire me in my own endeavours.

    Ah well.

    1. I’m with you here. The Super Honey Badger is a great example of what Hackaday is all about.

      I think the negativity it’s getting might be related to something I’ve noticed about the RC plane hobby/community in general. There are very well defined categories of “flight” within that community, a lot of them influenced by competitive flying. When something steps outside of these categories, the reaction is often negativity. It challenges traditional thinking, therefore it must be frowned upon.

      Which is why it makes for great Hackaday material. I love that this project blurs the line between two hobbies I dearly love.

  9. I’ve flown RC planes for awhile. The club I was a member of had several contests during the summer: The Big Bird Fly-In and War Birds to name two. They had another called Fun Fly. Where you could enter in any plane you wanted. In this contest you saw many different conceptions of aircraft some of which boarded the realm of Science fiction.

    At one such event we had some people who came to see a contest. When asked, “Why did they come?” They responded, ” Oh, this is just like NASCAR. We are here for the crashes.”

    So as a former RC pilot; there is nothing wrong with loosing an airplane it sucks, but makes room for your next endeavor.

    One of our members video records our contests along with the spectacular crashes and accidents. He once compiled a DVD of Spectacular crashes and showed it at one of our meetings. So along this line I myself would like to see the entire video of the Super Honey Badger including the accident.

    1. as much as you would apparently enjoy schadenfreude, video of losing the first badger does not exist. there is however video of it operating as intended, and has been posted with this article, enjoy!

      1. Is ‘schadenfreude’ German for cluster****? :-). We refer to it as FUBAR when our RC planes crash, and as a rule FUBARs only occur during competition. One of my RC flying buddies once said, “There is nothing cheap about this hobby.” I mostly enjoy seeing the variety of plane designs, some are experimental and don’t survive the maiden flight, but as they say nothing ventured; nothing gained.

        I did enjoy the videos of the Super Honey Badger aerobatics and how it pushed the envelope. The way he redesigned his plane was noteworthy.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.