What ho, chaps? Look, we know this is a bally nuisance and all, but those desk jockeys at HQ want us all to watch this film about daily insepction of your Spitfire. No Vera and no Greta in this one, more’s the pity, but it is jolly important. We all know that our Spitfires are complicated buckets of bolts, but those kites won’t stay in the air if we don’t maintain them. Yes, the boring stuff, like purging the fuel system of water and refueling outside of the hanger. And, yes, Captain Molesworth, that means putting out that cigar while the tech boys are topping off your tank. Now shut up and watch the film we’ve placed below the break, what?
All right, all right, wake up at the back there. I heard you snoring, Peason. The bally Germans could hear you snoring. I know that wasn’t Errol Flynn, but this stuff is damned essential. You may be pilots, but you all rely on those people you just saw. Your lives depend on the riggers, armorers, instrument repairers, and others. While you are out carousing, these men are taking your plane apart and ensuring the engine is running smoother than the legs of the barmaid at the Dog & Duck. Every time one of you chaps calls Bingo Fuel, you get home because some chap checked your fuel gauge was accurate. Every time one of you glances at the Rate of Climb indicator to judge an intercept, you are relying on the chap who tested and zeroed it while you were snoring in your bunk, sleeping off last nights debauch. So, don’t forget that you are part of a team. You may be full of dauntless spirit up there, but you won’t get anywhere without those chaps on the ground.
Now, let’s talk about tonight’s mission…
Continue reading “Daily Inspections Keep Your Spitfire In Tip-Top Shape”
While the concept of automotive “autopilots” are still in their infancy, pretty much any aircraft larger than an ultralight will have some mechanism to at least hold a fixed course and altitude. Typically the autopilot system is built into the airplane’s controls, but this new system replaces the pilot themselves in a manner reminiscent of the movie Airplane.
The robot pilot, known as PIBOT, uses both AI and robotics technology to fly the airplane without altering the aircraft. Unlike a normal autopilot system, this one can be fed the aircraft’s manuals in natural language, understand them, and use that information to fly the airplane. That includes operating any of the aircraft’s cockpit controls, not just the control column and pedal assembly. Supposedly, the autopilot can handle everything from takeoff to landing, and operate capably during heavy turbulence.
The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) research team that built the machine hopes that it will pave the way for more advanced autopilot systems, and although this one has only been tested in simulators so far it shows enormous promise, and even has certain capabilities that go far beyond human pilots’ abilities including the ability to remember a much wider variety of charts. The team also hopes to eventually migrate the technology to the land, especially military vehicles, although we’ve seen how challenging that can be already.
There’s no more famous road endurance race than the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where teams compete to see how far they can drive in a single 24-hour window. The race presents unique challenges not found in other types of racing. While RC airplanes may not have a similar race, [Daniel] a.k.a. [rctestflight] created a similar challenge for himself by attempting to fly an RC airplane non-stop for as long as he could, and a whole host of interesting situations cropped up before and during flight.
In order for an RC plane to fly for an entire day, it essentially needs to be solar powered. A large amount of strategy goes into a design of this sort. For one, the wing shape needs to be efficient in flight but not reduce the amount of area available for solar panels. For another, the start time of the flight needs to be balanced against the position of the sun in the sky. With these variables more or less fixed, [Daniel] began his flight.
It started off well enough, with the plane in an autonomous “return to home” mode which allowed it to continually circle overhead without direct human control. But after taking a break to fly it in FPV mode, [Daniel] noticed that the voltage on his battery was extremely high. It turned out that the solar charge controller wasn’t operating as expected and was shunting a large amount of solar energy directly into the battery. He landed and immediately removed the “spicy pillow” to avoid any sort of nonlinear event. With a new battery in the plane he began the flight again.
Even after all of that, [Daniel] still had some issues stemming from the aerodynamic nature of this plane specifically. There were some issues with wind, and with the flight controller not recognizing the correct “home” position, but all in all it seems like a fun day of flying a plane. If your idea of “fun” is sitting around and occasionally looking up for eight and a half hours. For more of [Daniel]’s long-term autonomous piloting, be sure to take a look at his solar tugboat as well.
Continue reading “24 Hours Of Le Airplanes”
What do you do when you have a whole warehouse sized facility and an industrial sized CNC foam cutter? Clearly, the only choice is to build giant RC aircraft, and that’s exactly what the folks at [FliteTest] teamed up with the illustrious [Peter Sripol] to accomplish. Did it work? Yes. Did it work well? We’ll let you be the judge after taking a gander at the video below the break.
[Peter Sripol], known for building manned ultralight electric aircraft from foam, was roped in as the designer of the aircraft. A very light EPS foam is used to cut out the flying surfaces, while a denser green foam board is sourced from the local home building store to construct the fuselage.
The build is anything but ordinary, and kids are involved in the construction, although the video doesn’t elaborate on it very much. You can see evidence of their excitement in the graffiti on the wings and fuselage- surely a huge success on that front! As for flying? Four large motors provide locomotion, and it’s barely enough to keep the beast flying. A mishap with the Center of Gravity demands a last minute design change which renders the rudder almost useless. But, it does fly, and it is a great step toward the next iteration. Just like every good hack!
If you want to see a manned foam electric aircraft, check out [Peter Sripol]’s DIY Electric Ultralight MK4.
Continue reading “World’s Biggest Foam RC Plane Takes To The Skies, But Only Barely!”
You remember how you wanted to combine everything as a kid? Like lions and tigers into ligers and so on? Well, some kids dream of transportation hybrids. For eighty-year-old [Gino Lucci], now an Air Force retiree, that dream involved a recreational vehicle that combined an airplane fuselage and a delivery truck.
There it was, rusting in a field outside Rolla, Missouri — the vintage plane that would start [Gino Lucci] on the path to fulfilling this dream. This project began when [Gino]’s son spotted the body of a 1943 Douglas R4D military transport aircraft.
Over the next year, [Gino] and his sons painstakingly fused the fuselage to the chassis of an International DuraStar 4400 medium-duty truck. We love how they went about it. [Gino] and the boys just kept putting the two together and cutting away the fuselage in stages until they got it right. After making it roadworthy, it took another two years to work out the kinks.
The Fabulous Flamingo is 38 feet (11.6 meters) long and stands 12.5 feet (3.81 meters) tall. But the best metric is the width. It’s unspecified, but is apparently half an inch (1.27 cm) under the definition of what is street legal in Michigan. They used the plane’s engine cowlings as fenders and got the mirrors off of a ’70s Ford pickup. Floor it past the break and check it out.
This build cost about $20,000 USD all told. If you’ve got that kind of money, you could instead stuff a powerful engine into a tiny plane to get your kicks.
Continue reading “Abandoned Airplane Takes Off Again As Luxury RV”
Most of dream of having a fully-stocked shop with all of the tools needed to build our projects, at least if we don’t already have such a shop. In the meantime, a lot of us are hacking together our own tools and working on whatever bench space might be available to us. While [Emiel] aka [The Practical Engineer] has an envious shop to work from, his latest project goes to show how repurposing some aircraft-grade equipment can result in a high-quality toolbox for himself, without shelling out for any consumer-level solution. (Video, embedded below.)
The core of his workshop cart build is actually a recycled food service cart from an airline. While the original probably only housed some soft drinks and ice, this one has been kitted out to be much more functional. Since [Emiel] is using this to wheel around his machine shop, he used a CNC machine to cut out slots in black MDF sheets which would hold his drill bits, taps, and other tools. Working with MDF on a CNC machine turned out to not be as simple as he thought, since the MDF would separate and break away unless the CNC tool heads were operated in a specific way.
The build also includes several buckets for other tools, and a custom enclosure for the top of the cart specifically built for his machine tools’ tools to sit while he is working. It’s certainly a more cost-effective solution to a wheeled shop toolbox than buying something off-the-shelf, and a clever repurposing of something which would have otherwise ended up in a landfill. [Emiel] is no stranger to building any tools that he might need, including this custom belt sander built completely from the ground up.
Continue reading “Workshop Tools Are Available In First-Class”
Software-defined radio came on the hacker scene in a big way less than a decade ago thanks to the discovery that a small USB-based TV tuner dongle could be used for receiving all kinds of radio transmissions. Two popular projects from that era are tracking nearby airplanes and boats in real time. Of course, these projects rely on different frequencies and protocols, but if you live in a major port city like [Ian] then his project that combines both into a single user interface might be of interest.
This project uses an RTL-SDR dongle for the marine traffic portion of the project, but steps up to a FlightAware Pro dongle for receiving telemetry from airplanes. Two separate antennas are needed for this, and all of the information is gathered and handled by a pair of Raspberry Pis. The Pis communicate with various marine and air traffic databases as well as handles the custom user interface that knits both sets of information together. This interface was custom-built from a previous project of his and was repurposed slightly to fit the needs of this one.
This is a great project that goes into a lot of interesting detail about how the web traffic moves and how the UI works, so even if you’re not into software-defined radio it might be worth a look. However, it’s also worth noting that it hasn’t been easier to set up a system like this thanks to the abundance and low price of RTL-SDR dongles and the software tools that make setting them up a breeze.