One staple of science fiction is the ornithopter, which is a plane with moving wings. While these haven’t proved very practical in the general sense, a recent paper talks about mimicking natural wings changing shape to improve maneuverability in drones and other aircraft. In particular, the paper talks about how the flight performance of many birds and bats far exceeds that of conventional aircraft.
The technical term for being more maneuverable than a conventional aircraft is, unsurprisingly, called supermaneuverability. Aircraft performing things like the Pugachev Cobra maneuver (watch the video below, or the latest Top Gun movie) require this type of operation, and with modern aircraft, this means using thrust-vector technology along with unstable airframes and sophisticated computer control. That’s not how birds or bats operate, though, and the paper uses modern flight simulation techniques to show that biomimicry and thrust vector technology don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Continue reading “Up In The Sky… It’s A Bird… It’s A Drone… Oh Yeah, It’s A Drone”
First-person view, or FPV, has become hugely popular in RC flying circles. A pair of video goggles lets the pilot fly with vision from the plane itself. To make things even more realistic, the team at [FliteTest] built a replica cockpit with working controls and took it down to the field for testing. (Video, embedded below.)
Since the pilot is wearing video goggles, aesthetics aren’t the key here. A RC transmitter was gutted for its gimbal and potentiometers. The former fitted with a long stick for aileron and elevator control, and the latter hooked up to pedals for the rudder. There’s even a proper throttle handle. It’s a low-budget build, with PVC pipe and bungee straps doing much of the work, but that doesn’t detract from the fun factor one bit. The team later upped the stakes, flying a faster model with the rig at speeds up to 120 mph.
Interesting to note is the somewhat visceral reaction by the pilot when crashing, as the combination of first-person view video and realistic controls gives a powerful sense that one is actually in a real plane. FPV flying actually has a longer history than you might expect, with roots as far back as the 1980s. Continue reading “High Speed Flight In A Homebrew FPV Cockpit”
For many people the gateway drug to aviation is radio-controlled aircraft, and in [Andre Bandarra]’s case this led to paragliding. Now he has combined the two, turning his full size paragliding wing into an RC aircraft. (Video, embedded below.)
The primary controls of a paraglider are very simple, consisting of two brake lines that connect to the trailing edge of the wing. When a line is pulled, it increased drag on that side of the wing, causing it to turn. [Andre] connected the brake lines to two 3D-printed spools, which are each powered by a large RC servo that he modified for continuous rotation. These are mounted on a slim wooden frame that also holds the battery, RC receiver, an old electronic speed control to step down the battery power, and attachment straps for the wing. Without enough mass, the wing would just get blown around by the lightest of breezes, so [Andre] hooked a cloth bag filled with sand to the frame to act as a counter weight.
On the first test flight the wind was too strong and the sandbag too light, making it impossible to control. The hardest part of the flight is the launch, which requires the help of someone who knows how to fly a paraglider. The second test day had much better success. With only a slight breeze and a heavier sandbag, the contraption flew beautifully, floating slowly across the beach. He admits that there are a number of improvements he can make, but as a proof of concept using parts he had lying around, it was a roaring success.
For paragliding from flat ground, you can always strap a motor to your back, like the open source OpenPPG electric paramotor. For more crazy RC flying contraptions, also keep an eye on guys at [Flite Test].
Continue reading “Floating On The Breeze With A Full Size RC Paraglider”
All of us dream of reaching a point in life where we have the knowledge, skills, energy and resources to pull off builds that match our wildest dreams. [Mike Patey] is living that dream and with a passion for engineering and aviation that is absolutely infectious, he built Draco, the world’s most badass bush plane.
Draco started life as a PZL-104MA Wilga 2000, which already had impressive short take off and landing (STOL) capabilities for a 4 seater. Its original 300 hp Lycoming piston engine failed catastrophically in 2017, very nearly dumping [Mike] in Lake Utah. He decided it was a good excuse to start building his dream plane, and replaced the motor with a Pratt & Whitney PT6 turboprop engine, putting out a massive 680 hp.
Almost the entire plane was upgraded, and the engineering that went into it is awe-inspiring, especially considering that [Mike] did most of it himself. This includes a redesigned fuel system, enlarged wing and control surfaces, new avionics, oxygen system, upgraded landing gear and an array of lights. The wing tip landing lights are actually from a Boeing 737. [Mike] estimates that the upgrades cost somewhere in the region of a million US dollars. All the highlights of the build is documented in series of videos on [Mike]’s YouTube channel. What we would give for a personal workshop like that…
Try not to let your jaw hit the floor when watching the video after the break.
Continue reading “Monster Bush Plane Is A One-Off Engineering Masterpiece”
So you’ve built a fine kite, taken it to the beach, and let it ride the wind aloft on a spool of line. Eventually it has to come down, and the process of reeling all that line that was so easily paid out is likely a bigger chore than you care to face. What to do?
If you’re like [Matt Bilsky], the answer is simple: build a motorized kite reel to bring it back in painlessly. Of course what’s simple in conception is often difficult to execute, and as the second video below shows, [Matt] went through an extensive design and prototype phase before starting to create parts. Basic questions had to be answered, such as how much torque would be needed to reel in the kite, and what were the dimensions of a standard kite string reel. With that information and a cardboard prototype in hand, the guts of a cordless drill joined a bunch of 3D-printed parts to form the running gear. We really liked the research that went into the self-reversing screw used to evenly wind the string across the spool; who knew that someone could do a doctoral dissertation on yarn-winding? Check out the “Reeler-Inner” in action in the first, much shorter video below.
With some extra power left from the original drill battery, [Matt] feature-crept a bit with the USB charger port and voltmeter, but who can blame him? Personally, we’d have included a counter to keep track of how much line is fed out; something like this printer filament counter might work, as long as you can keep the sand out of it.
Continue reading “Automatic Rewinder Makes Kite Retrieval A Breeze”
According to reports, a turbine-powered flying board buzzed around Bastille Day celebrations carrying its inventor [Franky Zapata] toting a rifle to promote the military applications of the Flyboard Air. You can see the video record, below.
We’ve heard the board costs a cool $250,000 so you may want to start saving now. There are several versions including one that qualifies in the United States as an ultralight. The board Zapata used can reach speeds of 190 km/h and can run for up to 10 minutes, although the website claims 200 km/h is possible and the company also claims to routinely reach 140 km/h. and 6 minute flight times.
Continue reading “Hoverboard Circles Bastille Day”
Fixed-wing planes and helicopters are no longer the darling of the RC world. Even quadcopters and other multirotors are starting to look old hat, as the community looks to ever more outrageous designs. [rctestflight] has slimmed things down to the extreme with this coaxial bicopter build, also known as the Flying Stick (Youtube video, embedded below).
The initial design consists of two brushless outrunner motors fitted with props, rotating in opposite directions to cancel out their respective torques. Each is mounted on a gimbal, setup to provide control authority. iNav is used as a flight controller, chosen due to its versatile motor mixing settings. The craft was built to test its ability at recovery from freefall, as a follow-on from earlier attempts at building a brushless “rocket” craft.
Performance is surprisingly good for what is fundamentally two props on a stick. Initial tests didn’t quite manage a successful recovery, but the repaired single-gimbal version almost achieves the feat. Multirotors in general struggle with freefall recovery, so more research in this area is definitely worthwhile. Video after the break.
Continue reading “Flying Sticks Are Now A Thing”