WiFi Controlled Plane Is Cheap Flying Fun

The world of radio controlled aircraft used to be an expensive and exclusive hobby, limited to those with the time and money to invest in difficult builds and pricey radio gear. More recently, the hobby has become more accessible, with cheap ready to fly planes available that can be flown in smaller spaces like suburban parks. [Ravi Butani] has built just such a plane, and you can even fly it with your smartphone!

An ESP8266 does double duty here as both the brains and the communication system. A custom smartphone app communicates with the plane over WiFi. Touching the screen increases the throttle, while steering is achieved through tilting the phone. There’s also monitoring of signal strength and battery level, with the phone vibrating if the plane is getting out of range or low on battery.

Flight control is via differential thrust, with power coming courtesy of two small DC motors controlled by tiny SMD MOSFETs. The plane flies remarkably well in still conditions, and the WiFi connection is stable in an open park environment. [Ravi] reports that control is possible at a range of around 70 meters using a Motorola G5S smartphone.

Despite the simplicity of the build and the low cost of the components, the final product performs admirably. It would be a great weekend project, and at the end of it, you get to go and fly your new plane! If you’re worried about keeping your batteries charged, don’t worry – there’s a solution for that. Video after the break.

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Nearly Entirely 3D Printed RC Car Is 4WD Fun

Remote control cars can be great fun, particularly if you’ve got a spare carpark or dirt lot to hoon them around. Any good hobby store will have shelves stocked with all manner of vehicles – buggies, touring cars, prototypes – but you don’t have to settle for what’s already available. Why not 3D print the car of your dreams instead? (YouTube, embedded below.)

The build comes to us from [Engineering Nonsense], now in its third revision. The design is produced in PLA, to make it accessible as possible to printer owners the world over. Almost the entire car is 3D printable – not just the chassis. The gearbox, differentials and driveshafts, and even suspension arms and tie rods are all printed, rather than bought. This also means the car is easier to build, with everything being printed to the correct size, as opposed to using off-the-shelf adjustable parts.

Performance is impressive, with the car showing good grip thanks to its 4WD drivetrain and double wishbone suspension. Files are available on Thingiverse, so there’s nothing to stop you from printing this out and going for a spin this weekend. We’d love to see it take on the water with some 3D printed tyres, too.

[Thanks to Jotham for the tip!]

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A Garbage Bag Skirt Is Fit For A Hovercraft

The hovercraft is an entertaining but much maligned form of transport. While they have military applications and at times have even run as ferries across the English Channel, fundamental issues with steering and braking have prevented us all driving them to work on a regular basis. They do make great toys however, and [HowToMechatronics] has built an excellent example.

The build is primarily a 3D printed affair, with the hull, ducting, and even the propellers being made in this way. The craft is sized to be readily printable on a 30cm square build platform, making it accessible to most printer owners. Drive is via brushless motors, and control is achieved using their previously-featured self-built NRF24L01 radio control transmitter.

What stands out among most other hovercraft builds we see here is the functioning skirt. It’s constructed from a garbage bag, and held on to the hull with a 3D printed clamping ring. Most quick builds omit a skirt and make up for it with light weight and high power, so its nice to see one implemented here. We’d love to see how well the craft works on the water, though it holds up well on the concrete.

Finished in a camouflage paint scheme, the craft looks the part, and handles well too. We’d consider a small correction to the center of gravity, but it’s nothing a little ballast wouldn’t fix. Video after the break. Continue reading “A Garbage Bag Skirt Is Fit For A Hovercraft”

Flying Convenience Not So Convenient

It’s a situation that plays out every day, all over the world – you walk into work, and there’s a full-scale foam toilet sitting on the bench, demanding to be used in a crackpot project. This time, it happened to be at the [FliteTest] workshop, and naturally, they set about making it fly.

The team at [FliteTest] are well resourced, with a laser cutter being used to quickly produce a set of custom foam board wings. However, after wing failures on their previous projects, this time the team opted for a riveted aluminium wing spar to add strength. A twin-boom tail is used to try to avoid the cistern from interfering with airflow over the elevator, and careful attention is paid to make sure the center of gravity is in the right position for stable flight.

Despite the team’s laudable efforts, the toilet (somewhat unsurprisingly) flies like crap. It just goes to show, you can strap a brushless power system on to just about anything, but aerodynamics will still be standing ready to bring it all crashing down to Earth.

We’ve seen some great builds from [FliteTest] over the years – before the throne, it was an IKEA chair that soared amongst the clouds.¬†Video after the break.

[Thanks to Baldpower for the tip!] Continue reading “Flying Convenience Not So Convenient”

R/C Whirlygig Is Terrifyingly Unstable

In the days during and immediately after World War II, aerospace research was a forefront consideration for national security. All manner of wild designs were explored as nation states attempted to gain the upper hand in the struggle for survival. The Hiller Hornet was one such craft built during this time – a helicopter which drove the rotor through tip-mounted ramjets. Unsurprisingly, this configuration had plenty of drawbacks which prevented it from ever reaching full production. The team at [FliteTest] had a soft spot for the craft, however, and used it to inspire their latest radio controlled experiment.

Initial experiments consisted of a modified foam wing from a model seaplane, with two left wings facing opposite directions, and joined in the middle. Two motors and props were fitted to the wings to provide rotational motion. After some initial vibration issues were solved, the improvised craft generated barely enough lift to get off the ground. Other problems were faced with centripetal forces tearing the propellers off the wing due to the high rotational speeds involved.

A second attempt started from scratch, with a four wing setup being used, with much higher camber, with the intention to generate more lift with a more aggressive airfoil, allowing rotational speeds to be decreased. The craft was capable of getting off the ground, but instabilities likened to the pendulum rocket fallacy prevented any major gain in altitude.

We’d love to see a redesign to solve some of the issues and allow the craft to sail higher into the air. If you think you know the solution to the whirly bird’s dynamic problems, be sure to let us know in the comments. It should be possible, as we’ve seen successful designs inspired by maple seeds before. Video after the break.

[Thanks to Baldpower for the tip!]

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Brushless R/C Rocket Tests Different Flight Regimes

Quadcopters are familiar, and remote control planes are old hat at this point. However, compact lightweight power systems and electronic flight controllers continue to make new flying vehicles possible. In that vein, [rctestflight] has been experimenting with a brushless electric rocket craft, with interesting results. (Youtube, embedded below.)

The build uses a single large brushless motor in the tail for primary thrust. Four movable vanes provide thrust vectoring capability. To supplement this control a quadcopter was gutted, and its motors rearranged in the nose of the craft to create a secondary set of thrusters which aid stabilization and maneuverability.

The aim is to experiment with a flight regime consisting of vertical takeoff followed by coasting horizontally before returning to a vertical orientation for landing. Preliminary results have been positive, though it was noted that the body of the aircraft is significantly reducing the available thrust from the motors.

It’s a creative design which recalls the SpaceX vertical landing rockets of recent times. We’re excited to see where this project leads, and as we’ve seen before – brushless power can make just about anything fly. Even chocolate. Video after the break.

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Arduino RC Transmitter For Homebrew Projects

The field of radio control has benefited much from the onward march of technology. Where a basic 2-channel setup would once have cost hundreds of dollars, it’s now possible to get a high-end 2.4GHz 9-channel rig for well under $100, shipped to your door. However, the vast majority of these systems are closed-source and built for purpose. Sometimes, there are benefits to doing things your own way, and that’s precisely what this project does.

At its heart, it’s a simple combination. An Arduino Pro Mini talks to a NRF24L01 which handles the wireless communication. At that point, it’s up to you – throw in as few or as many controls as you like. For this build, [HowToMechatronics] has gone with a twin-stick setup, with a pair of potentiometers and twin toggle switches to round out the options.

The build comes in handy, as it’s possible to program in whatever features you may need for a given project. [HowToMechatronics] has used it to control a hexapod robot, among other projects. It’s a build that shows that with cheap and readily available parts, it’s possible to whip up a custom solution to suit your needs.

If this topic interests you.it’s worth saying that even those closed source radio control products can sometimes be hacked.

[Thanks to Baldpower for the tip!]