ExpressLRS: Open Source, Low Latency, Long Range RC Protocol

One of the major choices a newcomer to the RC flying hobby must make is on the RC link protocol. To add the list of choices (or confusion) there is now a new open-source, low latency, and long-range protocol named ExpressLRS.

ExpressLRS’s claim to fame is high packet rates of up to 500 Hz, with plans for 1000 Hz, and latency as low as 5 ms. Long-range testing has pushed it out to 30 km with a flying wing (video below), but this is not unheard of for other protocols. Most modern RC protocols run either in the 2.4 GHz or 915/868 MHz bands, with the latter having a definite advantage in terms of range.

ExpressLRS has options to run on either band, using Semtech SX127x (915/868 MHz) or SX1280 (2.4 GHz) LoRa transceivers, connected to STM32, ESP32, or ESP8285 microcontrollers. The ESP microcontrollers also allow software updates over Wi-Fi.

We’re excited to see an open-source competitor to the proprietary protocols currently dominating the market, but several open-source protocols have come and gone over the years. Hardware availability and compatibility is a deciding factor for a new protocol’s success, and ExpressLRS already has an advantage in this regard. Existing Frsky R9 transmitters and receivers, and Immersion RC Ghost receivers are compatible with the firmware. There are also DIY options available, and the GitHub page claims that several manufacturers are working on official ExpressLRS hardware.

If you’re already into the RC hobby, and you have compatible hardware lying around, be sure to give it a try and give some feedback to the developers! One scenario we would like to see tested is high interference and congested band conditions, like at RC flying events.

All the source code and hardware designs are available on GitHub, and there are active community discussions on Discord. Continue reading “ExpressLRS: Open Source, Low Latency, Long Range RC Protocol”

A Rocket Powered Ejection Seat For Model Aircraft

As radio control planes don’t typically have human pilots onboard, the idea of installing an ejection seat in one is somewhat frivolous. But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a lot of fun, and [James Whomsley] has set his mind to achieving the task.

The build process is an iterative one, with [James] solving problems step-by-step and testing along the way. The first task was to successfully launch a small action figure and his flight seat vertically in a controlled fashion. After a few attempts, a combination of rocket motors and guide rails were settled upon that could achieve the goal. Next up, a drogue parachute system was designed and tested to stabilize the seat at the height of its trajectory. Further work to come involves handling seat separation and getting the action figure safely back to the ground.

While action figures aren’t alive and the ejection seat serves no real emergency purpose, we can imagine it would be a hit at the local flying field – assuming the parachutes don’t get tangled in someone else’s model. For those interested in the real technology, our own [Dan Maloney] did a great piece on the topic. Video after the break.

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Dynamic Soaring: 545 MPH RC Planes Have No Motor

The fastest remote-controlled airplane flight ever recorded took place in 2018, with a top speed of 545 miles/hour. That’s 877 km/h, or Mach 0.77!

What was the limiting factor, preventing the pilot-and-designer Spencer Lisenby’s plane from going any faster? The airstream over parts of the wing hitting the sound barrier, and the resulting mini sonic booms wreaking havoc on the aerodynamics. What kind of supercharged jet motor can propel a model plane faster than its wings can carry it? Absolutely none; the fastest RC planes are, surprisingly, gliders.

Dynamic soaring (DS) was first harnessed to propel model planes sometime in the mid 1990s. Since then, an informal international competition among pilots has pushed the state of the art further and further, and in just 20 years the top measured speed has more than tripled. But dynamic soaring is anything but new. Indeed, it’s been possible ever since there has been wind and slopes on the earth. Albatrosses, the long-distance champs of the animal kingdom, have been “DSing” forever, and we’ve known about it for a century.

DS is the highest-tech frontier in model flight, and is full of interesting physical phenomena and engineering challenges. Until now, the planes have all been piloted remotely by people, but reaching new high speeds might require the fast reaction times of onboard silicon, in addition to a new generation of aircraft designs. The “free” speed boost that gliders can get from dynamic soaring could extend the range of unmanned aerial vehicles, when the conditions are right. In short, DS is at a turning point, and things are just about to get very interesting. It’s time you got to know dynamic soaring.

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Giant Scale RC A350 Airliner Using Carbon Fibre And 3D Printing

Large scale RC aircraft are pleasure to see on the ground and in the air, but putting in the months of effort required to build them requires special dedication. Especially since there is a real possibility it could end up in pieces on the ground at some point.  [Ramy RC] is one of those dedicated craftsman, and he has a thing for RC airliners. His latest project is a large Airbus A350, and the painstaking build process is something to behold.

The outer skin of the aircraft is mostly carbon fibre, with wood internal framing to keep everything rigid. The fuselage and winglets are moulded using 3D printed moulds. These were printed in pieces on a large format 3D printer, and painstakingly glued together and prepared to give a perfect surface finish. The wing surfaces are moulded in flat section and then glued onto the frames. [Ramy RC]’s attention to detail is excellent, making all the control surfaces close as possible to the real thing, and retractable landing gear with servo actuated hatches. Thrust comes from a pair of powerful EDF motors, housed in carbon fibre nacelles.

This project has been in the works for almost 5 months so far and it looks spectacular. We’re looking forward to the first flight, and will be holding thumbs that is remains in one piece for a long time. See the video after the break for final assembly of this beast.

For the next step up from RC aircraft, you can always build your own full size aircraft in your basement. If you have very very deep pockets, get yourself a private hangar/workshop and build a turbine powered bush plane.

Thanks for the tip [tayken]! Continue reading “Giant Scale RC A350 Airliner Using Carbon Fibre And 3D Printing”

A DIY Functional F-35 Is No Simple Task

The advent of affordable gear for radio-controlled aircraft has made the hobby extremely accessible, but also made it possible to build some very complex flying machines on a budget, especially when combined with 3D printing. [Joel Vlashof] really likes VTOL fighter aircraft and is in the process of building a fully functional radio-controlled F-35B.

The F-35 series of aircraft is one of the most expensive defence project to date. The VTOL capable “B” variant is a complex machine, with total of 19 doors on the outside of the aircraft for weapons, landing gear and thrusters. The thruster on the tail can pivot 90° down for VTOL operations, using an interesting 3-bearing swivel mechanism.

[Joel] wants his model to be as close as possible to the real thing, and has integrated all these features into his build. Thrust is provided by two EDF motors, the pivoting nozzle is 3D printed and actuated by three set of small DC motors, and all 5 doors for VTOL are actuated by a single servo in the nose via a series of linkages. For tilt control, air from the main fan is channeled to the wing-tips and controlled by servo-actuated valves. A flight controller intended for use on a multi-rotor is used to help keep the plane stable while hovering. One iteration of this plane bit the dust during development, but [Joel] has done successful test flights for both hover and conventional horizontal flight.  The really tricky part will be transitioning between flight modes, and [Joel] hopes to achieve that in the near future.

The real Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II project is controversial because of repeated budget overruns and time delays, but the engineering challenges solved in the project are themselves fascinating. The logistics of keeping these complex machines in the air are daunting, and a while back we saw Marine ground crew 3D print components that they were having trouble procuring through normal channels.

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Hackaday Podcast 039: Elliot <3 Lightning Detectors, Ikea Dark Mode, The Smartest Watch, Solar Sailing The Sky, And VAWT Controversy

Hackaday Editors Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys recap a week full of hacks from the solar sailing RC plane that has zero power storage, to geeking out about lightning detectors and hacking Ikea LED controllers to unlock real dimming to building backyard wind turbines. We look up an IoT egg tray with appreciation not for the concept but certainly for the engineering, and scratch our heads on why one-hacker-smartwatch-to-rule-them-all seems like something that should happen but so far has only been a fleeting concept.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (68 MB)

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Soaring With The Sun: 4 Years Of Solar RC Planes

Many of us have projects that end up spanning multiple years and multiple iterations, and gets revisited every time inspiration strikes and you’ve forgotten just how much work and frustration the previous round was. For [Daniel Riley] AKA [rctestflight] that project is a solar powered RC plane which to date spans 4 years, 4 versions and 13 videos. It is a treasure trove of information collected through hard experience, covering carbon fibre construction techniques, solar power management and the challenges of testing in the real world, among others.

Solar Plane V1 had a 9.5 ft / 2.9 m carbon fibre skeleton wing, covered with transparent film, with the fragile monocrystaline solar cells mounted inside the wing. V1 experienced multiple crashes which shattered all the solar cells, until [Daniel] discovered that the wing flexed under aileron input. It also did not have any form of solar charge control. V2 added a second wing spar to a slightly longer 9.83 ft / 3 m wing, which allowed for more solar cells.

Solar Plane V3 was upgraded to use a single hexagonal spar to save weight while still keeping stiff, and the solar cells were more durable and efficient. [Daniel] did a lot of testing to find an optimal solar charging set-up and found that using the solar array to charge the batteries directly in a well-balanced system actually works equally well or better than an MPPT charge controller.

V4 is a departure from the complicated carbon fibre design, and uses a simple foam board flying wing with a stepped KF airfoil instead. The craft is much smaller with only a 6 ft / 1.83 m wingspan. It performed exceptionally well, keeping the battery fully charged during the entire flight, which unfortunately ended in a crash after adjusting the autopilot. [Daniel] suspects the main reasons for the improved performance are higher quality solar panels and the fact that there is no longer film covering the cells.

We look forward to seeing where this project goes! Check out Solar Plane V4 after the break.

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