Mark H. over at Eastbay RC and I finally got together to test out my first attempt at scratch building a radio controlled aircraft: an F-22 inspired “foamie”, which an aircraft constructed entirely from EPP foam, hot glue, a couple of short carbon fiber rods to stiffen, and hot glue. Did I mention the hot glue?
Last Friday, we tried to get out to Cesar Chavez park near the Berkeley Marina and fly, but unlike the great weather early in the week, Friday had strong winds and a bit of rain. Mark got his F-22 up in the air for a couple of flights, but mine suffered a glue failure on one of the control horns, and it did not make it into the sky.
But this Wednesday, we did manage to get some better weather. While overcast, it was nice and still. It should be said at this point that I’ve never flown an RC aircraft before, and for my first construction project, I could have chosen a better plane (although I think it looks cool, and that’s what counts!). Thus, I let Mark and his experience man the controls, hoping that even if the plane was poorly balanced or constructed, he’d be able to get a couple of flights from it before it fell apart and its organs harvested for a future aircraft. I was thus mostly a spectator, and shot some video with my iPhone. Due to poor planning, I didn’t have a lot of space left on the iPhone, so I only got the first part of its maiden flight. We actually sent it up several times, and included a couple of flights where we taped my $8 keychain video camera to the nose. I stitched this video together from both the iPhone footage, as well as the nose cam footage. Not too bad for my very first foray into RC construction.
Mark wasn’t about to let me get away without at least giving a try at flying. He felt (and I agreed) that perhaps my airplane wouldn’t be the best plane to start with. In a fit of generosity, he let me take the controls of his own EzFly, a much more forgiving slow trainer type aircraft. It’s a great little plane, which has a KFM style wing, some dihedral to keep it level, and a nose consisting of three layers of foam for maximum energy absorbing capability. My first flight was good evidence that perhaps this trainer was a good idea. After a relatively smooth takeoff, I cartwheeled it into the ground, causing it some injury. But with some quick repairs (blue masking tape) it was ready to fly again. I did a few more flights, and quickly improved. For my last flight, we taped on the nose camera again, and I sent it into a high soaring flight.
Sadly, the video during the ascent when the motor was under full power exhibited an odd distortion caused by the vibration beating against the rolling shutter of the cheap camera. But when I cut the motor and started coasting down, the video was pretty cool. I have a rough unedited version below, sorry for the 40 seconds of mark setting up his iPhone to record me flying. (Warning: there is audio on this one, be prepared for motor whining!)
Not bad for a first outing. I think that the F-22 will remain until I get a little more experience in flying. Mark’s EzFly impressed me so much, I think I’ll have to construct one of my own (Mark has already muttered about splitting an order of some more sheet foam, I’m in!). We might try to figure out why the vibration on the EzFly seemed so much stronger than the vibration on the F-22. The high soaring flight of the EzFly was really nice, and once I got the hang of being gentle on the rudder and ignoring the elevators entirely (use throttle to go up and down) it was almost relaxing to fly.
If you’ve ever wanted to get into RC, it seems like this kind of construction and all the great online resources have never made it easier (and it doesn’t hurt to have a patient and more experienced friend to help you.) I’m hooked. Expect some future planes and flights (perhaps better documented than this build).
Here are a couple of links:
Addendum: While investigating the vibration issue, I found a number of other vids which demonstrate the effect, although none perhaps as severe as the one I saw. Someone suggested that we might have been running with an unbalanced prop: given that I had mashed this thing into the ground, it’s entirely possible that I bent it up. But during my investigation, I found this extremely nice video of a wing mounted camera on a gorgeous looking P-51. For your viewing pleasure: