Okay, my last blog mentioned the over-pressure situation aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch. Today, I experienced my own launch failure: flying my homebrew Nutball RC plane. This was my “new, improved” version, with a swappable fuselage, and 5 degrees of down angle on the motor. Mark Harrison and I decided to get out and give it a try this morning around 8:00AM, before the wind picked up. Sadly, traffic was miserable, and I didn’t make it to the Berkeley Marina until almost 8:30 (averaging a whopping six miles an hour, sometimes I hate the Bay Area).
Once I arrived, we did a quick check, and launched. I should have notice two things: the new Nutball is significantly more tail heavy, and we needed to trim the elevon position down. The net result is that the plane did a quick loop, traveling a distance of about twelve feet, and mashed right back into me, hitting my hand fairly hard. Ouch. Just banged it up, and put a couple of scrapes. It’s then that I learned that real RC enthusiasts keep bandaids in their fly kit. I’ll be getting some for mine soon. Luckily, Mark had some.
But now that my plane had tasted human blood, I felt we couldn’t let that be. We adjusted the balance by taping an additional battery to the front, and had a couple of relatively unstable flights. I augured in pretty hard once, snapping another prop, but the plane held up pretty well. We decided we needed more weight up front, so I put a larger battery as a counterweight, and sent it up for what would be the best flight of the day. With additional weight up front, it flew pretty stably. Even with the exponential programmed into the transmitter, only very small corrections were needed to direct the flight, and it flew well with about 1/3 throttle. I flew it around for a minute or two… when it suddenly did a fast pitch down into a dive. I managed to cut the throttle, and pulled back on the elevators to bring the nose up. Unlike all my other previous attempts at recovering, this worked out rather well: the nose came up, the plane leveled out about 12 feet from the ground, and I set it down softly on its belly. Unlike all previous landings, I didn’t even knock the taped-down counterweight off. I considered another flight, but decided that it would be tempting fate. We’ll try again next week.
At lunch, I had another RC related bit of fun: Mark had bumped into Hao Chen during a previous outing to the Berkeley Marina, and had discovered that Hao had begun working with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. The idea was that he would launch a flying wing equipped with a first-person video setup from a research boat, and fly it around looking for significant oceanic phenomena. At the time Mark met him, he was practicing flying his large flying-wing drone into a capture net as practice before taking it out onto the boat.
It’s very cool!
Here are a couple of his YouTube videos:
Here’s video of the launching operation. It’s also video of what tossing a plane into the water looks like. For some reason, it makes me feel better about my attempts at flying…
All in all, a pretty good RC day…