Quadcopters, drones, and other RC fun

Anyone else been bitten by the quadcopter bug?

My wife got me a DJI Phantom for my birthday last year. Had a ton of fun of with it with a GoPro strapped to the bottom. When the Phantom 3 was announced last month, I couldn’t resist. I really wanted first-person view and the stability of a gimbal.

Got mine last week but haven’t flown much yet as I’m still awaiting the iOS app. But did a couple of test flights with a cheap Android phone. This was my third flight… Wasn’t planning on posting the video, but I was absolutely blown away at the stability of the footage:


Most of the small jerkiness is me getting the hang of the controls…

That’s pretty freaking cool. I expect the neighbors would complain if I got my hands on something like this. “First person” means you’re getting the bird’s eye view as it’s in flight?

Right. You connect a phone or tablet to the remote and you get a live view (along with altitude, etc. readouts) of what the camera sees.

That is really, really cool!

Also, those are some seriously manicured lawns and shrubberies. Dang.

Holy shit Denny, that’s amazing. I’m suffering serious drone envy - I want to use these for croc work, but they’re just too expensive to justify right now.

This is … fantastic, of course… but a new perspective. The world you know trough your eyes, but again completely different.

Awesome, I love RC. I’m tempted by drones, but the route I’ve gone is called discuss launch gliders or DLG. I love, love it. Please indulge me for a bit…

I started with powered planes, joined the local RC club, even scratch-built a few. I personally find airplanes more elegant than helis; proof can be found by turning off the motor at altitude :). My club has a runway and setting up an approach and nailing a soft landing is very, very satisfying, as is my 90mph performance plane, a T-28 Trojan.

I learned about gliders and then DLG on the forums and finally pulled the trigger a year or so ago. The model I hace is cal Neo, a carbon deal. DLGs need to be very strong in certain directions for launching, so it’s only been with affordable carbon-fiber that the hobby has taken off. No motor, you launch the plane the way a discus launcher throws a disc. I can throw it to 140 feet pretty consistently, the guys in competitions, with moulded planes, can get into the 160s, even 180 for a few.

Once in the air you control it just like any other glider: ailerons, elevator, and rudder. They fly amazingly well. The performance of the wing in air is unique, as the Reynolds numbers and flight envelope (low speed gliding) don’t exist elsewhere in aviation. Except perhaps hawks circling in a field…

Usually your objective is to keep it up as long as you can, though sometimes you do loops for fun. You fly gently and learn to read the air, looking for the slightest signs of lift, like a twitch in the wing or a nose-up. When you find it, you circle back and try to find it again, every foot of lift keeps you in the air that much longer. You circle using the rudder, careful not to drop your wing too much, the turn itself comes with a penalty. You might actually counteract your turn with your ailerons, unless you’re in a hurry to get back, it all depends. You set up your plane with flight modes: launch, speed, cruise, lift. You use flaps to slow it down so you can hand-catch. The lift… sometimes it can be hard to find, you might see a bird gliding over the trees and head over there. Sometimes the hawk won’t like you there and try to scare you away. You might think our glider can’t fly as well as a hawk… but you’d be surprised. Others have reported that after visiting the same field enough times, the hawks realize that you know where the thermals are just as well as them. They’ll join you and get in sync, around and around. The best lift is on those days with intense sun and scattered clouds, light breeze. At one point I found lift so strong that my plane was sucked up into the sky… I had a panic moment as I couldn’t bring it down, thought I might lose it in the clouds. When I got it back, thankfully, I checked my altimeter and it had reached almost 500 feet. Braver pilots let it go higher. I’ve flown for four hours on a single AA sized battery and could have gone longer.

I won’t get bored of just throwing and gliding, but there’s a whole competition angle to DLG as well. Events basically combine the skill of staying up with the skill of controlled descents, bringing it back to hand, and launching again. Timed events such as Poker, you announce your target time, and if you reach it or exceed it you get the points and launch again, within an overall time limit. I’ve practiced but haven’t gotten into competitions yet.

Couple videos:


Awesome, a 2k drone is beyond my price range (but would be damn epic for filming club cricket games!).

What’s the entry point to fool around in the DLG space? Is the entry point worth it, or better to stretch a little?

I’ve been an RC fanatic for years. I just bought my 5th Traxxas vehicle and got my kiddo into it. I have had 3 quadcopters but cheaper ones. The best one so far is the Traxxas Alias…$150 for a decent sized copter that lets you fly it in beginner mode and then add more advance maneuvers…very fun and very durable…it’s a good starter QC if anyone wants to get into the hobby to see if they like it…$150…towerhobbies

Good question. You have full-size (1.6m wingspan) or mini (1m or smaller). To really enjoy the thermalling aspect you need full-size, and a cheap full-size will be better than an expensive mini. But, a mini can be great fun too, better for smaller parks, fits in the trunk etc. Hobbyking has a full-size for $180, you need electronics, say $80, and a transmitter, a decent one will be $200-$400. There are used ones on the forums too, so you can avoid building it which can be a hobby on its own.

The very bottom end, well E-flite is about to come out with a small park flyer called the Whip-it!, for $80. I’ll probably get one for fun but it’s more toy-grade than my Neo which is closer to competition grade.

great, now I have to buy one of these.

Is that this model? About $1,000? On second thought, if it is, don’t tell me. I’m better off not being tempted. Tell me it costs $10,000.

Yeah, I have the same question…
I’m pretty sure it’s either the professional, or the advanced.

It seems, from looking at the specs on the site, that the only difference between the two models is the camera? A 4k camera vs. a 1080p camera. Is this correct?

The advanced one saves around $250, and I don’t really have a need for a 4k video feed (vs. a 1080p one), so if that’s the only difference I’d probably go with the advanced one… And at $999, that’s really not too shabby.

I just did off-road racing - I was about midway between the Losi and Associated home tracks here in SoCal. Lots of fun, but time consuming and you just have to get that new, hot part for your car (aka expensive).

Oh Jesus Christ, no. There’s a track in Santa Clarita. With a video on YouTube of cars racing taken from a drone! Nooooooooo!

Buddy, I didn’t even notice.
I was looking at all the scenery.
And the nude woman I spotted.

Ha ha, I was think once these things drop enough in price, the teenage boys will hovering their drones outside the windows of the teenage girls.

When I was a teenager, I dreamed of having something like this for exactly that purpose. Fortunately (I’m pretty sure it’s fortunate, since I’m likely to have gotten caught), that was the 1970’s, and I did not have access to any of the parts at any price to fulfill that dream, or I’d have attempted to build one. Also, the X-Ray Specs in the back pages of comic books were always tempting to try, but something told me it was too good to be true, so I never even ordered a pair.

Even more fortunately, a scant few years later, I came to the realization that actual touch was much better than merely viewing, although much more complex in achievement.

Mine is the Phantom 3 Pro, but the the Advanced is the same copter, just a 1080P camera instead of 4K, slower battery charger, and the SDK support is going to lag a bit for the Advanced. So sorry, it’s $999 to $1,259. :) (Plus a ridiculous $149 for a second battery… And a carrying case…)

Yep, as mentioned above, the camera’s the main difference. The battery charger is a bit slower (1.6 hour instead of 1 hour, but you can buy the Pro charger for $60) and the SDK support for third-party apps is coming to the Professional first.

Have you ever heard one of these? Perhaps if they have a hot hearing-impaired teenage girl neighbor…

I think this puts the spying paranoia in perspective well:

Yeah, but are the binoculars 4K?

lol, is that McFly?

Anyway, how portable is the thing? In one of the videos, it seemed to show some dude with it in his backpack, or harnessed to it or something. Is that actually feasible?

Cause that’d be extremely useful, if I could easily strap it to my back/backpack while riding somewhere on my bike.