Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Micro Helicopters, the good ones.

Over the last two years, I've amassed quite a collection of 4 channel fixed pitch micro helicopters.

The first one was the Novus FP. In the photo it's on the right. I ended up with it because it was frighteningly cheap. Something like $80 with radio. It's not very easy to fly.

The Novus is darned near aerobatic. It's fast. It's twitchy. It wants to go FAST. And all of that makes it a really challenging heli to fly.

The next one was the Blade MCx. (it's the yellow helicopter) One of my former coworkers ended up buying one as a follow up to the Syma s107's I had been flying around the office. I figured if it was 4 channel, and he was flying it.. I'd get a kick out of it, and it would be easy to fly. It was! And it's transmitter was the gateway drug to my T-28, and Sukhoi.

The MCx isn't a very fast flyer. But it's amazingly stable. I kinda wish it were a bit faster. The Heli can be flown hands off most of the time. And if you're ever in trouble, just let go of the direction controls and it will sort itself out.

Most recently, I was wandering through a local hobby shop. And I saw a Blade MSR hanging from the ceiling. (it's the helicopter in the middle) Through some negotiation I got it, the red and blue bodies, a complete set of flight spares, two batteries, and the charger for $50.

To say the least I was happy. $50 is almost worth it just for the battery charger. The BNF MSR comes with a 4 port charger, and AC adapter.

The helicopter is not bad. The heli is quite stable. Nearly MCx stable. But the other side is that it's not very fast. Without doing some pendulum work to get the helicopter to tip over, the thing is very slow going forward and back. Slipping left and right is quite snappy though.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Building two Nano DLGs - Smashy and Traffic cone.

I know I have introduced this before, but here's the link to the plans.


I've ended up building two of them. They take me roughly three evenings each to build.

Here's the highlights:
I hacked in a power plug so I could power the radio off a 120mah LiPo cell. That reciever is 2.6 grams without the case!

All wired up and ready to go. Looks impressive. Sadly it's got a weight problem. Which leads to it's name. "Smashy"

What a porker. It is supposed to weigh 50g. I didn't pay to much attention to the airfoil shape, or the thickness of paint. I also found out, much to my dismay, that my "4g" servos actually weighed something like 9 grams each!

That's the beauty shot. It's the last time it looked that good. On it's first flight at the park I found I didn't have enough elevator control. The plane made a bee line for the ground and turned itself into a few more peices than it took off in.

You'll notice the lack of carbon reinforcements. There was no carbon tow available anywhere local. I placed an order, but still decided to fly the plane.

Well, lesson learned. Time to make the followup plane. We'll call it traffic cone.
This is a trick I learned long ago. if you want to make accurate parts, glue your plan to the wood.

The bits come out better than die cut. And without laser burn marks. For a plane with all of thirteen parts, this isn't a big deal. I'll go laser on any plane that has lots of parts. :-)

I did the fuselage parts the same way.

It's not perfect, but it's really close. And the trailing edges match when it's stood up. That's good enough for me.

Not bad looking? Almost looks kit like. This is before I sanded the wings.

That's bordering on svelte. The wings, before sanding, weigh 22 grams!

Carbon fiber is so sexy. Especially the unidirectional tow. This stuff is seriously overkill for the project. It was $15 for 50 yards.

I think it looks good. As you'll see, I'm probally going a bit heavy with it. But in my half a dozen flights with Crashy I broke the rudder off four times.

Here the wings are marked for the back half of the airfoil. But I need something to sand them on that's going to provide me with a decent grip on the wing.

My solution was to glue some stops onto a piece of cardboard. This I taped to the counter top so the wing wouldn't move on me while I was sanding it.

Sanding the leading edge took a different technique. The plans come with angle blocks, so I glued the angle block to my sanding block.. and went to town on the wings.

It really went pretty quick. I was using 100 grit paper.

And then I stopped taking pictures.

The rest wasn't very interesting. This is before I cut out the ailerons. The carbon makes the plane really really stiff.

Watson insisted on helping. He sat there and played foreman for fifteen minutes.

I ordered lighter radio gear. I hope to get it in the mail soon, so I can fly this thing at the proper weight.

Speaking of weight. As it stands the plane weighs 43 grams. The battery is 3 grams, and the radio is 3.6 grams.

The next update will be after the plane has flown.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

One night's progress on a DLG

So I came home, and started building.  Sadly the plane is going to be about 10g over weight.  I have the proper servos in the mail, and I expect that if carefully built, the plane could be built for 40 g instead of 50g.

Weights - What things weigh.

Orange RX - 9.8 grams
Orange RX No case - 3.8 grams
420 mah 15c LiPo cell - 11.7 grams

Servo TG9e - 9.9 grams

Time to ditch the affordaplane.... and design from scratch.

The more I look at the Affordaplane the more i'm upset with it.

First off, allow me to share a resource I've built for it:  http://theaffordaplaneresource.blogspot.com/

I've been collecting data for the airplane for a month now.  And I'm less and less happy with it.  I'm finding that the frame is weak, and heavy.  The plane more or less flies on horsepower versus finesse.  The plane builds up well outside of the part 103 rules, so I'd need to register it with the FAA and do all the experimental plane approval fun-ness I was hopping to avoid. 

To make a plane I'd be happy with out of an affordaplane, I'd need to completely remake the fuselage.  And landing gear.  I could make it come in under part 103 rules.  But at that point, I've essentially designed my own airplane.

OH... Well there's an idea.

Funny that. 

Now I'm developing something of an obsession over the Davis DA-2.  And... that means a pilots license.  I'm taking a discovery flight this weekend.  So we'll see how that goes.

Pretty isn't it?  120mph on 65hp.  And a solid 510lb useful load.

New parts from china: lets build a Nano DLG

 The new project is a Nano DLG. Here's what I have for radio gear.  A spectrum reciever, and some 4gram servos.  I need to decide if I am going to use that 420mah cell, and have it a powered glider as well, or stick with some 100mah cell. 

Here's the assembly video.. yes, the music is annoyingly christ heavy.  Nano DLG, build video

And here's a flight video:  Nano DLG flight video

I hope to have this built next week.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Going flying, for real.

So, I'm breaking down. For years I've dreamed of flying. And I am going to make it reality.

Back in high school a friend and I were going to build a set of hummelbirds.

Hummel Aviation

The problem then, was the Light Sport Aircraft license wasn't around, so there were a few hurdles to overcome. Well, as usual, plans are plans, and they sometimes pop and go away.

After doing some research, I happened upon the Affordaplane. The design seemed sane, and seemed like it would be easily under part 103 ultralight weight. I ordered the plans, joined the mailing lists, and started doing lots of math.

Cutting to the chase, I found the mailing lists to be caustic. The plane (even the prototype) builds up overweight. And.. well.. to make it work, it's going to take a lot of work. So, due to the condition of the community, I decided I needed to step up and collect information. I started a new blog. The Affordaplane Resource

I am building an ultralight. It will likely have it's base in the affordaplane. But it isn't going to closely follow the plan.

The next step is to take some flying lessons.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Two months on with a Parkzone Ultra Micro T-28

Flying is fun. Lots of fun. Enough fun that I'm willing to risk my airframe just to fly some more. My little T-28 isn't a very fast plane. And is much less fast when dragging landing gear around with itself.

I usually chose to fly without landing gear, but due to one late evening exercise in stupidity, I no longer have that option. I decided I'd try to fly under the parking lot lights at a local business park. It was quite a bit of fun, but one landing ended up contacting a curb, which ripped off the starboard landing gear. While gluing it back on, I managed to glue the landing gear into the mount.

I've managed to not get any pictures of my plane, really, at all. So while playing with the laser cutter at the pumpingstation I took a shot or two of it.

So this is after "well I've got nothing left to lose" repairs. The plane had started flying like it was carrying 30lbs extra in the air. And i figured it was all my glue and tape repairs. Buying a new airframe seemed sensable, so i did that.

I now have two T-28's. the one that didn't fly right, I decided I was going to dissect and put into a new airframe. Something custom, something more aerobatic. But while looking to take the plane apart, I found that the control horns weren't actually controlling the rudder or elevator.

It's amazing what a little foam safe CA and cardboard will do for control authority.

I still wanted to make a new airframe. .... And because it has a picture of my latest little model aircraft tool, I'm going to give you a preview of what I'm building.

Yes, that was cut on the laser cutter. It's a clone of the Ace Littlest Stick.

Left center you'll see a bunch of E-flite batteries. I have put Velcro on the back of a laminated business card so I can keep track of my cells easily. I hate losing $5 batteries at the turn of my head.

I think we're getting near time to review the T-28. I've put 20-30 batteries through it, so I think we're deep enough that we can say I know the plane well.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Oooh, Look, new bike.

A 1979 GS425 has entered my garage. it was a good price, and fairly close.

And here's my art shot, with the GS650 in the background.

It's really nice. The bike is complete, and works perfectly. It starts with a half hearted kick at the starter. And it's really, really light.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Drinking the ParkZone Kool-Aid

It's been a bad weekend for my wallet. But a good weekend for hobbico. A buddy of mine picked up a MCX Helicopter last week. He bought it because his syma S-107 bit the dust.

$80 later he's flying his 4 channel heli around the office. Lucky guy.

I hear his review, and decide I should do the same thing. I bought one on sunday. .... I'm an idiot for not buying one sooner. I'll post a full review later.

Monday rolls around, and while riding my bike after lunch, I stop by my local hobbytown. I'm wandering around, and I noticed that the transmitters for the Ultra Micro series planes, and my MCX are the same.

So later that evening, I'm flying my brand spanking new T-28 around the local park. 17mph winds and all. Turns out I can fly a 4ch airplane.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

MotoGP, and XR1200's

I went to the Indianapolis MotoGP event last weekend. In doing so I racked up 1000 miles on the motorcycle, and saw some great racing.

The trip was not entirely uneventful, so I will share those stories in the future. Pictures will follow.

Yes that's a harley. Yes the bars are nearly in the grass. No it's not falling.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New tool time. An O-silly-scope. - A DSO Nano v1.5

I've got piles of voltmeters. Most of them are hilariously cheap, but when an accuracy of .1v is enough, the $3 voltmeter from harbor freight will do the job.

Voltmeters are grand, but they are very poor at showing you charge and discharge curves, and tell you absolutely jack about waveforms. That's where an oscilloscope comes in to play.

I have been lusting over the pocket oscilloscopes for a long time. And slowly the price has been coming down to the "why the heck not" level. About two weeks ago I decided that a DSO Nano had to be mine. $66 later, and four days of waiting, and it was.

Well there we go. You also get a little felt bag and a USB cable. But those are the big things you get in the package. No documentation at all!

They claim that it will accept 80v peak to peak. And that it has a 12bit DAC. Also they claim that it's got 1Msps.

I figure that means I can reliably look at 100khz signals.

On the subject of signals, it has this nice little test point on it. The test point is adjustable from 500hz to 2000hz.

Here's the DSO checking out it's own test signal. You can see it overshoot and the discharge curve. I wonder where that tail is coming from...

Now I wanted to try it with a really fun. The only thing I could think of that I had that would output a nice signal was my arduino. I loaded up the servo sweep sketch, and checked it out.

The servo signal is a pulse, every 20ms, that's between 1 and 2ms wide. I made a video of it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlIW7AvBg0Q

I posted on the EEvblog forum, asking for ideas of how to test, and exercise it. http://www.eevblog.com/forum/index.php?topic=4546.0

So it looks like I am going to make a joule theif.

Monday, August 22, 2011

How do you accidentally visit a motorcycle museum?

Well, that's a simple question to answer. When the museum is also a motorcycle shop. The place is the wisconsin motorcycle museum.

Here's a few pictures, since I was surprised, I didn't have my real camera with me. Excuse the quality.

Great, I get to start off with a bike I can't identify. I promise to get details on my next visit.

A Maico 490. There were two of them!

A custom framed and bodied Guzzi. I've never heard of this guy before, but there were several in the shop. A Magni Sfida 1000 4v

The other Maico

A Honda Dream 50

Another Magni.

A Bimota Tesi 3d

An I don't know what the heck it is, but the air intake is your crotch... :-)

And a shot of a bunch of bimotas, specifically a Tesi 2d.

I will be going back, with a flash, and a real camera.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Training Ride 8/16

24.6 miles. 15.2mph average. Not to shabby for a training ride. Especially when my last one was like .. 12mph.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Lights, and lighting.

I have always liked flashlights. When I was a kid I'd wire up extra batteries, and see how bright I could make a bulb. I also had a small collection of maglites, mostly the 3D size stuff. Given the time, and technology, it was about the best one could do without actually carrying a billy club.

Riding bicycles at night requires headlights. Simple? eh?

Well, not so simple. Bicycle headlights are expensive. Very expensive. And i'm a cheap bastard. Also, the cheaper lights tend to be incandescent. Which means 90% of the power will be radiated as heat. That's just not ok in my eyes.

The first headlight I bought, came with the taillight I have on my LT1000. It was (and still is..) a EL120 from Cateye. It's really not safe at any speed more than six or seven mph in the dark. Soon that was followed by a EL210. Which had 5 LEDs. And that actually is a useful light.

I did some research, and found the cheapest (electrically) way to make light is to use LED's. And the cheapest way to make power to drive the leds is with a switch mode power supply. (SMPS) I ended up buying the cheapest per-lumen leds I could find. I ended up building a national semiconductor simple switcher based circuit to drive them.

I was so proud when that little breadboard test worked.

The whole schebang was wired up on some perfboard, and made to work. But I made lots of mistakes, and I couldn't come up with a satisfactory mounting method. In the end I had 60 led's on perfboard with a PSU, and a grid of resistors to make them not burn out. Pretty terrible really.

Soon I learned of dealextreme. And I ended up buying some flashlights through them. the first ones were some AA "lock blocks."powereed lights. And I would attach those to the bike using something called

The choice of AA's was in a large part due to my desire to use normal batteries in the flashlights. And I had a decent stockpile of NiMh batteries to throw in them. The flashlights I bought were claimed to be "3w." Later, when I got my new flashlights, I found that they were only actually drawing 1.2watts.

They were just fine, and so long as I had two of the flashlights going, I was feeling pretty safe riding up to 15mph or so. But as I got faster, 15mph didn't cut it. So I started searching.

I think the big thing that made me buy into the 18650 size flashlights was the fact that I had a laptop battery with a dead controller board in it. The cells were all just fine, so I knew I could scavenge them. Around that time I was also just starting to get "ok" with LiIon cells. (I still distrust them on a certain level. I don't like cells that can catch fire.)

I took the plunge and bought a set of WF-502B based lights from Dealextreme. They claimed to be 250lm. These were the brightest things I've ever had my hands on. They were supposed to be a little more than twice as bright, but these things leave streaks across your vision if you look at the spot of light when shone at a desk! The kicker, is that they actually draw 4.2 watts!

Where I needed both lights going to feel comfortable with the older AA powered flashlights, just one of these 4.2 watt flashlights leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy while riding at night. Even up to 20mph or more.

This little setup has served me well for the last two years. Lots of light, and lots of battery life. A 2500mah 18650 LiIon cell lasts a little more than two hours.

Monday, August 1, 2011


Tonight I put new pedals on my folding bike.

I'm going to try to take it to work on the train tomorrow. In theory metra allows you to take a folding bike on the train at any time. However.. this bike doesn't fold that small.

It's all farkled out now. I have a computer and lights on it.

I should have bought this instead: http://www.foldingbikeoutlet.com/shop/citta-16-folding-bike-apex.html

Then again, it wouldn't have been $75.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Loving the bikes...

Today I went for a ride. Oncall was being a pain, so it was short. I decided my goal was to go get a good shot of my bicycle.

The other night I did my little 5.5 mile timed loop with a 19mph average. That's nearly my velodrome speeds!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bicycles, a lot of them.

A few years ago, while recovering from a broken arm, I had a rather disturbing realization. At the time I was staying at my dad's house, and just the act of going up the half flight of stairs to get to the front door left me winded.

Something, had, to be done.

I bought myself a bicycle. A Dawes LT1000.

I'll go more into the story of where that lead, but since we're talking the machines. I'll stick to the machines.

Building the Dawes was only somewhat satisfying, as I didn't get to really build it. I decided I wanted a lighter bike, as usual that caused me to scour ebay. From a pile of parts, I created this:
A Nerobro special, 2006 Fetish Penna, built from ebay parts. It's 17.25lbs. And I think I built it for $900.

That wasn't enough though. I'd heard all about "steel is real" and "steel rides better". The internet convinced me. I needed a steel bike. I went and bought a lightly broken Univega Viva Sport. I replaced the RD, a set of new cables, and tires on it.
I did such a good job that my sister took it. I really wanted downtube shifters anyway.

So I bought a replacement. A 1991 Univega Viva Sport.
She didn't take that one from me.

Three years ago I took up riding track. After riding a complete season on rental bikes, I decided I had earned a bike of my own. I bought a Dawes SST-AL.

After a year at the track, I still had my race license. I did some research, and found my road/track license also qualifies me for cyclocross racing. I broke out my 1996 Iron Horse MT200, and threw some parts on it to make it lighter and fit me better.

I really wanted to have a bike to carry on the train, so I could chose to not ride the bus to work. I bought a Razor Squeeze.
Amazingly, I've never actually taken it on the train. And I've owned it for most of a year now. There will be some blog posts on it later as I modify it to be more suitable to taking it on the Metra.

I wanted to try building a bike that's lighter than my penna. My original goal was 15lbs for $500. It looks like I won't make that goal. But I can definitely get under 15lbs. The frame I bought was a 1992 Trek 2100. Here it is in "lets just get it rolling" form.

Most recently up a Mercier Nano. I did a bit of a review of it earlier in the week, but just in case...
And in the process I ended up with my third DT shifting bike.

So that's my current stable. There's another half dozen bikes that have been sold, flipped, or otherwise have left me. If there's a bike in particular you want a write up on... comment or e-mail.