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Posted by on Feb 17, 2013 in Blog, Video

AC1 v3.6 reclaims the skies…

Summon the repair crews!

Oh, that’s me. Right – spent Saturday lovingly restoring my craft to its former glory. Just 2 new arms and a carbon fibre prop to replace initially. Did that, and connected to the computer to check settings, motor and prop direction, and to realign the gimbal, which had been knocked off whack by the impact.

Got that done, but having removed all the props to test motors safely, I noticed ESC 4 was getting substantially hotter than all the others after a 2 minute unloaded 50% motor test. I looked closely at it and saw a massive dent in its underside (yet more previously unnoticed crash damage) which can’t have been helping, so out it went, and in went my spare.

Hurrah for Power Distribution Looms, as mine made this a quick and painless plug and play sort of process rather than having to resort to the soldering kit.

Can we fix it ? Yes we can.

OK, so up to my ground zero test field, where there are no people, or  idiot dogs to fall on, and only Aerocat watching, who is both extensively trained in safely observing my flights, and clever enough to get the hell out of the way of things moving in her direction at speed.

Film school

(That’s cleverer than it looks, think about it)

Sorry for everyone who hates it, but I’m filming everything in ultra wide angle today so I can see if my gimbal is still doing what it’s supposed to after the crash. But at least you don’t have to put up with de-shake – all these clips are straight off the camera with a bit of levels and occasionally a bit of speedy-upness.

What I’m not doing is the sort of genteel sail-plane style flying I usually do when I’m trying to film stuff – nope – I am very much ragging it round a field and earning the temporary title of ‘Mr 100%’ as I test my systems under extreme conditions. And despite the sun, conditions are extreme – we have a good solid 10 mph wind on the ground, and and soon as we get above 300 ft, then all hell breaks loose, and it’s gusting up to 50 mph and shaking me about like nobody’s business. I thought the Naza wasn’t going to cope at one point, so extreme was the angle it was having to hold against the wind, but it held on fine and even managed a flawless RTH against the wind, even though it took it 3 mins to do it and (drained my battery to 3.5V per cel).  That’ll be because we are on the top of the South Downs. It’s almost never not windy here, but it doesn’t matter, because we have empty space by the hangar-full and not much to collide with…

It's AC1, back for another round of the game...

It’s AC1, back for another round of the game…

Session 1 – Private Ground Zero Test Field

Test Flight 1

4000 mAH battery, Voltage Protection Off.

First test prop and motor direction is correct. Then, (shades on in case it all goes horribly wrong) just a take-off, short hover, test basic movement, small climb, small drop and land.

This took 3 mins to drain the LiPo to 3.7V per cel, which is what I’d expect. No red flashy lights whatsoever. No problems like craft falling from sky, or anything approximating what it did just before it crashed last time. The craft did exactly what I input from start to finish.

Test Flight 2

5000 mAH battery, VP Off.

Take off, hover test, then fast climb and rotate, drop, test movement, then up to 60 ft for a normal fly-round, with some sharp climbs and a lot of forward motion and wind battling. Then back down to ground level so I can see what the voltage is doing, and thanks to the massive wind, and all that thrust, we’re down to 3.74 volts per cel after 3 and a half minutes.

Had that been just gentle manoeuvring in calm conditions, then I’d have got perhaps 4.30 – again – what I expect. It seems my batteries may not be spannered after all.

Most importantly, there were no flashing red lights or double throttle jumps, and in fact I have to say the whole throttle response of the craft is completely different – so much smoother and easier to control. It seems that I had got so used to piloting it with the random throttle jumps I had forgotten what the throttle curve was meant to feel like – and it’s a joy to have it back.

I write this before the next round of test flights in the vast empty space that is the fields around Ditcham Park School. I am also aware that last time I swapped out ESC 5 I thought that had solved it, and it transparently hadn’t, as 3 later flights revealed. But this time, with the dented, overheating ESC 4 swapped out, the whole feel of the craft is about 150% better than it was before the crash. We’ll see how long that lasts, and how temporary the feeling of ‘Win’ will be :) No video of that – was all very unexciting.

Session 2 – Ditcham Park, W. Sussex

Test Flights 1 & 2

Just checking my remaining batteries for flight time using the onboard voltage reader (now that we’re not using the Naza’s Voltage Protection), so that I have guide times for 5800 and 8000 mAH packs. These required ‘normal flying’ so that’s what I did, and it seems that I can get around 5 -6 mins out of one of the 5800’s, just 4 mins out of the other one (bought at same time), and 5 straight on the 8000, with some fairly assertive flying in fairly assertive wind.

Test flights 3 – 8

Well, now I know it’s safe, it’s time to try some fun stuff – some proper balls-out flying, and for this we need a particular type of fly-site – basically one with no people, dogs or major hazards, and a vast amount of open space. And this is why we’re at Ditcham Park, or rather the fields adjacent to the school therein. Owner Tim Wolfe has kindly given his permission for me to over-fly his fields, and we’re safe distances from pretty much anything (some trees to watch out for, but that’s all)…

So, we’re testing speed, height, moves, climbs, drops, and spins. Oh, and Return to Home, all of which were performed admirably by my newly rebuilt craft, with not a single hint of the double throttle thing, and surprisingly clear video with no jello at all, and that is a surprise, given how much flying directly into the wind was going on.

Tooled up to the max

I had the services of Captain McT at my disposal today (cheers for that), and he valiantly agreed to take on the slightly brave role never willingly occupied by Special Assistant M (who would much rather be on spotting duty), of ‘ground action camera man’, which involves mainly firing my hex directly at him and then up over his head whilst he keeps the hex in frame in hopefully a smooth tracking shot as it goes past.  And he does keep it very nicely framed, I have to say…

This sort of flying is not for everyone, and I wouldn’t get caught recommending it, but Officer McT is very much a ‘Competent Observer’, has been on enough flights with me to know how I fly, what my piloting capabilities are, and he trusts me and the hex enough to stand with a camera where perhaps I wouldn’t let anyone else. He knows it’s coming, and is ready to move out of its way.

Anyway, so he was there doing that on my Flip-cam, and I grabbed some stills with my D3100, and of course we’re filming from the GoPro2 as usual..

Barbed wire can be quite pleasing if you don't have to climb over it.  Same with the sun.

Barbed wire can be quite pleasing if you don’t have to climb over it. Same with the sun.

Sonic Boom

Yep, I feel like a change from my classical filmy norm, music-wise. As we are mainly thrashing it round a field, let’s get some guitars out, and this time we’ll view the beautiful countryside to some high quality riffage and thunderous drum production from In flames / Pendulum,  and a bit of Trevor morris at the beginning there…

JW, looking all pretentious in black and white.

When you gotta go, you gotta go… only joking.

Is that a school ? Yes it is, and quite an attractive one as schools go...

Is that a school ? Yes it is, and quite an attractive one as schools go…

I promise the sky was exactly like that.

I promise the sky was exactly like that.

Mr Wolfe has done a proper job on that field down there. How does he get the lines so straight ?

Mr Wolfe has done a proper job on that field down there. How does he get the lines so straight ?

The curvature of the earth... Hardly. That's a GoPro in Wide angle.

The curvature of the earth…
Hardly. That’s a GoPro in Wide angle.

The school, from a bit closer, but not close enough that they have to get worried about privacy.

The school, from a bit closer, but not close enough that they have to get worried about privacy.

A bag full of Win

It’s been a very good day today. It seems all my flying technical problems have gone away ! Long may that continue…

More from me, sooner than is practical.