A practical approach to RC planes

To find where you are you must start at the beginning

My first plane the Multiplex Easystar – The Plateau in Philadelphia, PA

With the start of our new blog I thought I’d take a moment and share how I got started in RC flight.

I had been using micro-controllers for all kinds of DIY projects. A micro-controller is a small computer on a single integrated circuit containing a processor core, memory, and programmable input/output peripherals. I built simple things like LED controllers on up to complex temperature controlled/email/SMS enabled backup server room HVAC units. When I heard about the arduino micro-controller based Ardupilot from DIY Drones I was hooked. ( This mashup of technology, computers, and flight struck a cord with me. At the heart the Ardupilot is set of 3 axis gyros, GPS, and micro-controller (tiny computer brain) that sits between your receiver and your plane. This inline configuration allows for autonomous preconfigured or guided flight.

While the full scope of the Ardupilot is to turn any RC plane into a fully autonomous drone, there is another use that can be applied. RC training wheels.  The Aurdupilot’s strength is in it’s sensors and auto flight correction. Often new comers to RC flight have a steep learning curve and often a bunch of early costly mistakes. A majority of the risk can be reduced with a flight stabilization system and the Ardupilot fits this bill amazingly.  My first plane was the Multiplex Easystar equipped with an Ardupilot. Very modest beginnings indeed. At first I flew with the stabilization turn up high and always on. With the Ardupilot limiting the role/climb/dive rates and maximum roll angle it was very hard to get out of shape. And if you did just letting go of the sticks tells the Autopilot to level the plane and cruse straight. The Ardupilot also has a return to launch feature where if the radio signal is dropped the plane will return home and circle overhead.

ardupilot ver. 1.0 and  ver.2.5

ardupilot ver. 1.0 and ver.2.0

Over time my training wheels helped me to build confidence. Slowly I started turning on stabilization off for increasing intervals. Then only using it to take off and land. And after my confidence I rarely used it. Keeping it on the plane always gave me the option to quickly switch it on if I got out of shape. When I stepped up to my first four channel plane the Ardupilot came too.

Now days I am a fairly confident pilot. I rarely use the Ardupilot even with new planes. I still keep one on our camera plane. The stability and guided flight can really help capture arial video and photos.

In future posts we’ll review more of the Ardupilot features and a number of the side projects that have spun off this amazing piece of hardware. As well as some personal homegrown DIY Arduino based projects (can we say RC laser tag system).

So in retrospect I have to give a shout out to DIY Drones for a great and ever improving product. It was the catalyst that got me started in RC flight. THANKS!


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