Miniquads are fun, right? After all, there is a reasons most uf us flies 210-250 quadcopters. If so, small flying wings should be fun too! I tried that already in late 2015 and failed miserably! My design did not survived maiden flight. Well, things like that happens from time to time, so few months ago, after learning few new things, I’ve made a second attempt. And this time I’ve succeeded.
With this short article I would like to initiate new series: Fixed Wing 101 where I will describe some basic concepts connected with fixed wing airplanes that should help beginners to enter the hobby. Today: why airplanes fly and why, from time to time, they fall down from the sky…
Airplanes fly thanks to the lift. It is a force generated by wings (by the way, propeller thrust and wing lift are the same force. After all, propeller is a rotating wing) thanks to pressure difference. When air pressure below the wing is higher than above it, lift appears. To archive level flight, lift has to be big enough to counteract mass and gravity.
The most important condition for a wing to generate lift is: wing has to move though the air (or air has to move around the wing). If there is no movement, there is no lift.
When there is air movement, there are two factors responsible for lift:
Bernoulli’s principle states:
when gas or liquid is moving faster, it has lower pressure.
Simple. To obtain lower pressure above the wing, we have to make air move faster over there. This is why wing has a shape (airfoil) it has: top side (above chord) of a wing is longer than the lower side. Wing splits air into 2 stream. Upper one has longer way to travel than lower one, so it has to move faster. If it moves faster, it has lower pressure. If it has lower pressure, lift appears.
One of the hardware limitations of flight controllers that usually multirotor users ignores is a number of PWM outputs. To fly a quadcopter you need “only” 4 PWM outputs. Since most FCs have 6 outputs and 90% of multirotors are quadcopters, there is no problem.
In case of airplanes, this is not that simple. 6 PWM outputs is an absolute minimum to fly a classic airplane using MultiWii and derivatives (Baseflight, Cleanflight, INAV): 2 outputs reserved for motors, 2 ailerons, elevator, rudded. Suddenly, 6 outputs barely meets the requirements. If you want flaps, gas engine, pan & tilt or anything else, you are missing some outputs.
For some time INAV tries to address this issue by supporting external PWM driver: PCA9685.
One of the best new features of INAV 1.4 was Launch assistant mode (NAV LAUNCH). It greatly simplified the process of hand launching a fixed wing. All you had to do was to throw it into the air. INAV detected the throw, engaged motor(s) and stabilized flight and kept constant climb rate in the initial flight phase. INAV 1.5 will make it even better: it will also allow swing launch!
Since INAV 1.5 should be release in next 2 days, and there is very little info on INAV Launch mode, I’ve decided to create a short video showing how to do it.
Marabou Stork, my Depron FPV airplane had a bad luck. Few weeks ago, when I was testing development version of INAV, it crashed during take off. Poor accelerometer calibration combined with a software bug resulted in heavy roll 2 meters above ground. As a result, whole front section was smashed. Everything else more less survived. Luckily, winter is coming, flying season is more less over. I have few month to rebuild the nose and glue it back into place. With some extra reinforcements.
While Marabou Stork awaits new nose, I still have some footage to show…
Entry level DLG (Discus Launch Glider) from HobbyKing has a quite important flaw for a “entry” level model: it is not durable. As a matter of fact, it is quite fragile, specially where plastic nose section is attached to composite fuselage tube. It is attached only with 3 small screws, and I can guarantee: every harder landing will result with something broken. During 3 first weekends with my Mini DLG Pro, I had to glue it back together every second flying session.
Those 3 screws are just not stron enough to keep everything together, so I’ve decided to fix it with epoxy glue and I suggest all new owners of this DLG do it at the beginning. Thin layer of epoxy put everywhere where plastic meets fuselage tube is enough. It make glider strong like it should be from the beginning.
There is a penalty of course: nose section no longer can be detached. Since HobbyKing does not sell replacement parts for this model, this is not a big problem after all…
Marabou Stork, my Depron/Carbon/3D Printed FPV airplane is officially done. Although it had first flight a week ago, some technical problems postponed full feature trials until yesterday. I would not call it a "huge success", but it was fine.
Here is a video from some FPV flying:
After around 1 hour in the air, here are some conclusions:
- Wing is closing to it's limits. Originally it was designed for an airplane that weights around 500g. Marabou Stork weights 900g. Do not get me wrong, it still flies good, I really love KFm-2 profile on it, but you have to start to remember about things like air speed, specially during turns: too much yaw, not enough speed and bam, you have stall. It's easy to recover, no problems there, but last years model (the same wing, less weight) was free of it
- Neo-6m GPS is, hmm.., crap… I have to update to Ublox Neo-M8 as soon as possible
- INAV is unable to process GPS altitude and barometer altitude simultaneously: altitude jumps up and down like crazy. For now, the only solution is to disable either baro or GPS altitude component from computations. It's simple and I will try to write few words about it next week
- Did not tested fixed wing navigation features of INAV yet. Reasons: two points from above
- Boscam TS-351 200mW 5.8GHz transmitter with crappy clover-leaf antenna behaves much better than expected. I had excellent reception on my Skyzone Sky-01 at 1km and had to return due to RC link RSSI warnings
- I'm disappointed with FrSky X4R range. Looks like 1km is a safe side limit here. RSSI was dropping to 40 and did not wanted to push it further. Probably it's because crappy antennas. They are equipped with simple whips, not dipoles like X8R for example. Next week I will try connecting 2.4GHz dipole to X4R and will give it another try
For the last few week I’ve been little busy building my next fixed wing UAV: “Marabou Stork” Depron/Carbon/3D Printed airplane with pusher prop build for FPV. It’s improved version of “Red Cruiser” model from last year.
It’s equipped with KFm-2 wing, Turnigy D2826-6 2200KV motor, APC-E 7×4″ propeller, 2700mAh Lipo battery, FPV setup with MinimOSD and RunCam PZ0420H camera. And Flip32 running INAV for stabilization and navigation (no GPS yet).
As you can see on a video above, it flies. Even pretty well. It needs some tuning, but have big potential. Unfortunately elevator malfunction grounded it after few minutes in the air.