As we are putting together a full review of the Blade 200 QX and EFC-721 for the October issue of RC Sport Flyer, I'll let the video speak for itself... Enjoy!
As we are putting together a full review of the Blade 200 QX and EFC-721 for the October issue of RC Sport Flyer, I'll let the video speak for itself... Enjoy!
Following up on the success of our partnership with FlySafe earlier this year in Minneapolis, we're coming back for more – but not to the land of 10,000 lakes. Instead, our rendezvous is set for Sin City – Las Vegas, Nevada – September 26-28, 2014.
To visit the FlySafe website, click on this link.
We really, truly had a great time in Minneapolis, and organizers Charles and Michael are putting together what is going to be a tremendous program this fall. To begin with, the class is going to be taught in an aircraft hangar – how cool is that!?
Actually, it better have air conditioning or it isn't going to be cool at all, but I'm confident that Charles and Michael have our backs. I'm personally enamored of the idea because there is one shot I've always wanted to get on video for our opening sequence, involving a crowd of people with multirotors and an aircraft hangar. Who knows? Maybe this will be my opportunity...
Anyway, my own wish fulfillment aside, we're going to need all of that extra space. They are expecting to have more than 125 people to attend and, in addition, there will be vendors, side rooms for breakout sessions and even more special guests. With all that, the class will follow the same basic structure as it did in Minneapolis, and as you saw in our video.
Topics to be covered include:
So, if you've got a strong heart and a nerve of steel – as well as a burning desire to stand at the forefront of the coming drone revolution – we'll see you in Las Vegas!
First of all, check out this awesome graphic:
Is that the coolest thing you've ever seen? I thought so... Anyway, what might be even cooler is that we've been invited by the North Coast RC Modelers to be the guests of honor at their annual fly-in on August 16, 2014. You can get all of the details from their website.
Tillamook might be most famous across the United States and right around the world for its dairy products. However, it's also been designated as an official drone test site by the Federal Aviation Administration and there is some really cool stuff happening out there.
We're talking experimental-UAS-designed-to-fly-in-the-atmosphere-of-Saturn's-moon-Titan cool, and you have to admit, that's the kind of cool that is easiest to measure in degrees Kelvin. Anyway, this event is aimed at the hobby community, but it should still be a lot of fun!
And, who knows, we may be able to make some contacts while we're out there so we can make a return trip to the coast and check it out!
Getting a bucket of ice water dumped over my head at dusk isn't something I'd volunteer for under normal circumstances – but desperate times call for desperate measures. As you know, Academy of Model Aeronautics is gearing up to fight the ridiculous new rules that the Federal Aviation Administration has proposed for model aviation.
In addition to each of us sending our comments to the FAA, this effort is also going to require money, to hire lawyers and lobbyists – and that's what the Ice Water Challenge is all about.
Basically, here's how it works... When you accept the Ice Water Challenge, you are given a choice: donate $250 to AMA's Government Advocacy Program and stay warm and dry; or, donate just $25 and have somebody dump a bucket of ice water over your head. The best part is that you also get to call out other people to take the Challenge – and they get the same choice and the same opportunity.
Thus, as advertised in the Fabrege shampoo commercial of my youth, the Challenge spreads throughout the community with two happy consequences:
Really, it's the ultimate win-win scenario – and the best part is that everyone can play! We called out the four individuals who you see to the right, which leaves about a quarter of a million people here in the United States who are still waiting to be called out.
So, the way I see it, you can either hide out behind your computer screen and hope that nobody notices you, or you can do what we did: take up the Challenge yourself and start calling out other people.
Finally, Techinstein wanted me to share one detail from this production with you... I suppose everybody who has a bucket of ice water dumped over their heads looks surprised – even if they know it's coming – but if you noticed that we looked a little extra surprised, that's because the guy holding the bucket decided when to dump it, based on whether or not the guy about to get soaked fumbled his line for the video.
I myself got it right on the first try, and I was pretty sure it was coming... Techinstein, however, botched his line on the first go-round and had to continue with building anticipation until I felt confident that we had his dialogue, loud and clear.
Anyway, having endured the Ice Water Challenge ourselves and donated $25 each to the AMA's Government Advocacy Program, we await others to do the same. Specifically, we'll be keeping a close eye on:
It's your turn, gentlemen: we eagerly await your forthcoming videos.
Hopefully by now every person who might find themselves reading this blog is familiar with the Federal Aviation Administration's new proposed Interpretive Rule regarding model aviation. Put very briefly, it would be an unmitigated disaster: banning FPV outright and putting severe new restrictions on the entire hobby.
Just in case you've been living under a rock for the past month, you can read our initial response to the rule by follow this link.
Yesterday morning, we had the opportunity to (virtually) sit down with Rich Hanson, the Government Affairs Director for the Academy of Model Aeronautics and discuss the issue at length. One thing he told us about is a new web page that the AMA has put together, to facilitate effective comments from hobbyists to the FAA.
It's a very effective, streamlined site that will help you compose your thoughts and formulate a meaningful response – and it even provides you with links directly to the public comment website. This should be a big help in shoring up support from the community which, according to some reports, has been lacking to date.
To view the AMA's guide for responding to the FAA's new proposed rule, follow this link.
Something else that Rich told us about was a meeting he had with the FAA's top brass regarding this issue. Because we're now in the midst of the public comment period, the FAA representatives weren't legally permitted to say anything definitive but, according to Rich, it sounds like they did not fully appreciate the implications of their own proposal.
Hopefully, this reaction will presage some willingness on their behalf to re-make the rules in a fashion that is less damaging to the hobby and the potential future of the entire Small Unmanned Aircraft System industry.
One final note – as you watched the video, I'm sure you noticed the cards that popped up with various statements and background information. The editorial content of those graphics is my responsibility alone. I tried to fairly summarize the issues involved for the sake of clarity, but if I said something outrageous or just plain wrong, the fault lies with me and not Rich or the AMA. Just so we're clear.
This Saturday, we'll be back in action over the Willamette River, launching from the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry's north parking lot as part of “Drive Revolution.” The main focus of the outdoor, one-day event is alternative transportation: high-tech bicycles, electric cars and so forth.
As was the case last year, I'm still not sure how home-made drones fit into this picture, but any excuse to spend a day with our friends at OMSI is right fine by us. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and it's FREE! To draw upon a reference that only Portlanders of a certain age will get, “Free is a very good price!”
We'll be setup way in the back to give us a clear shot at the river, so come on out and try on the goggles!
Harsh criticism today for the FAA's slow progress integrating drones into the National Air Space from the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), which is the department responsible for overseeing – wait for it – the FAA.
The DOT Inspector General provided this overview of the situation: “The FAA is making some progress in meeting UAS-related provisions of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. However, the agency is significantly behind schedule in meeting most of them – including the goal of achieving safe integration by September 2015.”
Contrary to popular wisdom, perhaps accountability isn't actually dead in Washington, D.C. – maybe it's just been sleeping.
Anyway, now that the FAA's feet are being held to the fire, maybe they'll stop wasting time with these absurd proposed regulations and finally partner with the Academy of Model Aeronautics and allow them to stand up a safe model aviation and light SUAS program – you know, like they were directed to by Congress.
First, incontrovertible evidence that the Roswell Flight Test Crew is truly a farce to be reckoned with:
It's hard to know where to even begin with the new FAA rules that could soon the law of the land when it comes to model aviation. This reminds me of when Senate Bill 71 got rolling here in Oregon – except that I immediately grasped that threat.
For me, personally, this latest twist in the seemingly unending saga to establish a regulatory framework for civilian drone operations in the United States came with a slow-burning fuse attached. I was busy with other projects and, frankly, I didn't take the time focus on this subject – even as e-mails with subject lines like, “This is Really BAD!” started stacking up in my inbox.
Part of it, I think, was that I could not conceive that such sweeping, draconian regulations could be put into place by the FAA on a whim. (Actually, there is a pretty good legal argument to be made that they can't – but we don't want to be tied up in court for years on this issue, so long as we have better options available to us).
And, make no mistake, these new rules are terrible. They would undermine everything that many of us have been working on for years. Here are some highlights:
...and I'm really just scratching the surface here. There are depths of badness within this proposal that require spelunkers more dauntless than myself to bring into the daylight – and perhaps the most galling thing about this proposal is that the FAA could have simply enacted it without allowing public comment. They have given us until July 25 to provide feedback as a “courtesy.”
Okay, so how do we fight this thing? First, if you haven't already – by Da Vinci's beard! – go join the Academy of Model Aeronautics. They are quarterbacking the resistance and they are doing it on behalf of both traditional aeromodelers and the FPV community.
I know from personally speaking with the president, the executive director and the government affairs director, among others, that they are 100 percent behind us – and it's now time for us to stand 100 percent behind them. They are prepared to file a lawsuit against the FAA if we don't get satisfaction on this issue by other means.
Next, you have to understand that this is going to be a protracted struggle that will be fought in stages. This first stage will be fought within the (somewhat unwieldy) confines of the federal rulemaking public comment process. In this venue, simply venting your spleen is insufficient. Even if one million of us wrote in and said, “This is the stupidest thing I have ever heard of in my whole entire life! Make it go away!” – that would only count as one comment.
What is required here is a little more pick-and-spade work: you have to identify one particular part of the rule that you don't like, and specifically say how you would change it. The federal government actually has their own set of guidelines for meaningful participation in the process, which you can read by following this link.
In addition, Matt Mishak – a fellow member of the AMA's SUAS Advisory Group and an adjunct professor at Lorain County Community College near Cleveland – put together a bullet-point list of advice for the would-be commentator.
I'm reproducing it here, with Matt's kind permission, for your edification:
You can submit your comments online via this website – or go old-school and print them out on paper and mail them to this address:
Docket Operations, M-30
US Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE.
West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140
Washington, DC 20590-0001
Either way, make sure you reference Docket Number FAA-2014-0396 – I'm sure they would gladly take advantage of any excuse to put your comments in the round file at the side of the desk.
It's possible that following the public comment period, the FAA will perceive the wisdom in our collective judgment and yield to our very reasonable requests (yeah, right). If not, we'll move ahead with phase two of our battle plan: going over their heads to our elected representatives in Congress.
After all, the FAA isn't only putting a finger in our eye with this nonsense, they're also clearly going well beyond the bounds Congress gave them in the 2012 re-authorization bill. If there is one thing that I can guarantee that nobody in Congress likes, it's when unelected bureaucrats break the laws that they pass.
Stay tuned to the AMA website for developments regarding this issue, and look for more on this subject from us, as well. This really is the battle of Armageddon for the aeromodeling and FPV communities – we need every single person active and engaged if we're going to prevail.
Losing an aircraft is a miserable feeling that every RC pilot comes to know at some point in their career. It's kind of like the Force, in that it penetrates us and it binds us together – except that the Force doesn't make you feel queasy and helpless.
Because it's a shared experience, it's almost as painful to watch it happen to someone else as it when it happens to you. We had the misfortune to witness a bird go missing last weekend, but luckily we were in a position to do something about it.
Thanks to RQCX-3 “Raven,” this story had a happy ending. Check it out:
After finding the airplane, probably the happiest outcome of this incident was getting to meet its owner, Ivan Castellanos. You can see for yourself in the video that he's got a knack for building cool FPV rigs – he also built the FPV micro quad that you see me fly in the video, and a couple of other platforms you didn't get to see, as well as a really slick ground station built into a small, hard-sided case. Thanks for letting us play with your toys, Ivan! We had a lot of fun!
We would have been nowhere near the Fly-A-Ways RC Club that day had we not been invited by Ken Gullberg. It turns out that Ken teaches a continuing education class dedicated to RC flying at Portland Community College. When we were first talking back and forth via e-mail about this event, he let slip that he shows our videos to his class.
With 900,000 views on our YouTube channel as of earlier today, it's obvious that someone out there is watching them, but I have to tell you it's still startling to when somebody says something like that to us. We just feel like two guys goofing around with this technology – which is pretty much what we are, actually – so it always comes as a bit of a shock to discover that people are watching our videos in some type of structured learning environment. We're truly honored.
We were also honored to be named as “special guests” for this event. As is usually the case when we go to something like this, I feel like we learn more than we teach – but I think that's the whole point of this crazy undertaking to which we've all committed ourselves: to help each other along the path, even though none of us knows exactly where we're going.
And finally, during the opening montage, you catch a glimpse of what looks like an ice chest with a sign on it for “Gordon's BBQ.” That thing is worthy of some additional explanation. I probably should have done something in the video about it, but we weren't even planning to do a video about this event. It was only once the hunt for Ivan's missing plane was on that I dug out the camera and started gathering footage.
Anyway, back to Gordon's BBQ: if that “ice chest” appears to be an industrial-strength solution to the problem of keeping tasty beverages cold, that's because it is. What you are seeing there is actually a decommissioned highway reader board. The eponymous Gordon put solar cells where the sign used to be, and uses them to charge deep cycle batteries underneath the space where he keeps the drinks, powering the rest of his cooking gear.
In addition to “clever,” another virtue that you can ascribe to Gordon is “generous” – he gave Techinstein and I lunch! Thanks, Gordon!
Or even ripping structure fires – check it out:
This image, which currently graces the desktop on my computer, comes to us courtesy Chris Hamilton, a media producer and public information officer with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue. As you've probably begun to piece together from the available evidence, we recently participated in a burn-to-learn exercise with these guys.
Of course, this photo summons up more than faint echoes of a picture we posted on our blog almost three years ago, which featured RQCX-2 “Galaxian” hovering in front of another blazing structure. Scott Edwards, the founder of PDXDrones, has referred to that image as “the most pirated drone photo, ever.”
I'd prefer to think of it in terms of “sharing” rather than “piracy” but, anyway, it's been widely viewed – there is no disputing that fact.
And, finally, the headline for this post is pure hooey because, of course, the whole point of flying a drone around an explosion or a fire is to look at it – and hopefully provide useful information to the men and women managing the response. Here is a sample from her on-board FLIR thermal imaging camera:
Now THAT'S a fire!