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Do you know how people will fly r/c planes in the future?
September 26, 2006 3:43 PM   Subscribe

Do you know how people will fly r/c planes in the future? Canadian enthusiast Dennis (aka VRFlyer) rigs up a camera and VR googles to view the flight in real time. To complete his dream of virtual flying, he then adds a gyroscope, allowing him to control the camera's pan and tilt with head movement. Dennis explains more about his method and passion for VR flying in this RC forum.
posted by MetaMonkey (32 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
How cool. I could see this as being a real boon for doing inexpensive aerial photography.

And, you know, dogfighting.
posted by quin at 3:58 PM on September 26, 2006


I. Want. One.
posted by brundlefly at 4:03 PM on September 26, 2006


Très bon!
posted by CynicalKnight at 4:04 PM on September 26, 2006


Uber Cool.
posted by damclean2 at 4:17 PM on September 26, 2006


Amazing. Lots of vertexes em polygons. The Reality™ Engine is great. Wonder if it runs Vista.
posted by cardoso at 4:21 PM on September 26, 2006


I. Want. One.

Me, too.
posted by ericb at 4:36 PM on September 26, 2006


As a veteran of the VR trenches, I question the utility of the pan & tilt functionality (lag here will give you horrific motion sickness right quick).

But I do think telepresence R/C is the future ... I could see real-world BattleBots + Quake3 DMs being hella fun to watch, if not play.

10-odd years ago Sega put on a R/C car race with cameras, in a special event at Shiodome, for some reason.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 4:39 PM on September 26, 2006


As a R/C flyer and tech guy who is comfortable with a soldering iron, I'm stunned at how well this is implemented.

He would have had to build the tilt/pan mount from servos, and then patched the gyroscope output from the headset into a couple of spare channels on the 9-channel Futaba tx (same as the one I have). Not trivial at all.

And to think I have to return to the instruction manual as I struggle to set up the mappings on my transmitter to do standard stuff like elevator-to-flap mixing. Let alone a simple bomb-drop.
posted by pivotal at 4:44 PM on September 26, 2006


The pan and tilt would be invaluable in a dogfight, giving you an "over the shoulder" view and much better situational awareness. Motion sickness be damned, Bogeys 3 o'clock low!
posted by kahboom at 4:48 PM on September 26, 2006


Needs a bottle rocket launcher.
posted by hal9k at 4:51 PM on September 26, 2006


Denny, he have the mullet, you know?
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:51 PM on September 26, 2006


Au bout!
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 4:57 PM on September 26, 2006


Wow - I love how natural-feeling the camera movement is. I suspect this kind of system might make inroads into the camerawork of film or television - becoming a fad technique like that "shaky-cam" popularized by some police show series I forget the name of.

Still, it looks great - a real feeling of being up in the plane.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:10 PM on September 26, 2006


I want two. Very cool, indeed.

The second video is better quality than the first. And as for the first, warning: Enya!
posted by zardoz at 5:11 PM on September 26, 2006


One of these would be cool to 'man the controls.'
posted by ericb at 5:23 PM on September 26, 2006


Phooey on Enya. I don't have sound at work, but right when this video started Pink Foyd's "The Great Gig in the Sky" (Dark Side of the Moon) rolled around on my ipod. Sublime.
posted by foozleface at 5:27 PM on September 26, 2006


Just add a few attachments and... ya know, nevermind -- I'm sure Homeland Security has it covered.
posted by LordSludge at 5:42 PM on September 26, 2006


What happened to VR by the way? Nobody uses helmets any more for gaming?
posted by jouke at 8:47 PM on September 26, 2006


What happened to VR by the way?

Well, for one, all the VR games sucked.

Secondly, the Virtuality visettes cost about $3000+, had to adjusted to fit each user, were relatively fragile, and could only be worn for 10-20 minutes before your eyes got tired.

It was fun to try out once, but not the kind of experience someone is going to pump through $10-$20 in an afternoon. For high-traffic sites like Disneyland, a VR experience business model is doable, but you can't support an entire company on sales to major theme parks.

Polhemus magnetic trackers were pretty cool though.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:44 PM on September 26, 2006


LordSludge...

I, for one, welcome our computer-controlled UAV overlords...

Seriously, this was one of the things FOXNEWS had on Saddam, these UAVs.

Add some jet propulsion, a 10-mile realtime telelink, some terminal guidance image processing AI, and enough RDX to take out the CEP ... er, quite the plot device for a spy thriller.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:56 PM on September 26, 2006


That is staggering! I want one. But I don't know if I can be bothered learning to fly. I just want to be up in the air.

He should rig the camera so it pans 2:1 for the motion of his head - then he could look behind him too! I wonder if you could get used to that? Anyone tried it with VR?
posted by wilberforce at 6:14 AM on September 27, 2006


This is exactly the sort of thing that would be considered sorcery a few hundred years ago.
posted by hermitosis at 7:11 AM on September 27, 2006


This is not "the future of RC".

Of course it's a most excellent hack, and well done. I'm a pilot, both of full-size human-carrying airplanes and of radio controlled models, and this is so aesthetically pleasing in so many ways.... Almost as cool as those guys (also in Canada!) who built a balloon-dropped fully autonomous glider -- dropped from a balloon at an extremely high altitude and flies itself to a designated landing area.

But why would a vanilla flyer of radio control models want it? It's vastly more expensive, and it's hard to see a TV monitor out there in the sun. Flight simulators running on modern PCs can you give you the same experience. The only thing this provides over the "Mark 1 Eyeball" looking at the plane is the "over-the-horizon" ability. Useful for delivering ordnance, of course, but recreationally?

Incidentally, in the US, AMA [the sanctioning body for radio-controlled aircraft] regulations prohibit this form of control. If you want AMA insurance, you need to follow the AMA guidelines, and you'll need to have a safety pilot who maintains visual contact while you fly via monitor. (Of course many RC pilots just plan on using their homeowner's liability insurance and so don't really need to care what the AMA says... but you have to care about the FAA. There's a "gentleman's agreement" between the FAA and the AMA, so if you're not flying under AMA guidelines you'd better read the FARs [Federal Aviation Regulations] carefully. Caveat aviator.)
posted by phliar at 8:16 AM on September 27, 2006


Flight simulators running on modern PCs can you give you the same experience.

Not real-time video of the location of your choice. Show me the flight simulator that can help me find my dog if it gets loose in my neighborhood, or give me an aerial tour Burning Man while I'm there.
posted by scarabic at 9:39 AM on September 27, 2006


Well, someday it'll be cheap enough for Joe Blow to afford it -- say, under $500 for the whole setup. and the coolness factor is way up there; that alone would sell it. but, yeah, for serious hobbyists, it's little more than gee-whiz. You could never do serious 3D with VR. Nevermind that lack of external reference -- it'd be a motion sickness machine!

...not to mention r/c helicopters.

Heywood Mogroot: Add some jet propulsion...

I take it you've seen the RC jets out there? Man, those things are amazing in person -- amazingly loud and amazingly fast (and amazingly pricey). The AMA limits them to 200mph to keep the FAA happy, but they can go way faster.

IMO, they're actually too fast to be fun -- you only get a few seconds per pass before you have to turn around (or risk losing radio contact / losing all control), and one little mistake will send your expensive toy into the ground -- just the ground if you're lucky. The VR + cam setup with a 10 mile range, as you suggest, would pretty sweet.

Sorry if one or more of the vid links are bad -- I can't actually view the videos here at work.
posted by LordSludge at 9:48 AM on September 27, 2006


At Iowa State we have a couple V.R. systems called "caves" where either six or four of the walls are actually giant projection screens, you wear shutter goggles and that gives you the 3d effect, so if you're wearing the 'driving' head tracker, the images on all of the walls follows your head movements. It works really well and while it's not 'convincing' it certainly looks like you're in a 3d environment. The cool part about this is that you don't need to track the direction that you're eyes are looking, so there is no 'lag'. And there is also no eyestrain.

Certainly a lot more expensive though, our C6 is a several million dollar thing. I worked at the Virtual Reality Applications Center as an undergrad.
posted by delmoi at 10:43 AM on September 27, 2006


Flight simulators running on modern PCs can you give you the same experience. The only thing this provides over the "Mark 1 Eyeball" looking at the plane is the "over-the-horizon" ability. Useful for delivering ordnance, of course, but recreationally?

Different people find different things recreational. I think flying a model plane without this kind of a setup would get pretty boring pretty quick. But would be all kinds of fun with it. As for the motion sickness? I don't think it will be a problem for me personally.

It just sucks that all kinds of cool VR things never get marketed just because they'll make 90% of the population sick!
posted by delmoi at 10:48 AM on September 27, 2006


But why would a vanilla flyer of radio control models want it?

Because I had little interest in RC planes until I saw this - normal RC flying would be much like an RC car - it nolonger appeals to me very much to watch some far away speck that I'm controlling. But being there is something else.

I'm tempted to put a camera on an RC car... cheaper/easier entry level :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 11:56 AM on September 27, 2006


Oooh, anyone know off hand how far one of these off-the-shelf video transmitters can transmit through water?
posted by -harlequin- at 11:59 AM on September 27, 2006


This helmet...it flies?
posted by toastchee at 12:39 PM on September 27, 2006


Not very far, harlequin. Maybe a foot or two? Ultrasonics would be more practical.
posted by ryanrs at 7:29 PM on September 27, 2006


I take it you've seen the RC jets out there?

Wow. No, really, wow.
posted by Luddite at 2:10 AM on September 28, 2006


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