The joys of tiny RC flight
September 22, 2006 11:58 AM   Subscribe

This year has been a good one for those who like little things that fly: you can get ultra-tiny remote controlled planes (video), helicopters, (or a cheaper one), and ornithopters. Also, the HydroFoam, a boat/plane/hovercraft that caused quite a controversy in the RC world after its inventor posted a famous video of the vehicle in action, and others tried to copy the design while he worked to commercialize it. There are smaller RC aircraft still, but you can't have them yet.
posted by blahblahblah (30 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
So this boat plane car thing, it floats flies drives goes?
posted by davejay at 12:08 PM on September 22, 2006

Wow, there's one that files in like a missile, pops open a nose cone, and a little rover with wheels and a camera comes out. Amazing.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:09 PM on September 22, 2006

wow. The "boat/plane/hovercraft" video is crazy cool. I'ts great that these are getting cheap and (I assume) simple enough for the non-enthusiast to enjoy. Cool post.
posted by space2k at 12:10 PM on September 22, 2006

Those ornithopters are super cool.
posted by saladin at 12:14 PM on September 22, 2006

The hydro foam is amazing, I am sure there may be physical laws against it but I want a full size one.
posted by Iron Rat at 12:14 PM on September 22, 2006

The rccombat forum link won't pull up for me, what was the controversy?
posted by ernie at 12:16 PM on September 22, 2006

ernie - sorry the link went dead. Basically, Michael Connelly showed off the HydroFoam, and then wouldn't release the plans immediately, so others started to copy it, while he worked on a commercial deal. There was a lot of debate over whether Michael's idea should be protected, or whether it was okay for anyone to copy it.

To get a sense of the discussion around the HydroFoam, try this link instead.
posted by blahblahblah at 12:22 PM on September 22, 2006

I love the case that the " Carbon Butterfly" comes in. Like you're carrying nuclear launch codes or something.
posted by delmoi at 12:26 PM on September 22, 2006

I have the 'cheaper one' helicopter and it's a lot of fun. Makes the kitties go crazy. (They stalk it on the ground, but the moment it leaps into the air, they immediately go elsewhere).

The Hydrofoam is super nifty as well. To answer Iron Rat question, it's not really a matter of physical laws so much as thrust. The motors that power these RC vehicles have become so powerful and light, that as long as their are sufficient flight surfaces, you can make pretty much anything fly. So, in theory, if you could find a powerful and light enough engine, you could build a full sized one, though if you could do that, you would already revolutionized the world in other ways. (a motor like that could have many many uses).
posted by quin at 12:44 PM on September 22, 2006

Wow, the amazing irony, just as I sent my last post, one of my co-workers walked in with this. We are playing with it now, but it looks to be considerably nicer than the one I have.

And it's only about $10 more. Cool.
posted by quin at 12:49 PM on September 22, 2006

I still think that the flying lawnmower (video, WMV) trumps them all
posted by laz-e-boy at 12:53 PM on September 22, 2006

Whoops - missed quin's link above.
posted by laz-e-boy at 12:59 PM on September 22, 2006

Anyone know the story behind the DeWalt logo type and the color scheme incorporated into the hydrofoam prototype? Is he an employee or just a tool fanatic?
posted by prostyle at 1:02 PM on September 22, 2006

That Carbon Butterfly is really beutiful! It is too expensive though, by a lot.

What they really need is an autonomous control system, so that it can become kinetic art. Anybody want to fund a start up :P
posted by Chuckles at 1:09 PM on September 22, 2006

I really hate SpellBound! It keeps unselecting my dictionary, and it defaults to assuming that everything is spelled correctly. And, what kind of software doesn't put it's own name in the dictionary..
posted by Chuckles at 1:17 PM on September 22, 2006

Jet engines generate enough thrust to make a brick (with control surfaces) fly -- and yeah I'd say they've revolutionized flight. Unfortunately, their "pusher" configuration makes 3D flight (nose-up hovering, etc.) with them a tricky proposition, but I bet it could be done with thrust vectoring + computer assistance. Gas engines are close -- they can power pretty big scale models (15' wing span) in 3D -- but they're not quite powerful enough to do it "for real" yet.
posted by LordSludge at 1:22 PM on September 22, 2006

The radio shack one just showed up on my door yesterday. It's fun, but a bit cumbersome in actual usage. Still, it delighted my 3-year old, so it was money well spent.

I think the thinkgeek one looks like quite an improvement for, as quin said, only $10 more.

And I'm about to purchase a Storm Launcher (aka HydroFoam) although I find it odd that it doesn't ship with a battery. Maybe that is standard in the R/C world?
posted by Ynoxas at 1:52 PM on September 22, 2006

don't forget r/c zeppelins
posted by kickback at 2:58 PM on September 22, 2006

Well, shit. Thanks a lot, quin. You just made me order that Think Geek chopper. I don't have that kind of money to throw around! What were you thinking?
posted by brundlefly at 3:12 PM on September 22, 2006

They can't fly (yet), but these Battle Beetles are a sign of cool things to come.
posted by Twang at 4:13 PM on September 22, 2006

brundlefly, we've been playing with it for the better part of the night. The controler is much nicer than the Radio Shack one. It seems a little wobbly, but that is probably due to not having a friggin' clue how to fly it. Still, we are having loads of fun (and freaking out the other departments around us.)

kickback: don't forget r/c zeppelins

r/c zeppelinsyou say?
posted by quin at 4:20 PM on September 22, 2006

The Hoverboat reminded me of this RC plane "dance".

The hydro foam is amazing, I am sure there may be physical laws against it but I want a full size one.

Exactly my thought. The Osprey tiltrotor comes close ... The main problem might not actually be thrust (see e.g. the jet engine car that Hammond rode), but the G-forces. Spam in a can.
posted by dhartung at 4:28 PM on September 22, 2006

well, the hydro foam is based on a racing boat style and I have seen them fly but only when the wheels come off.
posted by Iron Rat at 4:58 PM on September 22, 2006

Twang, I like the ad copy from your link: "Have you ever thought about to control your beetle fighting with friends. The Remote Controle Beetles let you and your friends to experience the Beetle's Battle."
posted by brundlefly at 5:04 PM on September 22, 2006

The hydro foam is amazing, I am sure there may be physical laws against it but I want a full size one.
Actually, the Soviets built a more-than-full-size one (with missile launchers!) quite a while ago, but I don't think it is for sale. This one is, though.
In fact, they are called Wing-In-Ground effect planes (or WIGs), as well as Ekranoplans. Very cool videos here. The only significant difference between those large ekranoplans and the Hydro Foam are the thrust- and lift-to-weight ratios, which can be much larger in models. I don't think that the Caspian Sea Monster was quite as agile as the Hydro Foam...
posted by Skeptic at 6:21 PM on September 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Skeptic, that was one of the coolest looking military vehicles ever - very art deco/steampunk.
posted by blahblahblah at 7:32 PM on September 22, 2006

Nice post. Kinda reminds me, I've been tempted for awhile now to get one of these
posted by samsara at 9:07 PM on September 22, 2006

Good post, blahblahblah. But these tiny machines fly in the propwash of 2003's TAM-5 crossing of the Atlantic. Now that's a model plane!
posted by paulsc at 1:05 AM on September 23, 2006

Cool post. Does anyone know what's the cheapest place to get these in the UK?
posted by jobby at 1:57 PM on September 23, 2006

blahblahblahblah I know what you mean. It looks as if the designers, after having been reading a few Japanese mangas, had sat down and, in a vodka haze, competed for ways to make their vehicle ever more outrageous.

"Let's make a T-tailed Ekranoplan! And put the four engines in pods in the front."
"Four engines? Why not six?"
"Aah, let's make it eight!"
"And three radomes!"
"Two of them in the tail!"
"Missile launchers, I want missiles!"
"Big missiles. A few of them atomic thingies."
"What about six launchers?"
"Sounds about right. But they won't fit on the wings."
"Let's put them two-by-two on the fuselage. Pointing obliquely upwards."
"I like your thinking, Igor. This looks almost right, but there's just a little something missing."
"Decoration? What about a huge shark mouth in the nose"
"Perfect, just perfect, tovaritch. Now, if we can convince the dunces in the Central Committee to allocate us the funds to build it..."
posted by Skeptic at 5:36 PM on September 23, 2006

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