Some photos from the HobbyKing roadshow in Sydney

3. December 2014 10:40 by outbackuav in HobbyKing, Photos, Posts

It was hot on Sunday but that didn't stop me from driving out to Emu Plains to the Penrith Electric Model Aero Club (PEMAC) for the HobbyKing roadshow.

There were a lot of the HK guys, Stuart, James, Chris, Paul, Toby and others enjoying the Aussie heat - and flies!


A little bit of Aussie ingenuity...


Plenty of sky to fill!


MC Stu in da house!

The world famous 'Tridge' (Andrew Tridgell), vanquisher of the Outback Challenge, lead developer of Ardupilot/Arducopter, rescuer of Outback Joe, recounting the joys of saving seven bytes in the memory-constrained Ardupilot.  I've been a software developer for thirty years but he made my brain hurt!


Excellent flight line


One of the P-40's a bit of attention




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ACUO Opposes CASA Notice of Proposed Rule Making

4. June 2014 09:59 by outbackuav in News, Posts

The Australian Certified UAV Operators Inc. (ACUO) have issued a petition to their members against the notice of proposed rule-making by Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority.


This is the summary of that NPRM (my emphasis):


NPRM 1309OS - Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems


This amendment to CASR Part 101 relates to Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) used for commercial operations, but excludes model aircraft used for recreational purposes. It establishes a revised risk based framework for regulating RPA operations.  A key part of this amendment acknowledges the existence of a "low risk" class of RPA operations, which are determined as small RPA with a gross weight of 2 kilograms and below while they are being operated under the standard RPA operating conditions as defined and discussed in this NPRM.

For these RPA operations, CASA proposes that the requirements for a Remote Pilot (RP) Certificate or an Unmanned Aircraft System Operator’s Certificate (UOC) will not apply.

RPA with a gross weight above 2 kilograms in all operating conditions, and all RPA operating outside of the standard RPA operating conditions, will require an operational approval.

This amendment also proposes a number of changes to:

  • update the current terminology used within CASR Part 101 to bring it in line with the latest terminology used by ICAO as found in Annex 2 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation - Rules of the Air.

  • clarify the current requirements for RP training and RP certification

  • remove redundant requirements and to simplify the process for approval.

The AUCO concern seems to be amateur RPAS conflicting with aircraft and gives examples of recent Australian incidents.  They are particularly worried about people with no experience in aviation or model aircraft going down to Harvey’s and buying a Parrot or similar then popping it up near an airport - a well justified fear.  There is no doubt that the emergence of cheap, ready to fly aircraft with capabilities far beyond ‘model aircraft’ of the past is a growing worry.

A quick search on YouTube will show the current capabilities of small UAVs, how about an 80km solar-assisted flight with video downlink all the way?  Or an electric model aircraft flying at 16,000 feet?

All very worrying but what is hard to see is how the NPRM would increase the risk of this happening as the AUCO suggests.  The incidents referred to by the ACUO are illegal now and will continue to be illegal.  The people doing this are either ignorant of or don’t care about the regulations so whatever the regulations contain is unlikely to change their behaviour.  The recent CASA brochure, to be distributed to retailers, will help with the ignorant ones but the deliberate rule-breakers won’t be deterred by NPRM 1309OS.

The NPRM won’t legalise flying near aircraft.  It doesn’t weaken the standard RPA operating conditions that non-commercial craft must follow.  

It lessens the rules for small commercial craft but also removes the ability for those craft to do things that licences commercial craft can do - FPV, controlled airspace, publish NOTAMs etc.  An official CASA licenced operator can fly down the middle of 16R at Sydney airport with the right approvals.  There’s no way a commercial UAV operating under the new exemption can legally do that.

What it does propose to allow is commercial sub-2KG RPAS.  CASA see sub 2KG craft flown within current RPA regulations on a commercial basis as being a low risk policy not requiring the costly burden of regulation.

Instead the AUCO proposes greater regulation, enforcement and penalties however this is an area that would be very difficult to police.  You may as well add children’s helium balloons while you’re at it.

It appears that the AUCO has missed the point as the NPRM proposes, amongst other things, to exclude commercial UAVs under 2KG flying from CASA oversight.  So commercial sub-2kg UAVs would be under the same rules as non-commercial.  Unlikely to reduce incursions by amateur craft.

Chances are that the proposed change would affect the  ACUO members financially..  many commercial jobs can easily be done by a craft weighing less than 2 kilograms - think real estate photography, infrastructure inspection and so on.

"This would only apply in the standard operating conditions, which includes operations in visual line of sight, less than 400 feet above ground level, non-populous areas, more than 30 metres from people and outside controlled airspace," said Director of Aviation Safety John McCormick.

I hope that CASA don’t cave in to preserve the turf of the ACUO.



Just one word, son.... “plastics..”

1. June 2014 10:44 by outbackuav in News, Posts

The advice was originally given to Dustin Hoffman’s character, Benjamin in The Graduate but whereas Benjamin immediately took to the bottom of the family swimming pool in his new scuba gear to escape his parents’ frightful friends it looks like Chad Kapper has taken the advice onboard.


Perusing my YouTube subscription feed there was a new one from FT, always welcome and perhaps less frequent than I would like.


They’re busy people.


They have FliteFest coming up.  As well there’s their road trip to the South of France sponsored by ImmersionRC.  (As a mad Francophile and ‘RCophile’ so it’s agonising that I can’t go - even if I’ll only be not far away in Greece at the time.


When I watched the video it was all business, just Josh and Chad and no planes.. ominous... then Josh said “you need to listen up” so I put down my coffee and sat up straight.  When Josh says “jump!” I say “how high?”.


The news was that FliteTest and StoneKap Productions have been sold to a group called Lauren International (LI).  LI’s web site proclaims themselves as… oh sorry I went to sleep reading what looks like copy written by one of those buzzword generators.  I even slept through the audio that started up when I hit the home page.  Audio on web pages - the blink tag of the new millenium!


LI seems to make plastic extrusions and tubing, lighting, pet products and NaviGate™ some sort of regulation compliance web app.


I knew the comments on the video would be special with plenty of prophecies about the sky falling.


I read a few then commented that I thought that LI didn’t buy FT because they wanted in on the cheap foamboard kit market (hardly a path to riches I would think) but because they wanted FT/StoneKap’s savvy in video and social media.  To my great surprise FliteTest even replied to my comment, and it’s in the ‘Top Comments’ section.  FT’s reply essentially confirmed my suspicion.


It remains to be seen how this pans out - the main risk to the avid FLiteTest viewership would probably be FT losing the skills of people like Chad because he’s got a big job ahead of him: Nurtured Pets have a link to a non-existent channel on their home page, Lauren Manufacturing seem to make about one video a year.. this is a big win for LI, hopefully it will be for FT too.


Guardian Australia Video Report "Keeping Up With the Droneses"

27. May 2014 13:05 by outbackuav in News, Posts

A video report from the Guardian Australia has some interviews worth watching for anyone interested in the current state of play in Australia.

Local UAV merchants UAS International, David Vaile from the CyberSpace Law and Policy Centre, Mark Pearson from Animal Liberation NSW and others talk about where the industry is going.

What interests me is the concern about what "drones" do such as kill people, invade privacy, kill kittens etc. but there's very little concern for the same actions by manned aircraft.  Are errant factory farmers worried about a Cessna flying overhead at 500ft?  Where are the demonstrations about attacks from manned military aircraft?  I guess manned aviation is just too old-hat to be news.  The media like to infer that "drones" don't have pilots, that they kill people all by themselves - this is probably due more to ignorance than deliberate (I work for a news organisation and believe me journalism ain't what it used to be).

There will be a Part 2 to the video which will be posted here once it appears.

Edit: Part 2 has now gone live.


Video(s) of the Week

26. May 2014 17:10 by outbackuav in Hardware, Posts, Videos

 This is one project I can't wait to see finished.  Melanie Vermeulen is building a EDF version of the F-35 VTOL fighter complete with the weird but ingenious jet nozzle which redirects thrust rearwards or downwards as shown in this video:

Closeup of the nozzle:

Here it is hovering with an impressive amount of control.

Great work!

Here is the real thing doing a vertical takeoff although I wonder if, like the Harrier, it won't be doing many vertical takeoffs in operational use because lifting a full fuel load off the ground ends up using a large proportion of that fuel.

CNN's drone 'how to'

22. May 2014 10:24 by outbackuav in News, Posts, Videos

Amazing, an American report on "drones" that is actually positive - it has a very nice showreel video and a basic how to get started blurb with no mentions of Yemen, drones killing US citizens, the FAA or privacy - all that stuff is in the comments of course.


CASA NPRM May Free Lightweight UAVs

19. May 2014 17:49 by outbackuav in Posts, News

The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority has published a proposal to remove commercial remotely piloted aircraft from CASA oversight.


The NPRM states that it "relates to Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) used for commercial operations" 


It goes on to say "a key part of this amendment acknowledges the existence of a "low risk" class of RPA operations, which are determined as small RPA with a gross weight of 2 kilograms and below while they are being operated under the standard RPA operating conditions as defined and discussed in this NPRM"


"For these RPA operations, CASA proposes that the requirements for a Remote Pilot (RP) Certificate or an Unmanned Aircraft System Operator’s Certificate (UOC) will not apply."


This would be pretty revolutionary given the number of useful tasks a lightweight UAV can perform.  A farmer can freely use a Bixler to survey not only his or her crops but also also the crops of neighbours and charge a fee.


"Safe skies for all" is CASA's motto, leading to some huffing and puffing by some who believe this will lead to nation's airliners sucking in "drones.  I think not having to have a UAS operators' certificate won't lead to an increase of idiots, possibly the reverse.  It may be a sensible way to ultimately increase public knowledge and responsibility regarding remotely piloted aircraft.


Soldering: no more stage fright

15. May 2014 13:39 by outbackuav in Hardware, Posts

I used to hate soldering, now I love it.  Sometime in the early eighties I tried to make a Centronics adaptor for my Sinclair Spectrum microcomputer.  The soldering was horrible and it never worked and not long after I plonked down $3,500 for an IBM PC clone with two floppy disk drives and no hard disk.  The ESCs in my planes probably have more CPU power than that PC.

My main problem was that YouTube hadn't been invented yet.  Now there's many good soldering videos there, like the ones made by Dave Jones of EEVBlog fame and Bruce Simpson (XJet):


My suggestions are:

  • Get the right gear: if you can afford it, a temperature controlled iron is a must.  It stops your flux (and your work) going up in smoke.
  • Soldering iron tips - use the right size and shape for the job
  • Helping hand: very useful unless you have three hands already
  • Pre-tinning: essential for a good bond
  • Chemist glasses: the best $2.50 ever spent!  I only need the weakest ones but they make a huge difference
  • Start simple with things like cables and battery connectors, leave the micro servo mods for later

When I got my ArduPilot it was of course the cheapo version from RCTimer - which required soldering the pins.  I was terrified of destroying my new $70 baby but it was all over in about 20 minutes.  I almost wished there was more to do.

Trivia Corner:
Why don’t Americans pronounce the ‘L’ in soLder?  Is it the French influence on American English, like the way they say “herb”?

Adruino Controlled Brushless Motor Test Stand

13. May 2014 11:49 by outbackuav in Hardware, Posts

I've tested a few motors using my HobbyKing 7-in-one watt meter to learn the whole which prop/ESC/motor/battery thing.

There's some good videos on this topic notably Ed from Experimental Airlines who did and exhaustive study with some kitchen scales and a watt meter.

Being lazy I wanted to avoid the onerous task of actually writing down numbers and enlist the Arduino to do it for me.

Having done a few Arduino projects I thought an automated test stand might be fun to try.  I'd never output PPM from an Arduino or read from current sensor but how hard could it be?

The main difficulty was outputting the right values for arming, you need to go from something the ESC recognises as low throttle, to high, then back to low.  I tried a few things to work it out including hooking up the ESC to my servo tester to see what the PPM values should be.

Main Components

I did 4 years of woodwork at school so it should have been better than this


Just an Uno I had lying around, no special shields but I have a proto shield that I might use to tidy up things and get rid of the breadboard.

Current sensor

Spare one from my Bixler build - from RCTimer I think.

Thrust sensor

I had an old Phidgets force sensor but I discovered it isn't accurate.  It's intended to just sense force, not tell you how much.  I ordered a some sort of strain gauge on eBay and it never arrived - that's $3.56 I'll never see again.  I have an old kitchen scale that I'm planning to tear down and use if I can find a measurable analogue voltage on it.

In the meantime I've used a spring from and old desk lamp and a slider pot to give a fairly good thrust measurement.  I calibrated it by hanging a cans of beans from it - isn't science wonderful!

Temperature sensor (eventually)

Pointed at the motor to record heating.  This could be good for endurance testing but a high amperage supply from the mains might be better to eliminate battery fade from the results.

.Net Application / Firmata

After feeling a bit confined by the Adruino code limitations and slowish code upload speeds I discovered this excellent bit of code called Firmata which allows you to control a connected Arduino from, in my case, a C# application running on a PC.  I was able to do a lot more (e.g. funky-town user interface including graphs) and luxuriate in object-oriented goodness.

I'm sure that once I learn a bit more about Arduino scripting (or is it sketching?)  I'll be able to structure my code a bit better an dpossibly use a little LED display shield although I do like the graphs.  I might have to investigate using one of those OLED shilds that have the resolution for graphs.

Basically Firmata has a library/DLL that you can call to do inouts and outputs on the Arduino.  Firmata handles the rest - as far as your .Net application is concerned the action is happening locally.

A solution in Visual Studio runs the motor and record the results.  It arms the ESC then steps up the motor incrementally and records the current, voltage, thrust and one day the motor temperature at each step.  Gunna get to grips with GitHub so the code is available.

User interface


The Arduino and breadboard, the breadboard isn't essential, just convenient for connecting the test stand.

Things to Do

  • Make a smaller, neater frame
  • Make a prop guard
  • Do a video
  • Clean up wiring, make Arduino shield
  • Make quick release system for motor
  • Upload the code
  • Spreadsheet creation, Excel, Google Docs, comparison site
  • Vibration sensor?


  • Safety first!   Either make a prop guard or wear eye protection.