through your kid can be a slippery slope.  It all starts so innocently.  Let’s rewind a month:

It all began when I was Christmas shopping for the kids.  As the Silverback in the family, I find it so much easier to pick things out for the boy because I can personally relate to it (albeit a few decades back).  With our daughter, I find it a little tougher because when I was in my mid-‘oughts’ (like 6 years old) I really didn’t care about dress up, doll houses, or playing kitchen.  I built impregnable forts from couch cushions, established a Starways Confederacy with Space Legos, and invented the inter-house highway system with Matchbox Cars and Micro Machines (remember them?!).  Oh yeah, and every Christmas, I always always asked for a remote control airplane because that was my ‘Red Ryder’ dream.  The closest I ever got was one of those gas-powered airplanes that go in circles around a control line that you hold – with a snap of the wrist you can make it go up and down as it circled around you, but it didn’t give quite that spectacular umph that a free-to-roam R/C airplane could bring.  I must admit, years later in my teens I bought an R/C airplane kit and built it from sheets of balsa and plywood.  My parents helped the cause by awarding me a remote and engine for my effort to build it… it was finished, but alas, it never flew.  I went off to college and my parents moved away, and the plane got guillotined in the move. So I never really did get that R/C chance…

So as I’m perusing the gift ideas, I stumble across this bad boy:

Udi R/C 818

At the price of $60, it’s pretty much kid-proof (read: I won’t be heartbroken if the kid destroys it in the span of a month).  So I pulled the trigger and got it for the boy… something like this is what I had always wanted when I was his age (up through at least my mid-teens).  And in getting it, I could finally close the door on that kid-hood dream of mine by bestowing upon him something that I never had (plus, it will hopefully build his hand-eye coordination and reflexes).

Brenden learning to fly a UdiRC QuadcopterHe opened it on Christmas and thought it was cool, but a little beyond his ability. I showed him how it worked, and since then, I’ve had him fly it a few times a week in the kitchen to build his skills. We started simple by me controlling the throttle and putting it in a 2-inch hover, and him just trying to keep it there without letting it drift off. As the kid gained confidence, I let him control the throttle too. Then I’d allow him to take it a foot off the ground with a game of “try to land it on that floor mat over there.” The problem is that, somewhere in this process, I also got tangled up in the spiderweb of this little contraption (probably even more so than he did).

I wanted to see for myself what this oversized housefly could do, so I brought it outside and turned on the video (you damn well know what’s going to happen next: “hey, watch this!”).  Like Brenden, I was learning too.  It really is tough to fly this copter without ramming into things, so diving in head-first by adding outdoor wind seemed like the perfect thing to do.

A quick aside and testament to the Udi R/C 818 quadcopter: this thing is indestructible!  It’s perfect for learning or for kids.  Yes, it feels flimsy and cheap, but there lies its saving grace: that flimsy plastic bends (not breaks) when it crashes and bounces off of stuff.  Its blades take a licking and keep on ticking (due to being made of softer plastic).


And as you can guess, once I got it outside about halfway up the house, the wind wrestled control from me and away she went.  I fought to bring her back… then I lost sight as she was carried beyond the house.  I cut the motors and proceeded to spend about 15 minutes finding the thing in a tree in the next field over.  I had to pull out the BB gun to shoot and sever the twig-like branch that had skewered the propeller nacelle 25 feet up.

After that, I was hooked.  Screw this ‘vicariously through someone else’ thing; I need an adult version of one of these!!!

My upcoming birthday offered me the perfect opportunity to get a kit (along with forgiveness from Pam). I ended up getting the Discovery Pro quadcopter.  It took me a week to build this, as the learning curve can be pretty steep. Don’t get me wrong, being a pilot I know how propellers and flight work. In building computers I know how to hook up components (yes, this thing has a mini-computer with a GPS and IMU), but ensuring the circuits are properly hooked up can be a gut-check (ie, hook something that takes 5 volts to a 12-volt power supply and it’s fried – to turn the power on for the first time is often referred to as ‘the smoke test’).  A lot of Googling and internet research got the thing 100% ready to fly.  My hardest hurdle was marrying up the remote to the copter.

TBS Discovery Pro

Regardless, I did the maiden voyage around the farm yesterday.  It came out much better than the one I did with Brenden’s feather-weight flyer:

This thing is awesome. I’m now an addict.

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  • Kevin Laing

    Omg,love it!!Jen also got me one,sounds like the same problems I’m having,I’ve been restricted to inside 2inch flying cuz of the weather but I’m having problems getting it trimmed,got mine out once (on a windy day) struggled as well,gotta keep practicing!!fun times

    • Those things are addicting, aren’t they? I’ve found that you have to adjust the trim as the battery depletes (ie, just one trim setting at the beginning won’t stay the course). If you can get out here, I’ll give you a crack at the big one! Also, what are you doing end-of-September timeframe? Interest you and Jen in Oktoberfest in Munich?

      • Kevin Laing

        Yeah they sure are!i haven’t had much time tho,I have already had to change a prop tho,and my trimming is in 1% increments so it takes awhile on my already short 15min battery life

  • Mike Winslow

    Awesome! The Cosmos music really fits well. Good tour of the farm.
    The Feds are having real heartburn about these little personal RPV’s. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them require a license for anything with more than a milliwatt controller or a 100 meter range.
    Happy Birthday, by the way!
    Now you and Brenden can have contests, dog fights, precision landing contests, etc. There’ll come a day when he’s gonna kick your butt!

    • I’ve been reading that… with one recently landing in Obama’s back yard.

      Up next, I’m debating on starting that Goldberg Cub again…

  • Well, that was short-lived:

    https://www.youtube.com/embed/F5L7kbdRKHA?rel=0

    At least the English ground was grassy and soft. Now for a weekend of repairs once the parts get here: new props, a gimbal motor and a piece of aluminum for the camera gimbal frame.