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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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