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Fly an Aerobatic Quadcopter with Curtis Youngblood (Video) 33

Posted by Roblimo
from the up-up-and-away dept.
It goes up, it goes down, it goes upside down and keeps on flying. We're talking about Curtis Youngblood's latest quadcopter prototype, but as his website says, "Curtis has been flying and competing with RC Helicopters since the early 1980s and is a Multi-time World Champion and Multi-time 3D Champion." This lucky dog has managed to turn his hobby into a business; he makes and sells radio controlled helicopters -- not the $60 ones from Harbor Freight, but sophisticated aerial beasts that can carry still and video cameras and could easily be used as short-range drones, except that these are hobbyists' toys -- for hobbyists who can afford to spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars, anyway. There are plenty of quadcopter kits on the market for lots less than Youngblood's creations, along with build-it-yourself guides. But these won't fly upside down. For that, you need variable-pitch rotors and sophisticated control systems. "But what about 3-D printing?" you ask. Of *course* you can use a 3-D printer to make a quadcopter. That was an inevitable development. Here are open source instructions for building one. Enjoy the ride!


Timothy Lord:
How was that flight from your perspective? Everything went smooth on that?

Curtis Youngblood:Oh it is fine.Yeah, it went fine. It is a prototype so a lot of the parts on it are a little undersized strength-wise, because we made it with what we had. So if you push it too hard, you start hearing things make a little bit of noise but it still flies good.

Tim:Now how much goes into making of a prototype, how similar is it to its predecessor model?

Curtis:Well, most of these parts are from helicopters. But very very different types of helicopters. So we have to hand make, hand cut all kinds of things to make it work out. So it doesn’t look anything like the original parts, we finally are going to make.

Tim:Now say again, distinguish what is the name of this model.

Curtis:Well, it is a prototype so the name we simply tagged to it right now is Mantaray.

Tim:Will every Mantaray be electric powered?

Curtis:No the Mantaray since it is single motor, we could really drive it with anything.We’ve also flown this prototype as a nitro, you could do with gas, we’d love to do it turbine, all that kind of stuff, whatever power point you want to put in it.

Tim:Now Curtis you have a long background in RC helicopters, how has it changed, point to some of these components and tell us what they would have been, when you started _____2:22?

Curtis:Well, I mean a big thing that has happened just in recent history is all the flight controls. Largely when we started it was largely fly bar, it was more mechanical. It was all in the machine.Now it is largely in the electronics. That’s what lets us do this kind of machine. You really couldn’t have done this machine and have it viable in 10, or 12 years ago at all.It just wouldn’t have worked. So much is done with the flight control now.

Tim:Now there are other makers obviously for helicopters. How much of your code is custom to this machine?

Curtis:Well, our basics started with helicopters, so our knowledge started from helicopters, but it is an entirely different flight control, the base of the programming is very different. Everything it does is a very different logic.

Tim:Now from talking to you a few minutes ago, I think there is an interesting story about the software on here, tell us who does this software.

Curtis:Well, my father. He has grown up doing RC stuff since the ‘50s he has done RC, he has done his own radios, electronics everything. So all the coding is my father. We had a few people ask us if we do this thing open source, where other people are going to add to it and stuff, and it is sort of a joke, but it is partly true, they would never be able to sort their way through the code. It is all done in his logic. Not normal programming logic.

Tim:So the importance of the software when it comes to helicopters in particular, what is it doing, it is not just with the frames you have obviously got a much more straightforward, where you can go one direction and turn one way or another, but with the helicopter what do you have to account for it?

Curtis:Well, with the flight control, originally helicopters didn’t have flight controllers, theyjust had fly bars which made it mechanically stable or aerodynamically stable. We have added the flight controls to do that stability for you. In the case of the variable pitch multirotor it is not only adding the stability but also just to control logic to actually fly it at all. It is a much more complex series of advanced based on where you are on collective and what should you be doing, because that actually changes.Unlike a helicopter which is consistent, this actually changes what you should do depending on where you are collective _____4:23right side up, certain things reverse, certain things do very odd things. So the flight control is doing a lot behind this single object.

Tim:Now Curtis we are here in semi-rural country _____4:33and it is a pretty windy environment sometimes, how does it handle in the wind?

Curtis:Oh good. Yeah, it does really well at all. I am actually surprised relative to a helicopter of comparable size it actually gets bounced around less. I think it is because the disk of the helicopter is fairly large, if you get wind under a disk, it really catches it hard. The smaller disks here don’t get caught in the wind as much.

Tim:Now the batteries here, these are pretty standard RC batteries.

Curtis:Yeah, they are just 6S 5000, two of them, which gives us a 12S setup.

Tim:So if somebody has this as a framework with these rotors, they might be able to do quite a bit, you could add bigger batteries in there, would that be _____5:12the end user can do to rebalance it?

Curtis:Oh yeah. As I said, this one is a prototype, really with what we had. As we make it a more finished machine, you could start giving it payloads and all kinds of other things to really scale up what you are doing with it. This is just really proof of concept to show that it can work.

Tim:Now a lot of people are using quad copters like this right now for cameras, they are using it for motion picture or just for fun, is this primarily built for that kind of purpose?

Curtis:Originally no. We start from the background of helicopters, and aerobatics and the joy of aero modeling kind of stuff. So a lot of the reasons we got into this was because I enjoy doing aerobatics and this is something we could learn to do aerobatic stuff with it. I sort of learned the details of camera work and industrial kind of stuff since then, and this is a very good application for that, but that’s not where the logic came from.

Tim:And overall the fact that helicopters and quad copters have really come in where it used to be all planes, for the average hobbyist who wanted to fly something around and not be inside of it, what has changed about that? What made that possible?

Curtis:The technology.Before when we first started with helicopters to be able to simply go out to the field and fly and not have it explode on you every time you try to fly was a big deal. Now you can get stuff that just works. You can get the little ones that just fly, even the larger ones with just a little bit of knowledge work very well. And what you gain with this kind of thing or a helicopter over a plane, it is just such a wide range of enjoyable things you can do with it, that tends to take the place of a lot of the planes and other stuff.

Tim:Can you talk about what you are holding right there, is this a gas engine?

Curtis:Yes, this is how you can convert this over to a gas a nitro setup in this case actually. So we just take the electric off and put the nitro in its place. And then that’s the power plant for the Mantaray.

Tim:Now explain what nitro means to a naïve viewer here.

Curtis:It is just kind of a fuel, it is a two-cycle engine that runs on nitro methane as part of the fuel as opposed to a gas engine which runs on a gasoline type engine like a car or a lawnmower or that kind of thing.

Tim:Now people argue for the energy density of gasoline in cars, is that also the argument here? Can you fly longer with the same payload weight?

Curtis:Yes for flight times. Purely for flight times. Because the electric is amazing, but you still have limited flight times relative to weight. It is nice to plug in and fly but to be able to stay up for long periods of time is still bit ofa struggle.

Tim:On that front too, what have you seen with batteries? Batteries for RC stuff, the same development, are you impressed by that as you are with the flight control?

Curtis:Yeah, the batteries took a big leap forward maybe six years ago, or seven years ago. There hasn’t been much of a change after that, but certainly six or seven years ago, maybe even a little bit before that, they made a huge leap with all the Lipo technologies, that’s what made a lot of this possible. I am sure the next leap forward is going to be even more amazing.

Tim:Now what about the rotors, these are carbon fiber?

Curtis:Yes, these are carbon fiber.

Tim:And how long has that been what you have been working with as your rotor material? You started out in the ‘80s with helicopters. How has that changed over the years?

Curtis:They started with wood blades when we first started flying. Carbon came it went into fiberglass and then you came into carbon and carbon has been in regular use for quite a while now, so it is a fairly common technology now in rotor blades—it works very very well.

Tim:And is that also a place where you see a lot of improvement over the last couple of years?

Curtis:Yes, that like almost all components of the model, it used to be a very high end only certain people knew how to make it work, only certain companies had the exact same thing that would work, now a lot of people, it is a fairly common technology now. Most people know how to make it work. So a lot of equipment just works.

Tim:Now you mentioned and we just saw some examples of aeronautics. Talk about what people do, why does that attract you as an activity?

Curtis:I enjoy it as basically as a hobby/sport thing to do. I enjoy line of sight, where I am watching the model from outside, I also enjoy the FPV version where you are inside like you are flying from inside the model with goggles on.

Tim:Go ahead and explain that acronym FPV.

Curtis:First person view. So you have the camera on the machine, and you have goggles or a screen and you fly from inside the model basically.

Tim:It is going to be great with the Oculus Rift things like that.

Curtis:Oh yeah.And it lets a lot of people I think they are attached to the idea that you are spying on somebody which to me is not at all what it is.It is entirely you are inside experiencing flight. You are inside the model, much less risk to you, doing aerobatics, and enjoying the sky.

Tim:Since we are in Texas, is there a regulatory atmosphere that affects you at all, with flying this sort of thing?

Curtis:I think commercially you have to be concerned, although they don’t seem to be really enforcing it at this point, but in general as a modeler there is no real concern.

Tim:What are the flying sort of parameters what is the envelope, how far can, this is a pretty big quad copter, how far across it is this 36, is it 48,

Curtis:1230 mm from rotor to rotor.

Tim:Okay. And how far does that let you go up in the sky and how far is your control distance?

Curtis:That is entirely set by the transmitter. This is kind of hobby grade radio equipment, you are talking maybe a mile and a half line of sight, as long as you are not too low, you can get other systems that give you a lot further, but that’s not hobby grade anymore and that’s where you start worrying about regulations and stuff.

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Fly an Aerobatic Quadcopter with Curtis Youngblood (Video)

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