Monday, 29 September 2008

Goodbye faithful friend...

The sickening crunch of metal meeting metal filled my heart with dread.

I watched in slow motion horror as the bodywork concertinaed up towards me. There was a mule kick from the steering wheel and pedals. The seat belt tore into my chest. I awaited my coffin to fold up and crush my legs...
The moment never came. My friend took the blow. Little Micra had saved my life...
Shiny panels slowed the impact, crumpling as designed.
Things didn't look good.
From the front you could pretend that the damage was superficial...
...but it was soon clear that a large and important section of car was now...gone!
I felt like crap. Everything ached. It aggravated all my old injuries including my 'bionic' leg from my motorbike accident. Luckily, whiplash and a hurt shoulder complete with 'seat belt' stripe were my only major concerns.

The guy that hit me had run a red light. I'd survived, but little Micra had not been so lucky.
We shared fond memories, Micra and I. Exploring the world together, we loved nothing better than a razz through the lanes...

Sunday, 21 September 2008

'Helicam' higher...

This poor little helicopter has fallen off, rooves, hit washing lines, trees, paddled in birdbaths, as well as the ground coming up and hitting it on numerous occasions; all without major damage.
Oh, but hit a bit of floppy tall grass with the rotor results in a 'top locked over shank sheet bend' knot of twisted green rope wrapped around the shaft accompanied by a shriek indicating that every last tooth has been stripped off the drive gears...OOoow!!
video
Flying helicopters is like watching a horror movie...you know something bad is going to happen, you just don't know when!
Nevermind, these things can always be rebuilt. I couldn't resist the temptation to modify it just a little. A new inner drive shaft topped with an aluminium fly bar support that allows the top blades to articulate even more...cool. A quick test flight and I'm ready for new horizons.
My previous attempts at ariel videography were thwarted by the camera switching itself off. I'd put this down to me not charging it sufficiently, but, even though the camera was new, it turned out to be the battery. Replacing the tiny postage stamp sized lipo battery was a fiddle. I've got big blokey wide fingers. I need the dexterity of a trained monkey, but that's a project for another day.
I fashioned some over sized skids from polystyrene in order to avoid crushing the camera on landing.
A lanyard was also included to prevent any camera free fall videos...
It wasn't the prettiest of setups, but it did the job.

As the machine rose ever higher, a speck in the sky, a halo of sunlight reflecting off the blades the only indication of its unnatural presence, I felt a dread that this would be the last time I'd ever see it. It didn't matter how still it was on the ground, up there where eagles dare, there was always a wind, or a thermal to snatch it away...
I was unable to get the views I really wanted as I had to turn it into the wind to enable enough control to keep it in 'known' airspace. I was glad to bring it back down, opting for a 'petal cushion' landing on a very surprised Begonia.
Next project... Lights, and night flying!
I reckon there's plenty of fun to be had buzzing a few drunks on their way home. That should spawn a few UFO sightings!!!...

Monday, 8 September 2008

Helicopter highs...

The idea was simple. Learn to fly a model helicopter, attach a mini video unit to it and get some cool footage. In reality it didn't turn out so simple.
I began with a cheap 3 channel electric model. No good. After practicing enough to elude myself that it was me controlling it, and not visa versa, I came to the conclusion that it wasn't up to the job. The slightest puff of wind sent it drifting to the far end of the garden.
A better helicopter was purchased. Coaxial rotors (2 main rotors mounted one above the other operating in opposite directions) for stability, 4 channel control employing a proper swash plate for pinpoint positioning. Now I was able to go up, down, forwards, backwards, plus yaw left and right, or any combination of all six together.
Learning to fly this was like patting your head while rubbing your tummy while riding a bicycle!! Two weeks later I could fly with reasonable accuracy.

I started off using a little wireless camera. Fairly light at only 20 grams the helicopter lifted it easily, unfortunately it required a heavy battery to run it. The weight was too much and flight became laboured and clumsy. I purchased a specialist flight camera. It only weighed 37 grams, and would take stills as well as 25 frames a second video, storing them on an SD card...perfect.

After weeks of windy, wet, dull, unsuitable weather, there came a still, brightish day. Everything was set... except the camera battery wasn't fully charged, damn. It switched off after 30 secs of video, which was VERY annoying. Luckily it had enough juice to carry on taking stills, one every 4 seconds. The first attempt seemed to be going well. Achieved a good height, span it around to look back at the house. Then, as I descended, the wind funnelling around the house gripped the little chap and urged him down to the main road. After amusing the rush hour traffic with a couple of jaunty pirouettes, it headed for the sanctuary of the front garden. The Bumble bees buzzed in annoyance as it landed on the flower heads next to them in the Buddleia bush. A battery change and a quick pruning to remove the majority of the collected foliage and it was time for another attempt. Brimming with enthusiasm I flew ever higher... The little machine was a silhouetted speck against a wide sky. This may have been part of the problem as the wind tussled the rotors... The tail boom was missing after a previous incident when the ground came up unexpectedly and hit it. It wasn't now very clear which way the helicopter was pointing. I descended a little, gravity being the only control I was sure of. That was better. Now I could see which way it was facing. Look left, over the neighbours garden... Look behind, for a view of my garden... Spin 180 degrees for a look at.... CRAP!! Who put that roof there?! Rotor tips whined at 3000rpm against the roof tiles, desperate to gain escape velocity. It was no good, the camera and tired battery forced an unceremonious 'gutter' landing. It dangled perilously from the high roof, swinging calmly from the one skid hooked over the gutter edge.
Not to worry. I have a plan. If I buy an even bigger helicopter, and attach a hook underneath. Hover it over the stranded one......