When I was a kid cutting
my teeth on .049-powered
model planes, I used to long
for one of the 'real' model kits
— powerful engines, huge
wingspans, and speed. When
I finally had the money and
experience to pick up one of
those kits, I discovered there
was little in the way of
instructions. The kit consisted
of exploded 3D diagrams and
a lot of uncut balsawood. The
assumed that anyone buying
such a model had graduated
past the need for handholding. Well, the Parallax
Elev- 8 is one of those 'real' models.
The folks at Parallax offer a flying robotics platform
that is wicked fast, super responsive, and yet has enough
space and thrust to transport two pounds of gear —
anything and everything from cameras and GPS receivers,
to paintball guns and egg launchers. It's also a serious
experimental robotics platform built with open source
hardware and software, and it’s fully user customizable.
Of course, the flight computer — the HoverFly Open Board
— is based on the aptly named Parallax Prop chip.
The Elev- 8 is for experienced electronics and model
aircraft builders and — when it comes to flying — for
experienced R/C enthusiasts. That said, you have to start
somewhere. The build is simple enough — if you can put
together a carpet crawler, you can build this kit. However,
as fair warning, I built two quadcopters from scratch
before attempting this kit, and I still managed to make a
couple mistakes during the build.
Another factor to consider up front is cost. This is a
$1,200+ adventure. The basic kit sells for $599. For that,
you get the motors, speed controllers, HoverFly Open
Board flight computer, mechanical structure, and
propellers. Add another $45 for the Elev- 8 Crash Pack (you
WILL crash), and $50 for a pair of LiPo batteries (Sky Lipo
4400 mAh, 3s, 11.1V).
If you're starting from R/C ground zero, then you'll
also need a six channel R/C transmitter and receiver
(Spektrum Dx6i, $220), a good LiPo charger and power
supply ($100-200), a few R/C specific test instruments
($50), optional ultrasonic range finder ($30), low battery
indicator ($5), prop balancer ($20), and assorted cables
and connectors ($30). Add a still or video camera of your
choice, GPS receivers, servo-controlled mounts for your
camera or laser, or what have you. The point is, it can add
up. Of course, you'll need basic electronic construction
hand tools, a DMM, temperature-controlled soldering iron,
solder, and testing supplies. Lastly, you need space. You'll
need a dedicated 3 x 6 work space for at least a week for
construction and testing. You'll also need space to fly.
Lots of it.
In the following discussion, I’ll hit the high points of
the build as I recommend it, as well as issues that may not
be obvious to a first-time quad builder. Officially, this is a
six to eight hour project, but this assumes no
modifications and everything on hand (never the case for
Unpacking and Parts Identification
( 20 minutes)
This kit arrives in a small white box, with components
nicely packaged in labeled and sealed plastic bags. Clearly,
someone at Parallax thought about the builder. After
reviewing what's what, separate the small hardware in a
muffin tin or small parts container. This is an appropriate
time to marvel at the four BP A2212-13/1000 KV
brushless motors. Each 28 mm x 28 mm motor (shown in
Photo 1) weighs only 53 gm.
The other item to note is the small 1" transparent
plastic light pipe which I managed to lose within minutes.
There are two pairs of safety glasses in the box — put on
one pair now.
SERVO 09.2012 45