This week I visited the National Model Aviation Museum in Muncie, Indiana. If you have never been, put it on your short list of 'to-do' items - seriously. Just inside the main front door, to the right is a double set of doors, with glass windows, that lead into the Claude McCollugh Education Facility (you can see the roll door to the outside in the lead photo). Some local fellows, with their flying trailer, had just arrived before I did at the 10 AM opening time. You can see their trailer just to the right edge of the building. In the room, one fellow had a Futaba shirt on but, didn't look like a factory flyer. I nodded, smiled, and then noticed a multirotor with 'chicken legs' sitting on a far table. I thought, 'That design looks familiar.'
Other fellows were busy setting up cameras and lights for a photo shoot of the multi as well as a 600 or so size conventional heli. Being there to do research on a designer/builder from the 1960's, I didn't have time to chat them up. It was a good thing that I had to make several trips to the car to transfer all the stuff for my research.
On about the 4th trip, stepping out the front door I heard it, that characteristic buzzing that only a multi makes. It took about 5 seconds to locate it hovering over the pond in front of AMA headquarters! The edited Gmap pic below shows where it was located.
I was certain the pilot was running FPV but didn't want to interrupt the crew that was also taking pictures of the multi while it was flying. It hovered in front of HQ for a moment or two and, in spite of the the stiff breeze with bumpy gusts, held steady and then began to move up and toward the lower left of the Gmap image above. Not having time to enjoy watching it, I grabbed what I went to the car for, went back inside with a big grin, and continued my research.
An hour or so later on yet another trip to the car, I saw the multi sitting behind the trailer on a Pelican box with several folks standing around it. Now was the time to engage them. The closer I got to the multi, the more certain I was of the product.
'Hey there!' I said. 'Is that a 3DR multi?'
'Yep. An X8.' (I knew it. Those 'chicken legs' were a dead give-away.)
'I saw you flying earlier, was that FPV?'
'No. It was autonomous. We are flying for a local TV station story about drones.'
(That explained the photographers and long lenses they were using while it was flying.)
My grin got even bigger on hearing that. The pilot went on to say he was running APM 2.6 with the 3DR radios. He told me he had a Pixhawk too but had not put it in an aircraft yet. I told him about my friend John Githens and his Pixhawk in his Safeflight airframe (too bad about SF) and how he is building up an XPro Heli project (I will say no more to let John tell that story). We parted after a bit more chat and the pictures you see below.
If that is not complete proof that the AMA is not against multirotors and autonomous flying, then you simply are not paying attention to what is going on in the world today. Even though the X8 was running autonomous, the pilot still had his TX in hand, ready to take over in the event something went awry.
The contrast of what I was researching and the aircraft sitting in front of me could not have been greater.
Visit the NMAM. The collection is huge and a real 'drone' is part of the collection.
This was my first trip to the NMAM, certainly not my last. The staff there are friendly and engaging. The archivist I was working with was wonderful and a credit to the museum (Thank you SO MUCH Jackie!).
How was I to know that the technology of today would be present when researching the past?
Truly, this is a great time to be alive and an even better time to be in the hobby!
Here's a link to more information regarding Mothership and the other test models it lofted.
I ran some numbers on the published average flight times (way too many factors to be 'clean' numbers)
At 22 sec time at 5000 ft release: 5000 ft / 22 sec = 227.27 ft/sec = 154.96 mi/hr = 249.38 k/hr.
The AOA (angle of attack) would affect that number but, it still gives you an idea of the jet-like performance figures that flying bodies have.
If you look at the photos, note the date.
Here's another shot from the NMAM. An X-33 drop test airplane and scale model.
Note the instrument tube on the flying body. Wonder how much instrumentation was in there for the day and how it would compare to APM or Pixhawk today?
The display card text is (mostly):
My guess is that the data collection was telemetry based to a ground station. That way if the model piles in and is totally destroyed, at least the data was recorded. The tech is mature enough that there could have been uP based data logging also. Someone wanting to dig into the records (NASA test data is public data, you just have to know where to look and what to look for) might find more information on the project.
The 'drone' on display that Quadzi asked about is 5 feet to the right and behind me as I faced this model. Hoot Gibson's display is out of frame to the right of this hanging model.
There was just no time in the single day to soak it all in.
And here is the real kicker, my wife and I had the entire museum pretty much to ourselves. That won't be the case starting in late May or June.
Quadzi, I don't recall and I apologize for that. I was so excited about everything the actual details were glazed over. I wanted to take photos of so many planes but only took about a 15 minute break from the document research I was doing to look at the collections.
The museum is only open 6 hours a day this time of year. My wife and I ate lunch and made a run for more batteries for my camera (should have taken the AC adapter...next time). That left only 5 hours for work and wide-eyed staring at famous models I read about as a kid and youth.
But back to your question. The support gear on the floor was at least from the late 40's or 50's. It was the only target drone on display. Other drones were hanging from the ceiling. One was foam based and tagged as being used by the military. You can see the landing gear hanging down in the top of the photo.
Mike Downey - As an AMA member, you get in FREE! Non members are $4. (You cannot buy a good lunch for $4.) You should see the helicopter collection on display. I took a photo of them but it does no justice to the collection.
Hi Doug thanks for sharing . One of the things I get out of a museum is the incredible things they did in the past with only the materials and tools they had available. Aircraft,Museum, Just walking in the door would be Awe inspiring. Have a great Day!
That looks like an OQ-19B. Did it have a metal wing?
the AMA's recent change of heart regarding FPV and autonomous flight is the ONLY reason I renewed my membership this year after a 4 year hiatus. The AMA has always been a great organization, but the FAA had them scared to death of FPV and anything beyond conventional RC.
We are REALLY going to need the AMA this year after the recent FAA issues in the courts. They may be the only organization that can help prevent a major FAA overreach. We need to support them this year more than ever!
Fantastic story, thank you! I just saw a multi flying over our local Easter egg hunt this morning. He was doing FPV, presumably taking some pics/vids of the festivities. Still a little unnerving having one of those flying right over a massive crowed of people, knowing that things can and do occasionally go wrong. But they're certainly becoming much more "mainstream".