I've now had a chance to compare the original foam Skywalker ($83) with the new HobbyKing fiberglass Skywalker clone ($97).  They are both magificent birds, and it's just incredible how China can produce high-quality fiberglass and ply planes for about the same price as foam these days. 

 

The two have exactly the same dimensions and are otherwise essentially identical in overall shape and size. Although I've only flown the foam one, if the fiberglass and ply one flies the same, you should expect it to be equally smooth and stable in the air, able to handle wind well and carry a huge payload. They're both excellent UAV/FPV airframes and can stay in the air for 40 minutes or more with big enough batteries.

 

Choosing between them is really a matter of whether you prefer the somewhat more ding-resistant (but harder to repair) fiberglass and ply or whether you prefer foam for its easy-to-hack nature and crash-handling. Normally the choice between fiberglass-and-ply vs. foam would also take into consideration the interior room (fiberglass has much thinner walls so more room inside) but in the case of these two birds, they both have so much room that it's not an issue. You can pack all your electronics, 8,000mah of batteries and your lunch in both, with loads of space to spare.

 

In the end, I slightly prefer the foam version for a few reasons:

  • Wing comes apart into two pieces for easy transport (the fiberglass version has a single-piece wing)
  • Easier to build and modify, as is usually the case for foam. Between an exacto knife and Gorilla Glue, there's not much I can't do with a foam plane.
  • Better crash resistance? The foam one's wing attaches with a big bungee cord, while the fiberglass one bolts on, which feels like a likely point of crash failure to me.
  • It's so plain-looking I won't mind dinging it up!

That said, if you care about looks, don't mind the longer build time, and don't crash your planes as much as I do, I think you'd be very happy with the HobbyKing fiberglass version. It really is beautifully made.

 

Here's some shots of the nose and underwing space:

 

 

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Comment by Martint BuildYourOwnDrone.co.uk on February 1, 2011 at 2:09am
Interesting to see these two side by side, from the pictures I have seen it looks like the skywalker has an option to allow better access to the area under the battery carrier area, how do you find passing your hand down the fuse into that area in clone?
Comment by Marco Glattfelder on February 1, 2011 at 3:06am

Personally I don't like foam planes. I build my own planes in balsa and wood. I just ordered the HK FG one. shipping is somehow expansive, but I normally take the EMS option (I'm not so patient)so it's only 20$ more than a usual shipping till Switzerland. I will use it as test platform for my bigger gas powered 3m twin boom pusher.

Comment by DaveyWaveyBunsenBurner on February 1, 2011 at 4:03am
I have to say the fiberglass is very well made. Based on the fact mine hasnt left the box i cant wait for a flight report from someone soon!
Comment by brakar on February 1, 2011 at 7:24am

Nice review Chris!

How would you compare the foam version to the familiar EZStar, with regard to flight performance and build quality?

Comment by Mauro Rodriguez on February 1, 2011 at 8:41am
which is the difference in weight??
Comment by Kim Skatun on February 1, 2011 at 10:00am
Would be interesting if u could flew them both and provide us with L/D curves for them..

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on February 1, 2011 at 10:12am
brakar: the foam Skywalker flies better than the EasyStar, in the sense that it's larger, heavier and less affected by wind. It pretty much just goes where you point it and travels in a reassuringly straight line. None of problems with heading into the wind that you see with the EZ, and when it's trimmed right, it doesn't "propoise" and stall, the way the EZ does in windy condition.  That said, I'd still recommend the EZ for beginners because it can be flown in a smaller area and is probably more crash-resistant.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on February 1, 2011 at 10:13am
Mauro: I didn't put a motor and electronics on the fiberglass one, so I can't compare them directly, but they feel like the weigh about the same. The fiberglass one certainly isn't heavier.
Comment by Greg Fletcher on February 1, 2011 at 3:19pm
Could the fiberglass wing be modified into a 3 piece wing. Is it shipped in 3 sections or all ready together?

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on February 1, 2011 at 5:09pm
Greg, it's shipped in three pieces, but there is no carbon fiber spar to connect them. Just little six-inch plywood spars that have to be epoxied in. It would require a significant modification to make it detachable--you'd need to create proper rod channels and rods, and some sort of latching apparatus. It would require stripping the wing, rebuilding it and recovering it, I think.

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