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Amazing technlology for cheap
Old 06-25-2016, 01:47 PM   #1
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Amazing technlology for cheap

Browsing around on a web site dealing with radio control model airplanes I was struck (not literally) by one of the models offered. The airplane is targeted at beginners who more often than not have a very hard time learning to fly and land a model for a variety of reasons. This thing has some amazing features that wowed me:

1. A "virtual fence". The airplane "knows" when it is going too far away and automatically turns around to it won't fly away (and that does happen sometimes). When it is back inside the "fence" it rocks the wings to let the pilot know he has control again.

2. Panic recovery. It is not uncommon for a new pilot to become disoriented with the airplane and totally lose control. Push a button and it automatically recovers and flies straight and level.

3. Holding pattern. Again, when the new pilot loses orientation it will fly in a circle 65 feet overhead until orientation is regained.

4. Autoland. Exactly what it sounds like - hold a button and the airplane will land itself near where it took off.

While I'm not an engineer, I got to thinking about what has to be going on in this airplane to make all that happen. It has a sophisticated radio receiver and some type of computer on board. It has a GPS to keep track of where it is and an altimeter to keep track of how high it is. It has at least a crude autopilot to do all the things it does. That used to be very, very, expensive and weighed many pounds if it could be done at all.

When a model airplane flew the Atlantic in 2003 it took a team of engineers to make that happen. I knew most of them because I belonged to the same R/C club.

And this new model does all this with an all-up flying weight of 3.7 ounces, and retails for $170 ready-to-fly out of the box with a transmitter. Without the transmitter (if you already have one) it sells for $150.

I think this is absolutely amazing!

When I started flying R/C models in 1983 I spent at least four times that (in 1983 dollars) to get to the flying site with a five pound airplane that that I spent six weeks building and had to be watched every second or it was gone.

Anyone else have examples of applied tech that makes you think of how stunningly cheaper, better, and more reliable some things are now than "the good old days?"
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Old 06-25-2016, 02:55 PM   #2
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That RC plane sounds like what I would need, I could see myself having one fly away over the tree tops and never coming back.
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Old 06-25-2016, 02:57 PM   #3
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The plane sounds like a lot of fun Walt34. I don't know the first thing about RC planes, but I'm willing to learn. What's the name/brand of the plane you described?
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Old 06-25-2016, 03:03 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Walt34 View Post

3. Holding pattern. Again, when the new pilot loses orientation it will fly in a circle 65 feet overhead until orientation is regained.

4. Autoland. Exactly what it sounds like - hold a button and the airplane will land itself near where it took off.

Anyone else have examples of applied tech that makes you think of how stunningly cheaper, better, and more reliable some things are now than "the good old days?"
It has come a long ways since my '70's eight channel Heathkit days. Great for a beginner but I think I am more of a puriest and would rather have a challenge.

I was wowed like your RC's when I went from a B-727 to an A-320 which would auto fly departures, routes, arrivals, holdings and auto landings. However it was not cheaper.

I am still amazed what a formation of drones can do:

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Old 06-25-2016, 03:10 PM   #5
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The plane sounds like a lot of fun Walt34. I don't know the first thing about RC planes, but I'm willing to learn. What's the name/brand of the plane you described?
This one here. Unless someone asked I wasn't going to post that for concern of appearing a shill for the product, but I've bought other stuff of theirs and they sell good products:

Champ S+ RTF | HorizonHobby

Look under "Manuals and support" and you can read the manual for it.

And on this page (scroll down a bit) there is the videos of the descriptions of the various functions over on the right hand side of the video. Or just search on youtube for it.

Horizon Hobby Video Channels | HorizonHobby

But mainly in the thread what I was thinking of (other than for cars) what other tech stuff have people run into that makes an everyday product so much better?
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Old 06-25-2016, 03:19 PM   #6
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It has come a long ways since my '70's eight channel Heathkit days. Great for a beginner but I think I am more of a puriest and would rather have a challenge.
I can understand. Recently after about a 13-year layoff I started flying R/C "foamies" because I can just step out to the back yard and fly there. Not being sure how rusty I was I picked one with some "easy out buttons" but I've never used those features. It all came back pretty quickly.

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I was wowed like your RC's when I went from a B-727 to an A-320 which would auto fly departures, routes, arrivals, holdings and auto landings. However it was not cheaper.

I am still amazed what a formation of drones can do:
They are amazing - some pretty fancy programming going on there.
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Old 06-25-2016, 03:26 PM   #7
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Anyone else have examples of applied tech that makes you think of how stunningly cheaper, better, and more reliable some things are now than "the good old days?"
30 years ago, an adequate bass amp was expensive, large, and heavy. I still own a 100 watt bass amp from the 1970's that weighs about 90 pounds and is 33" high x 24" wide x 16" deep, although some other models from that era were a little smaller and lighter. It barely had enough power to be heard over a drummer and guitar player.

My current bass amp is a 16" cube that weighs 29 pounds, and puts out 300 watts, or 500 watts if connected to an extension cabinet.
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Old 06-25-2016, 03:55 PM   #8
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I assume we're excluding (as too obvious) computing devices such as tablets and smartphones.

Digicams can now do more than the finest film cameras, and the low-end ones are cheap enough to include "free" in other devices.
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Old 06-25-2016, 09:07 PM   #9
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Great idea for a thread. I'll have other ideas later, but sticking with the theme of the OP, on the extreme low end of flying machines, the Cheerson CX-10:

https://www.amazon.com/Cheerson-2-4G.../dp/B00KXZC762



I bought some of these last year, for ~ $16 (shipped). Not as full featured as what was described in the OP, but I just can't believe how much it can do for a few bucks.

You get this quad coptor, with four motors and props (and a few spare props), rechargeable lithium battery and charger, transmitter/controller, and all the logic to make this thing fly (and perform pre-programmed flips!). I looked into the technology, and the microchips used are just phenomenal. The same chips that tell your smart phone or tablet if it is level, or being moved. Microscopic sized 'fingers' etched into the chip, that are 'wiggled' back and forth, and create a gyroscope effect like a turning wheel (independent wheels are not so easy to etch into silicon). Changes in motion are sensed by the forces on these microscopic fingers. All this in a $16 device that flies??!! Geez, looks like they are $10 now!

So those sensors go into a a controller on this tiny, palm-sized flyer, and adjust the speed of each of the four motors many times per second to keep it level. Your throttle changes the average speed of the four motors, while the logic keeps it level. When you want to turn, your controller tells it to lean X degrees, and the logic follows, causing it to move in that direction. In a $16 device??!!

This is "they would have burned you as a witch" stuff!

These are the good old days (and bad old days in other ways, but save that for other threads!).

Maybe it is because I do kinda understand this stuff, that I find it (almost) unbelievable?

-ERD50
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Old 06-25-2016, 09:17 PM   #10
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I assume we're excluding (as too obvious) computing devices such as tablets and smartphones.

Digicams can now do more than the finest film cameras, and the low-end ones are cheap enough to include "free" in other devices.
Video! OMG, we used to spend some big $ for clunky old video tape camcorders. The video in so many devices now is so superior, can be easily copied with no degradation, better low light performance, can be edited and manipulated - the difference is just staggering.

Last year, I got all our old VHS-C family videos digitized, and our Mini-DV tapes (already in digital format on tape), converted to a hard drive. IT really makes you appreciate what we have today.



Ahhhh - OK, in the video vein:

Skype (or other video conferencing) - Video Telephones were always like flying cars. But now we get them, basically for free, and in stunning quality.

-ERD50
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Old 06-25-2016, 09:49 PM   #11
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CNC machining is making rifles cheaper and more accurate than ever. Used to take heavy modifications and many trips to the gunsmith to get a match grade (sub MOA) rifle. Now many qualify right out of the box and for just $300 dollars or so. More reliable and safer too. Pretty good for a very mature technology.
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Old 06-25-2016, 11:07 PM   #12
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Sounds like those smart consumer drones.
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Old 06-26-2016, 08:47 AM   #13
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Always wondered if having been a pilot would help with RC. Does it?

I've missed flying from time to time, but realize I'll never be Pilot In Command again (Never pass the physical.) But going the RC route might just be the ticket to my fantasy life of flying again. YMMV
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Old 06-26-2016, 09:47 AM   #14
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Always wondered if having been a pilot would help with RC. Does it?

I've missed flying from time to time, but realize I'll never be Pilot In Command again (Never pass the physical.) But going the RC route might just be the ticket to my fantasy life of flying again. YMMV
From my experience, it probably does.
We had a flight instructor in my son's RC flying club. He seemed to pick it up easier than most. Nowadays there are some RC computer simulators that are also great training tools.

Full disclosure. I've never flown RC other than a glider for brief periods. This was always my son's hobby.
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Old 06-26-2016, 10:17 AM   #15
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...

Anyone else have examples of applied tech that makes you think of how stunningly cheaper, better, and more reliable some things are now than "the good old days?"
Rechargeable batteries. I remember when buying a rechargeable battery (ni-cad only back in those days) seemed like an investment. I remember as a kid with my brother playing with walkie talkies and having a battery that we could talk, drain out, and charge overnight and reuse was living a good life. . Now, having a battery with memory effect that takes overnight to recharge seems so limiting.
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Old 06-26-2016, 11:03 AM   #16
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Rechargeable batteries. I remember when buying a rechargeable battery (ni-cad only back in those days) seemed like an investment. I remember as a kid with my brother playing with walkie talkies and having a battery that we could talk, drain out, and charge overnight and reuse was living a good life. . Now, having a battery with memory effect that takes overnight to recharge seems so limiting.

For sure. The idea of an electric airplane or helicopter even a few years ago seemed ridiculous.


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Old 06-26-2016, 01:09 PM   #17
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Always wondered if having been a pilot would help with RC. Does it?
It did for me and that seems to be the case for most of the pilots I know who later took up R/C airplanes. That said, it isn't a dramatic difference but it helps because you already know and understand the aerodynamics, what the control surfaces do and why. That's about the only advantage you'll have though.

The biggest issue you'll have is the same one everyone else has, that of keeping the aircraft under control when it is coming towards you. If you move the controls to make the aircraft move right, it will go towards the aircraft's right, which is to your left. This is very disconcerting and takes a while to adapt to. Oh, and you have about three seconds to fix this or the airplane crashes. I found that wiggling the ailerons just a little bit on final approach was the easiest way to keep it straight in my head.

They weren't available when I was learning R/C but the standard advice now is buy a simulator and practice for a couple of weeks. Crashes are free and you don't have to buy/build a new airplane!
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Old 06-27-2016, 09:04 AM   #18
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Makes me want to give RC planes a try!
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Old 06-27-2016, 10:10 AM   #19
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Remarkable the tech that is available for cheap these days - the gal mentioned a 3 terabyte HD for $49 the other day. The tiny quad-copters that have stability control and do tricks are amazing. Human ingenuity and creativity is remarkable.

Then last night I was visited by a mosquito. hmm. size, maneuverability, stability control, autonomous control... Maybe our creations aren't all that astounding yet.
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Old 06-27-2016, 10:30 AM   #20
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Fun discovery I made yesterday: A floppy disk drive (the 1.4MB ones) without any disks now costs more than a 1 TB drive.
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