Author Topic: FLYING R/C Lunar Module Quadcopter, at 1/16 scale  (Read 4598 times)

Offline georgegassaway

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I have flown model rockets since 1970 and R/C since 1977.  Models including Little Joe-II, R/C X-1 at 1/10 scale, and a scale Space Shuttle at 1/72 that separates the SRB’s, ET, and orbiter glides back using R/C.

 A new project i've been working on is an R/C Lunar Module Quadcopter.

I’ve wanted to do a model like this since 1970!  At the time it was an absolutely impossible dream project, to have a model of a Lunar Module to take off on rocket power, fly it around like a helicopter using R/C, then land like the LM.  Now way to anticipate that in later years the technology would exist to be able to do that relatively “easily” with a $40 Flight Control Board…. albeit with propellers for thrust and control rather than rocket power (of course in 1970 even the concept of a multicopter for hobby use didn’t exist).

A few weeks ago after a lot of planning, and choosing to build it at 1/16 scale,  I finally began it.  Basic plan to build a balsa/basswood Descent Stage structure, add the necessary Quadcopter parts, add extra mass to simulate the weight of missing future assemblies, and test fly it to see if it would fly well enough to be worth continuing or would need massive changes.



 I also made up a very crude “profile” simulation of the Ascent stage, using foam board and a printed pattern of the front of the LM.  For the final “pretty” version of the model I’ll be making the Ascent Stage out of thick poster paper, using patterns from a cardboard model file (as shown below) scaled up to the size of the model.




First test flights were Friday, without any legs, just some horizontal dowels to help keep it from tipping over. 





The flying went very well, it had plenty of thrust to take off and was very controllable.  So I added some crude legs and did some more flying on Saturday.

(yellow yardstick to indicate size)






That also went well….. up until I had a Main B Bus brainfart and it flew into a tree, falling about 30 feet to the ground.
Some significant damage, but I’ll be fixing it soon and do some more test flying before moving on with Phase 2:   more realistic legs, Ascent Stage, cover for the bottom of the Descent Stage, and engine bell among other things.   Phase 3 will be when it gets some other smaller parts (like RCS thrusters, ladder, porch, antennas), and add gold foil, gold mylar, UNITED STATES lettering,  black coloring, and all the other stuff to make the colors look more realistic. 

Although this is for a flying model, not a museum piece, so I’m not going to try to make it 100% accurate up close (WAY better modelers can do that), but to look pretty good FLYING in the air.

I have a video here:

I’ve posted a thread about it on the Rocketry Forum, with lots more info and more video links.
http://www.rocketryforum.com/showthread.php?137174

Before anyone suggests it, NO, the Ascent Stage is not going to separate and fly by itself.   :) 

I’ll be posting some updates on the progress over time. Weaving this among other things, hope to have Phase 3 done, looking good, around the end of February or so. 

And eventually I want to shoot some good video scenes to edit together to make for a nice quality video.

- George Gassaway
« Last Edit: 04/26/2017 07:28 AM by georgegassaway »

Offline Lunokhod 2

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Re: FLYING R/C Lunar Module Quadcopter, at 1/16 scale
« Reply #1 on: 11/11/2016 08:19 AM »
Very nice George. I can't wait for the finished model.
Vincent

Offline georgegassaway

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Re: FLYING R/C Lunar Module Quadcopter, at 1/16 scale
« Reply #2 on: 11/12/2016 02:51 AM »
Very nice George. I can't wait for the finished model.
Vincent

Thanks. Repairs are going along OK, then I'll be able to move forward to do a bit more airframe flight testing and begin Phase 2 to make up the Ascent Stage, good legs, and so on. 

I plan to make a special video after the model is compete and I get in a lot of good flying footage. Just at sunset, the moon was in the right place, sky clear.   I got out my  250 sized Quadcopter to test out trying to get a video scene  later with the finished LM.  Worked out pretty well.  I also did a lot of landing practice.  That 250 sized Quad, for purposes of testing and flying practice, is sort of like having an "LLRV".  :)   And it looks about as unflightworthy too (but can handle a lot of wind way better than LLRV's could)

 Orange is front, green is the back. The orange and green donut type objects are 1" wide slices cut from foam pool noodles, used as landing cushions and visual orientation. Green tailboom is a stick with LED strip on it, good indicator of where it is pointing even in daylight, and I fly it sometimes at night.

Anyway, imagine the completed LM model being flown in a scene with the moon like this.... even if a "wee bit" far from landing.  At a bit past 2:30 into the video,  there is a way that I find out when the battery voltage is getting low....and I make an audio comment.  :)



« Last Edit: 11/12/2016 03:04 AM by georgegassaway »

Offline georgegassaway

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Re: FLYING R/C Lunar Module Quadcopter, at 1/16 scale
« Reply #3 on: 12/03/2016 11:19 PM »
A big update on my R/C Lunar Module Quadcopter project. Upgraded the legs with cast lower struts, and added a mock-up of the base shield and engine bell using a plastic cup (for now).  Got in some VERY good flight testing, lots of  takeoffs and landings.  So, moving forward on this, towards a more realistic model in a few months. 









LOTS more info on The Rocketry Forum, recent posts beginning here:   http://www.rocketryforum.com/showthread.php?137174-FLYING-R-C-Lunar-Module-Quadcopter-project&p=1643630#post1643630

The edited video below has a lot of good flying on it. 



« Last Edit: 12/03/2016 11:21 PM by georgegassaway »

Offline mike robel

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Re: FLYING R/C Lunar Module Quadcopter, at 1/16 scale
« Reply #4 on: 12/04/2016 01:09 AM »
To top it off, you should have a model rocket engine and launch the Cabin after the last flight for the day.

Offline georgegassaway

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Re: FLYING R/C Lunar Module Quadcopter, at 1/16 scale
« Reply #5 on: 12/04/2016 04:00 AM »
To top it off, you should have a model rocket engine and launch the Cabin after the last flight for the day.

This reminds me of a couple of guys who said that my 1/72 space shuttle model that sepped the SRB's, sepped the ET (all coming down on chutes), and orbiter glided down by R/C, that the orbiter really ought to have deployable landing gear and TILES.  As though everything else it did wasn't enough. :)





It would be incredibly difficult to make a model of the Ascent stage take off on rocket power to any altitude high enough to deploy a chute or even fly stably. Model rockets are my thing, absolutely, but it would not be worth it for this.

Also, the rocket engine exhaust would tend to roast the Flight Controller (lower end of stack) and GPS Receiver (top of stack) that are mounted on top of the Descent stage,  hidden by the Ascent stage.  :)

« Last Edit: 12/04/2016 04:11 AM by georgegassaway »

Offline mike robel

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Re: FLYING R/C Lunar Module Quadcopter, at 1/16 scale
« Reply #6 on: 12/04/2016 04:06 PM »
Yeah.  I can imagine about the difficulty of lighting off an engine in the Ascent Module.

There would probably be lots of issues with the next weird idea, which is put the fans on the ascent module and have it able to take off separately from the Descent Module.  Stability issues come to mind.

Incidentally, I am in awe of your Shuttle model.  That is a real masterpiece.

Offline georgegassaway

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Re: FLYING R/C Lunar Module Quadcopter, at 1/16 scale
« Reply #7 on: 12/04/2016 05:45 PM »
There would probably be lots of issues with the next weird idea, which is put the fans on the ascent module and have it able to take off separately from the Descent Module.  Stability issues come to mind.

If you mean ducted fans inside, they could be vectored.  Air intake would be a massive problem though, having the windows open and hatch open would not be anyway near the area needed to let enough air get sucked in (never mind the horrible turbulent flow).  I mean, more like  leaving whole back side of the Ascent stage open, and I do not mean one panel, I mean the area you see  in a drawing of the back side (opposite side of the windows).

It would be practical to also add another (smaller) set of quadcopter arms, motors, and propellers to the Ascent stage, such as sticking out where the RCS quads are, or sticking outwards from the docking hatch.  And add a servo-activated release latch to allow it to separate and fly on its own.  But I'll leave that to some other modeler  - after such modeler builds a shuttle that flies like mine plus deployable landing gear and tile detail....   :)

But heck, if I was going to do yet more with Apollo R/C model stuff, rather than a separating ascent stage, I'd rather build a 1/16 CM/SM quadcopter that flew nose-down, that could be docked with the LM and take off together, then undock in mid-air.  Although somewhat problematic to land the CM/SM afterwards, most likely a landing structure with BIG funnel with a cone angle the same as the CM such that every landing would be like a real docking.

And again I'm not going to build that. But another issue with doing that would be the "Juggling plates" problem, dealing with flying that while also flying the LM.  At least it is possible to put the LM (or any other model using the same controller software set-up) into "Loiter" mode where GPS holds it in place over the ground and barometer keeps it hovering at the same altitude (I did that to take the pics I posted yesterday). But sometimes the Loiter begins to develop a horizontal circle that spirals to become bigger (Multicopter fliers call it "Toilet bowling"), so it's not a good idea to leave it unattended without at least monitoring how it is doing in case manual control needs to be resumed.  And the batteries do not last a really long time. 

So that would be more of a team flying type project, but I don't have a suitable R/C flying buddy nearby who could do that.  Also I prefer that if an important R/C model of mine crashes due to a dumb mistake.... that the dummy who made the mistake is me.  :)
« Last Edit: 12/04/2016 05:53 PM by georgegassaway »

Offline georgegassaway

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Re: FLYING R/C Lunar Module Quadcopter, at 1/16 scale
« Reply #8 on: 12/10/2016 12:03 AM »
Some updates....

Have made a horrible miscalculation with the Ascent Stage of my 1/16 R/C Lunar Module Quadcopter!



OK, just kidding.  Decided to get in a little practice of how to assemble the cardboard model patterns that are in 1/48 scale. So the partially built 1/48 Ascent stage is sitting on top of the GPS module "tower" that keeps the GPS module and its compass above the other electronics.    Did some computer work with the 1/48 cardboard pattern files to copy and paste 300% scaled up patterns for Ascent Stage parts onto 11 x 17 size paper ("poster" stock, though not  as thick as poster paper).  Got them printed at OfficeMax.  A few are visible in the background of this photo.



One of the planned extra features of the model is for the engine nozzle to be lit up like it was actually firing.   I have some very bright LED modules about 1" in diameter, with individual  LED elements.  I mounted four deep inside the mockup for the engine nozzle (Plastic cup), and added a frosted disc.  It lit up well indoors.



Tried it Friday in bright sunlight.  Nice overall photo of the model, but the engine lighting was pretty wimpy.



So, I removed the frosted disc. You can see the four LED modules, and the rows of LED elements.  So, the brighness works but doesn't look very good.



I have some other things I'll try for that. One is to try to find a clear or white reflector that is at least 3 preferably 3.5" in diameter (or if rectangular I could cut into a 3.5" circle).  Also, to get a circular LED assembly.  It would still have issues with being able to see the individual LED elements, but all equally spaced and a bit easier to work with  since those could be mounted near the bottom of the engine nozzle, and use a clear reflector or some kind of dispersion lens (I got a flat Fresnel magnifying sheet, but it just makes the elements look bigger).

I had hoped to get some video and photos with the moon, as today was partly sunny and the next few days will be overcast, then the moon will rise after dark and the opportunity will have to wait another month. When I shot the above photos, the sun was out for awhile, but overcast to the East at about the time the moon was due to rise. Just didn't seem like the sky would clear so I did some other stuff. Then 10 minutes before sunset I realized the moon was out, mostly. So I quickly got the model ready to fly again.

GoPro camera had worked earlier in the day but quit while I was trying this. I used my Canon digital camera in video mode, hand  held it early to show was was about to happen. Then while using the neckstrap, let go of the camera, leaving it running but  not pointed as I got the transmitter and took off. Once the model was in loiter at about 30 feet up (GPS keeping it from drifting away altimeter holding altitude), I put the Tx down and used the camera to get some video of the model with the moon. 



Then I stopped the video and took some photographs. Due to how dark it was, I had to use flash, so the sky looks black but it was not quite that dark (As seen in the screenshot from video below)



 Could not get a shot that had both the LM and the moon in focus.  The model needed to be farther away so I could use infinity focus and zoom in tighter. But it was windier than I was comfortable in letting the model fly that much higher up and much farther away horizontally.






BTW - I had replaced the flashing LED that is wired in series to make a super bright LED flash to simulate the Rendezvous strobe light.  But after awhile it stopped flashing and stayed on. I think the voltage eventually did it, made the flashing LED either die "on", or killed the flashing LED but its shorted and giving power to the super bright LED (rated 12V).  So I won't fix it again.  The flashing LED was a temporary measure anyway as I plan to use an Arduino for some features, like flashing the strobe more accurately than the flashing LED. And, the final version of the engine lighting will also be Arduino controlled, so the nozzle is only lit up when the electric motors are set above idle (could "Y" into the throttle channel to use a Speed control for that, but there's a better reason to do it with the Arduino).

Next build stuff will be the Ascent Stage using mostly the Cardboard patterns that I got printed at 300%. I will probably make a prototype Ascent Stage first to learn from.  Learn  how to assemble, how strong or weak it is, and so forth so I can find out what works and what needs to be done differently. So I can make a better one after learning from that one.
« Last Edit: 12/10/2016 12:05 AM by georgegassaway »

Offline georgegassaway

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Re: FLYING R/C Lunar Module Quadcopter, at 1/16 scale
« Reply #9 on: 12/10/2016 08:19 PM »
I finally checked my GoPro video from earlier Friday. Here’s some footage showing the visibility of the engine LED lights when it’s at a proper angle to see them up inside.   In the video, at about 40 seconds, I put it into Loiter mode (no drift, GPS keeping it in place) and used my digital camera to take some photos. Did the same sort of thing for the night pics too.  You can see the GoPro view change to the ground, as I got ready to, and then did, lay the transmitter onto the ground before using the digital camera for pics.




I want to make it more visible from a wide angle, so I may get a circular LED array like the one below to mount near the bottom of the engine.



Still will need to get some sort of lens, clear reflector,  or something to scatter the light so the individual LED elements will not be visible. Here is an example of a clear reflector that might do it (has a faint watermark on the image).



For my bicycle turn signal lights, I used yellow or red reflectors, cut to fit, with the same LED modules behind them and those scatter the light pretty well while being pretty bright (do not kill a lot of the light intensity as the frosted translucent disk did).  So I think that a clear reflector may work, more a matter of finding the right size for some reasonable cost.

Offline georgegassaway

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Re: FLYING R/C Lunar Module Quadcopter, at 1/16 scale
« Reply #10 on: 12/11/2016 10:59 PM »
I gave the model a partial Facelift.  Temporarily added an incomplete forward cabin section, and also an incomplete aft assembly, to the dummy Ascent stage.  Now, the dummy Ascent stage is about the correct thickness for the middle section, so with these parts stuck together they are close to representing the fore-aft locations of the parts.







I learned a lot in assembling the forward cabin. The fit is not quite right, I need to tweak the original cardboard model file and also be sure I get a couple of folds done better.  But as I said earlier, I figured the first one would not be the final one since there would be things to learn.

When I do make the central section, I will make some of it using foam board, such as the dummy Ascent stage. But the structure will be a bit different, and it will be “skinned” with the cardboard print.

As many if not most reading this should know, today was the 44th Anniversary the landing of Lunar Module "Challenger" on the moon, NASA's last manned mission to the moon.    It landed at  2:55 PM EST. I was flying the model today at 2:55 PM EST, first landing was a bit before , last landing some time after.

So, here is how the model looked in the air with the partial facelift:



And……

Here is how it looked landing….

kicking up “dust”



Here’s a video.  Good thing that the moon’s dust was not as deep as some feared…..



Also, a video from some flying on Saturday. I got it higher up than I’ve shown in previous videos. Also the engine nozzle light really stood out.

« Last Edit: 12/11/2016 11:01 PM by georgegassaway »

Offline DMeader

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Re: FLYING R/C Lunar Module Quadcopter, at 1/16 scale
« Reply #11 on: 12/11/2016 11:13 PM »
I can't begin to tell you how cool this is and how impressed I am even with the in-progress version. Can't wait to see the finished product. WELL DONE!!!

Offline punder

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Re: FLYING R/C Lunar Module Quadcopter, at 1/16 scale
« Reply #12 on: 01/10/2018 07:21 PM »
Hello George,

I suddenly clued in to your avatar, and found the build thread. Just wanted to say, that's awesome! Forwarding to my drone buddies. (Huh... that sounds different than what it means.)

I designed and scratchbuilt a Roton model rocket many years ago--pop-out rotors and everything--but it, um, didn't work. Got me a Rotary Rocket tee shirt, though!   8)

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