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2015/08/31 Unusual Flight to Burning Man
π 2015-08-31 01:01 in Bm, Flying
Like last year, I rented a plane and flew to Burning Man with Joyce and John, but this turned out to be a one way flight...
Apparently the turbo sprung an oil leak and I ran out of oil in the air, causing the engine to fail while we were flying. Thankfully I had started noticing that the engine was making a noise that wasn't quite right and expedited our approach to the runway, and as I did that the engine failed due to lack of oil, started vibrating heavily, and I eventually stopped it so that we could have a glide without all that shaking.

I almost made it to the runway, but since it was on the Playa, landing anywhere was fine, and I was able to steer towards the runway for smoother ground while decelerating on the ground, and get closer to the airport taxi area although in the end the plane did stop short and had to be towed there. While having an engine failure sucks, this was just about the safest place possible to have one, and the landing was uneventful.

As a first for this year, I also was able to bring and fly my motor glider RC plane I had spent loads of time preparing and testing. I have a separate page for these RC flights, and pictures/videos of Burning Man from the sky.

You can see most of the flight, airport, and BRC from the sky.

And do not miss my Main Burning Man 2015 report.

Pictures of the flight:






this is the smallest line at the entrance I've ever seen...
this is the smallest line at the entrance I've ever seen...

nicely marked runway
nicely marked runway


The landing was of course a bit unusual:

this is as far as we got with the rolling speed after landing. close but not quite :)
this is as far as we got with the rolling speed after landing. close but not quite :)

we got a bit of oil, but enough had been lost in flight that it didn't cover the windshield
we got a bit of oil, but enough had been lost in flight that it didn't cover the windshield

The airport volunteers nicely helped to tow and secure the plane, and gave us a ride
The airport volunteers nicely helped to tow and secure the plane, and gave us a ride

The hole next to the yellow wires is obviously not supposed to be there
The hole next to the yellow wires is obviously not supposed to be there

The customs department is still doing a good job :)



The airport has definitely grown steadily and is getting a lot of charter traffic, and even private jets. I also see that more people have been using my patented method of ceram wrap and painters tape I introduced in 2006 :)





nice taping job, but not enough tape to hold it
nice taping job, but not enough tape to hold it

better job on this one, although it's missing the prop where playa dust will get to the grease
better job on this one, although it's missing the prop where playa dust will get to the grease

nice
nice

Obviously, I wasn't able to fly home, and the charters were both full and wanting some $700-$1000 for a flight home, but thankfully I was able to find a pilot who was flying a few people back to San Carlos and had an extra seat in his plane:


room for 5, nice :)
room for 5, nice :)

exodus
exodus


Now that you've seen the flight, have a look at the real meat: Main Burning Man 2015 report.

See more images for Unusual Flight to Burning Man
2015/08/31 Burning Man 2015, Carnival of Mirrors
π 2015-08-31 00:00 in Bm
I guess Burning Man is becoming too popular. I barely got tickets by clicking on the purchase link at 12:00:00. Unfortunately there were some ticketing snafus like some people getting tickets without staying in line and without trying to cheat (ticketfly bug), and then Burning Man in a great moment of stupidity, revoked those tickets after having mailed them, just a few weeks before the event (I know, this happened to some coworkers of mine).
Anyway, I got my ticket this time and went there with my friends Joyce and John.

Like the previous years, it was a lot of work to process/fix/sort all the pictures and write this summary report (2186 pictures this year, trimmed down to 1191, and 494 selected as the better ones sorted in different categories). All pictures are geotagged, so you can click on them to see where they were.
As a way to say thanks if you enjoy the report, share it with your fellow burners, or friends who might be interested in burning man.

If you'd like to see reports from previous years, you can go to my main BM page, and especially if you don't know burning man, you should read my 2002 page which has more of an introduction.

If you'd like to use my pictures in a commercial setting, drop me a line to discuss and I can give you full resolution pictures (marc<at>merlins.org).
If you'd like to say thanks with cash, please donate money to one of the many camps and art installations that are often out of pocket after burning man.

Summary:

  • Flight and Airport (summary in this page) or open a tab to Flight and Airport (picture album)
  • Black Rock City (summary in this page) or open a tab to Black Rock City (picture album)
  • Art (summary in this page) or open a tab to Art (picture album)
  • Camps (summary in this page) or open a tab to Camps (picture album)
  • People (summary in this page) or open a tab to People (picture album)
  • Vehicles (summary in this page) or open a tab to Vehicles (picture album)
  • Fires (summary in this page) or open a tab to Fires (picture album)
  • Temples and Churches (summary in this page) or open a tab to Temples and Churches (picture album)
  • The Man (summary in this page) or open a tab to The Man (picture album)
  • Conclusion
  • Tips
  • Thanks
  • Last year, I worked a bit too hard trying to bike all the streets of Burning Man, and not spending enough time to relax as well as see things on the playa within Esplanade and the art spread throughout. So this year I didn't try so hard to bike all the outer streets, although I had an extra day, having arrived Monday, so I did end up biking 147 miles/238km, but that included more deep playa biking. I also had to stay put on occasion due to the multiple dust storms we got, including one day where the temperature dropped in 2H from pretty darn warm to "I'm so glad I have 2 extra layers of clothing in my backpack" temperatures, and nights with just one shirt to nights with 2 pairs of pants and 4 layers and gloves to stay warm.





    Some of my time was also spent trying to fly the motor glider RC plane I had spent loads of time preparing and testing. I have a separate page for these RC flights, and pictures/videos of Burning Man from the sky.



    Black Rock City





    lost and found was super organized
    lost and found was super organized

    not bad
    not bad

    thank you to our lamplighters as always
    thank you to our lamplighters as always

    dust hockey by center camp
    dust hockey by center camp

    The jokes about "this year was dusty" were actually true this year. High winds most days, even dust storm at night, but we had close to a full moon:




    A couple of camps had elevated viewpoints:





    There was also a trebuchet in front of center camp, which could launch a flaming piano on occasion :)

    taken from my RC plane
    taken from my RC plane




    Art

    There is art on the playa everywhere of course, too much to see all, especially as it comes and goes during the few days, but here are some shots. I did try to get up early enough to go to an Artery tour at 10:00 and got to see a few pieces I might otherwise have missed:









    this was awesome, target shooting targets with a nail gun :)
    this was awesome, target shooting targets with a nail gun :)

    The musical tesla coil was awesome:


    Another awesome idea, a burner zap lamp with nitrous cartridges inside (and yes it did shock you if you touched the wires):



    Misc night pictures:















    One piece of art that was interesting was the fire snake. Unfortunately it had a twice a night fire show that I managed to miss every night because of changing times and weather issues (high winds):




    The typewriter was also fun, although no matter how many monkeys we put on it, they didn't write any shakespeare :)



    Charnival was also a favourite at night, lots of games to play with:







    fire tetris
    fire tetris


    The lightshow installation was very sweet. Great classical music to accompany really well programmed light patterns:





    A bit off in the Playa, Straightedge was supposed to show the curvature of the earth with its flashing lights:


    needless to say that it was hard to photograph
    needless to say that it was hard to photograph

    Deep playa is also fun to go check out (12:00 by the trash fence). One night, there was a movie theatre (gone the next night):




    And let's not forget Daft Punk which had fans waiting for them :)


    The colored dots were also a great dance floor:




    I also really liked this fantastic piece at night:



    Just like I really enjoyed this retro game displayed on a screen using lasers controlled like old vector CRT screens:


    Camps

    As mentioned earlier, while dust storms made this a bit harder, and I also tried not to be as gung-ho about it this year, I still biked close to 150 miles and got to see a fair amount of camps, outside of Dustfish/Sextant I was staying at:

    home sweet home, and a big thanks to Brian for the tarp I put on top of my tent to stop morning sun
    home sweet home, and a big thanks to Brian for the tarp I put on top of my tent to stop morning sun

    Brian and Helen, who nicely took my stuff to BM and back
    Brian and Helen, who nicely took my stuff to BM and back

    Sextant had a huge zipline
    Sextant had a huge zipline



    Other camps:

    whee!
    whee!

    Talk from John Gilmore at camp Soft Landing
    Talk from John Gilmore at camp Soft Landing


    plenty of camps were nice to share food and drinks
    plenty of camps were nice to share food and drinks



    a nice burlesque show I caught during a dust storm
    a nice burlesque show I caught during a dust storm




    Camp Surprise had a reservations only French Restaurant offering fine dining although maybe somewhat inaccurate dishes :)


    table mates I met in line for our reservation
    table mates I met in line for our reservation

    Maitre D
    Maitre D



    I also like to collect fun signs :)


    This surrender your baby location was brilliant!
    This surrender your baby location was brilliant!





    I went to try pedal bump, half broken pedal cars where the staff would hit you with pillows and throw stuff in your way :)


    Camps are also interesting to visit at night of course:



    the fake millionaire camp had bouncers to keep the riff raff out :)
    the fake millionaire camp had bouncers to keep the riff raff out :)


    I also got to see real talented magicians
    I also got to see real talented magicians

    Voted best roller coaster on the playa!
    Voted best roller coaster on the playa!


    And let's not forget the sound camps. White Ocean still had a pretty setup, but the lineup was not to my taste. Oakey ended up not playing at all, and no Trance to be found anywhere on any day :(






    People

    I of course also enjoy taking pictures of willing people :)



    I'm told the sheep was willing :)
    I'm told the sheep was willing :)





    I also randomly ran into my friend ranger fixit
    I also randomly ran into my friend ranger fixit

    I was able to catch the French Maid parade and the Billion Bunny March this year (although critical tits was moved at a different time and ended up being in a dust storm again):


    cleaning center camp :)
    cleaning center camp :)




    And yours, truly, with an LED strip I bought in Japan, a power controller I built myself, and a flashing module I got from China :)

    Remember, don't be a blacktard, you'll get run over by an art car
    Remember, don't be a blacktard, you'll get run over by an art car

    Fires

    My usual Fire picture section, fire shows, fire dancing, fire structures, and random burns:












    Vehicles

    As always, one main attraction of BM are all the crazy vehicles, art carts, and bike-like constructions :)

    This RV caught fire and was dragged on the playa to make sure its fire wouldn't spread to other camps before being inundated with water, great job!:


    Not many fancy bikes this year, but this wins as the smallest one :)


    There were 2 camps offering bike tracks to run. Some were challenging and it was easy to fall off and hurt yourself :)

    some of these were easy to make mistakes on :)
    some of these were easy to make mistakes on :)

    this one was easier and you could try to see how quickly you get around it
    this one was easier and you could try to see how quickly you get around it



    I tried to pimp up my bike a bit, and it was so much easier to find in a sea of bikes at night:


    Of course, it's more fun at night:










    Temples and Churches

    This year we had the usual temple past the man, a very nice Taiwanese temple, and a Church (which as an idiot, I failed to visit before I got closed before its burn).


















    The Man

    And last, but not least, the Man.
    It wasn't as big as last year, but I've now confirmed that they apparently build it out of a structure that doesn't really burn or fall during the burn, to stop people from rushing towards the man as soon as it falls, and the fire is still big. Yeah sure, it's probably safer, but come on, safety third! On the plus side, the fireworks were really good.

    On the plus side the displays and attractions around the man, including the small maze to get to the middle, were well done.










    The Foxcarn factory by the man was fantastic:





    And of course, in the end, it burns...














    Conclusion

    This was an interesting year in many ways, from the engine out landing arrival, the challenging weather, the new experiences courtesy of my friends, and flying RC (although this year, BMorg handled that pretty badly as explained in my RC page).

    Tips

  • My 2002 report has a bit more of an introduction: http://marc.merlins.org/perso/bm/2002
  • My 2014 has more up to date tips, have a look at them: http://marc.merlins.org/perso/bm/2014/#Tips
  • http://www.burningman.com/media/doc/preparation/tip_sheets/bm08_tipsheet.pdf
  • http://overyonderlust.com/must-know-burning-man-tips-for-newbies
  • http://sfist.com/2012/08/27/bay_area_burners_bestow_burning_man.php
  • http://www.anybodyburns.com/bmhintstips.htm
  • Thanks

    Thank you to everyone who contributed to burning man by:
  • designing/bringing/building art installations, as well as art cars
  • building camps that were offering music, drinks, fries, crepes, brownies magic or not :), or anything else
  • volunteering anywhere
  • sharing with others in any other way. This page was my way to share with you, please share and enjoy :)
  • 2015/08/25 Visit of the Google Seattle Office
    π 2015-08-25 01:01 in Google
    After a week in Seattle, I had to go visit the office to see a few coworkers, although unfortunately both Kendall and San were out that day, but I ended up running into Marcin, which was unexpected :)
    Nice little office with cool decors:












    you can even check out kayaks to go on the river, cool :)
    you can even check out kayaks to go on the river, cool :)

    2015/08/24 Hiking Mt Rainier
    π 2015-08-24 01:01 in Hiking
    -: -

    We took a day off our visits of Seattle to hike around Mt Rainier from Paradise Visitor Center (the South side). We first did the paradise loop and then continued up towards Muir Camp and stopped around 8000ft due to lack of time to finish the south loop:






    glacier sliding down from the top
    glacier sliding down from the top



    Jennifer enjoing her fresh crab dinner (fished the previous day)
    Jennifer enjoing her fresh crab dinner (fished the previous day)

    went to get some ice for lunch
    went to get some ice for lunch

    those little chipmunks were bold and were everywhere :)
    those little chipmunks were bold and were everywhere :)




    climbing to 8000ft gave us a better shot of the glacier
    climbing to 8000ft gave us a better shot of the glacier

    on the way down, we found lots of people going up to Muir
    on the way down, we found lots of people going up to Muir

    I see Johannes has friends who like to ski without lifts :)
    I see Johannes has friends who like to ski without lifts :)





    the south loop took us by some lakes
    the south loop took us by some lakes



    I could tell those pretty birds weren't very wild
    I could tell those pretty birds weren't very wild

    didn't take long before they came see me :)
    didn't take long before they came see me :)


    Watch these little guys happily eating but carefully avoiding the sunflower seeds:
    I've been told that those are Gray Jays, also known as camp robbers, and they can be a nuisance like seagulls, so I shouldn't have fed them. They seemed well behaved and careful, so I was tricked. My bad.

    another big lake before hiking back up to the visitor center
    another big lake before hiking back up to the visitor center

    it's definitely big, although 8000ft is a bit high, we didn't get anywhere close to the top
    it's definitely big, although 8000ft is a bit high, we didn't get anywhere close to the top


    our loop
    our loop

    what we climbed on top of panorama point, doesn't look like much, but it was, and very uphill :)
    what we climbed on top of panorama point, doesn't look like much, but it was, and very uphill :)

    We then finished our loop to the lodge and parking lot:

    Paradise Camp lodge
    Paradise Camp lodge


    By the time we finished our loop, for a bit over 8H, and we only had about 1H to check out the rest of the area before sunset. We had a quick look at things on the way down with whatever daylight we had left and finished with a night hike by Longmire Lodge:


    river from the glacier
    river from the glacier



    by then light was fading fast
    by then light was fading fast


    After the quick loop by Longmire, it was time for the long drive back to Seattle (almost 2H drive). It was a good day. Our main hiking loop was 11.5 miles, 7.5h from 4900ft/1490m to 8200ft/2500m. I guess a 1000m/3300ft climb wasn't too bad.

    See more images for Hiking Mt Rainier
    2015/08/22 Longer Visit to Boeing Museum of Flight
    π 2015-08-22 01:01 in Flying
    Last time I visited, I wrote "one of the best flight museums I've seen so far: a full visit takes over 4H and even a quick one takes over 2H :)". This time, we hada full day (7 hours), although we really had about 5H left after the 3D movie and the special tour of the space shuttle trainer.

    We started with the private tour of the space shuttle trainer, the cabin crews actually aren't that big, but they only have to spend about 2 weeks in it, so I guess it's not so bad. This is the actual trainer that was used at Houston Space Center and I guess it was donated to Seattle after Houston got a real space shuttle for their museum :)








    We then took a tour of the main floor:












    Of course, their SR71 prototype with an A21 drone is a highlight since it's the only one left in existence:



    engine starter block with 2 v8 chevy motors
    engine starter block with 2 v8 chevy motors




    There were many more planes to see:

    or cruise missiles
    or cruise missiles











    The couple of sections about space were good too:





    They had a 787 on display, explaining the new avionics:



    the pilot has a nice HUD like a fighter pilot would
    the pilot has a nice HUD like a fighter pilot would


    the beluga plane was used to move the space shuttle trainer
    the beluga plane was used to move the space shuttle trainer

    Then, they had the room dedicated to old planes from the WW1 and WW2 era:












    lots of ammunition stored in the wings
    lots of ammunition stored in the wings

    The museum also moved the red barn where Boeing used to build its planes 100 years ago, and put it in the museum:



    More vintage posters:





    And just like that, it was 17:00 again, and I had to rush a few places again, bummer :)
    Needless to say that this museum has plenty to see and is definitely worth a whole day. We almost needed more...

    2015/08/21 Seattle
    π 2015-08-21 01:01 in Aquariums
    The Seattle aquarium wasn't the best, but eh, still worth a visit, so we had a look while in Seattle.






    nice size octopus
    nice size octopus

    The pygmy cuttlefish they had were both cute and fun to play with (I kept them interested and occupied with pictures through the glass). Have look at the video, those things are super intelligent, they chck you out, change colors, and raise their tentacles when they're ready to pounce. It got even more funny when I showed them a picture of a small crab on my phone:




    See more images for Seattle
    2015/08/21 Seattle Dinners
    π 2015-08-21 01:01 in Dining
    While we were in Seattle, we tried several restaurants, some had yummy seared foie gras :)






    See more images for Seattle Dinners
    2015/08/20 Seaplane Flight in Low Overcast Seattle
    π 2015-08-20 01:01 in Flying
    We went for an early flight one morning, unfortunately it was a very overcast day in the morning, so the views weren't fantastic, but still, it was nice to see Seattle from the air, and that was my first seaplane flight.



    EMP in the bottom right, and science museum just up and left of the space needle
    EMP in the bottom right, and science museum just up and left of the space needle

    very nice houses with their own boat and seaplane
    very nice houses with their own boat and seaplane


    did I say overcast?
    did I say overcast?

    smith tower
    smith tower

    cars line up for the ferry, with overflow lines
    cars line up for the ferry, with overflow lines





    many boats...
    many boats...



    and that was it after our water landing
    and that was it after our water landing

    2015/08/17 Seattle Museum of Communication and Living Computer Museum
    π 2015-08-17 01:01 in Sciencemuseums, Trips
    As soon as we landed in Seattle, we went directly to the Museum of Communication, which is only open a mere 5 hours per week (10:00 to 15:00 on sundays). Yes, it's not easy to get to, but it's well worth it: it's an old telco facility that was turned into a nonprofit museum where volunteers who used to work there, give you tours and explain the old technology that used to run our phone systems.

    The mechanical switches and relays that route a phone call digit by digit were quite impressive to see, including manual switchboards where an operator would patch in your call with a physical banana plug. Here's a quick video summary:

    Our great personal tour guide:





    they used microwave links for point to point connections to other COs
    they used microwave links for point to point connections to other COs





    an old AT&T video phone that worked over phone lines (with a slow bad picture due to line limitations)
    an old AT&T video phone that worked over phone lines (with a slow bad picture due to line limitations)








    check out the thousand+ amp switch with heavy copper
    check out the thousand+ amp switch with heavy copper


    later semi electronic phone switches used boards like these, but they are impossible to fix or replace
    later semi electronic phone switches used boards like these, but they are impossible to fix or replace

    it's fun to hand connect a thousand+ phone lines by hand in a conduit
    it's fun to hand connect a thousand+ phone lines by hand in a conduit

    before
    before


    after
    after

    Next, we went to the living computer museum, which also was quite good and gets credit for having many computers online you can interact with:





    a 68k based Sun3, sweet (although it was slow)
    a 68k based Sun3, sweet (although it was slow)







    the CDC 6600 was the first supercomputer before the Cray1
    the CDC 6600 was the first supercomputer before the Cray1




    we had a Amstrad PC1512 at home
    we had a Amstrad PC1512 at home

    and an Amstrad CPC-464 too
    and an Amstrad CPC-464 too

    we also had an Atari STF and later STE
    we also had an Atari STF and later STE

    Dongeon Master, I remember spending so many hours with this game
    Dongeon Master, I remember spending so many hours with this game

    Both museums were quite interesting and worth the visit.

    2015/08/17 Visiting Seattle
    π 2015-08-17 01:01 in Trips
    : -

    After a too brief visit of Seattle while going to San Juan Islands in 2010, I used the opportunity of presenting at Linuxcon to spend more of time to visit Seattle this time.

    We had a day before the conference, and used it to go see two great museums: Seattle Museum of Communication and Living Computer Museum which are on their own page. We then just had enough time to do Ride the Ducks, because Jennifer never had so far:






    Monday night after the conference, we had a party by the Chihuly glass blowing museum by the space needle:










    Wednesday night, our party was at the EMP. I decided to go there with the monorail, and as luck would have it, it was the same exact monorail driver I got 5 years prior. EMP had lots of random-ish expos, those on science fiction, horror movies, and indie video games were quite good:












    On Thursday, after the conference was over, we started with a seaplane flight (on its own page), and then went to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to check out what they do. While we didn't agree with everything, overall they do good work and the foundation does a good job explaining what they do and why:


    We then went to the science museum (which was ok, but not fantastic), and then the sculpture park before going up the space needle to watch sunset:











    On Friday, we started with a VIP early food tour of Pikes Place Market. It was enjoyable, but overpriced in my opinion. The guide was very good though:












    mmmh, ok :)
    mmmh, ok :)


    Next, we went to an underground tour which shows of the streets of Seattle at the level they used to be at before the city was rebuilt on top:



    the underground streets got light using those
    the underground streets got light using those


    We then took a quick stroll through town to get to Columbia Center to have other high up views:










    Next, we went to the Aquarium, which wasn't the best ever, but still worth a visit.

    the underground bus system is nice
    the underground bus system is nice




    The pygmy cuttlefish they had were both cute and fun to play with (I kept them interested and occupied with pictures through the glass). Have look at the video, those things are super intelligent, they chck you out, change colors, and raise their tentacles when they're ready to pounce. It got even more funny when I showed them a picture of a small crab on my phone:




    On the way out, we walked a bit and went back to Columbia Center for sunset:







    On saturday, we went to the Boeing Museum of Flight, which was definitely worth a full day (on its own page)
    On the way out, we drove a bit for some views, and went for a yummy dinner:




    at least it doesn't say 'pubic market' :)
    at least it doesn't say 'pubic market' :)

    Sunday, Jennifer got invited to go crabbing a bit up north, so we took a long drive by deception pass:






    We then went to meet the friends that Jennifer made a few days earlier and who invited her to come ccrabbing with them. We got so many crabs that we had to put some back in the water (over quota).
    Watch Jennifer in action:



    jennifer happy :)
    jennifer happy :)

    yes, it's big enough :)
    yes, it's big enough :)


    yum! (they nicely invited us to eat them for dinner later that day)
    yum! (they nicely invited us to eat them for dinner later that day)

    After crabbing, we had a look at the nearby parks:






    Monday, we got up early and did the long-ish drive to Mt Rainer for 8H of hiking (on its own page).

    Tuesday was our last day, so we first went to the Boeing Factory tour which is well worth doing, but no pictures inside the factory, just the visitor center:






    new customer planes
    new customer planes


    We then came back south to Visit Google for lunch (on its own page), and then went to see the locks and a couple of parks before it was time to go back to the airport:










    We just had enough time to stop by Kerry Park for a nice elevated viewpoint, before driving back to the airport for our flight home. That was a good visit of Seattle, I feel like we got a good overview :)



    Seattle was a nice city, good that we had the time to see most of it.

    See more images for Visiting Seattle
    2015/08/15 BFG2600 FPV build with Pixhawk/Ardupilot 3.3 (Diamond 2500 remake from Hobbyking)
    π 2015-08-15 01:01 in Rc
    So, I was looking for a replacement for my Multiplex Cularis, but hopefully one that would have a bit more cargo space for avionics and not be as much of a bitch to build (the Cularis requires way too much tricky assembly and too much careful cutting to make space for avionics).

    I wanted a big glider with flaps, and a front motor (not a crappy little pusher motor with whiny prop that would never have a lot of trust for takeoff with a heavy load). The Diamond 2500 turned out to really be the only match I could find, but it was out of production. I did however find that the Hobbyking BFG 2600 was a Chinese ripoff of it, which in this case came in handy because the original wasn't around anymore.
    I typically would wary of RC gear from China because too much of it cannot be trusted, but in this case I didn't really have many other options. So, I read up on the failure rates and quickly found out that I should immediately throw away the ESC and replace it with a proper one. To be fair, the entire aircraft was $200 and my replacement ESC only was $90 (Castle Edge Lite 75A). The good news was the 60A motor seems to be decent enough so far, which is good because my old motor from the Cularis would not fit on this model anyway. Update: Motor is crap too, I burned both motors I got. The motor makes incredible power for its size and weight (and likely price), but nothing is free, the motor is too small and too light for the amount of power it puts out, buyer beware... Turnigy L3020B-600 Brushless Motor (800w) seems to be the smallest replacement that will fit.



    here are bigger motors that should provide the power without burning up
    here are bigger motors that should provide the power without burning up

    you can see how much smaller the stock motor is, no wonder it burns up
    you can see how much smaller the stock motor is, no wonder it burns up

    The BFG2600, is indeed a big f'ing glider, as can be seen next to my X-UAV Talon with wing extensions (2.6m wingspan instead of 2m wingspan). Obviously the BFG is much more aerodynamic than the Talon which is a big of an air SUV :)
    Thankfully it also flies at slower speeds and has very efficient flaps which when used as crow flaps allow for a steep slow descent for landing in smaller places (the X-UAV Talon does not fly slow and requires a fair amount of space to land):


    flaps that are designed to go mostly down (more down than up), like barn doors
    flaps that are designed to go mostly down (more down than up), like barn doors

    The build by HK was mostly ok, except for the cheap servos (I'm going to replace at least the elevator servo), control surfaces that need to be freed up before they can move, and the stickers just interfered with flying: they were half glued and peeling off:

    this scared me, I filled it with gorilla glue so that it doesn't fail
    this scared me, I filled it with gorilla glue so that it doesn't fail

    the rudder horn is mostly broken in all shipments because they don't disconnect it for shipping
    the rudder horn is mostly broken in all shipments because they don't disconnect it for shipping

    I ended up putting another horn with backing plate to replace the broken one:


    While having the airframe built was great, unfortunately routing wires to the rear of the plane after the fact was near impossible, I had to make holes in the airframe to painstakenly route them half inside, half outside:

    I made this hole to see how I could route cables inside (not so much) and stick the GPS/accelerometer
    I made this hole to see how I could route cables inside (not so much) and stick the GPS/accelerometer

    all decked up, and ready for an FPV flight with a spotter
    all decked up, and ready for an FPV flight with a spotter

    Now while the glider is bigger and can carry more weight, it doesn't actually have that much more cargo space than the Cularis, and when it's already built, it's also hard to put anything behind the main cabin as all the space is glued together and doesn't have much continuous empty space inside you can put extra gear in:

    I had to start cutting the wood to put things underneath. Note how the ESC is also tucked in the motor hole to save space
    I had to start cutting the wood to put things underneath. Note how the ESC is also tucked in the motor hole to save space

    the space meant the battery had to go on top of the pixhawk, which wasn't good since the pixhawk had to have free movement to be shielded from vibrations
    the space meant the battery had to go on top of the pixhawk, which wasn't good since the pixhawk had to have free movement to be shielded from vibrations

    I built this fancy battery stand :)
    I built this fancy battery stand :)

    just enough room for a 4200 4S battery on top, not bad
    just enough room for a 4200 4S battery on top, not bad

    You can see the hole for the 3DR radio and once you add 2 mobius (one in the front, and one just behind the battery), things get very packed
    You can see the hole for the 3DR radio and once you add 2 mobius (one in the front, and one just behind the battery), things get very packed

    Now, the video. For my maiden, I just stuck a mobius in the rear, which upset the CG a bit, caused 3 stall spins after takeoff while I was racing to adjust the trim, and it almost caused me to crash (see the first 45 seconds). Good reminder that too much rear CG is deadly to a plane:

    After everything was ready, I had 3 cameras and can switch in flight: top FPV camera, and 2 mobius underneath where the lens is moved to the end of an extension cable to fit the lens where the camera wouldn't fit:



    nice and sleek|clean airflow-wise, and no worries of hitting the camera first when I land thanks to the wheel
    nice and sleek|clean airflow-wise, and no worries of hitting the camera first when I land thanks to the wheel

    sadly, my 900Mhz VTX died, so I replaced it with a 600mW 5.8Ghz VTX for now
    sadly, my 900Mhz VTX died, so I replaced it with a 600mW 5.8Ghz VTX for now

    A few pictures from the front and rear cams on a _very_ windy day:



    the soccer field I was flying from
    the soccer field I was flying from

    shot from the rear camera
    shot from the rear camera

    And this is what the OSD looks like (bad video quality, but enough to see where I'm going):

    wind speed 25kph, 2.7km of gliding distnace in that direction while I was only 299m from takeoff point
    wind speed 25kph, 2.7km of gliding distnace in that direction while I was only 299m from takeoff point

    I can switch to the 2 HD cameras in flight to see where they aim
    I can switch to the 2 HD cameras in flight to see where they aim

    landing, mostly against the wind, crow flaps fully deployed hence the bad glide ratio (which is what you want for landing)
    landing, mostly against the wind, crow flaps fully deployed hence the bad glide ratio (which is what you want for landing)

    If you don't get sea sick, you can see the front and rear video, along with the heavy wind sounds. It's fun to play them at the same time:

    So, what are my impressions of the BFG2600?

  • I removed the steel balls in the wings, I don't need that weight and this gives me more weight back to carry the electronics (thanks to http://haveblue.org/?p=1235 for the weight reduction tips).
  • I also replaced the heavy metal rod that goes through the wings with a carbon fiber one. You can order a 2m tube from rockwestcomposites, and order 2 cuts at 83cm (12cm outer diameter, 10cm inner diameter). This will give you 2 tubes plus a left over: https://www.rockwestcomposites.com/t-rnd-472 . Actually while I don't know the quality, aloft hobbies has some cheap ones now: https://alofthobbies.com/carbon-fiber-tubes.html
  • It's a lot of plane for the money, especially since almost fully built
  • If you trash the ESC and put a good replacement one, the stock parts are mostly good enough (except maybe for the servos)
  • The servo horns are stupidly fragile. no idea why they picked those. I added gorilla glue to make them stronger.
  • You do need to disconnect the servo rods and move all control surfaces to free them up
  • I love that the flaps are designed to go down so much, makes for easy braking and landing in smaller spots with a steep approach
  • The carrying capacity is great although the cargo space is a bit more limited than you'd think considering the size (this is mostly due to all the space lost to where the wings join)
  • Speaking of the wings, having to connect/disconnect and carefully route 4 servo wires each time is really a pain in the rear. Cularis had a much better connect/disconnect mechanism
  • As mentioned earlier, routing cables to the tail without having cables run outside of the plane is almost impossible on the prebuilt plane. Shame...
  • Overall it flies great, no tip stall issues as long as the CG isn't too far back
  • So I do quite like the BFG2600. I hope I'll be able to soar with it one day, so far despite the huge wings I haven't been able to gain altitude on thermals yet. The good news is that it flies well, even in very heavy winds (I've tried 35kph winds so far), and has ample power to take off easily despite all the electronics it's carrying.

    Update (2015/10/14)

    I added an airspeed sensor in the wing, however by then I decided to fix the issue of connecting/disconnecting the wings, which was a constant pain, and only going to get worse with the airspeed sensor. I hacked the MPX connectors so that I could simply plug the servo connectors into them (better than cutting the wires and soldering since I can revert easily if needed). I put a metal wire through the connector to make sure the servo connectors would stay in:


    I've bent the back pins so that they align with the servo plugs (weird that it wasn't default)
    I've bent the back pins so that they align with the servo plugs (weird that it wasn't default)

    the other side of the MPX plug, I've just soldered to servo cables going to my autopilot
    the other side of the MPX plug, I've just soldered to servo cables going to my autopilot

    the left wing (top wood flap) has the plug into the wing since it's the hardest one to route cables for
    the left wing (top wood flap) has the plug into the wing since it's the hardest one to route cables for

    the right wing has both the servo wires and an extra set of cables for the airspeed sensor
    the right wing has both the servo wires and an extra set of cables for the airspeed sensor

    the metal wires allow for securing the servo plugs, it'd be bad if they got disconnected :)
    the metal wires allow for securing the servo plugs, it'd be bad if they got disconnected :)

    On one side I was able to put the connector inside the airframe. On the other side, due to lack of room (a camera going through the space where the connector would have fit), I just have a dangling connector, but it's not as bad since it's only one. For the airspeed I2C cable, it needs four wires, but I was able to use only 3 with a servo cable and reuse the ground from the servo connector

    on one side I was able to put the connector inside the airframe
    on one side I was able to put the connector inside the airframe

    All in all, this new connection system works pretty well, I'm happy with it :) (but it sure would have been nice if this kit had come with a built in quick disconnect, I spent way too long making my own).

    Update (2015/11/10)

    I had a few issues with the front camera between having it take a nice front facing shot that doesn't show the bottom of the plane, and not being hit by pebbles when I land. I briefly tried to put a metal shield around it, but in the end the shield was getting ripped away on landing, it was just too close to the ground. I ended up fixing this by ungluing the wheel and lowering it a bit, giving more clearance for the camera lens without needing the metal shield:


    This was supposed to protect the camera, but it got caught and ripped off on landings. Instead, I raised the wheel
    This was supposed to protect the camera, but it got caught and ripped off on landings. Instead, I raised the wheel

    I also found out that the mobius cameras leak on the 433Mhz band, so burried them a bit lower down in the plane so that they don't affect the LRS reception as much:



    it's still a bunch of wires, hard not to have them interact
    it's still a bunch of wires, hard not to have them interact

    2015/08/13 My First X-UAV Talon, and its demise
    π 2015-08-13 01:01 in Rc
    After having had a Talon sitting my garage for almost a year, I finally got around to building it. The instructions were poor, but the build was easy, so it didn't matter:

    turns out I wouldn't be using the dome, like most people
    turns out I wouldn't be using the dome, like most people

    my wing extension kit came with this seemingly useless replacement gear that weighed way too much
    my wing extension kit came with this seemingly useless replacement gear that weighed way too much

    sadly, the wood support didn't have any underneath plate to put the autopilot on
    sadly, the wood support didn't have any underneath plate to put the autopilot on

    so I had to make my own plate to attach to the supports
    so I had to make my own plate to attach to the supports


    The kit came with 2 kinds of servo horns. I ended up using the bigger ones, and made holes to use the backing plates with screws:



    I got the wing extensions right away:


    I got to fit my pitot tube between the main wing and the extension
    I got to fit my pitot tube between the main wing and the extension

    The motor and ESC aren't super easy to access once everything has been glued:


    Given how big the inside of the plane, is, I figured the bluebeam 1.3Ghz antenna might fit inside, but not quite, bummer:



    almost fits...
    almost fits...

    I however had plenty of room to put a 360 degree servo attached to a mobius mount:



    The wheel didn't turn freely, I had to cut out some extra foam to help it:


    I then went for my first flight, I had to put 10,000mAh of batteries in the very front of the plane just to balance out the CG :)


    didn't bother putting the dome
    didn't bother putting the dome

    The first flight was "interesting" as in I didn't have flaperons working yet, landings were at pretty high speed. The other issue was that my elevator was way too sensitive and I had a hard time adjusting the pitch for landing, causing me to come for many landing approaches before I nailed one:

    After a trip, I spent some time to put my FPV gear in because I wanted my next videos to have telemetry showing airspeed and other options on the video so that I could review it more easily and check minimal speed with and without flaps, and see how things go before stalls
    I figured I'd cram the $500 gopro inside the CXN mount so that it would be less exposed in case of a crash, and the FPV camera goes on top:



    I added some wood so that it would hit first instead of the cameras :)
    I added some wood so that it would hit first instead of the cameras :)

    The batteries can now be in a more central position without breaking CG:



    I then went for the new maiden flight. Takeoff was a bit dicy since my Talon now weighed 4kg with all the gear, but things were ok. It flew pretty fast though and I wanted to see how much I could slow it down with flaps. Unfortunately, after trying full flaps, things looked ok for one second or two, so I got my hand off the flaps slider and that's exactly when the plane pitched straight down.
    I only had enough time to pull on the elevator but not enough to retract the flaps. Replaying the video shows (with only a few pixels) that one of my ruddervator surfaces got unglued due to the G and weight stress, causing a full loss of control and full speed crash into the ground :(

    The impact was severe enough pretty much everything was broken, including both microsd cards that were in the cameras:


    first card has an internal short and won't work and 2nd card was sliced by the shock :(
    first card has an internal short and won't work and 2nd card was sliced by the shock :(

    the lipos also didn't like the Gs, but thankfully did not burst into flames
    the lipos also didn't like the Gs, but thankfully did not burst into flames

    The mobius did survive the crash (the lipo inside got compressed and the lens cable unhooked, but it's working again). The gopro unfortunately had its LCD damaged, so it can still record but won't display what it's doing anymore :(
    Obviously, this was very disappointing, although I leanred a few things:

  • flaperons on the X-UAV Talon are very dicy because they almost work as reverse elevator :(
  • you need to very heavily glue the ruddervator surfaces, and I failed to do that. Expensive lesson...
  • 2015/08/07 Anniversary Lunch at The French Laundry
    π 2015-08-07 01:01 in Dining
    We had known about French Laundry for years, but hadn't gone so far for a combination of reasons, but mainly that it was far and ridiculous to get reservations at (well, and also because we do have plenty of excellent restaurants closer by). But, I figured that we should still go one day, so I had our excellent concierge make a reservation for us for our anniversary.

    We got an 11:00 reservation on a friday and we got there after a slightly less than 2h drive (yes, if you do the math, it was more time driving than eating at the end, but I knew that). The French Laundry had been closed for 6 months or so to destroy their kitchen and rebuild a new one. When we arrived they were working out of a temporary kitchen as the new one hasn't been built yet, but that didn't seem to have impacted the quality of the food we got.

    The welcoming and setting were good. They had a menu printed in our name, and it only had 2 options: vegetarian or non vegetarian tasting menu, both at the same price ($300 per person). The menu had 3 dishes where you could substitute a more expensive dish. As plenty others have remarked, they strangely did not have a wine pairing option, which in our opinion is a big faux pas and something that no other such restaurant we've been to, was missing.



    The food was very good, the dishes were well presented and the servers all did a very good job (service is included in the price by the way, which is the French way). In the end, my opinion was that it was very good and well executed, but not worth the 100% premium you pay over other very good restaurants with excellent tasting menus too. Part of my reasoning is also based on the fact that due to their popularity, they of course raised their prices quite a bit over time, but unfortunately also removed some dishes. We didn't come out hungry in any way, but they used to have more courses than they do now.

    Then, my last point of comparison is that they serve very good traditional French food, but it's not as fancy/different as what you'd get in a place like Baume which offers molecular gastronomy, something interesting to try, or Alinea in Chicago where the entire fancy meal is a spectacle around how it's presented and served.
    This may be why their online reviews seem to be a mix of 1's and 5's: people who've enjoyed the still great meal, and others who've eaten at other very good such restaurants in the world and don't find TFL so much better as to justify the price their charge and difficulty of getting reservations.

    Either way, we were still happy to have tried it out and cross if off our list :)

    Actually I should mention that what sets them apart is that they give you a very nice booklet that shows all the ingredients used for the meal, and how they were chosen and sourced. That was a nice touch that other restaurants we've seen, don't do.

















    The dinner did finish with a bunch of desserts and sugar, maybe a bit too much for Jennifer, and borderline what I could handle :)

    2015/08/04 Using Flaperons With Ardupilot
    π 2015-08-04 01:01 in Rc
    This page was copied to the official place on ardupilot website The new location may be more up to date and you should likely link to it instead of this page:
    http://plane.ardupilot.com/wiki/flaperons-on-plane

    Elevons, Ruddervators and flaperons with Ardupilot/APM::Plane

    Note that this page is current as of August 2015 and tested with APM::Plane 3.3, although what I'm describing should be relevant to older versions too.

    Ardupilot/APM::Plane takes your RC input and either passes it through, or uses it as input for automatic modules like FBWA or CRUISE (and in some cases will mix the RC input with the generated output, like allowing you to add aileron control to the aileron control computed by let's say RTL).

    The part where things get complicated is:

  • Elevons (flying wings have only 2 controls used as elevator and ailerons)
  • Ruddervators (V-Tail) where rudder and elevator are mixed into a V-Tail surfaces. This is used by planes like the X-UAV Talon
  • Flaperons is simply allowing your 2 ailerons (using one channel each) to be used as flaps and ailerons
  • Elevon and ruddervators are well documented. Even if you care about flaperons, you should look at this page since it explains the basics of mixed modes, and they are relevant to flaperons too: http://plane.ardupilot.com/wiki/arduplane-setup/first-time-apm-setup/reversing-servos-and-setting-normalelevon-mode/

    The first concern on a pixhawk is that using any of those mixed modes requires decoupling the control surfaces from direct passthrough control coming from the RC Controller. Passthrough is a mode where if the pixhawk has a bad failure, it's able to connect RC1-8 directly to the relevant output channels without doing anything with them.
    Obviously, if your control surfaces are mixed by the pixhawk, passthrough will not work anymore. While this kind of bothred me, I've been told that pixhawk failures are so rare that I should just forget that passthrough even exists, and not worry aobut losing it (besides quadcopters never had passthrough support anyway).

    For flaperons, in the past, I naively connected my first aileron to channel 1, and my 2nd aileron to channel 5, setting RC5_FUNCTION to 18. This looks like it works, as in Ardupilot can control both ailerons in auto mode while it will passthrough channel 5 in manual mode and allow my controller to generate flaps down by controlling both ailerons.
    This of course, did not allow Ardupilot to control ailerons itself in auto modes, but I didn't care.

    But, I soon found out that if I had flaps down with my controller and then switched to auto mode, ardupilot would receive an aileron command on channel 1 and assume that I'm trying to mix in a turn into RTL or FBWA. APM::Plane could support this properly, but does not. You can follow this issue for details: https://github.com/diydrones/ardupilot/issues/2186

    Given this, the only way to get proper flaperon support is to use the support in ardupilot is to give aileron control to Ardupilot (i.e. no passthrough anymore). There is only incomplete documentation on it, hence this post. See:

  • http://plane.ardupilot.com/wiki/arduplane-parameters/#flaperon_output_arduplaneflaperon_output
  • http://plane.ardupilot.com/wiki/arduplane-parameters/#servo_out_function_rc5_function (24 and 25)
  • http://plane.ardupilot.com/wiki/arduplane-setup/first-time-apm-setup/automatic-flaps
  • How to get flaperons to work

    So here's what you need to know:
  • do not do any more aileron mixing on your TX, only send aileron input on channel 1
  • channel 1 is unfortunately lost, as in you can't connect an aileron to it (this is because RCx_FUNCTION does not work for channels 1-4). This is arguably a shortcoming of ardupilot because it is able to use a channel for input and output like we will do for channel 5 below.
  • you then need to put your ailerons on 2 other channels. Unfortunately, again, they must be on channels 1-8, even if it would be convenient to put them on RC13 and RC14 so has not to burn channels used by your transmitter. Turns out that as discussed on https://github.com/diydrones/ardupilot/issues/2523 , your ailerons still work in passthrough mode when the pixhawk is crashed or rebooting, but this only works if they are on channels 1-8, so in the end you probably wouldn't want to put them on channels 13 and 14 where passthrough would not work. Given that, you put your ailerons on channels 5 and 6 and set RC5_FUNCTION to 24 and RC6_FUNCTION to 25 (which one is which doesn't matter).
  • now, you need to add a channel on your transmitter to say how much flaps you want in manual mode. The good news is that you can re-use RC5 for this (i.e. it'll be used to sample flap input and totally separately used to generate aileron output). You don't have to do this (you can send flap input on channel 9 for instance) but reusing channel 5 saves you an RC channel since you're unable to move your ailerons on output channels higher than 8.
  • Ok, from there it gets more tricky. If you are unlucky, sending flaps input may cause your flaps to go up and act as spoilers, which is not what you want. To be clear with direct aileron control from your TX, you can have your flaperons go up or down (flaps or spoilers) but once you go through Ardupilot, they will only work as flaps. It's not ideal but likely good enough for most.

    So, here's what you need to do next:

  • Setup your transmitter to send flaps on channel 5 (either a switch or a rotary button)
  • Set FLAP_IN_CHANNEL to 5
  • Set FLAPERON_OUTPUT to 4
  • Switch to FBWA or CRUISE, tilt your plane and make sure the ailerons move in the right direction (flap goes down on the wing that you tilt down). If they don't, try setting FLAPERON_OUTPUT to 1
  • Once this works, try your flaps switch and make sure flaps go down and not up. If they go the wrong way, change RC1_REV from 1 to -1 (or the other way around) and change FLAPERON_OUTPUT too. Make sure FBWA still moves the ailerons in the right direction, and now your flaps should go down.
  • Only then, try the ailerons on your TX. If they go the wrong way, reverse channel 1 on the TX without touching RC1_REV (if you put your stick left, the left aileron should go up)
  • Tuning

  • Go to failsafe setup in apmplanner/mission planner, and make sure the max/min values match RC5_MIN/MAX (or adjust them) so that your flaps move all the way (RC1_TRIM should also be set to 1500)
  • Set FLAP_SLEWRATE to 100 to allow moving flaps from 0 to 100% in one second (or lower this to make your flaps move more slowly)
  • Play with FLAP_x_PERCNT|SPEED as desired for auto modes, see http://plane.ardupilot.com/wiki/arduplane-setup/first-time-apm-setup/automatic-flaps/ (ignore the comment saying "parameter for the channel function for the channel you are using for flaps to a value of 3". This is not true anymore, FLAP_IN_CHANNEL does this).
  • Also have a look at TKOFF_FLAP_PCNT and LAND_FLAP_PERCNT if they are relevant to you.
  • When you are flying in manual mode, it can be helpful to setup an elevator down mix on your TX when you set flaps (i.e. the more flaps you send, the more elevator down you should send to correct pitch up from flaps). I recommend you set up the mix value on a rotary switch so that you can control the elevator down correction during a test flight (if you set too much elevator down as a fixed value in your mix, you'll be stuck not being able to use flaps for landing if you put too much elevator down). Note that using a Frsky Taranis makes such complex mixes much easier (or possible) compared to some other more basic controllers.
  • Crow flaps

    See http://plane.ardupilot.com/wiki/fixed-wing-faq/#how_would_i_setup_crow_flaps gives some hints.

    If you need crow flaps (which means your ailerons must go up, not down), you can use these instructions and reverse RC1_REV so that when you send flaps input, ailerons go up instead of down (while the real flaps go down). Then you should be able to set your flaps channels as flap or flap_auto (see http://plane.ardupilot.com/wiki/flight-features/channel-output-functions/#flap_auto ).
    Note that this is not as versatile as direct RC control where you could use your flaps surfaces 2nd ailerons for tight turns in thermals, but only if a switch if flicked, as with this setup you can only have both flaps go down at the same time your flaperon-ailerons go up as spoilers, and only ailerons can be used for turning.
    This is likely good enough for most people though.

    Notes

  • Manual flaps input is mixed into auto modes. That means if you're landing in manual mode with flaps set to full on your TX, and you flip the mode to RTL or some other mode to abort the landing and go back to an auto mode, flaps will stay full. You need to retract them on your TX.
  • RCx_MIN and RCx_MAX for flaperon output channels limit deflection of flaperons and you can use the TRIM value to move the neutral position in case you want more down travel than up travel.
  • RC1_TRIM acts as normal aileron trim, RC1_MIN and RC1_MAX should match the TX setting
  • If you share RC5 for flap input from TX and aileron output, you must ensure that your TX MIN and MAX for that channel match what you set for RC5_MIN and RC5_MAX if you changed the aileron travel.
  • Don't go fly yet. Go back to square 1 and make really sure that FBWA/CRUISE moves the ailerons in the right direction and that ailerons also go in the right direction in manual mode.
    Now, go flying and enjoy!

    Associated bugs with background:

  • https://github.com/diydrones/ardupilot/issues/760
  • https://github.com/diydrones/ardupilot/issues/2186
  • https://github.com/diydrones/ardupilot/issues/2524
  • My X-UAV Talon with pixhawk I setup flaperons on
    My X-UAV Talon with pixhawk I setup flaperons on

    See more images for Using Flaperons With Ardupilot
    2015/08/01 Future Sounds of Egypt 400 in San Jose
    π 2015-08-01 01:01 in Clubbing
    It was very nice to have a trance event in my backyard, with a good selection of DJs. Unfortunately the sound system was designed badly and had way too much bass that was drawning out everything else, so I didn't get to enjoy the music as much as I was hoping for.

    Here are a few pictures:












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