I had a small bug which prevented using fly by wire modes while flying in a nice straight line for filming (they otherwise worked fine for safety and return to land, just not for filming)
I had a big motor glider with a front propeller (larger prop that is more efficient), but sadly it of course showed up in the front camera view
Video was 1080p, when I really wanted 4K, but I just wasn't able to put a 4K GoPro on my BFG2600, while I was able to fit one in the front nose of my Sky Eye since it uses a rear prop.
Please read the Q&A section at the bottom if you are thinking about flying a drone at burning man. Drones are restricted and require a permit.
So this year, I took my newer Hobbyking Sky Eye after much testing, and it had these pluses, with extra safety features I added:
Newer version of the pixhawk ardupilot firmware with working FBWA and CRUISE modes including firmware that could recover from upside down flight
Smaller aircraft than last year with less weight and less kinetic energy just in case somehow it were to crash (with still enough room to carry all the electronics and cameras)
Autopilot had redundant sensors, along with a complex EKF filter that can detect bad sensors and fly without them
Triple redundant radio link to control the aircraft, with again the autopilot bring the airplane back on its own if all the radio links are lost. Radio control range was more or less 20km, way more than necessary for extra safety
The autopilot takes over if radio signal is lost anyway
The autopilot also takes over if the aircraft flies too low (altitude deck). This did unfortunately lead to pictures that didn't have some art big enough in the picture, but it was tradeoff for the safety afforded by extra altitude (as a reminder, you usually would want to keep the altitude low-ish to avoid conflicting with full size traffic typically at 1000ft AGL and higher, but in this case, flying within the trash fence is actually safe since it's restricted airspace for full size aircraft).
The autopilot and aircraft obviously continue to fly for quite a while without engine power if the motor dies or the battery were allowed to run low (and there are multiple warnings and radio downlinks to prevent running the batteries low).
While this aircraft has a pusher prop to allow for the front 4K unobstructed camera view, I upgraded the powertrain to provide 800W peak and ability to fly up to 120km/h in case of bad winds. One flight after a storm had winds up to 60km/h, so this extra power capacity was not superfluous. The average drone could have been blown off and unable to come back in that much wind while my plane was able to fly against it without problems, just extra battery draw.
AP throttle controlled modes like RTL were modified to maintain a minimal ground speed even in very heavy winds (some other auto pilots will not notice and kill the batteries flying with insufficient throttle against high winds and fail to return to home).
In prior high speed stress testing at home, I was able to get the wings to fly off the plane under high load at full speed, causing an unfortunate crash, so thanks to that prior testing, I was able to build an new aircraft with re-enforced wings to avoid further crashes. Obviously this is the kind of testing and fixes you want to do at home in a safe place, not at burning man.
But as a nutshell, on top of having 4K video in the front (but only 2K in the rear), plus a 3rd camera on the top in case the 2 recording camera failed, this plane was packed with electronics that are sadly more capable than most airliners out there, and it had a lot of extra power to deal with the low density altitude (up to 33% less performance due to the thinner air) and be able to fly out of a heavy storm and come back to a safe landing (the last day, it indeed flew against a 60kph+ wind and even landed with a negative ground speed, i.e. while going backwards). While it was also able to glide for extended periods of time without power, it had a lot of battery capacity to allow flying for 45mn or more in ideal conditions.
Yes, I realize that this plane does not yield nice steady shots like what you'd get from a drone, but I very much favour versatility and safety over better video, sorry if you were expecting drone-like super steady pans from the air :)
testing/showing off the video to a friend during preflight checks and tests
Pictures from the sky
you can see from the dust that the wind is often strong, even in the morning
poor robot :)
there was a big parade of bikes going by
Then, I got super lucky with a sunset to night flight:
sunset turned to night:
art car ring around the man after a heavy storm
Questions and Answers
RC planes vs Drones:
While BM is interested in heavily controlling drones, it does not seem to care about RC planes since not a single one was licensed through the process that seemed meant for drones and both BLM ranger I asked, as well as a BMorg person both told me that their concern and worry were drones. I do support BM restricting the amount of drones to a some pre screened ones operated by trained and responsible pilots, given that drones are way more dangerous than foam RC planes if they fail and fall, and it's way too easy for people without a clue to fly them wrecklessly
Also, putting aside the total absence of glide ratio on a drone, no off the shelf drone I've seen has as many redundancies and safeties as my plane had, so it makes sense to restrict them to areas with a perimeter so that no one gets hurt should one suddenly fail and drop like a stone (RC planes are very unlikely to just fall straight down from the sky unless they break up in flight, so a perimeter doesn't make much sense for them. Also, when they are made out of foam, they are much less likely to cause injury to others, or worse. On the flipside, drones are much easier to fly and yield better video, but personally I'm more interested in safety than image quality.
For the rest, please read my Q&A from last year, but like last year, the pilots and ground spotters will remain anonymous for a variety of reasons explained there, although they were properly licensed to fly RC as per the FAA's requirements and as already explained employed multiple methods to maximize safety.
This shows the autopilot applying 72% power (i.e. power reserve left to get 88kph airspeed, and only 45kph ground speed during a very heavy 61kph headwind, the highest I had flown against so far). This used only 250 Watts out of a maximum of 800W available in case of real need:
Tips and recommendations for RC flyers
Like last year, I beg non expert pilots not to fly at burning man without proper training and permission if you are flying a drone. BM is not a place for you to learn to fly or get to try this new toy you just bought and didn't spend weeks or months building and testing yourself (including its failure modes like low battery, RF being shutoff and so forth).
My aircraft description and its safeties, including months of building and testing, should make it clear that even flying a foam airplane without a propeller in the front, is still serious business if there is any chance you could crash into people, so you really need to know what you're doing and have a very reliable, very tested aircraft with as many redundancies as possible, and obviously you should still refrain from flying at low altitude over people outside of what's required for takeoff and landing.
If I'm being that cautious about flying a foam RC plane, you'll understand that I just wouldn't want to fly a drone at burning man in any other fashion than a ladder over a perimeter that's been cleared of people in case the drone fails and falls out of the sky. This is why drone usage is heavily restricted at burning man, for everyone's safety.
Like the previous years, it was a lot of work to process/fix/sort all the pictures and write this summary report (4017 pictures this year, trimmed down to 2229, and 259 selected as the better ones sorted in different categories, 191 are in this page because I'm not good at picking :) ). 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.
70,000 people, and I still run into friends. Cool :)
Just like more recent years, while I tried to see many things, I didn't work so damn hard to bike every single last street, especially now that there are so many more and the outer ones honestly aren't as interesting (with some exceptions/surprises). Last year I ended up biking 238km/147 miles and this year I guess I was lazy and only biked 229km/142 miles over 6.2 days, which is still decent, especially since I had an apprentice virgin burner in tow :) (to be fair my friend Arturo was actually a trooper and didn't slow me down at all)
my RC plane I spent many months working on so that I felt it would be safe enough for us to use
I feel very thankful to have been able to see RC from the sky, be it from a full size plane or from an RC plane. Before that, my elevated view of BRC was limited to what you could get from camps elevated views or different structures:
Anyway, after going through customs, we eventually found a ride to our camp (very long walk from the airport if you have luggage). For the rest of BRC, I've given many pictures of the essentials in my prior reports, I therefore refer you to them for more pictures I don't need to repeat here.
Like last year, I owe big thanks to Opal, Massive Bri and Helen for helping us camp at Dustfish. especially for getting me a nice shaded spot. You rock!
the plane didn't quite fit in my tent :)
Dustfish had a very nice cabaret style show while Sextant had a great zipline, an altitude bar, and the giant tesla coil which actually worked this year!
During the day, Arturo followed me like a trooper around the many streets where we went to explore looking for fun camps. Many pictures, just a few here. Big thanks to all the camps that were offering humour, drinks (one even offered shitty drinks only, something mixed to be as disgusting as possible), food, games, art, or anything else:
altitude lounge was great for having a small overview of the area without needing to fly
Panorama also had a nice view
and you could play slinky from the top
big solar panels
big MPTT converters and inverters
and huge ass batteries
downhill sledding and skiing!
poor Arturo, we played twice, he lost twice
camp soft landing
found my friend Tinic at Duck Pond
vortex of destiny was also a nice find
math camp, a safe place for mathematics had cool talks
and barbie death camp is back like every year
those lovely folks pretend that they'll go play daft punk at the trash fence, and of course they don't
of course you can just have a real orchestra with classical music instead :)
And truly random things:
Lots of displays:
I also love the funny signs I found:
I hope someone found this poor dog gently leached to the man
A genuine looking NZ sign with properly written Maori, well done
Some Camps are also interesting to visit at night of course:
good performers doing magic like last year at the camp of curiosities
Arturo and I helped out as receptionists on the god helpline
Again, have a look at page showing the 360 Dome, Showing Samskara.
And let's not forget the sound camps, even if they were not as extravagant this year. Sadly, still very little trance this year, pity...
I got lucky, this guy actually played nice Trance, the only I heard all week
sweet guitar tunes with great lights
I of course also enjoy taking pictures of friends and other willing people :)
soft landing's tea room
french maid parade
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 :)
I worked on my night lights more this year, I was easy to find for my friend, even from far :)
my friend Tinic I ran into at the duck pond
And then there is the billion bunny march:
bunnies? bunnies taste yummy :)
carrots were there to stop the bunny march :)
Critical tits was next. That one is a bit tricky because I always ask people before taking a portrait picture of them, but it's kind of impossible to do when people are going by in a parade, and yet some women get upset. Honestly, I think wearing a face mask like some do, is much simpler for everyone. Expecting a photographer to get permission from 20 people biking by at the same time, is not exactly feasible. Anyway, a few pictures:
Since I was showing Arturo around, we went on an artery tour on Wednesday. Too late and I'm sleeping too late for the 10:00 tour, while too early and all the art hasn't been installed yet :)
and then, day slowly turns to night, when it arguably gets better :)
in deep playa
Helios was very cool too
and then eventually the sun rises again...
Sonic Runway was awesome, I even was lucky enough to be allowed to drive it:
Firmament was still there, a crowd favourite, along with Medusa:
As always, one main attraction of BM are all the crazy vehicles, art carts, and bike-like constructions :)
Not many fancy bikes this year either, when there used to be so many in the early 2000's:
at least some monocycles
plane bike, not bad
So you have art cars at night, and then you have Mayan Warrior. I already enjoyed it last year (except for the choice of music sometimes). I think it upgraded its lasers from last year, making Mayan Warrior a beacon in the night:
are you lost? just go for the lights
Kudos to the Mayan Warrior crew, it was best music art car by a long shot. Please add a bit more genres of music though, even you decide it can't include trance :)
The temple was beautiful this year, but had no name. It was the 16th and last temple made by David Best.
Like every year, there were other major structures that popped up. This year it was the pyramid and the lighthouse:
The pyramid was burned at sunrise some morning I could not get myself to get out of bed that early, but the lighthouse was burned after the man, so I got to see that:
Oh yeah, and there is some kind of man thingy in the middle, and it burns at some point, or something... :)
It was supposed to be a fancy man that people could rotate, but one of the shafts broke, and considering they were still not finished building it on Tuesday, I guess they called it quits and left it as is (non rotating).
still being built
it looked better by tuesday morning, but still not open for business
sadly, the mechanism was broken
I was hoping that we would be able to do a sunset RC flight just before the man burn, showing the sunset over the sea of art cars around the man. Instead, we got horrible weather, rain, heavy fog, and then very strong winds (60kph+) as the sun was setting. What a bummer :(
In the end, we got a few shots, but by taking off after the rain and the worst of the weather had passed, there was enough water in the air that the front lens got coated with it, yielding blurry pictures ;(
this was the weather just after the ideal time for takeoff :(
what a bummer, if only this shot had been without the water vapour induced blurriness
when I went to the man, the weather was still bad
The pre-burn show was really well done and executed despite the winds:
Thankfully the man burned a lot quicker than the previous years were it took forever (an hour or so), so before long we were up and running towards the fire:
Then the weather actually got worse, very high winds, almost impossible to see, I had to bike almost blind using my firesword and GPS:
by 06:00-ish the weather lifted and vis game back
And the last bit I saw were the crazy gay drunk germans cooking a goat and a pig:
It was awesome to be up all night after the burn, despite the pretty horrible weather, massive wind and dust storm between 04:00 and 05:30, and to finish the day with a Sunrise and Mayan Warrior still going strong. I went to bed a bit before 08:00 and after a good amount of sleep (woke up around 14:00), it was time to pack up and go home:
This was my 9th burn now. I tend to get bored a bit easily, so I will probably take another break for a few years after 3 years in a row, but getting my RC plane to fly and get such awesome 4K footage was definitely worth the trip, and acting as a guide for my old time friend Arturo also was fun. I was again a bit disappointed with the music selections, but eh, that's only a small part of what BM has to offer.
Like every year, it's super cool to randomly run into friends I haven't seen in a long time, or even more surprising, have people recognize me from these reports and say hi.
I hope you enjoyed this report. Feel free to say thanks to me by simply sharing it with your friends, and see you on the playa in a few years hopefully.
While in Torronto, and as a torrential rain had started to fall, it was a good time to end our day after museums had closed anyway, in the Ripley Aquarium that was open extended hours.
While it's by no means a world top aquarium, it's actually fairly good, and it was nice go when it wasn't crowded:
On our first night of touring Torronto, Jennifer got us a reservation for a nice tasting menu at Edulis. It was differnt from the typical tasting menus in not being too flashy, or in a restaurant that didn't seem flashy or pretentious either, but the dishes were quite interesting:
After Linuxcon in Japan, we went to the one in Toronto. It had 10 parallel tracks at time, it was a very packed schedule.
kind of weird to see a keynote on Microsoft showing their 'longstanding' contributions to linux
Funny how microsoft was playing all "we love linux and we have for a long time", when they're still actively extorting money for companies that dare to use linux and aren't paying microsoft windows licenses:
Obviously :) I couldn't be in Toronto without going to visit our office there. I went during an evening after a linuxcon party thanks to some nice googlers who helped getting us inside the building after hours since my badge didn't have elevator access but only floor access.
It was another nice office with inventive decors, with a triple thumbs up on using rubik's cubes as pixels for an android picture. The secret room behind the book shelf was nice too :)
I cannot quite express how awesome this is, mapping all those pixels and then 'programming' those pixels on over 600 rubiks' cubes, respect!
Since we were going to Torronto, I figured we'd arrive a bit early the first day and go to Niagara Falls. Unfortunately, it started with Budget (the only place that had cars left) sucking ass, and taking 30mn to get us a car despite being registered for quick pass, and then having to return the car and exchange it bcause it had a check engine light on (54mn wasted total). Next, the drivers around Torronto are total idiots, who caused multiple accidents on the road, and made the trip a lot longer than it should ahve been:
this was only one out of 3 accidents on the road
We finally arrived in the area around 18:00, quite late :( but thankfully sunset wasn't very early either, so we still had a bit of time, although it was rushed. We started with a nice butterfly sanctuary, and went by a cable car that goes over a whirlpool (but was closed due to wind):
one of the bridges to America
Next, we took an elevator down to a white river walk:
Finally we got to the main part of town, albeit pretty close to sunset, and parking was a bit challenging:
the US side has a walk to see the water and falls from above
sadly we were already in twighlight by the time we reached the main falls
We then had a decent dinner at the visitor center complex, and came back for the night illuminations and fireworks:
We then had a longish drive back to Torronto, but thankfully the road was much more clear on the way back.
DJ Blurr told me about this event, part of the Anjunabeats tour, it wasn't the best time for me to go, but I figured I'd go give it a shot, and try my new electric shirt I was working on for burning man, as well as my upgraded LED shoes.
While it didn't have a concentration of my favourite tunes as high as when Above and Beyond would come, it was still a good evening. A few pictures below:
Jennifer found this 3 star rated michelin restaurant in San Francisco, and got us a reservation for our anniversary dinner.
We got a nice table with view on the open kitchen, which was nice:
They also had a very impressive wine list, with some wines that were over 80 years old, at prices that were related to the age :)
$14288 bottle of Château La Mission Haut Brion 1929
The tasting menu was not showy but was quite tasty:
the wild strawberries 'fraises des bois' were very good
The the food quantity was enough, but not as much as some of their competitors, the quality was very good, the only issue was the bill, which we mostly knew was going to be steeper than any restaurant we've ever eaten at around the world, but the mandated 20% tip, being no tip anymore but just an extra 20% charge on top of the bill, left a bad taste in our mouth. For comparison:
French Laundry: $295 (tip/service included), $325 with tax
Joël Robuchon full tasting menu: $320 (tax and tip included/service)
Saison: $398 (before tax and required 20% service not included), $517 with tax and tip/service
This is another way to say that Saison was 60% more expensive than 2 other excellent competitors which both had around 50% more courses in the meal.
We got to see the bay bridge lighting on the way home:
If you care about a longer review, here's what I posted:
Sadly, I have to give this 2 stars described as "I've experienced better" when you factor in that this costs twice as much ($510 per person with tip before wines) than the nearest competition that is also extremely good .
I'll start by saying that I've eaten in about 20 restaurants like this one around the world, including Joel Robuchon (full tasting menu), The French Laundry, and Alinea in Chicago
Saison had very good well presented food in a casual atmosphere, but all 3 restaurants I just listed had food that was just that good, or better, and more courses.
Saison was still quite good, if you have quality, you don't need quantity on top, except when the bill for the tasting menu alone is $398 per person.
The very good wine pairing was $298 for just one person (!) and not that many dishes and pourings. The wines were well chosen and the pours were not stingy, but on top of being the most expensive tasting menu, it was also the most expensive wine pairing we've had.
While we knew the price when we went, I think what tipped it over was:
when we got the bill (for 2 people) a 20% tip was included on top of the entire bill (including the wine pairing), which added another $109 to the bill, just for tip. But if it's a required 20% tip, it's not a tip anymore, it should be part of the original bill, and actually some competitors already include service in the bill because it's the French way.
So let's compare: French laundry is $270 with service included, Saison is $510 per person before wines, and don't despair, your bill has a handy line where you can add an additional tip (which I found insulting at this point).
This is regrettable because the food was good, the service was good, but the meal was not a huge meal with so many courses you can't even count them anymore, and you turning away the dessert cart after you've already had 2 prior desserts. Charging about twice as much as the competition with a mandatory 20% tip that includes the price of alcohol just cancelled out what would otherwise have been a good experience.
For what it's worth, we enjoyed our table that was facing the open kitchen, and again all the staff did a very good job.
I needed a new plane for my plans of overflying and filming burning man 2016 with 4K resolution, and I ended up choosing the HK Sky Eye for this job (follow the link for the result)
My BFG2600 was my big range, big load FPV platform so far. It's a great platform, but as big as the plane is (2.6m), the cargo bay is not actually that huge, and it's totally packed with electronics, to a point that it's hard not to have them conflict with one another.
The next problem with the BFG is the front propeller, making it hard to get forward facing video without getting the prop in the way (even if it's actually capable of gliding for quite a while without motor power and with the prop folded). Related to this, I wanted to switch to 4K video, and fitting a 4K camera in the plane, preferably forward facing, and without sticking it out the plane where it would foil airflow, didn't seem to be very possible.
So, the previous year I had tried the X-UAV Talon but while it looked good on paper, it was a bit of a handful to fly, and it meant more for long range FPV at high speed than low speed loitering and filming, and due to its wing design and wing loading, it needs a pretty long runway for landing, so it's not ideal for difficult terrain.
Enter the Sky Eye, which is a good compromize between the two by having a pusher prop which is sadly not in the rear like the X-UAV, but still allows decent power (more than 600W if needed), and it comes with an open view front dome:
Here are some details on my build. While it comes ARF, I trashed the undersized ESC which I wasn't going to trust and wasn't compatible with a 4S setup anyway (3S was not going to yield enough power for my needs), and while the stock motor did work on the bench, I was not going to trust it to output 700W on 4S when it's rated for 430W on a good day.
So I used a Castle Edge 50 which I knew I could trust and had data logging, along with a bigger motor: NTM 3542 1250KV, 700W/50A peak. The stock setup allows 50-60kph, while my upgraded setup allowed 120kh, which is way safer when flying in high winds.
I'm currently using an aeronaut cam 8x6 prop (8x7 works too but needs a bit more of a throw), and it's making plenty of power
Here's a quick table I wrote then choosing motors and props:
The space for the motor isn't that big, but I'm thankful the NTM 3542 fits in there. For prop, you can go to 8.5" and if you go to 9" or bigger you need an adapter, or you need to notch the boom, which may or may not be a great idea:
new motor with foldable prop for gliding
Making the Airframe Safe with 100kph+ speeds
The reason why it's important for me to have a plane that can go at 100kph or more, is that I may fly in wind that is up to 50kph, and want enough reserve power to fly against it back to the landing point. At Burning Man, I actually encountered a wind that peaked at 60kph right after a storm, while I almost lost my bixler2 as it was flying full throttle against a wind that was more than 50kph and was actually flying backwards (i.e. it was getting further and further away from me as its battery was draining while it was trying to fly back, and failing).
Now, the next problem with the Sky Eye is that the plane wasn't designed for those speeds, and sure enough, after a light crash during flight testing, the wings got slightly bent, and the very little that was keeping them snapped into place, failed during a test run at 110kph+, the wings got ripped out in flight, and my plane had a very bad crash
Thanks to my multiple radios and GPS coordinates, I did find the wreck, but I never found the wings, they were taken away by the wind at high altitude, and despite a 2H search around and downwind from the crash site, I never found them:
i'm impressed the lipo did not blow up, it was a pretty high speed crash straight down (130kph)
To avoid this from ever happening again, I changed the wing design to allow a strap to go around the entire plane, including the wing roots. Sure, it makes the plane a bit more dirty to the air flow, but I'll take that for wings that won't fly off:
made a hole in the wings, and added reinforcing wood
with a velcro strap
initially I secured the wings like so, until I realized that in my crash the top part with the ESC broke off in flight
so instead I'm wrapping around the body top...
to bottom, for extra strength
With that fix made, the next sizeable modification I made was to allow the flaps to travel down a lot more for crow flaps. The only issue I found was that it wasn't suitable for landing, so I now release some amount of crow to avoid smack landings:
I shaved off the flap hinge
allowing for severe flap down and better descent rates for a short field behind a fence
Avionics and VTX
For the avionics, while the cargo bay has a lot of room, but I opted for putting the pixhawk in a cramped and inconvenient space below the wings. The reason for this madness is to avoid electronics around the flight controller, and not have to worry about putting a battery on top or something else that would avoid free movement on top of the anti vibration foam pads. Cabling does suck as a result, but it really feels like the best place for it:
As a result, I have plenty of room for the electronics and a big battery (4S 5000mAh, but bigger is possible). In there:
RC controlled buzzer to help finding aircraft in flight
2W 5Ghz VTX in the tail
This is what it looks like:
fit inside nicely, more easily than in the bigger BFG2600
2W 5Ghz VTX gives 5 to 10km range in non ideal environments
Sending the power and video to the tail in a prebuilt plane wasn't too hard, I just punched through 2-3 foam walls with this tool and pushed the cables through:
nicely got to the other side
Now, let's look at the video issue. Like other such blames, it comes with a plastic dome. Let's be honest, all those domes give very unsightly reflections from the sun while in flight. I didn't waste much time trying to fit a camera behind the dome, even if I did a quick test just to verify anyway:
it fits, but as expected I got dome reflections on the video and didn't want that
so I made a ghetto solution with foam padding that I carved. Looks like crap but better than an open hole acting as an airbrake
it weighs the same as the transparent plastic dome
I later printed this without the rear piece so that I could slide the mobius back, or change its angle more easily
not too bad
I then also looked at other options for getting better than 1080p, and the Joovuu X almost gave me a 3K solution, but in the end the lens extension cable that took way too long to arrive, was too short, and also managed to short my camera and kill it:
so I use a trusty 2K gopro with detachable lens in the rear
I also found an interesting mod for this plane, which was a 3D printed lock pin tail hook that allowed taking the tail off for transport. It was appealing in theory, but after trying it out on my broken plane (it required carving the tail surfaces that weren't big to start with), I concluded that it worked in theory, but there was no way I wanted to take the risk of flying loads with that setup and potentially lose the tail in flight due to weight and G load:
this was the iffy part, lots of foam had to be removed, I didn't feel what was left would be strong enough
I like the Sky Eye, it's very reasonably priced ($150-ish), mostly pre-built even if I had to replace some bits and carve the flaps a bit, and the cargo space is fantastic, loads of room.
I was dubious of the 8" rear prop at a weird angle, but it works well enough and I was able to get 800W out with an 8.5" prop and without a motor or prop adapter, so that worked fine for me. The only downsides are that you still have a whiny noise from the small prop and you're going to use more amps to fly against the wind, but I'll take that for a nice unobstructed few in the front.
I think I only really wish it came with more custom made domes for popular cameras where the lens is in front, unobstructed by a dome.
I'm very happy with the results I was able to get while overflying and filming burning man 2016 with 4K resolution.
After trying and documenting the Brotronics Broversity RX, I tried out a Brotronics PowerTower Rx. While the github page has schematics, sadly it does not even include a clear labelling of each pin, or the fact that output 5 seems not to be wired to a pin at all.
You would buy the PowerTower Rx because you want a lipo backed up receiver which will sound an alarm on a loud buzzer (that you provide) once the signal is lost. It will also switch to transmitting a distress find me beacon after signal has been lost for 45 seconds, so you can use the radio signal to go find it, even if your main battery has been ripped out after a crash (happened in all my crashes).
For more details on how that works, see my post on Brotronics Broversity RX, the missing manual.
This receiver is more compact, cheaper, but does not have diversity RX, which is likely ok for most uses. But as I mentioned, it comes with 0 documentation, and not even a proper pin mapping. I ended up documenting this in this rcgroups post, but I thought I should make a proper page here with that info:
There are 8 outputs in the RX configurator, but I believe only 7 are wired (#5 seems to be going nowhere?)
If you use the buzzer for loss signal and loss model finder (you should) and don't solder to use RX/TX, you're really only left with 3 servo ports since #1 is used for PPM to your flight controller
Port 2 can be connected to directly and 3 and 4 (RSSI and SCL) need to have a custom cable made because the layout did not include enough pins to just replicate Gnd/Vcc in the right places.
Here are the channel outputs you can configure in the RX tab of the openlrsng configurator:
labelled SDA, can be analog
labelled RSSI on board, can be sending different signal to lbeep pin if you solder a jumper
labelled SCL, can be analog
may not be wired anywhere
link loss indicator (buzzer port, labelled BZ+ BZ-)
The labelling on the board is pretty poor though. Here are the pins:
Pin1: PPM (port #1)
Pin2: Vcc (+ on the board is not aligned with it)
Pin3: Gnd (not labelled at all)
Pin4: Gnd (labelled -, off center a bit)
Pin5: RSSI (port #2)
Pin6: lbeep (I believe it's also port #2 and activated by a soldered jumper)
On the other side of the board, you have:
Pin1: Buzzer -
Pin2: Buzzer + => connect a buzzer to those 2 pins and set output port #6 to 'link loss'
Pin3: SCL is port #4, but you'll have to write your own servo cable with GND and VCC from other pins
Pin6: SDA => this allows to plug a servo cable between pins 4,5,6 to get Output Port #2
The wiring does allow to plug a servo cable directly into PPM on one side and Gnd/5V/SDA on the other side.
This means you can connect to port #1 and port #2 directly with a servo cable.
Port #3 require that you route your own wires to make a servo cable out of pin 5 inthe back, Vcc and Gnd
Port #4 is the same with SCL, you have to make your own cable and route Vcc and Gnd
Port #5 does not seem to exist on the pins I could find
Port #6 is nicely wired with Bz- and Bz+, you just connect a 2 pin powered buzzer there
Ports 7-8 for RX/TX are on the other side of the board, you have to solder on them for some reason.
The battery port is also missing a header, but at least it has holes to add one. To be honest, I have no idea why anyone would buy this receiver if you're not going to use the battery backup. There are otherwise some cheaper or better wired ones you can buy (I did buy it for the battery backup which I think is a fantastic idea)