To say that things have been busy would be an understatement. Aside from racing with Lutz I have been helping a friend finish design work on an exciting new multirotor platform. This project has taken the better part of the past couple of weeks for me. Cut, build, tune, fly, repeat, rinse has been the order of the day around the shop. This frame has a ton of promise. No jello, built in brushless gimbal, cost effective, and most importantly durable.
During this time I also attended te Silver State Nitro Challenge in Las Vegas with Lutz. We had a VERY good week TQ’ing four classes. The competition was tough in the pro classes. We were able to not only pul off a quadfecta TQ but a win in Pro Truggy, 3rd in Pro Buggy, 2nd in EBuggy and a win in 4wd sct. As always the Durango vehicles were dialed and our Alpha engines ran excellent in the higher altitudes. AKA rubber was what you needed there. In fact I bekieve AKA podiumed every class! If you would like to read more about he race from Ryans view log onto his blog at http://www.lutzinator.com
In the same week I returned from Las Vegas I also left for Taiwan with Ryan. The main goal is to visit Alpha Plus and attend a race here in Taiwan. After a 4 hour flight to Phoenix to get Ryan, another 4 hour flight to Seattle, 4 hour layover, 10 hour flight to Tokyo, 1 hour layover there then another 4 hour flight to Taiwan, we finally made it! It was strange to me chasing the sun around the globe as we never saw the night until we landed in Taiwan.
I know this was a short post but I wanted to do a quick catch up post while I had the time. Thanks for reading! I will do my best to post about the Taiwan trip throughout the week.
What a weekend in Unadilla, Ga. Probably the most odd race schedule I have ever dealt with. The Psycho Nitro Blast or PNB, is known for the around the clock format. Simply put the facility is being used 24/7. Races start super early (5am) and end super late (1-3am). While this crazy schedule may seem enticing for those looking for something different in a race program, the lack of sleep will for sure catch up with you.
Here is my basic breakdown of the event. We arrived at the track Thursday afternoon about 4 o’clock or so, setup our pit area and began practicing. After a couple tanks in the buggy and truggy we decided to pack up and head back to the hotel. Practice at that point was basically useless. The track was still smooth early in practice but we all knew that the track would blow out. So Ryan and went back to the hotel for some shut eye.
At 3am Friday morning we got up and left for the track. The basic idea was that going that early would give us more open track time and we had hoped that the spots that were going to get tough would already begin showing signs. Many of the racers practiced all night and
by the time we got there the adrenaline was beginning to wear off the all night practices and our open track was there. We stayed until about 730 or so then split back to the hotel for more sleep. Races started at 500 so Ryan and I got up and headed back to the track to begin prepping for qualifying.
Qualifying went good for us with a second overall behind Drake in EBuggy, TQ in Pro Truggy and second in Pro Buggy. AKA Gridirons were the tire of choice for us. Gridiron II for the buggy. Throughout qualifying the ruts, holes and braking bumps grew bigger and bigger. Proper shock setup was crucial as the key was to slow the bounce off the ruts. Big hole pistons lite oil and lite springs created the perfect setup for us, combined with a little higher than normal ride height.
The mains proved to be the toughest part of the entire weekend. The track was very, very blown out now and the surface was taking its toll on vehicles. When racing on a lunar surface (lol) you must check every nut and bolt prior to going out. Aside from the holes big enough to lose your car in the jumps were huge. The front triple had a near 40′ gap. So the potential to beat your electronics into submission and/or break the car was big. Down siding the jump was very important to longevity, especially in a 45 minute main.
The first of two EBuggy mains was first. After a horrible start from getting pounded in the first corner Ryan dropped down in the pack. Throughout the course of the race Ryan managed to climb back to fourth. Not what we wanted but it is what it is.
Next up was the Pro Truggy A main. With a TQ in Pro Truggy we had high hopes for the outcome. The trucks handled the surface much better than the buggies obviously but still took its toll on several trucks. After yet another bad start, not really sure why, Ryan dropped almost to the back of the pack on the first lap. With all the heavy hitters in this one, making up ground was going to be tough. After fighting hard for 35-40 minutes Ryan had worked his way to fourth and was closing in on third. That’s when it happened. The track bit us and killed the throttle servo leaving our DNX408T stranded on the track. I got to the truck as quick as I could. However, there was nothing I could do. PNB took two throttle servos from us this weekend. One in practice and another at the most important time leaving us with yet another DNF in, what I consider, to be our strongest class.
A2 EBuggy went much better than the first with a win by roughly 20 seconds over Petit in second. Ultimately the overall decision would come down to a tie breaker between Lutz and Petit putting us in a respectable second place.
Next up was the big show, Pro Buggy. We started second behind King. When the tone sounded Ryan got around King and began walking away. Ryan put on a clinic making no mistakes until the failed back flip on the victory lap. The proto Durango worked amazing and Ryan was able to put it on the right line. The Pro Buggy win helped ease the pain of the failed truggy servo.
All in all the PNB is a special event with special circumstances. If you attend, scheduling in sleep is a must. Get sleep when you can. The Georgia weather proved to be a bit temperamental so if possible pit indoors. Special thanks to Jamey Powell for the covered pit space and hospitality. I’m actually in the airport awaiting my flight home to catch up on sleep in preparation for next years event. Thanks for reading!
The 2013 Dirt Nitro Challenge has come to an end. Sorry for not posting updates throughout the course of the race but the week was filled with late nights, early mornings and strange weather. During the practice day it rained, then snowed and then hailed. I had no clue Arizona got that kind of weather. Joey and the dirt crew worked the track into the night and over the course of the next day to make the surface as good as possible given the amount of rainfall. Afterwards we had a couple of gorgeous days. Sunday was the killer. 30+ mph winds beat the spectators and racers into a wind blown fury. The track became very high bite due to the wind. It was like a constantly swept track with zero to no dust on the surface. While this may sound like an ideal condition, the rain and melted snow from earlier in the week combined with the foot prints from track maintenance made the surface very rough in some places. However this is off road and while we struggled to make the best of no practice and grueling track conditions, others had good success.
Durango had issued us another stack of test parts for our buggy. With no time on them, setup was a bit sketchy to say the least. Carson had the week prior to dial his stuff in. Thank goodness because Team Durango needed somebody in the Pro Buggy A. So hats off to Carson Wernimont for a great race and good finish. Ryan and I were not so lucky with the buggy. We chased setup all weekend and never really got a feel for the updated car. We qualified in the C and broke an upper front shock bolt during the course of the race ending our pro buggy racing for the week.
In Pro Truggy we had a good run. As always the DNX408T was dialed and things were looking good. We qualified second and I felt really good about our chances for a podium in the Pro Truggy class. However as fate would have it, the EXACT SAME PART broke this year as last year, an inner camber rod bolt. Gerd and I raced the truck to the pits in ‘never give up’ style and fixed the truck. Granted we went out several laps down, the tough surface could drop trucks out any minute. With under 10 minutes to go the rear axle sheared off flush with the hub ending our Pro Truggy run for the second year in a row. Disappointed we went back to the pits.
In Pro 4 SCT Ryan is always a force to be contended with. He is a beast in this class and were confident in a great finish. Austin Blair (spelling??) was there to give Ryan a run for his money out qualifying us by under a second. That put us second on the grid for the double A mains. In the first A main Austin had an issue and allowed Ryan to get a 12 +/- second lead. In the second A main mistakes over a step up in the center killed our chances. While Ryan was able to work up to a respectable second place, it wasn’t enough for the tie breaker putting us in second overall and handing the number one spot to Austin.
Pro E-Buggy was another tough one for us as we just could not seem to get a handle on the surface. W did manage to have one decent qualifier which put us 6th in the A. Immediately Ryan moved up to fourth then first with Billy Fischer in tow. A late race pass by Billy put him in first and us in second. So another second place for the TD crew.
All in all it was a great to see old friends and connect with new ones. Special thanks to the AKA crew for the great grilling and the pit spot as well as to Joey and the dirt crew for holding the race. I am determined to beat the dirt.. I am already looking forward to 2014 Dirt Nitro Challenge. So competitors beware, Lutz RC is coming with a vengeance to capture a win at the DNC.
Next race for us is the Psycho Nitro Challenge. 24 hours a day of qualifying, racing and lack of sleep.
The 2013 race season has officially started for me in Phoenix, Az at The Dirt Nitro Challenge. Like last year I will be working with Ryan Lutz and Team Durango. Supported by AKA, Alpha Engines, Byron Fuels, Protek and the rest of the sponsors from the 2012 season.
Looking at the weather radar in anticipation of the race it showed light rain today. However, they failed to mention the accompanying hail and snow! Yes hail and snow in Phoenix, Az. Needless to say only a few people got to run on the track today. Luckily we never got a chance to run which also means we didn’t turn our vehicle into a rolling mud pie. The forecast for the remainder of the week looks good. Tomorrow we have truggy and e-buggy qualifying I believe. Our first time on the track will be our first heat race tomorrow since practice was cut short today.
As mentioned earlier I laid down the money for the Cinestar 3 axis gimbal from Freefly. I bought it from www.quadrocopter.com. The customer service was awesome and the shipping was scary fast. I ordered on a Monday morning and had the gimbal in my hand Thursday with USPS Priority Mail. I have been working with carbon fiber for the better part of 10 years, and I must say that the Cinestar gimbal is a work of art. The servos feel very smooth. I have yet to power them. The gimbal came separated in two boxes. One for the pan axis and the other box contained the roll / tilt axis. Assembling the two halves was very simple. www.freeflysystems.com has very good tutorial videos to guide the new Cinestar owner through all of the setup and assembly. So with that said I have not used the gimbal yet. In fact I just got around to making the parts I needed to complete it.
Today I cut the legs for the Cinestar Gimbal. At $210 for a set of landing gear I decided to build my own for much cheaper. After all I do know a guy who machines carbon all day.. I purchased some 25mm boom blocks from www.quadframe.us and began designing my new Cinestar landing legs. I had to have some sort of style in them so I opted for the WBD logo and gave them a bit of a curve. I tied them together at the bottom like the original Cinestar legs. See the pictures below for more details.
For a gimbal controller I decided to step out on a limb and try a multiwii based controller which is actually one of my Quadrino Zoom boards. At one time I had noticed in the multiwii code that there was an option to declare a gimbal. After some research about what exactly to edit in the code to get the desired effect I was after it was decided to test the board on my basic gopro gimbal I built a while back. If any of you are interested in the multiwii gimbal controller or would like me to post what I did exactly let me know. firstname.lastname@example.org . Anyways, I needed a way to properly mount the board to the frame and I also needed a battery tray for the main power battery. So the design for the combo fc mounting plate / battery tray was born. See the pictures below for more details.
Long ago my wife and I were going to do some aerial photography and due to FAA & FCC restrictions we were grounded. I had purchased a Canon A640 for that project after learning about the different controllers one could purchase to control most of the aspects of the camera such as zoom, shutter, video start/stop, etc. all from an RC radio. That camera has lasted me a very long time and I still use it. My A640 has been dropped, crashed, broken, repaired and is still kicking, taking great pictures. It was a no brainer for me on this project to choose a Canon DSLR. I chose the T2i for numerous reason. The two main being weight and price. I happened on this one for a very good price and could not pass it up. The T2i was used on one vacation then put back in the box then on a shelf. The camera is basically new.
For a radio to control the gimbal with I decided to stick with a Turnigy 9x modded like my current flight radio that has been solid as a rock since day one. Turnigy 9x / frsky DIY 2.4ghz module / smartie parts pogo board / ER9x firmware. Sounds like a ton of stuff but with all of that the radio is still under $100 and performs just as good as any of the other radio I have ever owned. The receivers use diversity and there is a wide variety of types. Telemetry via the receiver is also an option with the frsky system. ER9x is an open source firmware replacement for the 9X giving it much more flexibility.
By this point you have probably figured out the MonsterHex will be a two person operation. One pilot and one camera operator. The camera operator will have his/her own screen. The video will be transmitted to the camera operator via a 900mhz signal. More to come on that as the project continues. Check out the pictures below.