National Free Flight Society

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  1. 20 Years ago, part 2 – non-Drone UAS
  2. About It’s There Already
  3. Unintended Consequences
  4. Going back is seldom the answer.
  5. Please put your flamethrowers away

20 Years ago, part 2 – Free Flight UAS

For Gil Morris …

When closed loops were banned, we were at a much different place in the use of electronics with Free Flight and in what we might call hobby drone or UAS evolution.  Many people then did not understand what an electronic timer could and could not do and at that time there was no way a model with an electronic timer could “automatically” fly itself to a max.  Fortunately, the “closed-loop” rule was easily able to separate timing functions and non-closed loop like D/T  from full automated autonomous craft.  This enabled us to take advantage of electronic timers particularly when the mechanical devices we used traditionally were becoming scarcer and fuse d/t being banned in some places because if fire risk.
Now we are a different stage. The sensor components needed for a closed system are now much smaller and cheaper. There are many more hobby drones or UAS and lots of interesting developments, people even use them to find missing Free Flight models and film our events.  If we look at “Drone” activities that interest the CIAM part of the FAI most are concerned with Drone racing.  If we look at Drone racing compared with  to other Model Sport activities, it is probably closest to R/C Pylon racing, so not  near Free Flight or even R/C soaring. This activity is really R/C flying with some interesting enhancement that puts the sportsman inside the aircraft and provides some form of stabilization. There are other non-sanctioned events that require a UAS to perform a task such as fly point to point or map/photograph an area.  However, none of these are anywhere Free Flight.  The software used in some of these hobby drones is open source which means the hobbyist can modify the software to, for example make the racing drone have a ‘better’ stabilization system or include a different sensor.  The drone racing rules do not permit autonomous flight.  Some of the  other “events” like photographing a site may permit or even encourage some form of autonomous flight.

Looking at the typical Free Flight event  it involves a model climbing to altitude with the energy available to do so limited  followed by the model gliding to ground.  The object for the aircraft to remain airborne long enough to reach a target time. That target time may be changed by the organizer depending on a number of different criteria.  Once the model has been launched no additional input is permitted from the pilot/sportsman. The model must be adjusted and launched in such a fashion that it takes best advantage of the atmospheric conditions to achieve desired flight time.

So, Gil you could have an autonomous Free Flight event where your, dare I say Electric Powered Energy limited  model (say about the size of a F1B or a little bigger?) is launched , perhaps even took off the ground flew to altitude using the allocated energy and then glided itself to a Max. While the Max in the regular rounds might be achievable by a ‘good’ model when you got to the flyoff the increasing max would not be achievable without thermal assistance.  The model would/could/should be constrained to perform this with a geo fenced box. On reaching the limit of the box the model would ‘decide’ how to remain in the box to avoid DQ.  The sportsman would be equipped with a RDT like device to terminate the flight if the model was not smart enough to avoid leaving the geo fenced box. Note that this is very different from a R/C soaring event because in  R/C soaring event the pilot is able to see things like a soaring bird that an on board sensor could not. So a key part of the thermal picking would be quite similar to traditional Free flight.  An additional twist could be making the model return to the point of departure to finish the flight.  So would the Morris family team be up for this? with your design, innovation and thermal picking skills and perhaps a grandson or even great grandson on the electronic and software side.  Sounds like a great STEM event.

About It’s There Already

From:Martin Dilly

A slight modification to Ross’s list.
As a former F1A flyer, now too clapped out to retrieve, could I suggest
that for those who no longer have the legs of a young gazelle nor the heart
and lungs of a lion, we should allow circle tow, rather than banning it. It
enables the guy towing to stop, recover his breath and have a slight rest,
instead of having to keep pounding off upwind till either exhaustion or the
hedge/ditch/poison ivy patch puts an end to his towing efforts. By all means
ban the bunt though.


Unintended Consequences

Martin, it wasn’t Ross’s List, it was Dean’s. Ross was against the list as it destroyed the current events and risked losing existing participants. .

But the point you raise is an interesting one.  There is another in a similar category, that is  banning instant or delayed start in F1B (both because you can’t easily judge the difference and if you want to ban delayed you have to ban instant).  Both circle tow and delay/instant start appear to be technological features that solely benefit the expert and physically strong sportsman.  But as you point out that circle tow is an advantage to another class of flyer and it enables them to keep participating longer. Certainly a case for age and cunning finding the thermal while youth and vigor is doing a “Jama” roll.  On the F1B side the instant/delay start helps the older flyer, or one whose shoulder has been affected by too much racquet sports, because doing an accurate launch is very much easier when using an instant/delay start.

Going back is seldom the answer.  

From: Young at Heart
The ‘forward thinking’ FAI modelers are trying to insure that the sport survives … both by addressing the problems (performance outstripping field size and other similar issues) and making the sport more attractive to younger fliers.  And like it or not, the young are not only attracted to technology … they are actually good at it!  And from my observation, there are many older fliers who are also extremely good at electronics and other technology!
There are numerous alternatives for people who wish to continue to fly classes which existed in the past.  The current discussion (IMHO) is how to evolve.


Please put your flamethrowers away

From:Dean McGinnes

OK, I did a poor job attempting to make a point.

I’m fully aware of other, more simple classes of FAI and AMA Free Flight.
I fly AMA Classic, Nostalgia, and a few others, all locked-down.  My main point was:  If the World Championship classes were a bit less gadget-less it could serve the dual purpose of attracting more participants, and “restricting” flight performance.  As an example:  many locked down AMA Classic Gas models can do 2 minutes from a 7-second engine run in dead air.  Very, very few can do 3.  Also the AMA models have no minimum weight.  If the wing/power loading weight is maintained, most of the issues of long retrieves is “solved”.  It will be far more difficult to trim for power, transition, and glide without auto surfaces, but isn’t that the point, to test the very best to extract performance within the limits of the physics involved.
I’m not trying to fly FAI on “my” terms.  Just pointing out just one option, among several.  I have doubts if it will happen as the FAI community appears to be wedded the present course.  If you are not careful, you will “evolve yourself” out of participants.

Please put your flamethrowers away,
Respectfully, Dean McGinnes

Editor’s note,

mainly for people who are not familiar AMA Gas (Power) Rules here is a summary of some of the rules. There is no intent to either promote these ideas or denigrate them.
There are 2 classes of AMA Gas models, plus Nostalgia and Vintage classes.  The “regular” class permits movable surfaces just like the FAI classes but the Classic class that Dean flies does not.  While I don’t fly AMA Gas I think that more people fly the Classic class although the regular class does have some very notable practitioners.

Another difference between FAI and AMA rules is that the AMA rules have different engine runs and Max times defined for a flying site category. This means if you are going to particular site, you know what the engine run and max will be. In the FAI classes there is not provision for changing the engine run based of the site but the D/T can be changed based flying condition.  I believe the AMA CD can also declare on the day – that while this Cat 1 site, the biggest permitting a 12 second engine run and  5 minute max, we will fly cat 2 at 9 second engine and 3 minute max because it is windy.

Both the AMA system and the FAI system permit the CD to declare a different D/T time under some circumstances. This means that the flyer must be prepared to change the D/T setting during the event. What is notable about the AMA system is that it also permits under some circumstances for the CD to have a reduced engine run. This means the AMA flyer must also be prepared to change the engine run length during the event. The only equivalent in the FAI World is changing energy allocation for F1Q, this has been done with success in a number of recent F1Q event.

The flyoff are also different in that the AMA rules specify the (reduced)  motor run for the first  2 flyoff flight and slightly extending the Max, after that continuing fixed Max until drop. There was a long discussion in a FB electric flight group prompted by Taron Malkhasyan winning the USA Nats E-36 28 consecutive Maxes and he stopped mid day. That discussion is beyond the scope of this document. Since the notable 1960 World Champs with 5 joint winners in F1C the FAI has system that is designed to bring the event to a conclusion within the duration of the Championship event.