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Night Flying Discuss night time aircraft illumination, methods and equipment.

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Old 07-13-2011, 09:26 PM   #1
DragonWeezel
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Default Night Flight Lighting Tips Galore!

Right now the days are long sure, but soon, they'll be shrinking, and now's a great time to get your craft lit up for the fall flying season. Having a night time park flyer can be great fun, but lighting it can be a drag! Below are some things I found out from doing actual test flights on dark nights this winter.

Obviously, the lights you should use are LED lightstrips. These are avialable from many places online. DO NOT USE the waterproof ones unless you want to add tons of weight to your plane!

Mostly, you want ones that look like this:
http://www.acmelite.net/images/1/p/R...30X_S-2930.jpg


The Plane needs to be easy to orient. Here are the mistakes I made during my first few attempts:

The first time I flew @ night, I almost lost the plane. I had a few dim lights on the outside of the plane, and that just wasn't enough. I then went to basically using an LED flashlight on the front of the plane. I could see where I was going, but had no Idea where I was! Lastly, and I see this one all the time, I tried to just stick LED light Strips (facing "out" sticky side to the foam) on a plane. I got blinded and had great difficulty w/ orientation (even w/ 3 colors). They were just "too" bright, and didn't illuminate the plane (but whole cities thought it was Daytime...)

How do you use bright LED's, fly at night w/ great orientation, AND not get blinded? (I'll tell you in my next post!)
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Old 07-13-2011, 09:30 PM   #2
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Default Tips pt. 2

Turn your LED strips upside down!

You can etch a channel into your foam, just trace out where you want your lights, w/ a dremel using a shallow tip and a steady hand to give you limited depth, or winging it go down a MM or so. If you want to go really fancy, you could measure out where each LED is, and dremmel out small holes to fit it even tighter. You can then use a clear tape or glue to hold the strips in place. I taped mine so the stickyside doesn't pick up dirt. The KEY is to shine the LEDs against and into some foam (preferably white) . But even if your foam isn't white it will still work, but may have reduced intensity, or color.

For white foam planes though, there is a lot of upside to this method!
You only have to have strips on 1 side of the wings! You can hide that strip on the underside of the plane so it looks good on the stand. The LEDs will make the wing glow really well about 2" wide through the the wing. The "top side" (Whatever side you placed your LED's) you'll still see just fine, the light will reflect strongly off of the surface you are shining into. That's right, you'll still see the light as if it was in the normal direction, but it won't be so bright as to blind you!

Here is a video of my "testbed" Stryker. I didn't have the switch in place at that time. My test bed stryker is going to get retired soon, and I'll take shiny new videos when I get my "new" one done (but I'm flying the Q right now... so it'll be a bit).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soSP3S-o3S4

Note: The white "covered" lights are now inverted also.
Don't forget to "Pause" at 1:20 to view the nose piece! This was so bright I couldn't land the thing, which leads to the next tip...

Last tip for today: (wait for it...)
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Old 07-13-2011, 09:54 PM   #3
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Get one of these!
http://www.robotmarketplace.com/products/0-DGSW5.html
Using a programable TX, ONE RC channel, you can get two channels of lights, with 6 or 7 "modes!" You can make the lights blink, turn off, and turn on all independantly per channel. The switch acts as an "interupt" in the signal on the negative side. That's how it turns the lights off, or blinks them. BE Careful, if you wire the switch wrong ( you won't if you follow instructions below) it will not work right ever again (trust me, I know ) Mine is set to have the wings one one channel, and center / nose light on the other.
Wiring of your lights:

What you need: A soldering iron, preferably a variable temperature one.
Some experience soldering.
An old pair of unused headphones / crap earbuds, etc.. that you can steal wire from.
Your LED strips
Access to your ESC connector.
Optional:
a dead servo, or extensions to get two plugs from.
Switch from Robot marketplace.

Most LED strips are 12v, and work great w/ a 3S battery, which is why we solder to the ESC connector. Perfect for many PZ and HZ planes.

The headphone wire is awesome. These usually have a coated shiny red / green wire. If so you are in luck, it doesn't really need the outside insulation for this purpose. You can save that insulation weight for really light planes, and even embed the super thin wire into the frame w/o it showing at all. The wires are already twisted on themselves and won't conduct unless they are tinned w/ solder. Since there's barely any current going through, these wires work perfect for lighting small to mid sized craft. If a short were to occur, it will melt quickly like a fuse. Don't Sue, if you don't know how to tin or solder, stop what your doing, and seek assistance!

Cut to length plus an inch or so (incase you melt some), tin each cut end w/ a low temperature soldering iron. Being careful to have your soldering gun low enough to melt solder, but not the wire (it's that thin).

I soldered this thin wire from the ESC's (+) connector. To do that properly, you probably need to turn your soldering iron up, melting the solder on the ESC, and place the wire into the soldered connection. Quickly remove the iron, or you'll unsolder your connector or melt the wire you are trying to solder. Solder the other end to the light strips (+) connectors in parrallel for each strip I was using (feel free to "T" for cleaner wiring). Make sure Polarity is correct! If you want allways on, just wire your lights (-) in parralell to the ESC's (-) connector the same way you did the (+) one.

If you use the switch I mentioned, measure out where your switch will go. Here's where the two servo plugs come in.
The negative wire from the ESC should get spliced to the servo plug's Brown or black wire
(like here)
On the opposite side of the servo plug, (the orange wire in the type pictured in the link,) should be spliced to the negative side of your light strip or series of strips. How you plug them in to the R/C switch won't matter, since the switch is just breaking just the negative conductor. Wire the positive side of the light strips to the positive side of the ESC connector. Plug the switch from Robomarket place into a spare channel. I chose the gear channel. That's it! Now plug in your battery and flip the gear switch around. It may be helpful to plug it in to a rudder channel to see where the functions you want exist, test, etc... then move it to a spare channel later.

Now program your TX to get the lighting functionality you are looking for w/ some creative mixing like getting the channel to sit at different levels on the flap switch, you can use a flap switch, Gear, & Aux switch to give you about 7 or 8 different functions from one R/C channel!

What I did was use the "gear" channel like an on off switch, and the flap positions to add or subtract x from the gear position. This is easy to see if you have a computer radio by looking at the "servo position" screen and can really help you get those settings dialed in fast. The setting I usually fly on is blinking the nose light w/ steady wing lights. I turn off the nose on final approach.
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Old 07-13-2011, 11:08 PM   #4
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Well, I went to public school so if there are edits, or you have additional tips, let me know.
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Old 07-19-2011, 06:36 PM   #5
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"nightg time" video coming as soon as I can get a camera person.
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Old 08-31-2011, 01:30 AM   #6
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can't find anyone to stand at field at night with a camera and let the mosquitoes eat them alive while you fly your stryker at their head ?? gee, i wonder why lol!!!
the only reason i have any videos at all is because i know a few yahoos who are as nuts as i am (some of them more so...)this witch on a broom is getting a retro-fit to electric power, and she will have a few rolls of green lights added of course!!


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e.d.f. speed freak
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Old 09-22-2011, 09:17 PM   #7
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Default Sorry I couldn't get back to you sooner

I've been Pretty busy...

I do need to get flight videos but up here in WA, it stayed light until late in the evening, and the last month I've been pretty busy (it's getting dark early now, so we should be good soon, also joining PSSF so I can find a few other yahoos as well!).

p.s.

That witch looks awesome! I need to make one of those!
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Old 09-22-2011, 09:37 PM   #8
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And where doees it end? do you have a santa and sleigh? a flying easter Egg? A flying flower? a Football player? a new airswimmer shark for flying during Shark week on discovery channel...

I need a new hanger just thinking about it!
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