Explorer V-Tail EDF Glider by Jpower
Gliders. Everyone has messed with them as some point. I remember when we were kids, saving our coins to buy balsa gliders from the corner drug store once we got bored with making paper airplanes. You remember them, most packaged in that small hanging plastic bag. They weren't all that expensive and gave you hours of recreation. A little sliding of the wing to get the cg right for a good glide and before you knew it, your arm was sore from continually sending it skyward to watch it defy gravity while dreaming of doing that in real life. There weren't any video games back then, kids learned to be creative and balsa gliders were just the start for those captivated by flight.
Once you figured out how to make gliders fly, you moved up to rubber band powered. I'll never forget my sweetest flyer. It was a simple stick and wing type with a rubber band powered prop. I managed to get it trimmed just right. Under power it would climb in a broad circle to the left and when it ran out of power she would decend in a slow glide to the right. Without any breeze, you could almost take off and land in the same spot. I say almost because in free flight,there were just too many variables to be that consistant. You did learn that if you wound it too tightly...... crack! Instant implosion.
After countless models and countless fights, we eventually move on to things like control line and radio control. We've got Airplanes, Cars, helicopters and quads as well, EDF jets not to mention all the other fuel based options. At some point, some of us revisit an old pastime that we seemingly forgot about. The glider. I'll admit, I've been so heavy in to prop Warbirds and Jets along with the occational combat wing or the like that I had really forgotten how much fun gliders really are.
Enter the Explorer EDF V-tail glider from Jpower. This is the latest design in their line of EDF jets, even though it's configured as a glider. This makes a rather unique product that combines great features like a low drag V-tail, 1400 mm wingspan with awesome glide properties all combined with an EDF powerplant. There are plenty of prop driven gliders out there, some are puller props, some are pusher props, with so many out there it gets hard sometimes to tell the difference between models. There aren't many EDF based versions. Wattage did one a while back,a big nacelle sitting on top of a streamlined fuse that kinda worked but was like a big airbrake when switched off. . The Explorer uses a very streamlined EDF housing with a tapered exit that eliminates the need for thrust tubes to gain maximum speed. The result is a great looking glider combined with EDF propulsion that seems to buck logic as to how gliders should be built. There is a coolness factor with an EDF whoosh and whistle that prop planes just don't match.
Here is the dry fit of all the parts as they arrive in the box.
The wings and carbon fiber joiner:
Magnetic EDF access hatch:
Tapered exhaust outlet:
The Explorer is assembled using a few braces and screws to hold the carbon reinforced tails and wings on, in fact there isn't any need for glue with the exception of securing the servos and the servo protectors to the wings and securing the rudder and elevator servos in their pockets. The wings and tails can be removed for easy transport and storage, assembly only takes a couple minutes. The EDF hatch is magnetic as is the electronics bay, wing saddle hatch and battery compartment. The version I got was in ARF form, I only see it available at www.Hobbyb.com for now as this is the newest plane out. I've been buying most of my Jpower parts and airframes from tham and they have proven to be reliable and have good prices. The only parts I had to fabricate were longer servo wires because I didn't want to use extension harnesses. I lengthened the wires and left enough length to permit removing the wings without anything binding. There is even a pilot figure in the canopy! Once I got this flying, my intent is to install a 5.8 ghz FPV setup, there is plenty of room for the camera and transmitter.
Magnetic electronics hatch:
Large lipo compartment:
Magnetic canopy with pilot figure:
Yes, that's a big lipo for a 50mm fan!
I know what some are thinking....... EDFs are a lousy choice for long flight times. That's what I thought too. The difference here is that the airframe glides well and it takes very little power to keep it in the air. I was stunned when my first timed flight came in at over 26 minutes with a 3s 1300 mAh lipo. Truth is, I didn't really have the plane dialed in right, it was still nose heavy.
I could have stretched that even further once learning how this bird likes to be flown. I have so much to learn about thermals and such, and flying a glider is different than flying a regular EDF jet. If this is flown the way most of us fly an EDF, flight times will be equally short. When flown like a powered glider, you are rewarded with flight times more akin to slow flyer prop planes. A 3s 1800 mAh lipo can give you well over 35 minutes in the air!
The assembly was super simple, the V-tails screwed on and the control horns attached to the rods with the supplied hardware. The rudder and elevator servo are glued into the pockets in the fuse, the wing servos and covers are glued in their pockets with the wings secured with the supplied harware. I took the supplied EDF and substituted a 6 blade rotor also available from hobbyb.com, hooked it up to a 20A esc from a previous JPower jet and the power system was good to go. A 2.4 ghz receiver was installed and the model was ready for flight! Probably one of the quickest builds of all time. The finish of the foam skin is as smooth as a baby's rear and being EPO, is about a durable as a beginner can get and yet it doesn't disappoint the experienced modeler.
The initial test flight used a 3s 1300 mAh lipo for maiden flight and subsequent maximum time aloft test. For the third and later tests, a 9g ballast weight was removed from the nose and a 3s 1800 mAh lipo was used. The battery compartment will hold a wide range of lipo sizes as well as some FPV equipment. Here is a quick test flight to show the performance envelope on the most conservative 3s setup. Speed is fantastic for 3s voltage., however the next step will be swapping the ESC for 4s voltage. While it isn't needed at all, some folks say that excessive power is just about right and 4s will indeed raise the bar.
With everything hooked up, I prepared for launch with a guesstimate of the CG. The fuse feels substantial in the hand, there is plenty to hold on to. I first did an EDF jet type launch and it flew out briskly. It was a little touchy on the elevator without any programming of the rates so that was addressed with a rate and expo change. Aileron response is good but not twitchy. The V-tail, well...... Let's explore that a little. JPower appears to me marketing this as a trainer. I'm not entirely sure how to classify this. If you take this out to a very wide open area in calm air, this model tracks rather nicely and responds well as a trainer might. now a trainer for what is a bit of a dilemma. V-Tails aren't exactly the easiest for a true novice. While they reduce drag, the tail is also a little more what I call "loose" where it hunts around a little because of the extra maneuverability by such a responsive setup. V-tails are also a little less forgiving in a stall. It will float almost at a standstill with a slight headwind right up to the point and it quickly drops a wing and snap rolls. That does remind one to not force it to stall. The flip side of all this is that as your skills improve, this plane becomes down right exciting. Steering with the tail rewards you with higher energy retention in turns, fast speeds and simply exciting flight. I've flown 10 flights on this bird and I get more impressed with each flight. When the breeze starts to blow, this bird becomes electric...... This plane penetrates the wind when off throttle, using the wind's energy along with the EDF power makes for lots of excitement.
So how does one classify a 1400mm wingspan V-Tail Jet Glider? It can be a V-tail trainer, in could very well be an EDF trainer, it could function on so many levels it might very well be a trainer for all of the above. I am hesitant to say it would be a good first plane, I do believe pilots should get accustomed to a high wing trainer first. With success in that area first, this is a great candidate to learn the rest. The beauty here is that the plane has the ability to do much more as your skills grow. Want ballistic performance? Just step up to 4s lipo and hold on!
Here is test flight #3 with the 3s 1800 mAh lipo:
So far, this plane has surprised this author in more than one way. I was expecting a slow, lethargic amp hog of a glider. Was I got was a graceful, spirited jet like glider that performed way above my expectations both in speed and flight time. I am simply amazed that so little power is required for slow lazy flight that gave almost a half hour of relaxation on a modest sized lipo. I also didn't expect this to scoot with such authority considering I was only using 3s voltage. Combine those pleasant surprises with the ability to disassemble for transport, you have a jack of all trades that has found a happy spot near the top of my list for portable fun. This is way too convenient and multi purpose to not be a daily flyer for me.
Here are the pluses:
Super simple assembly.
Great looks and EPO construction.
Wings unbolt for transport.
Awesome flight performance envelope
Here are the minuses:
As odd as it sounds, haven't found any yet. That is highly unusual as most everything is a compromise. When I find the flaws, I will follow up. For now, I am going to enjoy the heck out of this plane both as a glider and a jet.
Update: additional test flights using 4s transformes this into a powerhouse. It could likely be flown on 2s as a trainer, 3s as a step up and 4s for those that want that extra dose of excessive power.