Re: skycam fans

Date: Sat Apr 22 2000 - 09:19:21 MDT

In a message dated 4/16/00 7:40:05 PM Central Daylight Time,

> I checked out the model plane club that meets at the Moffett
> Field blimp hangar yesterday to see how far they were from
> having the ability to violate our privacy rights.
> Answer: close.
> A couple of developments: they have autostabilized four
> prop electric helicopters which have the payload capacity
> to carry a small transmitting camera. Next, they have small
> transmitting cameras.

Are you saying there already are autostabilized helicopters? This would be a
big improvement over the technology I am familiar with. Up till about ten
years ago I dabbled in RC aircraft. It's NOT simple or easy to learn to fly.
 Not only do you have to have a pretty damned good grasp of basic
aerodynamics and flight dynamics, but you ALSO have to master the dreaded
"turn-around problem", i.e. learning to pilot a vehicle that YOU'RE NOT IN -
when it's travelling TOWARD you. (The "turn-around problem" in RC exhibits
itself when a novice pilot gets turned around as her aircraft is heading
toward her and, going to make a horizontal flight path correction, she makes
the opposite one from the one intended, exacerbating the problem. You can
spot this one easily - an otherwise airworthy plane heading toward the pilot
all of a sudden goes into a tighter and tighter spiral, resulting in . . .

Another problem (especially with sailplanes, which I mainly flew) is not
having one's inner ear or other subtle momentum cues as a guide to finely
gauging the aircraft's energy. In sailplanes in particular, this results in
what I used to call "the stall reflex", i.e. "got a problem? Pull back on the
stick!" Naturally you can only do so much of this before you're either
looping or, eventually, using up all the aircraft's momentum. This results
in, at best, embarrassing porpoising and, at worst, a stall followed by a
dive, followed by …BANG!

(Of course, there's also the problem of launching a sailplane off the
catapult with the receiver switched off. This is a very humorous situation
where the seasoned pilot - yours truly - lofts the graceful two-meter bird
that he's spent dozens of hours building off the step and twiddles the sticks
helplessly as it accelerates up and over into a fast return to earth . . .

(Which is not to say that all of my air time ended badly - during my best
summer I got to the point where I could keep a sailplane aloft essentially
indefinitely. Many were the hours I spent chasing hawks from one thermal to
another, which is one of the truly coolest things to do in the world. The
little whirring sounds of the control surface servos interest the big soaring
raptors and I've spent hours gently playing with them in their own
environment, the great warm ocean of air above the coastal Texas prairie.)

It wouldn't surprise me if the RC nuts are now starting to incorporate
microelectronics and on-board logic to begin to address these things. But of
course, the best thing would be to get a relatively high-bandwidth 2-way
digital radio circuit going . . . When that happens (and I don't have to work
so much that I'm too often on the bad part of the learning curve), I'll be
back in the air in a heartbeat.

       Greg Burch <>----<>
      Attorney ::: Vice President, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
                                           ICQ # 61112550
        "We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know
        enough to get by. Every question we answer leads on to another
       question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species."
                                          -- Desmond Morris

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