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Author Topic: Predator Drone..... Build Blog.....  (Read 2160 times)
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Saint Alfonzo
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« on: February 25, 2014, 02:59:11 PM »

Hi Folks..

A little while ago I purchased one of those really cheap 'Key Fob' cameras and stuck it onto various bits of an electric powered glider I fly, and was very pleased with the results from a cheap bit of kit ( it cost me £6 inc postage all the way from China) that was just Velcroed onto the airframe!. Towards the end of last year a friend showed me his latest purchase, the Mobius HD camera ( http://mobius-actioncam.com/  ) and sent me some footage from it slung under a Quadcopter. To cut a long story short, it went onto my christmas list and duly arrived.  So, I had to think of something to build that would do it justice. One of the models I love to fly on my simulator during the our wet winter was the Predator drone, It looks mean and purposeful and what better for a camera plane!
 Tracked down some 3 views  and set about designing a semi scale version, Taking the 'best bits' from the mark 1 and the mark11 aircraft to end up with a Hybrid having to my mind the most practical layout.
Got the construction/prototype drawings done and dusted about 3 weeks ago and started to build about 3 days ago.

It's going to be about 78" span, 36" long,  with an 800w brushless and a 3S lipo turning a prop at the back end, hoping to bring it out at about 3.5 to 4 pounds. Sounds overpowered maybe, but those high aspect ratio wings don't actually create a lot of wing area!  Non retracting U/C for simplicity and robustness, and the piece de resistance a rotating camera turret containing the Mobius camera.

As I mentioned, I started the build a few days ago, so it's pretty well under way, with loads of photos taken already.. I'll post a couple now to see if anyone is interested and if they are I'll carry on..
The first few pics are just cut parts, to hopefully wet your appetites.. Smiley
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dosco
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« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2014, 03:06:27 PM »

Neat. I look forward to the build thread!

-Dave
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Saint Alfonzo
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« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2014, 03:17:05 PM »

Thanks Dave..

Had 3 views in as many minutes, so I'm encouraged to post a few more pics..
A couple of the fuselage starting to come together and a couple more showing the Jet turbine pod taking shape and the front dorsel pod ( some sort of radar?) waiting sealing and filling.. I'm using this as an air intake for the electrics bay..Smiley
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« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2014, 03:38:34 PM »

Cool. Keep it coming!

-Dave
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Saint Alfonzo
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« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2014, 04:08:17 AM »

Morning all.. Weather finally looking a bit better, has encouraged me to post again before I set off into town to do a few chores before I can get back to building..Smiley
Few more pics, showing progress..... Mainly the 'pods' coming closer to final shape and one of the fuselage with the sides in place. Waiting for the postman to arrive with the steerable nose wheel assembly so I can get the final former drilled and fitted to firm up the nose section.. More pics later..Smiley
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Saint Alfonzo
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« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2014, 03:26:48 PM »

The Postman brought the new nose wheel assembly ( I did already have one, but the leg was too short to achieve the high ground clearance I'm going to need), so First job of the day was to measure up and fit the steering clamps..
Next was to cut some pink foam to make the upper nose section, what would be the canopy if it was a piloted aircraft.. I have shaped foam before, but believe me, I hate doing it.. It doesn't seem to respond to my shaping techniques at all well. Broke the first one! Knocked the back corner right off it when I was sanding it.  SECOND ATTEMPT IS COMING ALONG, BUT slow AND messy!  I may scrap it and go over to balsa.. 
I also took delivery today of my first ever POLY-C, a Poly-urethane water based varnish for applying tissue or nylon covering and then finishing it with. So spent a little time experimenting with sticking heavyweight tissue to pink foam.. 90% successful, I think it will be ok, but needs more practice..

Going to post up a few more pics, the build is starting to catch up with the pics now, so things might slow a little..
The first 3 pics show fuselage progress, the top sheeting is just a bit of 1/8" 'plonked' loose on top so I could mock up the intake and the turbine pod more or less in the right place to get a feel for how they would look.. The last pic is starting to build the camera turret. Preformed 1/32" sheet being stuck with contact adhesive ( UHU POR) to a conveniently sized polythene medicine tub..

Lastly, for today, a link to my YouTube videos of airborne footage with the cheap camera.. Ignore the onscreen date, its too risky to alter the firmware for the camera, so thats the default date it came with.. Hope you enjoy.. Smiley
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HeaJ2F-5Erk&list=UUU645qe_b8qXDabkRJJoshA&feature=c4-overview
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« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2014, 03:59:59 PM »

Very interesting. Thanks for sharing!
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Saint Alfonzo
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« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2014, 02:07:32 PM »

Thanks for the interest Dave....

 Cracking on, had a good day today, cut out,framed up, hinged and skinned the Dorsal fin and rudder, progressed the camera turret by sanding smooth and squaring off the ends, then reinforcing the bearing area with a couple of ply discs ready to take the bearing shaft. Starting framing up the under cheek cowling that goes around and fairs in the turret.

1st pic general shot of turret, rough carve of ''canopy'' and the the noise wheel former.  Next one is a close up of the turret so far, then ''canopy'' block sat roughly in situ and finally the frame up of  the dorsal fin, made from 1/32" ply framed with 3/32 square, awaiting it's 1/32" balsa overskinning.

Primary rough balancing of the fuselage shows a massive tendency for tail heavyness, so I'm kind of thinking that the foam canopy may well be consigned to the bin in preference for a balsa one which will be easier to build, stronger and put weight at the other end of the fuselage. That's the benefit of scratch building your own design, you can change your mind at will! lol.. Actually, it's funny how once you start to build you can instantly see better ways of doing something than when you are drawing and designing despite having spent hours with pencil and paper figuring out just '' how it's all going to work!!''
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« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2014, 09:22:53 AM »

Had a couple of slow days on the build, a little short on time and yesterday I did get sort of sucked into one of those periods when instead of actually building, you sit at your work bench, pick up the model and wave it about  making whirring and vrooming noises and whistfully imagine it sailing majestically through the air.. We do ALL have those moments, don't we?? Please tell me it's not just me that does that!!..

Also spent some time putting build notes and comments onto the drawing and updating it to reflect changes.. Particularly how the wings are going to join to the fuselage.. When i was drawing it up, I had a couple of ideas but nothing concrete.. The original plan was to fit the wing halves direct to the fuselage sides with joiner rods, but I couldn't see an accessible way of fixing them for flight. That's the main reason why that very thick ply plate is in the base of the fuselage, to provide strength for the flying loads, and of course as a bearing plate for the undercarriage.   But on reflection, I'm now going to build wing roots onto the fuselage and join the wing halves there, this also gives me an opportunity to 'stretch' the span by 3" per wing which will give me an extra  38 square inches of wing area..

Main build work has been shaping up the dorsal fin/rudder assembly and building and shaping the turret cowl, for such a smallish piece there was a lot of bits in there.. and a lot of curves to blend in, nearly there though, probably near enough to leave it until its had a coat or two of sealer, then work on the final finish.. Next part was going to be the wing roots, or the tail planes, but I'm running a little low on wood for those, so it will probably be the rear cowling next, as I have some soft sheet left and it has some tricky curves in it, so will need a bit of head scratching and much sanding..( that's the cowl, not my head!!)..    Roll Eyes
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« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2014, 10:38:17 AM »

Well, the rain is back, so where better to be than in the workshop!   
Built  up the motor cowl out of 1/4" sheet, ( I think that's 6mm for those who like metric) and started to shape that up and see how it fits, it's going to be cosy in there, but there should be enough cooling.

After much deliberation I decided the pink foam 'canopy' was a non runner so cut some frames and spacers and started to build a balsa one. It will probably be heavier but definitely more durable, and with that large motor hanging off the back then weight at the front can only be a good thing! Rapidly running out of wood stock now and get to the model shop till Wednesday, so tomorrow will probably just see me planking the other half of the canopy..

Now.. I have a question which if anyone can answer I would appreciate it.. Being fairly new to R/C flying, ( long time modeller, but mainly control line and free flight) only really having built trainers and park flyers up till now, ..... I intend to fit a gyro stabiliser to this plane to steady it up as a camera platform.. But due to the tail layout [ V-Tail ] it will be much easier mechanically to utilise one servo for each elevator ( note..... it is NOT a v-Tail 'elevon' set up, I have ailerons and a rudder).. If i connect the 2 servos to separate channels on the RX and do a TX mix can the gyro cope with this, or would it be better to link them off one channel with a Y lead??  Any ideas or suggestions welcome..Smiley

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Saint Alfonzo
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« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2014, 07:08:44 AM »

Back again.. Smiley  Let the write up slide a little bit, been busy on other things, but have managed to crack on a fair bit with the build.

As one of the last pics showed, the foam 'cockpit' just had to go; I never seem to be able to get a good finish on pink foam and the initial carving to rough shape always is just that... ROUGH.. meaning tons and tons of sanding, which is not only slow and messy, but I'm not really sure just how bad for you pink foam dust may be?? I have masks etc, but the dust is so charged with static that it clings to your clothes and you bring it back into the house, and that definitely isn't good!

Anyway, got the cockpit frame built up and planked and when dry gave it an initial sanding to take off the high spots and start to get it near to shape, then weighed it.. it came out at 32 gms.. the pink foam rough shaped and sanded one came out at 24 gms. So, surprisingly not a huge difference. Plus, there's a lot more sanding and some trimming of the internal structure to go yet on this part, so the final weight of the cockpit shouldn't change massively..

I piled up the fuselage, motor cowl, turbine pod, intake, rudder and fin and a couple of other bits on the scales just to see how the weight was coming along.. I'm fairly happy with it so far, the pile in the picture weighs out at 1lb 7 3/8 ounces.. just a smidge under 1.5 pounds so far so, looking like my 3.5 to 4 pound target weight is achievable..
( sorry about mixing pound measurements and grammes in the same posting, but I work and think in Pounds and ounces, but when it comes to very small weight differences, like this in the 2 canopy items, fractions of  ounces aren't easy enough to get a good comparison with..)

Took the dremel with a cut off wheel in it to the camera turret and started to form the slot for the Mobius camera to slide into. Approached this with a fair amount of trepidation, wasn't quite sure how the plastic/balsa combo would react to having quite a sizeable hole cut in it, but it all went to plan.. The turret is shown in one of the pics below  doing a very passable impression of that famous Australian outlaw  NED KELLY!

Pictures below hopefully expand on what I have been rambling on  about..  Cool

Hope this thread is still interesting,
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dosco
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« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2014, 10:37:46 AM »

It is interesting. I'm looking forward to your first flight(s)!

Regards-
Dave

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« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2014, 07:23:23 PM »

Good to see you take on a different scratch project.
John
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Saint Alfonzo
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« Reply #13 on: March 12, 2014, 07:52:40 AM »

Had a few day's away over the weekend, indulging one of my other expensive hobbies, so progress has slowed somewhat on the build, and since I have been back, have been mainly concentrating on filling and sanding some of the components. So, as that's not particularly interesting I haven't put any posts up.
Wood stocks have been replenished and construction of the two 'V' tail halves started only to find I had run out of hinges!!  Really must try to do better with 'stock' management..
Anyway, parts are cut out and one half has been started with the framing. Currently clamped up and waiting for the glue to dry before the other side is done.. Can't start the other half as I used all my clamps on one side!
Pictures later hopefully.

Once the tail halves are finished, it's on with the wing roots. I just need to source a new soft top to my building board so I can pin into it..  Cork seems to have fallen foul of the eco age and is hard to source, at least here in the U.K it is..

I'm seriously considering using a 3 axis gyro on this plane, maybe not right from the off but ertainly once the initial flights have shaken any bugs out, Anybody have any thoughts on make, type and importantly costs for these units??

Smiley
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« Reply #14 on: March 17, 2014, 04:28:26 PM »

The drone drones on.....

Had a fairly busy time over the last week with non modelling things and when I have had time it's mainly been filling, sanding and starting to cover a few pieces with tissue.. Have managed to cut out/frame up/skin and shape the two tail halves though; after I took a trip out to get more hinges. They have gone together well, fairly light but very strong. Built up from a central 1/32" ply core with lightening holes in and cut outs for the hinges, then framed with 1/8" square stock before finally covering with 1/32" balsa skin.

Really pleased with the way the POLY-C is working, other people I have spoken to about it didn't get on with it, but personally I find it great.. Works extremely well as a sanding sealer and also sticks the heavyweight tissue onto the sheet parts well. It does need a largish and SOFT brush though otherwise it picks up the surface texture of the tissue. But, it forms quite a hard skin over the finished product, so sanding off any small tissue  blemishes should be easy. I have tried it with dry tissue on the flat of the fin and around the circumference of the turret, and tried wetting the tissue to cover the turbine pod. No real benefit that I could determine with wetting it, so I think the rest will all be applied dry..
Photos..  first, the turret with Mobius camera alongside. then the tail half at skeleton stage and finally, both tail halves, with elevators and also the servo mount/receiver tray and the rear motor cowl..
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« Reply #15 on: March 26, 2014, 05:36:00 AM »

 Cool      progress has slowed up somewhat on the build lately.. I'm on the slow 'niggly' bits, covering the tail surfaces/'cockpit/cowls etc with Heavyweight tissue and Poly-C, then adding extra coats of the Poly-C and sanding.. Bent up the Undercarriage wire last week, currently waiting for some ' 22 SWG tinned copper wire' to arrive so I can bind it up and solder it together, then see how the beast sits on her wheels.
Spent an hour or so mocking up the nose turret servo installation to see how that is going to fit in the nose bay which it has to share with the nose wheel servo. Luckily when I designed the plane I left plenty of space in there, ( by pure luck really.... the nose wheel was going to be a much more "scale" affair, mounted further back and steeply angled forward, with a very complicated steering system, but as the build progressed I realised that it would almost certainly be an engineering nightmare to make and probably far too weak for my flying site. so it had to go to be replaced with a standard steerable set up.. unfortunate for the looks, but eminently more practical!!)

Been researching a colour scheme for the aircraft.. Never realised just how many services and agencies fly these things!!!!! I had originally just thought of the standard military type colour scheme.. but having googled images  I'm now rather keen on the schemes below.. Any comments??  Shocked
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« Reply #16 on: March 26, 2014, 07:35:49 AM »

Been researching a colour scheme for the aircraft.. Never realised just how many services and agencies fly these things!!!!! I had originally just thought of the standard military type colour scheme.. but having googled images  I'm now rather keen on the schemes below.. Any comments??  Shocked

The white scheme might be easier to see.  Both look good aesthetically.  Sorry about the nose wheel, but function over form!
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« Reply #17 on: March 28, 2014, 11:18:51 AM »

Just a couple of pics today of the turret set up and servo installation.. Sorry about the poor quality of the servo pic.. Needed a higher flash setting by the looks of it..
Was going to post a pic showing the general idea for the original nose wheel set up, ( which I now consider too weak for my grass flying site) but seems you can't post PDF files to the site; plus my pdf is 280k bigger than the file limit and I have no idea how to shrink a pdf file!

Starting forming up the main undercarriage yesterday from 8 swg wire. Used an idea that was published in this months magazine.. RCM&E .. The wires were bent to shape, checked and cleaned, then jigged up, bound with 22swg tinned copper wire, all as usual, but instead of using a soldering iron and waiting for ages for the heat to build up... the heat was applied using my paint stripper gun... it puts out about 300 deg heat on full blast.. so, heat the work until you see the tinning starting to discolour on the bind wires, then ( with the solder applied to the top of the joint so gravity is working with you!) apply solder, running the heat downwards to draw the solder into the work and down the full length of the binding.. Simple quick and neat, and no burnt fingers like i usually end up with, plus because the heat doesn't 'sink' away  and remains localised, the whole job cools down quicker too.. Smiley
The space between the two wires of the U/C will be filled with a ply/balsa/ply laminate then tissued and Poly-C'd to add strength.. Laminations are currently cut and being glued..

Edit........ I seem to have managed to cut the relevant section out of the PDF file and convert it to a jpeg file, so hopefully it will now post and be big enough to get some idea of the original complexity of the nose wheel.. The plan was to.. enclose two swg wires in tandem inside an aluminum tube  with a plate mounted at the bottom,  a bellcrank operated by a snake from the angle mounted servo would then  move a tiller arm on the nose wheel bogey.. Probably would have lasted for one landing, thats if I hadn't gone crazy whilst trying to manufacture it!!! . Roll Eyes
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« Reply #18 on: April 03, 2014, 09:25:02 AM »

Hi again..   Been a week or so now since I last posted, been working on the undercarriage and a few other sundry bits and bobs, plus applying some more coats of sanding sealer to various bits..
The undercarriage was bent up and soldered in the last posting, so cut and fitted the fairing pieces to it, this was a 3/16" balsa core between the legs, sanded to the O/D of the wire then faced each side with 1/32" ply, the edges of which ran past the wire a little and were then filled with some 1/8" square balsa. The whole lot was then sanded to a nice shape, sealed and then tissue covered for finish and a little extra 'Burst-Proofness'. Made up mountings by bending a tinplate into a full width 'P' clip and trial bolted it in place.
Popped the steerable nose wheel into position and sat it up on it's wheels.. Where it promptly fell backwards!.. That rear mounted large motor is going to require a lot of nose weight to balance it all out!!  Anyway..... with 2 X 4" engineer's squares and a Stanley knife shoved inside the nose, she was taken outside and mocked up with the fuselage bits and bobs plopped roughly in place for a photo shoot.

My fears about insufficient prop/ground clearance on take off are unfounded; plenty of clearance....BUT... that underslung fin may be a bit vulnerable.. I may have to trim it a little, or maybe even do away with it.. It only carries quite a small rudder element, so maybe not too important for flight control, and as the nose wheel steers, no ground handling issues.. It would be  a shame to lose it, but better to not fit it than have it ripped off in a slightly nose high landing??? I could increase the wheel size slightly I guess..
Any comments on this??


Hopefully will be able to source a big enough soft board soon to start wing construction, then things should start to move on a bit faster again..

Pics attached below, think they are pretty self explanatory.... Cool
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« Reply #19 on: April 16, 2014, 06:18:16 AM »

Finally managed to track down some cork floor tiles to  make a soft top to my new building board.. Never ever realised it would be so difficult to get these nowadays!!
After a couple of afternoons trolling around all my local tile and carpet suppliers locally, it seems they are.. a/ not trendy or fashionable anymore, and b/ not eco friendly!..
Thank goodness for the internet!!  Tracked down several suppliers there, but,, and it's a big but, ( and I guess only British readers will get the geographical significance of this bit!) most of them won't post to my location or if they do, then want to charge me a king's ransom for delivery!

Now, anyone would think that I live in a really remote location from that, wouldn't they!!!! Well, heck, I live on quite a big Island , it's about 125 square miles big, which at it's furthest point transport terminal is 5 miles off the coast.. For you Brits... it's the Isle of Wight.. We have a mainland (Portsmouth) post code and royal mail charge the same as anywhere in the country to deliver here..  But, since Royal Mail hiked their charges through the roof lately, most use couriers, who of course charge by distance.. After sending a few 'bad tempered' emails to several EBayers, I found one supplier who asked you to ring before ordering, when I rang  they suggested I bought from them through Amazon, as that way I would avoid postage, which would have been around £6 on a £17 purchase otherwise..

 Good for them!! They got the business.. So, now waiting for the tiles to arrive and then can get on at last with wing construction,

Sorry about the rant, but I do find it rather therapeutic at times!!.. Smiley

More build notes and pics soon!!!!!!
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« Reply #20 on: April 16, 2014, 04:22:35 PM »

Re your building board problems - have you considered plasterboard? I picked up this idea from another poster and it worked very nicely, is flat, cheap, available and can be easily customised to different models and components.


Good looking build by the way.....
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« Reply #21 on: April 17, 2014, 09:46:27 AM »

Re your building board problems - have you considered plasterboard? I picked up this idea from another poster and it worked very nicely, is flat, cheap, available and can be easily customised to different models and components.


hi Hovetoo.. Yes, I did think about plasterboard, I'm recently retired from the building industry, so have worked with it a lot over the years.. It is, flat cheap and takes pins well, but.. it does have drawbacks.. one is that the edges break up easily, so you run the risk of Gypsum waste all over your clothes and work bench, and secondly, when it's time to change it for a new piece, disposing of the old piece can be an issue.. it's not generally realised by the 'non house building' public  but Plasterboard is now considered '''Hazardous Waste''''!!! ..  Most land fill sites won't accept it and if your bin men were to find it in your wheely bin they would probably refuse to empty it!  There are ways around it of course, there always is..
Anyway.... on a brighter note.. the tiles arrived this morning, ( only ordered them Tuesday morning..) and are duly stuck onto my MDF board and looking quite swanky!!
Easter coming up, closely followed by a bit of home decorating.. ( to earn good behaviour points!!) so not sure if I'll get much building done for a few days.. I will try and get out there and do a bit though.. Heres hoping.. Smiley

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« Reply #22 on: April 17, 2014, 12:53:44 PM »

How about this paint scheme:
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Re: Predator Drone..... Build Blog.....
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« Reply #23 on: April 17, 2014, 02:34:09 PM »

How about this paint scheme:

Hi Iceman.... I love that scheme, but.......... My painting skills and tolerance would steer me towards a MUCH simpler sceme.. That looks like , dare i say it.. the world's first drone display team!! LOL..    Cool
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« Reply #24 on: April 17, 2014, 02:45:44 PM »

[quote author=Saint Alfonzo link=topic=16543.msg137278#msg137278 date=1397759649

Hi Iceman.... I love that scheme, but.......... My painting skills and tolerance would steer me towards a MUCH simpler sceme.. That looks like , dare i say it.. the world's first drone display team!! LOL..    Cool
[/quote]

That's the "rumored" USAF Thunderbirds new airplane!
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