Behind the scenes:
The only plane I had that was capable of handling the extra weight and flying slowly enough for these shots was a Multiplex Easy Star, a really basic foam begginner’s plane designed to be dead simple to fly and tough enough to withstand non-stop crashing. I had cobbled it together with a wildly overpowered no-name Chinese brushless motor, speed controller and LiPo battery, and had been flying it on an obsolete radio given to me by Doug Kott at Road & Track. The radio was so old and hopeless, it was going either to me or the garbage can.
Perfect, then, for our project.
The only way to get a clear shot of the ground without giving away the fact that we were filming from a toy plane was to mount the camera upside-down on the bottom of the plane. We were headed to El Mirage on a friday night, so that same day, on my lunch break, I took a razor blade to the bottom of the plane and cut a camera-sized chunk of foam out of the bottom. Then I glued big chunks of balsa to the sides of the plane to reinforce the area I had weakened with the hole. Since the nose had already broken off and been glued back on several times, reinforcement was critical.
Next problem, the plane had no landing gear, and the lowest point on the fuselage was the lens of an HD camera. Not cool. The quickie solution I came up with was to bend up some aluminum welding rod and some actual RC plane wheels and rubber band the contraption to the bottom of the plane.
The plane was completely untested when, at dawn the next day, I unfolded myself from the back of the Mazda5 I had used for a tent, plugged it in, and threw it.
The extra weight was noticeable, but not too bad, and the plane was still aerodynamically stable, but that was the extent of the good news. As you can hear in the raw video, below, the radio was glitching like crazy. Every time I touched the throttle the motor would surge spastically, and the servos kept twiching and throwing random inputs into the plane. I don’t know if it was the cheap Chinese electronics, the dumpster diver radio, or the Predator drones circling silently overhead (they test them out of a nearby airport), but something was seriously trying to knock us out of the sky.
Even with a perfect plane, though, our plan was doomed. It turns out to be much more difficult than I imagined to take a camera in the sky and point it at a car when you can’t see what’s on the screen, the guy in the car is driving around at random with no particular plan, and your hands are frozen solid and too busy with the plane to talk to the driver on the walkie talkie that you forgot to bring anyway.
Watch the video below and you’ll be shocked that any of this crap was useful.
After the air show, it was time for the powerslides (see if you can guess which free trial software I used to convert these files into a useful format).
|Remember that part where we made it fast?|
|Boy, it sure would be fun to read part 5 again!|
|How’s about some Sipster part 4?|
|Go get yourself some Project Sipster part 3|
|Go get yourself some Project Sipster part 2:|
|Go get yourself some Project Sipster part 1:|