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GWS Slow Stick

Introduction

The GWS Slow Stick is a foam-wing electric radio-controlled (R/C) plane with an aluminum stick for a fuselage, a Park Flyer. I got mine with stock EPS-300C motor and EP-1180 propeller from Tower Hobbies. I got interested in R/C planes while searching the web for sites about auto shutter release mechanisms for digital cameras to do time-lapse photography. Several sites showed aerial photography experiments with the Slow Stick, like this one:

http://www.yb2normal.com/slowstickap.html

This looked like an exciting variation on my KAP experiments. Good summer fun. I made this web page to share my experience and to provide a beginner's perspective.

A helpful resource for beginners, titled Newbies Guide to the Slowstick:

http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=273180

Here are my attempts at aerial photography with this plane.

Plane Aerial Photography

Accessories

The Slow Stick was $35 but I had to buy several accessories. A friend gave me a Futaba 4-channel transmitter but that was just the beginning. I also needed an electronic speed controller (ESC) with battery eliminator circuit (Great Planes Elecrifly C-10 ESC w/BEC, $16), a receiver for the plane, two tiny servos to control rudder and elevator($70), a crystal for the receiver that matched my transmitter ($13), batteries (270 mAh Ni/Cd, 2 at $10.50 each) and charger (DuraTrax AC/DC peak charger, $50). The receiver and servos came in a so-called Flight Pack. I got the Futaba Micro Flight Pack R114F/2 receiver with 2 S3108 servos, see the receiver and servo below. Total: $213 including shipping. You might spend $250 if you need to buy a transmitter.

I should have done more research on the batteries. The 270 mAh 6-cell NiCd's do not power the plane for very long and I think the voltage drops quickly so that my early flights were quite short and low powered. See battery experiments below. All other parts, the receiver, the plane, the motor, the servos, the charger, work very well.

Construction

I won't go into much detail about construction of the plane, since you can find web sites with step-by-step construction, like this one:

http://www.rcgroups.com/links/index.php?id=4384

The user's manual is a bit spare. I was confused until I looked at web sites about construction. There is no need, for example, to cut the aluminum stick! That would be necessary only if you couldn't fit the plane in your car. I screwed the tail pieces on. Neither did I have a 1 mm drill bit, nor could I find one in the generic home improvement warehouse. I used a 1/16th inch drill bit and used slightly larger sheet metal screws than the ones provided. I screwed, not glued on the motor mount. I had to drill holes in the plastic servo mounts to accommodate the tiny S3108 servos, even though there are several predrilled holes in the mounts. Perhaps I could have gotten servos that fit the mounts. Since I didn't do that, I don't know which type or brand will fit the predrilled holes. Here is a picture of the accessories mounted.

The users manual does not give specific wing-to-motor distance. You must experiment with wing and battery positions to get the correct center of gravity. See below.

First Flights

I first tried to make the plane take off under its own power but it would barely get into the air. Since these were first flights, I may have had some balance problems. The plane will stall or dive if the center of gravity is not correct. I have since marked the wing 4 1/8 inches from the leading edge and I check it by balancing the stick on my finger before each flight (a bumpy landing can shift the servos and/or battery).

All subsequent flights have been hand-launched by throwing the plane straight and level at full throttle into the wind. I am lucky to have 2 acres of tall grass next to the house.

Almost every landing so far has been a shallow or steep dive into the weeds. The plane holds up well to these landings. Once the plane hit a laundry basket in the yard. I later found that the prop shaft was slightly bent. I straightened it with a pair of pliers and it looks good now. That laundry crash also broke a bit of the plastic piece that holds the landing gear. My temporary solution: off with the landing gear. I don't need the wheels to land in tall weeds. I have ordered new plastic parts, two propellers and a spare motor from ehobbies.com, since Tower Hobbies doesn't carry the plastic spare parts..

Battery experiments

I started with low current NiCd's. I switched to NiMH's, first to KAN 1050 2/3AA cells from cheapbatterypacks.com. I built my own battery packs, see instructions here. NiMH batteries are lighter than NiCd's and gave longer flights. (I have since gone to CPB 1150 7-cell packs. The CPB 1150's are great cells, slightly lighter than KAN 1050's, yet they have higher current output. Best packs yet.)

Click on the picture below to see a Real Video of a flight with the NiCd's. You will need Real Player 9 or later to view it.

I call this movie "Rosebush."

Ready for flight, I modified a cheap, light digital camera to attach to the plane. See the details here: digital camera modifications.

July 2005

September 2005

While flying the plane from the deck, the plane took a couple dives into the woods behind the house. The first time, I found the plane on the ground! The second time, I found the plane high in a tree, 80 to 100 feet up.

Tall tree, branchless trunk. I checked after a few breezy days but the plane was firmly stuck in the tree.

With no rain in the forecast, I contemplated how I might get the plane down. I tried throwing projectiles at it using a home-made veggie launcher. I managed several direct hits, but the plane would barely budge. You can see a direct hit on the wing in this close up:

I tried attaching braided nylon string to the projectiles with poor results: snarled string and insufficient height.

I made a bigger launcher and after several attempts, I got the string around the plane:

I few good tugs and the plane came down, only to get stuck in another tree! But the plane was low enough to reach with a long pole. Here is the damaged plane on the ground:

Even though the plane was rained on several times, all the electrical parts work, even the camera and timer.

I fashioned a new rudder out of frozen meat packing, made a new elevator from balsa wood and taped up the torn and punctured wing:

The plane flew well this morning, even in the strong breeze. Success! The balsa wood is heavy, so I mounted the battery pack forward for correct balance. To lighten the plane, I'll make a foam elevator from the next family pack of chicken :-)

November 2005

I replaced the balsa tail section with "Hefty" styrofoam from deli sandwich packaging. Light and strong. I am now flying a Canon SD200 camera, takes 3.2 Mpixel photos and VGA movies at 30 fps. The first still photo is on my photo page, click here to see the full size image:

See other photos and videos on my Plane Aerial Photography page.