Monday, 25 February 2019

Wings over Wairarapa 2019

Back when we were at Makerfaire whizzing around with our tiny drones at what was effectively our public debut, we were approached by one of the organizers of Wings over Wairarapa asking if we could bring our micro-drone racing to their airshow and present to schools who were coming through for their awesome STEM event on the Friday. We were also invited to hang around for the whole weekend and provide ground entertainment for the weekend.

And what a weekend it was!

We had a large marquee set up with all of our gear - lights, hoops, poles and tunnels - arranged in a fun little indoor course, set up a TV to display what we see on our headsets, and managed to wrangle together enough laptops to have drone simulators available for the public to use and have a go at flying drones themselves.

We talked to hundreds of kids of all ages about our micro-drones, how they work and how they are a way to take all the technical skills from STEM and turn them into a fun hobby that can also branch out into tons of real-world applications (such as you'd do with larger drones, or even just electrical engineering in general).

We even managed to help a few more experienced kids who have already done some work building drones, encouraging them to check back in with their hobby and answering questions that should help them get over their next hurdle.

The night show was spectacular - who would have though we'd ever see gliders firing skyrockets and trailing glittering fire! It was superb... so mesmerizing to watch. After the night show we were back in the tent flying around, and our hoops and lights made a fantastic night light show of our own. Our tent absolutely glowed and could be seen lighting up from across the airfield. That's the sort of thing we have to do more often.

Unfortunately the weather turned on the Sunday and the last day of the show was called off. Along with the organizers and everyone else we were gutted, but the call had to be made to keep the full-sized planes and crowds safe. The team sadly headed back to the site to pack down (although we may have had a little bit of a fly before we packed everything down).

Of course we couldn't pull off a show at an event like this without our friends and family helping us out. It was hard to ask for their help, but they were there for us for the whole weekend, wrangling our gear and helping us inspire people to give drones and STEM a go. Thanks you lot, you're awesome.

Overall our experience at Wings over Wairarapa was absolutely fantastic. The organizers were solid in the face of 1000s of moving parts, the show itself was amazing, we met 1000s of people and shared out passion for flying and making stuff, and best of all we might even be invited back to Wings 2021! Watch this space!

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Monday, 18 February 2019

Our Gear

We've just created a new page that has lots of links to the gear that we use. It has all the general stuff that we recommend, as well as some of the other kit that we use that we might not talk about quite so much.

Check it out here

We'll expand on the details of that over time, adding links to product pages or reviews on the items, because there's a lot of ground to cover.

If you're interested in something we do, drop us a line and we'll see if we can get you the info you're looking for.
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One of the questions we get asked all the times at our demos is ‘can I have a go’?

I love hearing the question because it means we’ve captured someone's interest and they want to know more.

The unfortunate thing though is that there is a learning curve to flying drones. There’s all these sticks and buttons, and even after you know what they do you have to figure out how to make them do what you want.

It’s not fun to say ‘no’ to people all the time, so we’ve experimented with bringing simulators along to some of our demos so we can start saying ‘yes’ when we get asked for a go.

Simulators give you a pretty good idea of how things work, and best of all you can crash over and over without breaking your drone, or (possibly) worse, having to walk for miles to go get it back when it goes down!

Simulators also come in all shapes and sizes - there are drone (multirotor) specific ones, and there are ones that focus more on planes, gliders or helicopters. Some have awesome graphics and even multiplayer, some are more simple, and as with all things they range from expensive to cheap, or even free! We're a great fan of a whole lot of them but our go-to for just getting off the ground is...

FPV Freerider

The one we love using for demos and you’ll have had a go with if you’ve come along, is FPVFreeRider.

It’s very well priced - around $9 NZD for the standard version (we've not tried the 'Recharged' version yet) - so if you also buy an inexpensive PlayStation 3 Controller for around $10, you can have a basic sim setup for slightly less than the price of something that costs about $20!

Given that you could end up spending hundreds of dollars to get into the hobby once you do decide to get some real drones and an awesome transmitter, so this is a very inexpensive way to test the waters.

A final word on FPVFreeRider setup. If you’ve been flying at one of our demos and gone home to find that your version is really ‘twitchy’ compared to ours, that’s because we tweaked the settings to make them pretty soft and easier for everyone. FreeRider has a great number of things to tweak, but what we did was this:

  • Select the ‘Sluggish’ preset as a base
  • Change Camera angle to 10
  • Change Throttle to 41 (this makes it hover around mid-stick on a PS3 Controller, tweak to your liking)
  • Set Yaw to around 200
  • Set Pitch/Roll to around 200
  • Save and exit
And tweak it to your liking of course!


As we kinda mentioned, we use PlayStation 3 controllers during our demos.

They’re not the perfect controller for flying a drone (they have big dead-spots, and the throttle controller is self-centering, which isn’t the same as a proper transmitter), but they do a good enough job to give people an idea, and being a game controller they’re familiar to someone who may have never held a transmitter.

Plus you can pick up cheap copies of them for around $10 on Trade Me.

When you do upgrade and get a new transmitter and drone, modern transmitters have USB plugs, and when you plug them in they register as joysticks. With a minimal amount of messing around you can get them working and practice in the simulator with an actual transmitter, which is a good way to bridge between flying in the virtual and real worlds.

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