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Randy Scott Slavin, he of the NYC Drone Film Festival and the Liberty Cup, is kind of a big deal in drones. He’s one of the drone world’s most prominent proponents in the media, an advocate for racing with the FAA, and an accomplished aerial videographer. And unlike me, a hermit who spends his days inside Solidworks, he gets out into the world where he’s invited to speak on panels and meet other leaders in their respective fields. It was at one of these talks that he met Paul Hoffman, the CEO of the Liberty Science Center, whose childlike enthusiasm for drones and technology has gotten us access to the most amazing venue for drone races.
Randy met James Percelay at another symposium. James is the co-founder of Thinkmodo, the agency that created just about EVERY insane viral video you ever saw – the telekinetic girl in the coffee shop, the possessed baby in the runaway stroller, talking produce in the supermarket, you name it. What’s more many of these videos involved RC gadgets like the human torch and flying people, so he’s kind of a kindred spirit. James approached Randy with the idea of a flying snack tray for Chef’s Cuts jerky, and Randy looped me in. The two of us went to Thinkmodo’s office to talk specs.
You can tell I wanted this job ’cause I wore a collared shirt to the meeting.
Time was severely limited – we needed five builds for safety, with no time for iterations. I would design the frame with 3 versions of the top plate, with 7, 9, and 11 slats covering the intakes. Once we got them built we’d then choose the top that offered the best combination of performance and safety.
The design itself was fairly straightforward. I adapted the LDQ’s ducts, and changed the mounting points to accommodate the different motor layout. The LDQ has a square motor layout, but the Jerkybot needed the motors spread out side to side to make space for jerky in the middle. The battery has to be hidden, so I made sure there was enough space for a 1300 between the ducts inside as well. The frame was just a bunch of rectangles, so it wasn’t THAT hard to draw up. What I hadn’t totally figured out was how the sides would be attached, and how the battery was to stay put inside the frame. But time was short so I ordered the carbon and left those problems for later.
There’s a big ol’ hole in the bottom to shove a 1300 inside.
With the top off. Each duct slips over 4 standoffs to keep it in place.
The parts came in and I built the first one. I used Rotorgeeks 2205 2700’s with Aikon 30’s, a D4rii and a DTFC and…nothing else! OMG LOS quads are so easy to build! The DTFC’s are great time savers, no need to stack an fc on a pdb and connect them, just double stick tape them to the frame. It might have a suspect gyro for FPV but it more than does the job for LOS. I screwed on the top with 11 slats, the one with the least airflow, and it flew great, way better than expected. Since it offered the best finger protection it was the obvious choice. We flew it for Thinkmodo then broke it down and sent the carbon off to paint along with parts for the other four frames. I was pretty excited that James hired Nub (of Orange County Chopper fame) to do the paint.
Now, I’ve designed plenty of frames, but I’ve never designed one that’s supposed to look like something else, in this case a butcher block cutting board. And with the tight time frame I hadn’t fully thought through how we were going to secure the top without any screws at all. I ended up using 3d printed pieces that slip over a standoff in each corner. The side pieces would be glued to them, and the top would be glued to the sides. The top and sides would remain an assembly that screwed to the bottom via the standoffs embedded in the corner pieces, which would allow the frame to be opened up for maintenance. I really had no idea how well this would work, but with Nub spackling over the screw holes on the top there was no other option.
Once the spectacularly painted parts came back Randy and I hunkered down to build all five drones in a day. The drone building was familiar, but the gluing was not. After some experimentation we ended up using epoxy for the sides and corners, and CA for the tops and sides. All the scuffing, gluing, and clamping took an entire day. The results felt pretty solid but I had no idea if it would survive a crash or a hard landing, and I wasn’t about to bash one before the shoot day.
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