Octocopters are the new normal

So at this afternoon’s maker meeting at the library, while the kids were soldering LEDs and making very loud reeds out of plastic binder clips, Tim showed off his multicopter, which he uses for HD video and photography.

It stands two feet high and covers up about half of one of those long folding tables, with the controls and the remote camera rig taking up the other half. Eight counter-rotating rotors, top and bottom the same size in contradiction of the recent analyses that  say you get more efficiency with a smaller bottom rotor (and also in contradiction of the older analyses that said you got more efficiency with a smaller top rotor).  16 channels of telemetry plus a camera feed.

And apparently completely outdated and inadequate. Tim’s next one is going to be about half again the size, with 15″ rotors, a bigger main plate for better battery mounting, rotor arms that bend upward in the middle to get out of the way of the camera, retractable landing gear ditto, and a three-axis gimbal system instead of this one’s mere two axes. And better vibration isolation, better-balanced motors and props, a new flight control system once the bugs get shaken out…

And it might not even cost significantly more. Apparently prices are falling fast enough that for the money that bought you last year’s streaming HD video system you can buy a whole copter with that same streaming transmitter built in. People are building cameras specifically for aerial use instead of hacking on handheld versions, and so forth. No wonder Tim is training his 12-year-old as a camera operator.

This is what the rising part of the classical S-curve looks like.

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