March 31, 2020

Awesome! Let’s play

Yipee! My newest toy arrived this morning, a day earlier than expected, which was nice. It’s an Eachine EG16 ‘Wing God’ drone and I can’t wait to start playing with it. And with a name like that I’m expecting it to be something a little bit special!

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And it is – as far as it goes. Although it has some amazing features, it’s by no means a ‘professional’ type drone even though it has a high quality 4K remotely controllable video camera on board. While I’ve been waiting for it to arrive, I’ve been watching a few reviewer videos about it on Youtube and although it comes highly recommended, it’s really only at the top of the ‘toy’ end of the drone range, which is much more extensive than I originally thought.

Here’s a shot of what came in the box. There were some other bits and pieces too, like a USB charging cable, a set of spare props, a set of prop guards (which I’ll try to avoid using as apparently, according to the ‘experts’, they slow the drone down and also needlessly waste energy) and a lttle screw driver.

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The basic drone only comes with a single battery which is claimed to give a flying time of 15 minutes. However, all of the Youtube reviewers say that it’s more like 10 minutes, so I ordered two extras giving me a total flying time of 30 minutes. Here’s a shot of the drone with its arms unfolded in ready-to-fly mode.

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Although it’s possible to use the controller to take off and fly the drone ‘blind’, this is not how it’s done and it wouldn’t open the door to all of the delights that the little Wing God has to offer. Much like my new GoPro, there’s an app that it connects to via your smartphone which is mounted on the controller and shows you exactly what the video camera is seeing allowing you to start and stop recording exactly when you want to.

It also lets you control all of the other drone facilities that I’ll go into in detail in my next post when I get the chance to start flying it after I’ve charged all the batteries up – 8 x AA so I have two sets of controller batteries and 3 x drone batteries that each take just over 2 hours to charge from standard USB ports. I’m also using my fast phone charger that will get one up and running a bit quicker enabling me to get my hands on the drone controls sooner than would otherwise be possible.

I’ve been thinking about getting a drone for a while and now’s a good time as I can’t fly ‘properly’ in my aircraft and flying the drone is the next best thing. It can also be flown from my garden at this time of self-isolation. I’ve been admiring drone videos on Youtube for some time, especially those taken by other aircraft pilots before they take off and after they’ve landed at their destinations, so hopefully with time and practise I’ll be able to do the same. I’ll have to wait and see… but now it’s time to go off, read the fairly extensive manual that came with it and get going!

March 26, 2020

My goodness, my GoPro!

I’ve mentioned many times in lots of posts here on My Trike how I’m sick to death of being constantly let down by my cheap Chinese sportscams. These are little video cameras that are supposed to do (almost) what GoPros do and should shoot 4K or thereabouts quality videos of flights in my various aircraft when I’ve set them up either in a mount on the wing or in the cabin.

In fact what they’ve been doing almost every time just lately is just record a minute or so of video before switching themselves off which is incredibly disappointing when you’ve just done a flight and expected to have recordings of both the landing and takeoff, which you can hardly then go off and do all over again.

It became so frustrating actually that I decided some time ago that I would invest in a proper GoPro which hopefully would never let me down and initially I looked to see what was on Le Bon Coin, the French free-ads web site. Unfortunately, having found what I was looking for, I then let my guard down for the very first time and allowed myself to be scammed by a dishonest advertiser who took my money and never delivered the goods. I made it too easy for them so decided that I’d just have to bite the bullet, as it would be a waste of time and effort trying to trace them, and not to let it happen again.

I then ended up returning to the old faithful, Ebay, where buyer protection is much better and in fact found what I wanted on the UK web site where I ended up acquiring a brand new GoPro Hero Black 7 for an incredibly good price. I had to get it sent to my family in the UK who then had to forward it on to me and after nearly a week, it arrived today at about 10.45am. And already as I type this around mid-afternoon I’m blown away by it and a complete GoPro fan!

Here’s a shot of it with the cradle that it comes with mounted on a stick that I got with one of my cheap Chinese imitations.

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I’d already heard about the GoPro app so after I’d charged the new arrival up, I logged into it on my phone and switched it on. It connected immediately, no drama, no fuss, and initially I thought that it would be an interesting ‘extra’ just to play with. However, I then discovered that the app can be used to control the Go Pro and here’s a shot that I took with the GoPro aimed out of my window across my front garden and the image that was being transmitted onto my phone and sure enough, by touching the circle on the right of the screen, I could start and stop video recording.

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But that wasn’t what made my jaw drop in amazement. You could also turn the GoPro off and on again from the phone. I thought that after it was turned off, the GoPro would lose its connection, but it doesn’t. You can turn it back on again and then restart video recording, and this has amazing implications for how I want to use it.

For any flight, the take off and landing are the most interesting parts and although you want to video bits from time to time during the flight as ‘filler’ material, the beginning and end of the flight are the most important. But a battery only lasts for an hour or so, so even if you do get the take off, if you can’t turn the camera off, it would normally have gone flat long before you get to the landing. But the GoPro app gets around this problem – totally! With it it’ll be possible to record a take off, switch the camera off to save the battery, switch it on again a few times to record the en-route ‘filler’ material and on again finally to record the landing.

I’ve already ordered some extra batteries and a protective case and can’t wait to give it a go, but with this Covid-19 virus thing hanging over us, who knows when that’ll be. The only up-side is that when I do get around to using my new GoPro 7 properly for the first time, I should know it and its features inside-out, so no excuses for any cock-ups!

March 23, 2020

Er, yessss……

I want to make a towing handle for the ex-pat X-air for when I do eventually manage to get it to France. The one I had made for the Savannah has proven to be very useful and effective and even though I might only have the X-air for a few weeks or months, being able to move it around using a towing handle will be equally valuable.

I bought the steel tubing for it a few weeks ago and tried to get someone to send me the measurement across the X-air’s forks so I could go ahead, but without success, so although I can’t fabricate the complete towing handle in advance, I can make a start, albeit a small one, while I’m hanging around at home, by attaching the handle to the main bar. So that’s what I did today.

I bought a cheap mini Chinese electric welder some time ago but apart from doing a test weld on an old mower blade, I haven’t had the chance to try it on anything else. So welding the towbar’s handle would be my first real test. I started by setting up my Workmate in my workshop with a thin plate of metal on its worksurface to which I clamped the two pieces of tube that I wanted to weld after I’d cleaned and prepared them and then I got started.

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The next few shots show the final results after I’d (ahem) cleaned the welds up a bit to make them as presentable as possible.

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I learnt a few things along the way, mostly from what went wrong.

* Work in good light. I didn’t and ended up with some welds on the metal above or beside the joint and not on the joint itself. You need to see clearly where the end of the welding rod is touching the metal to be joined when you strike the arc.

* Don’t turn the current up too high. I got frustrated and did so while trying to get the arc to start and quickly burnt a hole through 2mm wall tube even with a small diameter welding rod. My little welder goes up to 200 amps. I reckon that’s enough to weld a plate on the side of a ship. 60 amps was plenty.

* When you’ve started welding don’t stop. If you do it’s hard to get a nice clean restart on the line of the weld. I might go back later and see if I can over-weld and clean up the joints I did today.

I’m afraid that the results leave a lot to be desired so I’ve still some way to go before I’ll be able to produce decent quality welds but what I’ve got will be perfectly OK for what I need and won’t look too bad with a coat of paint. It’s just a pity that I can’t do anymore without the measurement that I need as I’d have liked to see the whole job through in one go. That makes cleaning the cars the next Covid-19 job 😉

March 21, 2020

Update

We here in France have been under total Coronavirus lock-down since mid-day last Monday for a minimum of 15 days, meaning that all schools, universities, restaurants, bars, clubs and non-essential commercial activities have been closed and have ceased to trade. Only essential services have continued – pharmacies and health establishments, food shops, tobacconists, petrol stations, the post office – all other customer-facing commercial activities have been made to close except businesses with web sites are still taking orders and making deliveries.

Deliveries ‘direct to home’ continue but those services that used local ‘points de relais’, typically small shops where your packages are dropped off and you go to pick them up, have ceased to operate because the businesses operating as the ‘relais’ are shut.

The general public everywhere has been required to stay at home with the exceptions of those working in essential services or working in ‘closed’ businesses as above, who require an ‘attestation’ signed by their employer to allow them to travel there and back. Everyone else is only allowed to leave their homes to buy food and other essential items, seek medical care, take exercise in the area close to their homes, care for members of their family or look after farm animals and when they do, they must take an ‘attestation’ signed by themselves with them to show why they are away from home.

It is not quite as onerous for us here in the countryside compared to those in the towns and cities. For a start, we are in the open air in wide-open spaces and we do not live in close proximity to each other in any case. So although the restrictions have not been widely disregarded, a few people have been taking the opportunity to sneek out from time to time and deal with personal matters.

I myself did so yesterday in order to mow the runway at Malbec while the grass is dry before rain, which is forecast as from Sunday afternoon, returns and makes it impossible. Our hope is that when the restrictions are raised, we won’t be left with a runway that’s unusable because the grass will be too long and thick with weeds.

The weather was lovely while I was working and it was very disappointing not to be able to take a flight in either the Weedhopper or the Savannah. I got the Savannah’s vertical trim working again several days ago after an electrical connection had pulled off and it would have been nice to feel again how it flies now it’s been fixed. I’ve also had a new oil temperature gauge ready to be installed in its panel for some time and may well sneek out again to fit it if the restrictions are extended beyond the 15 days, which are planned to end on April 1.

Annoyingly, the potential buyer of my Weedhopper who has been waiting since the end of last year to come and see it is also as desperate to do so as I am to sell it in view of the fact that I’d like to have the space in the barn vacated by the time I eventually get to bring my ex-pat X-air over from the UK. But he’s unable to travel, of course. As for the latter, who knows when that will now be.

Flying is restricted in France and all local airfields have been closed under the government’s emergency powers affecting movement of people so it would be impossible now to make the flight south even if the weather was suitable. Usually the sky over my house is full of aircraft vapour trails in the airways that criss-cross France but with the skies as clear and blue as they currently are, I’ve noticed that there are now practically none and flightradar24.com confirms this.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I began buying in provisions ready for possible self-isolation some time ago and without ‘hoarding’, I am prepared and will be pretty comfortable for the proposed duration of the emergency measures here in France. I’ve also got a few projects to occupy myself with but what is frustrating for me and for everyone else I think, as that we’re all marking time and it’s all such a terrible waste of our lives. However, those of us who see it through to the other side will be the lucky ones because inevitably there will be many less fortunate who will not do so.

In the meantime in our area we can enjoy the silence of the countryside, broken only by the occasional tractor as a farmer goes about caring for his animals, the sound of the birdsong and the clean, fresh air. Idyllic under normal circumstances, but these, of course, are not normal circumstances and we all look forward to the time when we can live our lives again in total freedom unencumbered by the restrictions that have been forced upon us. And that day cannot come soon enough.

March 15, 2020

Dilemma resolved and today’s job

As often happens, the dilemma with which I was faced was resolved for me rather than by me. The deciding factor was that anti-Coronavirus measures in both France and the UK are being racheted up to levels whereby undertaking a trip between France and the UK just isn’t worth it at the moment. The hassle involved is just too great, not to mention the risk of doing so also. The infection curve here in France is ahead of that in the UK and the clamp-down on public free movement was becoming more stringent and the advice being given out, especially for older people, more severe. There is a strong possibility that France will close its borders adding further complications, so I had already made my mind up not to travel yesterday when I decided to go to Brico Depot on the outskirts of Périgueux to get what I needed for the job that I had planned for today.

And lucky that I did, because out of the blue after I’d done so there was a government decree closing all retail outlets not essential to normal human life, so only supermarkets, food shops, pharmacies, tobacconists and petrol stations are excluded and will continue trading. As from midnight last night, restaurants, cafés, discotheques and all other types of commerce are now closed until the government issues a new decree, so presumably that will also include Brico Depot. The economic cost and disruption to the country will be well-nigh catastrophic.

The purpose of my visit to Brico Depot was to buy sand and gravel and cement to make tie-downs. They’ll be necessary if, as and when I do get my ex-pat X-air to Malbec, it has to be parked outside because I still have my Weedhopper with my Savannah in the barn. The X-air does have outdoor covers, of course, but if it has to be left outside on the parking area next to Philippe’s hangar where I left my old French X-air for a time, there is the possibilty that strong winds can come zooming in from the south-west to which it would be fully exposed. Remember, shortly after the hangars were built, the wind actually whipped the roof right off Philippe’s hangar and now both hangars have large straps going right over them as a precaution to prevent it happening again.

On the way back from Brico Depot I dropped in to Malbec and did the owners a favour by taking 3 old tyres from a heap that is stacked against one side of the barn in which I have my aircraft. I already had a tyre that the Spanish firm that supplied my replacement Kia engine placed the engine on in the back of the C-Max, so I wanted to end up with 4 new tie-downs that I’ll initially be able to use for the X-Air and eventually for tying down the wings of the Savannah and the X-air in the barn once the Weedhopper has gone. At the moment I’m using rings that were screwed into the concrete floor but there aren’t enough of them and they’re not in the right places either, so my new tie-downs will be very welcome additions.

I bought 6 x 35kg bags of sand and gravel mix and 2 x 35kg bags of cement, the total weight of which almost pole-axed my poor little trailer. But all was well and I arrived home safely and I was thinking that I’d have enough material left over to repair the floor of my ‘new’ garden store in which I keep my ride-on mower and various other items. This is collapsing on one side due to the bad batch of cement that I used when I laid it but after making my tie-downs, although I had a bag of cement left over, I was only left with one bag of sand and gravel which I doubt will be enough.

But that’s for another time. Here’s a shot of the new tie-downs taken after I’d finished the job, cleaned up and even managed to patch a small area of my wood store floor with left-over mortar that’s started cracking up a bit, mainly I think because I was at one time cutting hard oak logs on it with my hefty old axe.

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The work was pretty back-breaking as I had to mix the cement in buckets, having decided that it wasn’t worthwhile getting my concrete mixer out. In fact, afterwards I think it would have been worth it, because I used much more concrete than I thought I would. But never mind, the job’s now done. I bought the four ties with eyes from the UK and made up some little anchors for them out of left-over scrap metal to make sure that they can’t pull out, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the tie-downs come out once the concrete has cured. My guess is that even if it’s ‘hard’ tomorrow, that’ll take a week or even more, but the way the Coronavirus problem is panning out, it looks as though time will not be a problem.

March 12, 2020

Horns of a dilemma

I was surprised when I checked the Windy web site yesterday to find that it looks as though there might be an extended period of quiet weather next week that could be ideal for flying my ex-pat X-air over from the UK. Winds could be very light over the whole of France while although they are forecast to be brisker in the south of England and the Channel (to the point of being above acceptable limits from time to time), there could be a couple of windows during the week to do the Channel crossing.

So in normal times I’d be booking my ferry and heading across to the UK. But these are not normal times, are they. Although France as a whole is on the by now well-known upward Coronavirus trajectory of infections, I think that we in the south-west are in a relatively favourable area being sheltered by the fact that there is no ‘big’ industry here aside from farming and at this time of year not many people are entering and leaving. That will change if the usual summer influx of tourists begins in a few weeks time but it remains to be seen if that will happen this year.

I was at Périgueux hospital on Tuesday where the general attitude was laid-back to say the least and where, incidentally, I was given the excellent news that as I’m now over 2 years since the end of chemo and in complete remission, the chance of my being re-affected is negligible. People were making good use of the provided hand sanitizers but my oncologist greeted me, as she did all the others before me, with a smile and a hand-shake just as usual.

So my impression is that if I returned to the UK to pick up the X-air, I’d be leaving an area of relative safety and entering a much more dangerous one where, my family have told me, there have been reports of a number of local Coronavirus infections. I’ve made a decision of what my strategy will be here in France as I regard myself as a member of an ‘at-risk’ group. I’ve built up stocks of food and other essentials, not to a siege level admittedly, but to one that will enable me to avoid leaving home as much as I usually do and going to the shops and other ‘high-risk’ places where there will be groups of people, some of whom may be infected.

If I go to the UK, not only will I be going to a ‘higher-risk’ area, but while there I’ll also unavoidably expose myself to exactly the risks that I am trying to avoid here in France. Simple things will do it, like buying fuel, getting any spare parts or other items that I might need and so on. So I’m wondering if I should make the trip next week.

A secondary factor is that the possible ‘window’ if it does materialise is earlier in the year than I’d both anticipated and allowed for, although it could equally be argued that if I miss it and the Coronavirus situation gets materially worse, who knows when I might get another chance to bring the X-air over?

It’s something that I’ve only got a day or two to ponder over as if I do decide to go, I’d need to book a ferry for Sunday. This is a tricky one as quite a lot more could be at stake than just an aircraft. Much, much more 😳

Late addition I’ve just read that Mr Macron has shut down all schools in France and is considering closing the borders. I think that if there’s any chance of that happening, preventing me from bringing the X-air in and forcing me to remain in the UK, I should definitely stay where I now am and see how things play out over the coming days, or more likely, weeks.

March 4, 2020

Weather – again

Should that be ‘still’ rather than ‘again’? I’ve just checked the weather for the Canterbury area in the south of England, where Clipgate Farm is located. More very wet and windy days to come on top of what they’ve been getting followed by a couple of days of just high wind and then even more wet and windy days to follow for the whole of next week.

Here in France we’ve had non-stop rain for the whole week so far and this morning is the first time I’ve looked out to see that it isn’t raining, so some improvement there. However, the ground is saturated and I doubt that Malbec will be useable for some time, probably a week or more if it stays dry, which it isn’t forecast to do for something like another week.

So it looks as though March could turn out to be a washout – literally – on both sides of the Channel. It’s impossible to even think about getting 24ZN, my ex-pat Xair, out of the hangar it’s in at Clipgate to fly it across to France and who knows when that might be possible given how the weather’s behaving. And on top of that, there’s the chaos and disruption being caused by the Coronavirus – will the airports that I’ll need to land at along the way be open or closed?

So despite my complaints about the visibility at the time, it was lucky that I did my flight in 28AAD, my Weedhopper, when I did a week or so ago as there would be little prospect of repeating it in the near future. ULM Evasion at Ste-Foy-la-Grande have their first event of the year, a Paella fly-in, scheduled for March 29. It would be a shame if it has to be cancelled because of the weather so we’re hoping for their sake that things will pick up by then. But who knows…