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1stFPV Rally in the world that improves Drone safety


30 July 2016 marks the 1st FPV (First Person View) Fixed wing RC (Radio Controlled) Rally in the world!

Henrico Hanekom, an entrepreneur and technology enthusiast, gathered his RC model flying friends who fly FPV recreationally on weekends to take up the unique challenge.

Pilot and Navigator teams braved the winter morning at a field outside the city (Pretoria-East, South-Africa) with great enthusiasm even though they were not quite sure what to expect. Each team had a pencil, calculator, protractor, video headset and radio controlled aircraft handy.

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Left – Pilots and navigators being briefed, Right – Studying clue sheet

The tech
It was only until recently that various technologies like high-power low-weight Li-Po batteries, efficient Brushless motors, long range Video and control systems, open-source Autopilot software and hardware, MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical-systemslike the sensors in your smart phone) and others collided to fuse the exhilarating hobby called FPV flying.

Most people call multi-rotor aircraft “drones”…but few understand that fixed wing aircraft fitted with an auto-pilot system may also be classified as “drones”. There are many races being held for multi-rotors (especially mini quads) where speed and skills are tested, but never before has there been a Rally for FPV fixed wing pilots. Most operators build and customise their own aircraft from components available at hobby shops…typically with wing spans between 1 and 2 meters.

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Left – Skywalker RC aeroplane approaching landing, Right – Home built pusher propeller RC aeroplane

Why a Rally?


The objective of such a Rally is to increase piloting skills, navigation skills and observational skills. It improves the operator’s ability to fly safer and more controlled whilst being aware of their geographical area, weather conditions and understanding the limitations of their aircraft.  The Rally is conducted in non-auto pilot flight modes so even though autopilot features are present in the aircraft, it only kicks in when needed as a safety feature.

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Left – Pilot and navigator getting ready to fly, Right – Pilot and navigator rehearsing the flight plan
How does it work?

Each team receives a clue sheet and a map with minimal data. From clues like leg distances, landmarks and direction the navigator has to plot the route and ETA’s (Estimated Time of Arrival) on their map within a certain time frame before they take off to execute the flight plan.

Penalties are incurred when a team misses a check point, make time errors, calculation errors, navigational errors, map observation errors and based on how far they land their aircraft from a line called a spot landing marker.

Contestants walked away with valuable flight experience and important lessons learned.

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Left – Navigator discussing route with pilot, Right – Pilot flying with FPV (First Person View video headset)

Going forward

Henrico Hanekom believes that FPV Rallies can advance the safety and skills of those who fly “drones” recreationally and even commercially in a fun and non-hazardous environment.He hopes to see it become an internationally recognised flying discipline.


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Random Hacks of Kindness – 6 December

We will be hosting a hardware based RHoK event at House4Hack on Saturday 6 December from 8:00 till 18:00.  We have limited space, so please register if you want to participate:

We will be working on the following challenges:

1. ASE Vacuum Former – During our previous African School of Excellence road show, we demonstrated a vacuum former to the kids – they loved it!  We want to build one for them and make some videos of the build and how to use it.

Need people that like building with their hands, a camera man and someone that can help with video editing afterwards.  Also some web expertise to setup a small site with links to the videos on youtube.

2. Morgan instructional videos – Robobeast donated a Morgan 3d printer to African School of Excellence and we want to make some instructional videos for the kids on how to 3d print, calibrate the printer, trouble shoot etc.

Need someone with a video camera and people that can help with editing

3. Flying donkey – the idea of this challenge is to develop a long range cargo able craft to transport medical samples and vaccines to a from remote areas.  Activities for the day will really only be in terms of conceptualizing and initial design.
Need people enthusiastic about using UAV technology for developing problems and people with experience about remote access, health care etc.


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Software Freedom Day 2014 – Tsakane


A bunch of us celebrated Software Freedom Day this year at a very special school, African School For Excellence in Tsakane (near Brakpan).  The day was a tremendous success, with 106 kids attending (on a Saturday!!) our technology roadshow.


The day started at 9.30 with Jay (the school’s founder) introducing us to the learners (a very special experience – all of us got cheers, even the software developers!).


The day started with Jay introducing us and explaining the day to the learners

Then the group was split into three, rotating through two classrooms, each with three tech tutorials.  The group not in either of the classrooms spent some time dreaming and scheming about their upcoming projects and interacting with demos in the tented area.

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