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Saturday, November 10, 2007

WW3 Ducted Fan Version

The Wicked Witch 3 RC Tornado Jets are Radio Control Stryker Jets specially modified to have a payload bay added to the underside of the fuselage so that they can carry either an ActionCam flash memory camera or my own custom video downlink for real-time video broadcast to our video goggle pack during flight. I have five of these planes for the 2009 season and they will be sacrificed into a tornado to obtain never before seen video of a tornado approach from the air.

There are two versions of the WW3 and video downlink camera. One is a front view that can be used for a direct flight into the tornado and a second is a rear view camera that can be used to have the plane pace in front of the tornado for some time before going in. Depending on where we are located in relation to the supercell, either the Rear Facing version or the Forward Facing version will be launched.
The idea is to 'kite' the plane in the mean flow and maximize the time before the plane encounters the most violent part of the tornado and is torn apart.

Wingspan: 37"
Weight w/o payload: 22oz
Max payload: 9oz
Typical camera weight: 6oz
Video downlink: 380 scanlines, 3500mW, 3/4 mile range
ActionCam: 640x480 res, 1 hour video record time
Takeoff: Hand-launch
Speed: 60-80mph (one WW3 is outfitted with a max airspeed logger)
FAA allowed ceiling: 400 feet
Recovery: Roadside belly landing in grass

I removed the 1880kV prop motor that comes stock with Stryker Jet and added a 3800kV ducted fan motor - wow what a blast, literally! this will do two things for me, first there is no prop to interfere with the video out the back view and second I can more easily handle these things as there is now no prop to accidentally stick your fingers in.

The Wicked Witch 3 jets are hand launched and flown as conventional RC aircraft but then I flip down the video goggles and I am flying 'virtually' in the cockpit! From these goggles I will be seeing exactly where the plane is going and maintain the tornado in the field of view for the entire flight.

March 2, 2008 Central Oklahoma. Two test flights of the WW3 can be seen in Eric's video. The first with wireless downlink and the second using the ActionCam. The WW3 can be hand-launched in minutes, can land in any grass area near the road and performs very well in high winds.

Aug 22, 2007 Nebraska/Colorado Border. Minutes after this severe warned storm dropped golfball hail we got out ahead of it in the outflow and captured this video of the rainshaft and lightning strikes from the WW3's onboard camera. The curling of the rainshaft as it hit the ground (microburst) was a feature we could not see from the ground and only saw after reviewing the video.

March 30, 2008 Sayre, OK - On the way to chasing tornadoes in central OK we came upon this controlled grass fire burn. I took the opportunity to put my Wicked Witch RC Video Jet up into the action! I think this video most accurately portrays what the view will be like when we get our first deployment into a tornado!

On May 22, 2008 I lost a Wicked Witch RC Video Plane into the large cone tornado south of Collyer, KS. This plane has been found!

I had been having trouble locking in the wireless video signal so with the tornado approaching from the west I quickly mounted an ActionCam flash memory camera on the plane and flew it out towards the tornado. The plane got into the inflow and I lost sight of it under the dark rainfree base. I called to the group to help me spot it in the air. We saw it a couple of times but then it dissapeared under the RFB in front of the tornado. Whether it actually went into the tornado - only the video onboard could tell.

Three weeks later while planting Milo, Steve Ziegler in Kansas found the Wicked Witch! It was lying in a field 6 miles south of Collyer, KS - roughly where I lost it. I quickly called him back and asked him to describe how it looked and was there a large black cigar shaped camera on the bottom?? NO CAMERA... the nose had been broken off but no camera. The camera was never found. Hopefully in 2009 I can get another chance to pilot an RC airplane into a tornado!

Notice: This is a hobbyist project operating under the flight rules for Model Airplane Aviation as described in FAA advisory circular AC91-57: document here

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The Carlsons', Verne, Michael and Eric

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