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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Extreme Tornadoes 2007 Panhandle Insanity DVD Video!

Just released is our all new highlights video from 2007 with 1 hour and 38 mins of tornado action. This year we were able to capture 32 tornadoes, a personal record for a single season. All of the best High Definition video is on this one DVD. Including two rare wedge tornadoes up close and a chapter on the historic Greensburg Kansas EF5 tornado. Click the link on the right to order your copy through Ebay or use the Buy Now button above!

Below are some actual screen captures from the
March 28, 2007 Beaver County, OK Tornadoes Segment!

Below are actual screen captures from
the Cactus, TX wedge tornado from April 21, 2007 Segment.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

KAP in action

Just tried out the KAP for the first time. It works great! The kite has no problem lifting the 17oz camera rig. The winds for this flight were light at maybe 5-10Kts. I got the rig up to about 100 feet, snapped off 50 shots or so and then brought it back in.

This setup will be ideal for areas were I have to overfly crowds or want to get in pretty close as I can hover the setup over the area I want and shoot at will.

Testing the KAP rig

working well pics to come!

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

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Comet Holmes

Comet Holmes is visible in the northeast sky from my home in Coal Creek. It appears as a fuzz ball to the naked eye in the constellation Perseus.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

KAP rig

This weekend I completed my KAP rig and it works great. I have an 8mp Kodak point and shoot camera that is controlled by a shutter servo. The rig can tilt and pan as controlled by my Futaba radio. It hangs from my 30 sq ft airfoil kite on a bridle that keeps it level. I flew my kite during the high wind watch yesterday and it had plenty of lift to carry this 27 oz camera rig without being too hard to handle. Can't wait to try it this week!

Friday, November 02, 2007

KAP (Kite Aerial Photography)

This week I purchased the equipment I need to try Kite Aerial Photography or what's known as KAP. This will allow me to more safely take pitures next spring of tornado damaged towns and more urban areas. The kite I have chosen is large but has no structural parts so it folds down to the size of a pillow for easy transport. The camera mount will hang on the string below the kite and will allow me to pan/tilt and shoot at will once the kite is secured and flying at the height I want.

Flowforms have deeper cells and pressure-relieving vents. Easy to inflate and launch in light winds, they’ll fly in stronger winds than other foils. Almost indestructible, they’re made of ripstop nylon reinforced with parachute tape. All sizes have four cells and include a nylon case and a free drogue tail. 6 to 30 mph winds. 6´ x 5.´ 11˝ x 15˝ case. Use 200-lb. Dacron line. Assorted colors.

Designed by Kite Aerial Photography pioneer Brooks Leffler, this KAP kit gives you the ability to take pictures from the sky. With the availability of affordable, lightweight, digital cameras, KAP is a rapidly growing hobby.
• Holds a camera up to 5.5” x 4” x 5.5”
• Designed to work with Futaba/Tower radio-control equipment.
• Aluminum, it weighs about one pound.
• Includes a 20-page instruction manual.
• Assembles in 4 to 6 hours with basic hand tools and an electric drill.
Kodak M873 8mp camera $189
Brooxes KAP Kit $50
Flowform 30 Kite $199
Line, Hoop, etc $39
Futaba 6 channel Radio $250
Total $727
I purchased my components here

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