With the Civil Air Patrol program running full swing, many members have picked up Multiplex Mentor’s as a good training airplane. When I bought mine, my wife said “You are going to get bored with that airplane real fast”, well she could have been correct if all I was doing was simply flying it around. The fact is, the Mentor is a wonderfully versatile aircraft and I have been putting it through its paces as an aerial photo platform, night flyer, and aerial drop platform, dropping a variety of objects from various altitudes. I have been asked by several guys to show them my hardware, and I figured this was a great place to share with you how incredibly simple it can be to outfit nearly any airplane to become a full fledged ‘bomber’.
For me, target bomb dropping has always been a fun activity. Last year, we did a “Nut drop” for the monthly club activity, and this year we will do it again in June, but also have some time set aside for those who have created their own dropping hardware to show their stuff. I wanted the membership to be aware of that, and have plenty of time to create their own drop mechanisms. During this years bomb drop event, we will have a block of time for you to drop your own hardware, to show off your skills. The club event will still utilize the same nut drop system we used last year so everyone scores off the exact same system, but sharing your creativity with your own ideas will also be a big part of it.
So, what is typically needed to start dropping things? Well you need an open channel on your TX/RX, a small servo, and some building materials. Keeping it simple also means keeping it reliable and easy to use. I have an ample supply of Corplast (plastic cardboard) but all of these things can be made with Balsa just as easily.
On my Mentor, I have some Velcro on the bottom, right at the CG. Everything I built fits on that Velcro patch for compatibility, and nothing I carry to drop affects the CG to any noticeable point. I don’t even notice I have stuff strapped on when flying the plane. I started with a fairly complicated, dual door cargo box built from corplast that held those cheap little plastic parachute guys you see at the toy stores. It worked, but the cheap parachute guys were very light, and had a low sink rate. It didn’t take long to watch a few of them simply fly away headed for Mission Valley. Unless I stayed low, those guys had a limited life-span, and dropping from low altitudes isn’t as much fun as it is from 399 feet up. I kept the cargo box, but now it’s large bay is better suited for faster dropping ordinance, like candy or other objects that don’t float as well. I next built a ’deck’ from a platform from corplast plastic that holds a servo with a simple release rod, and a rubber band. It is crazy simple and super cheap. I simply stretch the rubber band over my cargo, and release away. My first design worked great for the missiles, but it would not release the parachute guys, so I built version 2.0, and it works great for both the missiles and the parachutists..
I have found some real neat drop items at the toy store, and my favorites are the tangle free parachute army men, and ‘Nerf brand missiles. The Nerf missiles drop real cleanly and I can carry several of them at a time. When I release, they do a nice spread, and fall straight down to the target. They are super light foam, so even if I miss my target, they wont do any damage to anything they land on. If I drop them over the weeds, they are bright orange and easy to see. The tangle free parachute men provide a little more flight time as they drop fairly slowly (but faster than the little plastic ones) and are super easy to recover out in our field if my judgment of the wind is not that good since they sit on top of any weeds or brush and they are brightly colored. On a recent drop at the field one of my parachute guys caught a thermal, and gained nearly 2x the altitude I dropped it from, and still landed out of harms way (albeit close) from the traffic on Sea World Drive. I have strapped ‘finger lights’ onto the parachute for night drops, and that adds even more fun during our night sessions. Usually when dropping parachute men, I can drop, and get landed before the parachute returns to terra firma. I normally have someone spotting for me, so they can keep their eye on the ‘chute while I make a dash for the runway., but solo drops are still easy enough to do.
I’d like to encourage you to expand your RC flying to include dropping things. Normally dropping things isn’t good, but in this case, its incredibly fun to do. The club event for June will be the bomb drop. Everyone will be given the opportunity to show off their own dropping designs and skills aside from the contest hardware that everyone use for score. Start building your designs now!
This is the deck I built to drop different items
Here is a single foam missile loaded
Here is my Velcro ‘hard point’ where I attach the cargo box or the deck.
Attached and ready to use, wired to an open channel.
All of my different ‘ordinance’.
This is the dual door cargo box that can be filled with many different items.