Loz has been one of Gizmag's most versatile contributors since 2007. Joining the team as a motorcycle specialist, he has since covered everything from medical and military technology to aeronautics, music gear and historical artefacts. Since 2010 he's branched out into photography, video and audio production, and he remains the only Gizmag contributor willing to put his name to a sex toy review. A singer by night, he's often on the road with his a cappella band Suade.
Standard low-beam motorcycle headlights are next to useless in dark corners, so this week we've been playing with an aftermarket gadget that sorts the problem out. J.W. Speaker's Model 8790 Adaptive Low Beam LED Headlight fires up additional angled lights as you lean your bike over, to fill in the blind spot you get when you're cornering in the dark, and hopefully a kick in the backside for manufacturers that have been selling us rubbish headlights for generations.
Hexacopter flight times over an hour should soon become possible. Chinese drone manufacturer Walkera has decided to go beyond the battery, teaming up with micro-generator producers at GenSmart to build a new hybrid powertrain for its QR X900 professional heavy lifter. A tiny, efficient methanol motor charges the battery during flight, allowing long flight times and instant refueling and it can be switched off so the drone can operate in "stealth mode" when necessary.
You've got the basics of how to fly a drone under control, and you haven't managed to destroy your quadcopter yet. Congratulations! Let's get into some meatier exercises involving precision and orientation. In Drone School 4 we practice hovering in different orientations, work on bank turns and figure 8s around markers, have a crack at nose-in landing and look at a much easier and cheaper way to get your skills up.
You've got your first quadcopter, you've read the broken-English manual and assembled it, you've got your head around the transmitter and you're ready to give this thing a crack. Here are some basic exercises to try on your first few flights that will hopefully help you make it to your second few flights with just as many props, frames, pets and limbs as you started with.
In Drone School 1 we looked at how to choose a good beginner quadcopter. Now it's time to take a look at your quadcopter controller. In Drone School 2 we look at transmitter modes 1 and 2, different flight modes you might encounter, trim controls and what the two main sticks do.
Multicopters are one of the hottest consumer gadgets on the market, and for good reason. They're cheap, easy to fly, a ton of fun, and by far the easiest way to get into radio controlled flying. This Drone School series is our way to help new flyers get off the ground, and over the next few weeks we'll get into some exercises to build your skills and capabilities for maximum fun with minimal crashes. For starters, let's look at how to pick a good first quadcopter.
Back in 2011, we wrote about a fascinating new way to heat-treat regular, cheap steel to endow it with an almost miraculous blend of characteristics. Radically cheaper, quicker and less energy-intensive to produce, Flash Bainite is stronger than titanium by weight, and ductile enough to be pressed into shape while cold without thinning or cracking. It's now being tested by three of the world's five largest car manufacturers, who are finding they can produce thinner structural car components that are between 30-50 percent lighter and cheaper than the steel they've been using, while maintaining the same performance is crash tests. Those are revolutionary numbers in the auto space.
This unique tractor design uses twin caterpillar tracks on the back instead of pneumatic tires, giving it up to 60 percent more traction than a regular tractor and outstanding capabilities on steep slopes. A dual front/rear steering system gives it a turning circle as tight as a regular tractor, and it's capable of 40km/h (25 mph) on the road as well.
Personal electric VTOL (vertical take off and landing) commuting may not be far off, thanks to accelerating improvements in battery technology. Joby Aviation has put forward an incredible two-seater plane concept that uses 12 tilting electric propellers to provide multirotor-style balanced VTOL capabilities. Once it reaches cruising speeds, these rotors fold away into aerodynamic bullet shapes, and the aircraft can reach speeds of up to 200 mph (322 km/h) and ranges of up to 200 miles using four additional cruise-optimized props on the backs of the wings and tail fins.
Two-wheel-drive motorcycles have some real advantages, but in the past they've tended to be highly complex systems that require significant re-plumbing of your motorcycle. That's what makes this concept from German Beemer tuners Wunderlich so appealing –using an electric hub motor in the front wheel, it looks like a relatively simple way to add electric 2WD, as well as a handy reverse gear, to a standard BMW R1200GS.