Build Your Own Zone: The Fossils Stuff 250 - FPV - Proximity - Racer - Freestyler
Words & Images: Peter Gray/Stuart Markham
Available From: www.fossilsstuff.com UK RRP: £79.00 (Airframe Only)
Fossils Stuff, just the name immediately conjure's up images in your head of dinosaur bones, or just like the companies logo ammonites and things buried for millions of years that once walked or swam on the earth or in the sea. But let's face it, not really quad copter airframes. But you would be wrong in dismissing that line of thought, as in fact the name actually gives a big nod the the very sophisticated plastics used to construct the Gravity 250, 280 (and as I was writing this, the newly announced baby of the family, the 180!). Without getting too 'Bill Nye the Science Guy' on you, fossil fuels are crude oil, which is in essence long chains of hydrocarbons which are modified to make plastic, therefore the fossil fuels are essentially the original raw materials used to make the Gravity airframes...Or so we thought, then Martin himself totally shattered our hypothesis and told me the real reason for the company name. Martin’s wife once called him, and I quote an “Old Fossil” and it stuck!
But, fear not there is a very interesting origin story to this product and Martin Ryes involvement with the industry...and its one I think you need to know to fully understand it, the airframe and him.
New 2 Drones, Not 2 Plastics
Martin Rye wasn't making drone airframes until very recently, his company manufactured, as it still does today custom designed tanks for the marine industry and bespoke customer applications.
He's been a keen RC flyer for many years and thought it time he got into multicopters and Drones. After ordering a Hobby King carbon fibre Predator kit on Ebay for a Christmas present to himself, and then realising on Christmas day that it was just too much to handle for a total beginner, he then decided to buy the closest thing to a trainer he could find. A few days later a 450 frame kit arrived and the Multiwii flight controller to go with it. Then the steep learning curve started. After many hours of downloading software, programming the Multiwii, and screwing bits together he eventually managed to get it airborne...and eventually the pieces fell into place.
Martin: “These quads are not easy to fly...well not for someone who has learnt on fixed wing aircraft and nothing else. A far cry from the control line combat planes and tow line gliders of my youth!”
Smaller Form Factor = Bigger Fun
After getting the hang of flying the 450 line of sight he thought it was time to see what else was out there. Martin quite fancied something a bit smaller and zippy. Back to good old Ebay and after trolling through the 250 quad copter carbon frames, of which all seemed to come from China, looked very badly made and brittle and ranged from £12.00 to silly prices. He saw a gap in the market and decided it was time for something new.
Martin: “I am a toolmaker by trade and run a business manufacturing water, waste and fuel tanks for the marine industry out of high density polyethylene. We have a CNC router that is typically used on these carbon frames from China. I designed a rather different frame using leftovers of a two tone material from a large order we had had 18 months before...”
The Gravity 250 was born! He advertised the frame on Ebay and actually sold one or two straight away. Then a local chap about 5 miles away phoned up asking if he could come and have a look before he bought one. Chris Western duly turned up with his flight case full of goodies. In the case was a racing carbon frame with the full FPV setup. He let Martin try on the goggles as he swung the camera around the workshop...He was hooked. Martin ended up giving Chris the frame to review, and asked in return if he could let him know what he thought. He came back a few days later and said it was brilliant!
Martin: “I knew then I was onto something. I offered six more frames for review on a Facebook group and within 4 minutes had everyone signed up. The power of social media cannot ever be underestimated, I was blown away...”
The following feedback from all the review frames was invaluable and led to the design of the current Gravity 250 V2. Fossils Stuff is now taking pre-orders for this frame from all over the world and several UK distributors are now stocking it alongside the 280 and also taking pre-orders on the latest in the fleet, the 'Event Horizon' (more on that later!). Within a year Martin had created a viable business that can only continue to grow in parity with the industry itself. By the way, the Predator is still hanging up in his man cave unfinished.
So Lets Build One...
With the help of our one of our resident build experts, Stuart Markham (from the Ultimate RC Workshop Facebook Page), we sourced an airframe from Martin's website www.fossilsstuff.com, and the components required for a hobbyist level, affordable build from Darren at www.4props.uk and hit the play button on the A Team Music...
First up you need to make sure when you order your electrics that they are going to fit. We had some Simon-K EMAX 12a ESC's initially we had planned on using, but they ended up being physically a little too big, so we opted to go for the DYS 20A BLHeli ESC's with a much smaller footprint. These really are tiny little things, but they don't have a built in BEC (Battery Elimination Circuit) to power the receiver and Naze 32 Rev 5 Flight Controller, so we also fitted a CC3D PDB (Power Distribution Board) to give us a clean 5v feed for the components and a full fat 11.1v or 14.8v to the ESC's power lines.
Motor-wise you are limited to any 1806 motor size (or smaller), nothing physically bigger will fit and they sit inside the sunken, machined ends of each arms, so the are protected by the plastic wall that acts as a bumper during crashes. The plastic itself is pretty robust, looking at feedback of this airframe from end users it seems Martin offered to replace any that broke and I quote: 'Under Normal Use'. So far I think he's only had to replace two and they were borderline whether they fell into that category...but being a gent he gave them the benefit of the doubt! The plastic has a very interesting feel to it. It allows a slight bit of flex, but not enough to affect the flight dynamic. Its rigid and slightly forgiving, a rare combination in the quad and multi rotor airframe market.
TOP TIP: Some pilots have crashed badly (into objects mostly) and even bent or deformed the airframe or motor guards. After stripping components out they then heated it up gently with a heat gun, and then simply pushed it back into shape...'Most' of the time this has been successful, so if you do experience this kind of scenario try it!
We opted for the DYS 1806 2300kv version 2 motors as these will happily run on 14.8v (or 4s) too, so we can speed things up later if 11.1v or (or 3S) seems a little too tame. From the ESCs to the motors I covered the motor wires in heatshrink to keep everything nice and tidy.
I fitted the ESC's inside the cavity between the airframes upper and lower layers by securing them together with cable ties as a 4 in one neat little package. They sit in front of the Flight Control, and that sits at the centre point of the whole quad. Behind that is placed the Power Distribution board, so no stacking of these main components at all.
Now before you all cry “but won't they all overheat” or “If one blows, they all blow...” I've now used the same method on at least 5 other Gravity 250/280 builds and all are still going strong...If the ESC's are well made and specified you won't have an issue.
Read the full article in our FREE to download digital magazine HERE