Hello, I am a freestyle ~250mm drone pilot and engineer. I built this drone to perform best for my particular flying style and decided to open source all of my work, everything learned, and to road-map the project and continue development.
The Sun Toucher is my dog food. I have been very pleased by the performance of other frames, but I wanted to design my own. So far, in reduced stress casual flight, the Sun Toucher performs very well and offers a high quality FPV experience for proximity flight, freestyle flight, and has features for racing that are still in development (low priority).
Images of the Sun Toucher are available here or by clicking on the image below.
The inherent native modularity of the arms and fuselage enable infinite shapes, sizes, and material combinations. Arms can easily be angled (instead of motors) for greater speed and a lessened profile or swapped to support alternate motors and hardware.
Built for 5" props the arms can easily be re-cut to support 6" or other prop sizes. Shit, in theory 10" and larger props are all possible. The decoupled fuselage makes arm variations relatively simple. You can keep all your core gear (PDB, VTX, FC, RX, etc) unchanged and only remount ESCs and Motors.
Freestyle and high performance flight is a product of flying Acro (aka manual or rate mode) on the flight computer. Version 1 successfully tested theories for rate only flight. Version 2 is scheduled to make permanent modifications supporting multiple flight controller mounting scenarios.
The alternate flight controller mounting strategy provides opportunities for better weight distribution, center of gravity control, and larger battery capacity using an in-frame centered mounting strategy. There are additional options should top plate or belly mounted battery be desirable.
Experimentation leads to discovery.
By breaking down the build in a slightly different manner opportunities are provided to explore alternative design ideas. Proximity, Freestyle, and speed runs all have unique flight characteristics and the design is intended to provide a minimal toolkit to express individual needs.
Part of the arm design was inspired by the TBS Discovery Pro long range mod. Distilled down, the TBS team was able to extend the functionality of the Discovery Pro using existing arm mounts to increase motor, prop, battery, and of course payload. Following in the footsteps of TBS, the Sun Toucher arms are modular allowing anyone to redesign, cut, and change the size, shape, and features. Carbon fiber tubing could be used, top or bottom mount, height variations. In short, the Sun Toucher is a core fuselage (the middle/frame) and the arms (motors, ESCs, props) allowing easy modifications, quick prototyping, and rapid discovery.
Let's skip over the long list of jokes, good, bad, and otherwise, on arm holes and get to the point. The use of armholes for cable ties is really nice. Some people shrink wrap ESCs to arms, others use electrical tape, and many use cable ties. Personally I use cable ties to increase airflow and add dampening material between the arm and ESC. The arms are a point of serious contemplation and the prospect of exploring different motor, prop, size, and power sources is exciting.
Below are diagrams showing the translation of arm hole to mounting via build #1 for Version 1.
In this image 2 cable ties are in use and create a "V" pattern.
In this image the cable ties are "trailing". The intent is to eliminate unnecessary wear and failure patterns when wrapping the entire arm. When cable ties are wrapped around the arm impact will hasten wear or cause breaks. The holes also anchor the cable tie to a specific area of the arm so nothing will slide.
This overhead shot really underscores the trailing cable tie mounting pattern. Should cable ties not be the favorite mounting option this hole pattern gracefully degrades saving a little bit of weight.
The roadmap for the Sun Toucher is divided into 3 groups for the road-map, items can (and will) be added as testing and inspiration dictates. Rotor Garage (here) will reflect what is considered a "release". There will be intermediate states as well.
The three road-map groups are Version 2, Punt, and Icebox:
Version 2 : In progress for next release, essentially a guaranteed feature.
Punt : Wanted features, unlikely in the next version, but might get squeezed in if there is time or bandwidth.
Icebox : Long term goals and features. Many of these ideas are low in priority, more difficult, or just not ready to get the attention necessary to complete the feature. Research, testing, and most importantly flying is where the time seems to slip away.
I gave up riding in gangs a long time ago, and anything that you can drive with one hand at night on a two-lane road at 90 miles an hour in fourth gear is as fast as I need these days...
Almost any fool can crank a big bike up to 180 or so-but slowing the bastard down on a diminishing-radius curve into some greasy little freeway is a whole different gig.
Hunter S Thompson, "Better Than Sex"
Are you selling these / where can I get one?
I am not interested in selling, distributing, or anything of the sort. I like to fly my drone, and this is the one I am building to do as I please. If you want one you will need to have considerable build experience as this is not a "kit". If you fly a QAV250, this frame will "almost" drop right in. Be sure to review the Hacks and Mistakes I Made section.
A running QAV250 is the easiest way to go. Pop all the parts over to this frame, done. Otherwise:
What does "extends the QAV250" mean?
Since I have a considerable amount of stock in QAV250 replacement arts such as camera plates, top plates, and other mounting hardware I decided to recycle as much as possible. I first got this idea from another engineer who was using the QAV250 PDB for a prototype.
The current size of the Sun Toucher matches the motor placement of the QAV250. The 6 holes for stand-off mounting are identical, the camera plate from the QAV250 fits perfectly to recycle well engineered and already in use parts. At some time I may choose or need to diverge from this compatibility.
Please note that the Sun Toucher is designed for arm mounted ESCs and drops the QAV250 PDB in preference of a 36mm PDB. The QAV250 PDB should still "bolt on", but this has not been tested.
A funny thing happened on the way to the field. On october 15, 2015 when I ran a wonderful set of tests with my brand new RunCam to post on this site. Well, the power to the Runcan was set up incorrectly and I sent 12volts to the unit, poof white smoke, no video. The very next day, October 16, 2015 I spent almost $500 for a brand new GoPro (with 3 year warranty) when I got an important message "people were arrested at the field for flying drone.". The Sun Toucher has been grounded since that event as flying any device in NYC is illegal, the police are making arrests, citations, and confiscating gear. Very unfortunate.
In flux, about the same as a QAV250.
Open Source, really?
Pretty much. More info available here.
How do I stay up to date or collaborate?
Please direct all communication using
Is there a forum, RCGroups page, or thread on this drone?
No. In fact, do not discuss this project on any website that is copyright (©). I only endorse that Ra was as ancient Egyptian sun god. His copyright has expired. This website, plans, information, and are my personal project I decided to open source. Do not make me regret this decision.
So what do I get here?
Vector file. I am making no promises, the file are offered in "as is" condition. Do as you wish (in conjunction with the licensing terms) and have fun. Send me pictures, etcetera, if you can.
Where can I get this thing made?
Right now my cuts have been via CNC Madness in Canadia (body of land north of the USA acting as a buffer to Russia). Anyone cutting (CNC-ing) 3mm carbon fiber can take care of the cuts. These guys are a great resource for my prototyping and my experience has been pleasurable and economical. (I do not endorse any vendor or product officially)
I am not tech support.
If you can't open the files, figure something out. If you are not up for the task, or don't have the experience necessary you are on your own. I am not a total dick, but I have no time for fools, cheapskates, and low budget or low rent drone philosophies.
With the above paragraph stated, let's be a little more realistic. I like drones, but I really like flying them more. So tech talk is welcome, as are good questions and comments. The goal is to move forward, so do reach out for the right reasons.
Will you build me one?
No. I know a few people who do custom builds, please contact me directly.
Will you sponsor me? / Can I sponsor you? / Can I invite you to a race?
No. I will consider professional speaking engagements, guest posting, interviews and any endeavor with academic inclinations (regarding this project).
What the hell do you want?
I want to fly my drone in peace, frequently alone, and continue to engineer this craft into the "Cruising at 90mph at night with one hand on the wheel" type of high performance and pleasurable experience that is my personal drone zen.
Part of this project, to me, is to point out mistakes and lessons learned. So far there have been many. Some are rather dumb, others were hidden. It is my goal to document this experience and continue to move forward and own my mistakes.
Use the default 35mm and camera plate of the QAV250 or your very own walkabout.
A 100 percent fail by me. Super annoyed, will be in version 2.
The screw and tubing is a design choice I made long before the Sun Toucher. The cost and easy failure of traditional standoff tech made me seek out alternatives. Since I do not fly with the battery mounted on the top plate any various break away tech is not needed. I have found this particular set-up to work very well and have few compromises. The angle I am able to place on the top plate is very desirable as well.
Use of the 36mm PDB puts the ESCs on the arms where they cool better, are easier to monitor, facilitate replacement, and takes them off the belly of the quad.
In particular, the leads (wires) run short (ESC to PDB and ESC to FC wires). By contrast a "X-shaped" quad design allow ESCs wires to follow a shorter path than an H style frame. If your ESCs have no leads, this will not effect your build.
TLDR: Be prepared to un-solder and re-solder longer wires to support the H pattern.
This is being addressed in version 2.
The Sun Toucher frame is maintained officially on Github. If you have a Github account, feel free to connect. If you don't have a GitHub account you can still download the files. (P.S. welcome to open source.)
Currently we are at MVP (minimal viable product/prototype) stage. The files are in Adobe Illustrator CC, my program of choice for vector design. Eventually I would like to provide expected CAD files. Adobe Illustrator support for these formats is hit and miss, so I am not offering these exports yet. If anyone would like to contribute or convert files reach out.
Current Version 1.1 : Stability Testing
Sun Toucher by Rotor Garage is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
The Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License was chosen to promote review, collaboration, and ease of use. There are considerations to modify the license, but for now a non-commercial stance must be taken.
Commercial inquiries are welcome, please contact directly.
The goals are simple and pretty easy to understand. This is my drone, it is a work in progress.
Put another way the drone is like a rifle, consider this interpretation of the Rifleman's Creed:
This is my drone. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
My drone is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.
My drone, without me, is useless. Without my drone, I am useless. I must fly my drone true. I must fly straight and pure in all conditions. I must perform consistently and without error...
My drone and I know that what counts in flight is not the crashes we survive, the noise of our props, nor the batteries we destroy. We know that it is the flight that counts. We will fly...
My drone is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its props to its battery. I will keep my drone clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will...
Before the open sky, I swear this creed. My drone and I are the defenders of personal zen. We are the masters of the sky. We are the saviors of flight.
So be it as flight and FPV are peace!