Ryan Lademann from Quad Star Drones (formally Down and Dirty Drones) is currently prepping to make a run at the FPV multirotor speed record. The record set back in July of 2017 by the Drone Racing League (DRL) with their RacerX. The speed of the RacerX as recorded by the Guinness World Records was 165.3 mph. They didn’t get that record easily. Reports show that their early versions ended in a ball of flames due to power output from the 10s battery. The DRL RacerX featured T-Motor F80 2407 2500kV motors, BeeRotor 80A ESC’s, and two Tattu R-Line 1300mAh 5s batteries.
The Inspiration Behind the FPV Multirotor Speed Record
After hearing about the DRL FPV multirotor speed record, Ryan set to work designing a frame, using less power, and more design. He feels that there are some major innovation gains that were left on the table by the DRL RacerX. To address that, work began to design a multirotor from the ground up with aerodynamic and mechanical engineering in mind. What was born from that was the XLR-1.
One of Ryan’s previous designs, the VXR-190, has already made headway toward claiming the record, clocking in at 165.8 mph, and while unofficial, it was measured using Guinness style calculations. Pictured below are some of his previous design iterations.
Ryan is looking to break FPV multirotor speed record using only a 5s or 6s battery, and some interesting engineering. When I first heard about Ryan’s projects almost a year ago, I was doing research in designing frames. A friend referred me to his website for reference and information. For those budding multirotor frame designers out there, I recommend digging in to the information he’s provided. There’s quite a bit of knowledge imparted there. Perhaps you will be the next pilot to make an attempt at the FPV multirotor speed record?
Ryan certainly hopes so! “I’m encouraging people to aim higher. Personally, I would like to get a Guinness certificate just to have something to show for all the hard work I’ve put into this, and to set an example for my kids. Once I have that, I wouldn’t mind seeing somebody set another speed record the very next day.”
The People Behind It
Ryan has been working with others with interest in this project. Between them they are bouncing ideas off one another to get the design off the table and into the air. Many of the members have backgrounds in aviation, aerospace design, and engineering. That makes this a definite endeavor of innovation for the hobby. The XLR-1 features an aerodynamic nose cone, with refinement in the design aided by Forrest Frantz and Jon Blackburn and Jon 3D printed. Through my conversations with Ryan, there’s a lot to factor in when looking to hit insane speed levels. All things that he is incorporating into his final design.
The FPV multirotor speed record attempt will be monitored by qualified independent witnesses that will report to the Guinness World Records. The record speed is an average of a series of runs over a 100 meter straight shot. All this is to take place in Scottsdale, Arizona on April 5th.
He’s not the only pilot looking to set a record either. James Frantz will be looking to set the endurance flight record. Forrest Frantz, his brother, might, travel permiting, be trying for largest payload lift for a specified frame size class. With any luck, and a lot of good engineering, all three will have entries in the official record books!
Ryan was able to achieve an average speed of 195.99 mph! The speed was achieved with at 6S battery, proving his theory that power isn’t everything.
- Opposite direction average over 100m: 195.99mph/315.42kph
- Direction 1 average over 100m: 196.70mph/316.55kph
- Direction 2 average over 100m: 195.28mph/314.28kph
- Max Recorded Speed: 202.11mph/325.26kph
- Blackbox data is here
- Special thanks to James Frantz for making this happen, MetropolisFPV for saving this speed attempt, and to Jon Blackburn for printing/designing the nose and tail cones.
Ryan was also able to do the 100m ascent attempt. The previous record on file was set at 3.781 seconds. I gave it a shot while I was there, and personally, I achieved a time of 2.8 seconds with my ImpulseRC Helix on a 4S battery. Ryan however, was able to complete it in 1.7 seconds on a 5S battery! Great job Ryan!
While his current design, the XLR-1, is highly confidential, Ryan will be looking into making and selling a version of his frame, the ARX, so be on the lookout for that in the near future. These might be the next frames we see winning major races!
I will be attending the attempt for the FPV multirotor speed record. I will update this article with the results soon after!
Talking with Ryan
I contacted him to ask some questions and to get a feel on how his attempt at the FPV multirotor speed record was going, and here’s what he had to say:
What inspired you to fly multirotors?
Simply buying my kids some Hubsan multirotors for Christmas. Then I bought myself a Syma a week later, then built my own a month later. I have a love/fear of flying (I was in a small plane crash at age 11) so flying FPV is like a dream come true.
How long have you been flying?
A little over 3 years, but due to where I live (no nearby field, long winters), not enough actual flying. I believe all this is a product of my situation – if I’m not flying, I’m building / engineering.
What’s your background, education, work, etc.?
I’m a mechanical engineer who has also completed premed. Currently, I work for a valve manufacturer in which I program Fanuc and UR robots. At my previous job, I also did some robot programming, designing, and project management in which we made robot cells that polished the compressor blades on the Rolls Royce Trent series of turbine engines.
But none of that matters: I’m not a big follower of the guy, but since I have the same belief, I will always remember hearing Elon Musk saying that college and background doesn’t matter. Being able to have a goal (whether or not you know anything about it) and then being able to reach that goal is all that matters. Whether you get there by getting a college degree, self-education, or by pure intuition, the means to reach that goal do not matter.
How did you start with building FPV multirotor speed record breakers?
I [bore] easily which is a curse! Not long after flying multirotors, I noticed how inefficient they were and I started wondering how different frame layouts would affect performance. How is efficiency measured? Endurance and/or speed. Speed is more exciting and so I set the goal of hitting 100mph. I have done a little bit of rocketry in the past, and since I am a big nerd, I had a spreadsheet that predicted altitude for rockets that I had made. I modified it to see what I needed to do to hit that goal. However, it was all theory at that time.
How long have you been working at this?
Experimenting with frame layouts, about 2.5 years. The speed thing, about 1.5 years
Can you elaborate on your design process? How did you come up with the current design?
Employers would not like to hear this (since they always seem to value working in groups) but when working toward a goal, I like to remain isolated from any outside input. I am not saying I am some genius or whatever since I think this could be beneficial to everyone. Outside input is quick to point out “flawed” solutions; chances for unique solutions are snuffed out in favor of tunneling in on a solution that is (usually) just a simple modification of something that has already been done. Einstein: “Everybody knows that some things are simply impossible until somebody, who doesn’t know that, makes them possible.”
Also, this is surprising even to me since I enjoy CAD work; I would rather build up a “down and dirty” concept frame rather than draw it up in CAD. I [find] that a hacksaw and a hand drill has given me quicker results when it comes to proving out a concept – many times a dry frame can be cut and thrown together in less than an hour. Dirty frames can always be cleaned up later in CAD.
What kind of research and development has gone into your design?
Aerodynamics (drag coefficients, drag equation, propeller theory), physics, differential equations, and motor data from Mini Quad Test Bench were all used to find out the effect that different frame shapes and cross sections would have on performance.
What components (Motors, ESC’s, etc.) are you currently using for the FPV multirotor speed record attempt?
- Motors: I’ve got four frames with Cobra 2207 2450kV’s and one frame with F80 2200kV’s. I have higher hopes for the Cobra’s, but I got a set of F80’s from Forrest. [The] kV is a little low for 5s, so they are on a 6s frame but I also have a set of Cobra’s on a 6s frame.
- ESC’s: I have Spedix 30A on three of the frames, and Wraith32 35A on the other two. Originally they were all going to be Spedix, but Airbot gave me some ESC’s. On the subject of ESC’s: I believe speed runs are easier on ESC’s than racing/freestyle since on speed runs, you can gradually work up to WOT [Wide Open Throttle]. Also, at top speed, props are mostly unloaded. A couple things confirmed 30A is plenty: One of Jayson’s 6s freestyle flights never pulled more than 95A. And, I’m not sure if you saw Quadmovr’s speed attempts, but he was using Kiss 32A (keep in mind his speeds are only peak recorded speeds – nothing wrong with that, just different from the method I use).
- FC’s: Joshua Bardwell F4’s
- FPV cams: Two have the Caddx micro F1’s, the others are Crazepony 700TVL cams with Runcam lenses [as] the stock lenses don’t blend well with the nose cone. I wanted to put in the Runcam Split, but it generates a lot of heat (no ventilation in the frame) and it caused too much interference for the GPS. No split upsets me tremendously.
- GPS: Ublox M8N.
- Rx: Lemon rx DSMX
- Vtx: HGLtech GTX226
- Antenna: Lumenier Axii with the case very carefully removed
- Batteries: Tattu 1300 75C 5s, Tattu 1300 95C 6s (reconfigured – basically 2 3s packs end to end but still hard wired together so it is one pack)
What components have you used in the past, but found they just wouldn’t work?
None. I’ve never had a motor or speed control burn up. My first attempt to go 100mph+ was with Brotherhobby 2300kV T2’s on 4s and Cicada 30A ESC’s. However, while waiting for the T2’s to be released, I actually hit 101mph and then 107mph on the original Emax RS2205 2300kV red bottoms with Littlebee 20A ESC’s. I know I had a little help from the wind there, but not much. After hitting 113 with the T2’s, winter came along and I did a lot of research on motors and liked the numbers that the Cobra 2207 2450’s put out. The only other motor that compares are the EFAW’s. I paired up the Cobra’s with the Spedix 30A ESC’s, and with the Super Racer Bee’s from RTFQ, but have drifted to all Spedix simply due to price.
What innovations have you designed into your multirotor?
In a nutshell, the main thing is the construction method of the arms. They have a total width of 3mm but are still extremely strong. This means less thrust is blocked = quieter = faster acceleration = faster top speed = longer flight time. The arm design also allows the battery to be mounted central to everything. This minimizes the moment of inertia, [which] means faster angular acceleration and (not sure to what extent) less energy is need for maneuvers = longer flight time.
I had hopes that this would be a crazy light frame, but for many reasons, it will be right around a 40g frame for a 5″ frame – this is still very up in the air. If anything, it will drop, as low as 30g or 25g. Many ways to measure the weight – some go without motor screws and battery straps. My goal is 30g with motor screws and battery straps which is where I am at.
What has been the biggest limiting factor to achieve high speeds?
No trouble yet, but these will be the limiting factors:
- Drag: This isn’t much of a factor anymore since the quads I have right now have very low drag.
- Prop tip speed: I believe I am knocking on the door of prop tip speed. It appears as though Omegooliebird might have gone past the Mach 1 barrier on his prop tips, but since this was just a one way peak speed (most agree it looks like the plane was diving) and who knows what type of tail wind he had, we won’t know for sure. NASA had very little success with their supersonic propeller program and dropped it. This is why I always said 5s is enough, but I’m also using 6s as a “safety” factor. Once tips hit transonic speeds (around Mach 0.8) required torque literally jumps through the roof. That’s why 10s did nothing for the DRL rig except [to] burn up ESC’s: all those amps mostly turned into heat and gave a very minimal gain in RPM.
Non-factors that appear to be factors:
- ESC’s: At top speed, very little load is on the props since the incoming air speed to the props is nearly the same as the outgoing airspeed. It’s like a row boat: Assuming you swing the oar at the same rate, is it harder to row from a dead stop or at “cruise” speed?
- Motors: Same reason as above, you just need RPM’s and a more efficient motor will see less voltage drop at WOT [Wide Open Throttle] = more RPM. But then there is that prop tip speed problem.
- Batteries: Just about any decent battery out there right now can supply enough power. However, this is true as long as the batteries don’t get too hot. Heat is a frenemy: it will kill batteries but also lowers internal resistance. This is why the 4th or 5th speed pass has consistently been the fastest.