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Harry Ketterer Builds His Own NightHawk Quadcopter

BY Alan Perlman
23 March 2015

harr ketterer uav pilotOne of the greatest pleasures I have managing this website is communicating with you all, UAV enthusiasts, pilots, and aspiring business owners from all over the world.

I got a great email from Harry Ketterer, who lives in Dryden, Ontario and has been flying RC planes for the last 15 years. Harry recently built his own quadcopter, and I asked him for a short interview to learn more about his build, the UAV community in Dryden and his background as a pilot.

If you have any questions for Harry, comment at the bottom of this post.

Can you tell me a bit about your background flying remote control (RC) planes?

I’ve been flying RC planes for almost 15 years. I recently accepted the post of Secretary Treasurer for our local club this year, Patricia Region Aeromodelers.

As a young boy, I was always interested in flying. I lived one block from a water base, and spent a good portion of my spare time bugging pilots for a ride (to help with the unloading of course….lol). They were always very tolerant of me, so I got to ride quite often…it helped that my Mom and Dad knew the owners. but that is how I got hooked.

My best friend and I as teens had a couple of control-line planes we learned to crash very well…we couldn’t afford RC but we dreamed.

15 or 20 years later, my 10 year old was interested in RC. He had $100 that he had saved that year and wanted to spend it on an RTF Air Hogs with differential steering , so I offered to go in with him on a real RC trainer….if he would put up his $100, I would put in $250 that I had in my rainy day fund, and we would save the rest……we were still $400 short of the $750 I had gotten the local hobby shop owner to agree to for a 40-size trainer a radio…and he also agreed to train both of us to fly.

On my birthday, less than a month after making the agreement with my son, we both had saved a few dollars more each to add to our RC fund.

My wife gave me my birthday present… was a card with a check for the remainder of the amount we needed to get our very first RC plane….what an awesome wife. My love for RC planes only grew to the addiction it is today because of that awesome wife. Our Son has moved on, he is in his last year of university now, hopefully his interest in RC planes will return when he has the time and money.

What kind of aviation / RC community are you part of in Dryden?

The community of Dryden is a small (8500 people) hub in the middle of Northwestern Ontario, two hours from the Manitoba border. We have several waterbases and an airport that is long enough to land a 737, but we have lost our jet service for lack of traffic. The airport has the CL415 water bombers stationed here at the firebase so we see them quite often in the summer. Several of our club members are full size pilots also.

Why’d you decide to build a drone?

I decided to build a drone after buying a Proto X Nano a couple of years ago, and I flew it until I wore it out, then I thought I needed something bigger but I didn’t want the auto type flying of the DJI Phantom or the other ready to fly machines……then I found a video about drone racing….that was it!!!!  I knew what I wanted! A 250 FPV DRONE RACER!!!!!!.  The price at the time ( 2 yrs ago) was nearly $1000 for racer and FPV gear.  That was out of my price range. A couple of our club members have drones, 1 DJI Phantom and the other is a 450 size that was scratch built 3 yrs ago. So I got 1 of them interested in the racing drones. That was in the fall.

Last Christmas, our family got each other to write out a wish list of things you like but wouldn’t buy yourself. One of the items I had on my list was FPV goggles…again my awesome wife advances my RC addiction (I think she’s an enabler).. so I sold a bunch of glow motors and other gear I wasn’t using any more and generated enough funds to shop for a drone racer.

What resources did you consult? How’d you know what parts to buy?

A couple of the greatest forums I have found are RCCanada and RCGroups, there is a huge community involved in both and all are more than willing to help. YouTube was also instrumental in showing me how things should be.  I researched reviews and articles about 250 racers. I read and read and read and read…then I asked questions, watched videos and read and read more.

Deciding which frame, motors, esc, etc. …. one prerequisite was, I wanted to be able to use the 3 cell 2200mah lipos that I had already. It had to be durable as I will be crashing it lots while .  It had to be as affordable as possible…this was probably what made me pull the trigger…when I priced everything again (had been almost 2 years since I priced it last) there was many alternatives at half the price I had seen before.

How much did it cost?

I thought the most durable frame would be carbon fiber. The most affordable carbon fiber frame I could find was the Emax 250 Pro NightHawk. Because I wanted to use the 2200mah batteries I chose the beefier motor setup 2204 2300kv emax , 12a esc simon K. I found a combo on eBay with the frame, motors, and esc’s and 2 sets of carbon fiber 6×3 props for $138 with free shipping.

Then I started looking at the Flight controllers that were available. I needed something that was easy to set up with minimal time researching fixes. After much reading and asking others opinions, I decided on the naze32 board as it was all ready for telemetry with my Taranis radio and ppm ready also. I purchased the flight controller from Hobbyking for $40 delivered.

So total was $178 + exchange = approximately $200 Canadian.

What was the most challenging part of building it for you?

There are a lot of  build videos on YouTube… I watched as many as I could find,  getting tips and hints, as I was building. The most challenging part I found was getting everything organized where you wanted it in the frame to keep it as clean as possible before soldering. Very small space for esc and pdb…I opted to have my esc’s  and pdb under the bottom plate to protect them the most. it took me a month of spare time to get the racer built and programmed.

The pictures below show my Nighthawk Pro with 3s 2200 mah, 5x3x3 props to learn with. No camera, AUW as is ….517 grams. not bad. But fully loaded for FPV racing, it is 600g. That seems a little porky but we will see.

Nighthawk Pro quadcopter

Nighthawk Pro UAV

Nighthawk Pro frame

Nighthawk Pro drone build

After searching for beginner guides, I found this great site, UAV Coach, and what a fountain of information I found there Alan and Michael have!

My buddy just texted me to tell me he ordered his this week, so we have 2 racers that will be ready for spring. After talking to a few people from our Zone, there will be several racers from Winnipeg, Sioux Lookout, Kenora and Dryden at our annual  weeklong event called Gimli Model Fest. So hopefully by then, we can get in a few runs with many racers.

I have built a blunt nose versa wing with rear-mounted motor, plans from flight test, to learn FPV flying perspective. Have maidened it already and am waiting for some warmer weather to give it a good FPV test flight. We still have snow on the ground right now and the temp this morning is -19c.

I have tested the racer in my shop on the floor just to ensure all controls work the way they are supposed to…I was able to hover an inch off the floor in rate mode for a minute or so. It responds very quickly to all control inputs…I’m confident that my first outdoor flight will be a fun success with many crashes in my future.

What are your plans in the future?

I will be promoting safety and multicopters to our club membership – we have a very traditional membership…if it’s not balsa and glow, it’s not an aircraft – in the hopes we can get the drone purchasers in our community to join our club and to fly in a safe and responsible manner away from people and property. SAFETY SAFETY SAFETY!!!!

My thoughts are, if we, as a club, embrace the drone pilots we will be helping to protect our hobby and in the end have safer flying drone pilots even if they don’t stay in the club atl east we can teach them to be safe, responsible and respectful of others property and privacy.

Cant wait for the flying season to begin.

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