A new rage was started last year by people thinking outside the traditional R/C box. The so-called hydro-foam boat or "flying boat" first hit the scene in the early spring of 2005 with a video release from Michael Connally and the excitement has been growing ever since. This innovative design can go on water, snow, grass, ground, pavement, and even fly in the air!
Although the first “flying boat” product to hit the R/C market was in kit form, the ARFs (Almost-Ready-to-Fly) and RTF (Ready-To-Fly) versions came soon afterwards to offer various advantages and disadvantages.
Red's Miss HangarOne
One of the first clones or copies of the original concept was the Red's "Miss Hangar One" hydrofoam boat. You can view my thread on RCU about this design (any many others) here. This $50 kit requires plenty of work to complete and finish but is well designed and flies very well.
Hangar One Hobbies
These "Miss HangarOne" boats were built and finished by Paul Weigand
Paul added his usual skilled extra touches to make it special
The boat has hovering capability using the power system mentioned above
Walkera RTF Boat:
Initially, this RTF design from Walkera seemed like a good choice but it was riddled with problems. The benefits of a RTF boat over building a kit are attractive to many R/Cers. Read my detailed evaluation here.
FMA Hydro Hawk:
Original Prototype Design
I discovered a better ARF design in my evaluation hunting that was easy to assemble and much more rugged than the foam boats. The initial Hydro Hawk ARF looked great and weighed only 14oz RTF with a low-cost 150w brushless power system. It turned out to be severely tail-heavy causing erratic flight
Second and Original Prototype Designs
The new version 2 Hydro Hawk (on the left) is much more promising. It has been widened by 80mm and the canopy section moved forward by 60mm. The firm balsa-covered ARF design is much tougher than the weak Walkera foam design.
The final version FMA Hydro Hawk
The Hydro Hawk 2 ARF tested out great and likely will sell for around $99 including the 150w brushless power system!
Video 1 (4.5meg)
The first video was taken during 10mph winds. The Hydro Hawk needed to keep the speed up so the wind wouldn't push it around.
Video 2 (6.7meg)
The second video was taken in calmer conditions with about 5mph winds. It was easier to slow fly the Hydro Hawk and we had a blast taking off the grass and performing loops and rolls.
Note the new pack position and motor orientation above the mounting stick for improved flying performance
You can view the FMA Hydro Hawk On-line Manual Supplement here.
The skill level needed to build the MHO kit and fly it is not for the beginner! However, if you have some kit building skills and intermediate piloting skills, this design has the advantages of creating your own custom look and flying great.
Initially, the RTF design from Walkera seemed like a good choice but it was riddled with many problems. The benefits of a RTF boat over building a kit are attractive to many R/Cers as they don’t have the time, skill set, or desire to build a kit. In this case, my evaluation of the Walkera Flying Boat #58 found that it was not really ready-to-fly, had a single conversion receiver that glitched on test flights, and, was especially weak where the floats met the main foam fuselage deck. In flight tests, the boat kept trying to flip over and fly inverted. Perhaps I had been spoiled by first flying my MHO design boat but the disappointment of the completeness and performance of the Walkera RTF boat kept me looking for other alternatives.
I discovered a better ARF design in my evaluation hunting that was easy to assemble and much more rugged than the foam boats. It was a covered balsa design that used solid foam floats. The ARF came with all the fins and control surfaces covered and pre-mounted. The balsa motor mount was pre-assembled and the foam canopy pre-cut. The assembly time was greatly reduced over the MHO kit assembly time, and, unlike the Walkera RTF design, I could use my own choice of quality servos and receiver.
The flying boat concept is an innovative mix of disciplines from various characteristics of boats, planes, thrust-vectoring (like a Shockflyer), and the latest electric flight technology. It is clear that the performance improvement seen from brushless motors and Lithium packs has made this concept work well. The various offerings of the design from kit form to ARFs to RTFs provide a good personal choice for today’s modeler. The multi-surface ability of flying boats provides great fun through all seasons and at many different R/C events.
The final chapter in the flying boat scene for 2006 came with the commercial release of the original Michael Connally and Ernest ? design as a mass-produced version by Air Hogs called the Storm Launcher.
The Air Hogs Storm Launcher is a Ready-To-Go All Terrain Vehicle that comes with the LIPO Battery, AC wall charger, advanced controller, removable propeller guards, spare propellers, and a mounting tool. It is available at local stores like Target, Walmart, Toys-R-Us, Best Buy, eToys, and on-line at SpinMaster.
For my complete review on the Air Hogs Storm Launcher, go here.