Preston Garrison and Kalyn Doerr (RS2K), the founders of Raceflight, got in touch about collaborating on a frame, a longer version of the Mako. At first I struggled to understand the point of a larger Mako, and it was only after a few 'who's on first' style exchanges that it became clear to me. They didn't want a larger Mako, but rather a rectangular motor layout, with the motors further apart front to back instead of side to side. This was a layout they've tested along with Brian Morris (Braindrain), and they found it to have superior handling characteristics (Brian's OB1 also has a long layout).
I've been self employed for 21 years, and have long lost the ability to play well with others. This idea, however, was pretty intriguing. A longer frame could have a couple potential benefits: increased stability on the pitch axis, which tends not get snapped around as much as the roll axis. Also, the rear props might see cleaner air with more distance from the front props, perhaps yielding smoother flight. I guess it's time to share the sandbox and use my big boy words.
Preston's wish list was as follows:
#1 Run the battery strap around the frame to avoid cutouts:
Mako was designed to be as slim and low profile as possible, so the FC was moved forward to accommodate the down sloping pod. Since the battery strap has to route between the FC standoffs, that moved the strap to the very front of the battery and necessitated the use of two battery straps. To run a single strap around the entire frame, the FC would have to be moved aft, which would then force the ridge line of the pod to be higher and less sloped.
#2 A roomier pod:
Luckily this follows #1.
#3 A simple SMA mounting hole for their upcoming pigtail VTX:
Some people are already running pigtail VTX's in Mako, reasoning that it isolates the VTX from damage when the TPU pod flexes in a crash. This makes changing channels difficult, but RF's upcoming VTX will have remote channel changing capabilities. I added a hole for the push button on a 90 degree vtx just in case.
#4 A wide range of FPV cam angles:
The RF guys are fast but prefer lower cam angles, as opposed to the likes of Zoomas, who often flies at 70 degrees. We settled on 30-45-60 degrees. To simplify things I'll limit the pods to a 17mm opening for 2.1 or 2.5 lenses. Users of 2.8 lenses can use a 14mm to 17mm adapter ring.
#5 Compatibility with the Runcam Owl:
The RF guys like the Owl even for daylight – colors are less saturated but it handles light changes really well. It's a totally different form factor than the familiar 1177/Swift standard, so I drew up a cradle that'll hold the Owl in the pod just like an 1177.
#6 More USB access:
Mako's USB cutouts are offset to the front, so if your board has an off center USB port there's only one orientation that'll work. Preston asked for slots that run the length of the board to accommodate more orientations and more boards.
#7 HD cam compatibility:
I designed Mako to NOT carry an HD cam and refused to draw up an HD cam version of the pod. Its attachment system just isn't designed for the extra weight and leverage an HD cam would bring in a crash. Preston wanted the Orca in the hands of top racers and freestylers, so HD cams can't be an afterthought here.
After much thought I came up with a system that hooks into the cam opening, with stirrups going down the sides with slots for the battery strap. Now you can have a pristine pod for racing, and an HD cam mount that actually holds down the pod and lends it more, rather than less, strength in an impact. I made Hero, Session, and Mobius style mounts. They are a very odd shape and rather difficult to print well.
The carbon base came together quickly. As you can see, the FC stack is still off center, but just far enough back for the battery strap to route under, right between the arms. The arms have been narrowed in the never ending quest for light weight and low drag, to match the tiny 30 amp esc's that are now the norm.
Put it all together...
And here she is, with some grass stains. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, so different than Mako despite being a direct offshoot.
And with the Session holder.
Tightening the battery strap also pulls down on the stirrups, cinching everything together.
I'm a firm believer in confirmation bias and the placebo effect, especially for something as subtle as flight, so I rarely trust my 'feelings'. I also think that multirotor flight is so complex that anyone who claims to fully understand it is probably talking out of his butt. The things I can be sure of is that greater motor to motor distance yields greater stability, and a long frame in forward flight is more of a square than a true X frame.
I did find the Orca to be more stable and smooth, but I was also using my first set of Aikon's with BlHeli S, so maybe it was the esc's. Daniel Tengvall loved the way it turns, and started using it as his #1 race machine. Zach Thayer, on the other hand, wasn't a fan of its cornering. RF's stable of pilots think it's the best frame they've flown.
There's something else. The RF guys say they need less tilt on long frames – Brian (Braindrain) runs faster laps at 50 degrees on his long frame than at 60 degrees on an X. And since it's easier to control altitude with less tilt, and yaw and roll are less reversed, that makes it easier for him to fly a long frame around a course. They also say motors don't have to work as hard and run cooler on a long frame. The only explanation I can think of is that, because of the greater separation, rear motors work more efficiently in cleaner air, yielding more thrust at the same angle.
But like I said, I don't fully understand multirotor flight, and you probably shouldn't trust someone who claims they do. It's a sweet flying frame whether or not I know why. Here's Tengu on his:
Krieger was the first frame I designed a sticker for, and ever since then I've felt pressure to one up myself with each new release. We agreed on the name 'Orca', but I didn't have a great concept for the artwork. Silhouettes would be too 'Sea World'. A totem style illustration would be cool but not real funny. I asked Preston if he would be ok with an Orca in a trenchcoat and he was, so I asked Kittiloo Pam (creator of the Mako sticker) for some rough sketches.
Her first sketch was pretty on the money.
The style reminded me of the New Yorker, which was an easy leap to New Orca. I asked Pam to have the Orca open his coat and display his wares, and that was pretty much that. I downloaded a free version of the New Yorker font and fixed the letter spacing caveman-style (I typed the letters in individually and moved them around 'cause I don't know how to do it the right way).