Part 1 - Review
I have been given the opportunity to test some of the first of these purpose built FPV planes, soon to be available from ReadyMadeRC.com. What sets this model apart from the others is the intention for FPV right out of the box. It includes a large transparent canopy, huge equipment bay, and a place for a second aerial photography camera right from the start. The same cannot be said for several other designs that are crossed over to FPV from other forms of the hobby. In this review, I am testing the more powerful version of the Penuins fitted with the 60amp esc and 2815 1280kv motor and 3 blade GWS 9050 prop. The alternate version includes a 40A esc and 2200 1350kv motor with the same prop. For the remainder of the review, I will refer to the “Penuins” as the “Penguin”.
Wing Area: 36dm/3.9ft2
Motor: M2200 1350kv or M2815 1280kv
ESC: 40A forM2200 or 60A for M2815
Servos: 17g (x3) and 9g (for rudder)
Battery: 3s 2400mH for M2200 or 3S 5000mah for M2815
Weight: .98kg/53.0oz (not including battery or FPV gear)
Static Thrust: M2200 1.5kg/53.0oz or M2815 1.95kg/69oz
Payload: 500-900g/17.7 to 31.8oz (gear besides esc/rx)
Material: EPO Wing and fuselage/ wooden rib reinforcement/ aluminum alloy pipe with carbon joiner
First Impressions and Un-boxing
I can’t say enough about how nicely packaged this bird comes! The first thing you see, after pulling the top layer of cardboard off, is the oversized canopy sticking out through the foam. The canopy is what first got me excited while looking at pictures before it arrived. Typically, cameras are not aerodynamic in nature (think GoPro) but Penguin has a simple solution: put a cover over it!
While fitting everything together for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised by the precision of all of the pieces involved. The servos fit nice and snug into all of their bays and are deep enough to allow double sided tape while still sitting flush with the surface. I am happy to see that this plane is coming stock with quality 17g servos (9g in rudder).With so many models coming stock with 9g servos everywhere, regardless of their capabilities, the Penguin is a breath of fresh air.
Notice above that all control surfaces are not just drilled through to fit the control horns. Each one has its own molded indention and is double sided with wood ply. While holding a wing up to a bright light, you can see that the wing actually has hollow cores in the center; unfortunately, I was not able to get a good picture of this.
The Penguin has a unique, but very useful, landing gear/wheel system. Two large wheels fit into the front of the fuselage (supported nicely with thick wood ply) and one smaller wheel fits in the rear. The front two surprisingly do a decent job of keeping the wings level on rollout from pavement and help it stay on top of the grass rather than sink in. If you do end up flying this from grass, I recommend using some packing tape in layers to help protect the foam from stains and dents. The wings have a “bump” on each side to help protect the wing from pavement rash. I would suggest taping over these as well or add a small plastic wing skid, offered in most hobby shops.
Also notice the downward facing camera bay in the picture. I can confirm that there is enough room in the back to fit a GoPro, but it will be difficult to operate the buttons without an optional remote.
Vacant component space is not a term that is often heard of in the FPV world, but the Penguin definitely has it. It was mentioned that you could probably fit a small shelving unit behind the battery! All joking aside, you should have plenty of room for everything you might be flying with. I had no trouble with a 4400 3s lipo, Dragon Link Rx, Eagle Tree, Vtx and battery, and of course, the ESC. I plan on trying 2 4400's wired in parallel soon.
The FinWing crew really thought the equipment bay through and included Velcro already attached and stapled to wood ply on each side of the fuselage, including the floor panel.
My 36” Dragon Link antenna fits through the tail nicely and follows the rudder servo wire. If you plan on doing the same, I would suggest placing the wire before gluing the two halves together, although it is possible to fish it through afterwards with effort.
Maiden Flight and Onward
I would speak more about the maiden, but it was boring and uneventful. One or two clicks of trim and it was perfect. EPA’s were all set at 100% with no Expo, and after moving the CG back to the factory settings of 3.3in back from the leading edge, I was ready for the first FPV flight, which will be listed at the bottom of the review. I have experimented a bit with some different props and have found that I like a 9x7 2-blade, which has a similar shape and strength to APC style props. This had the Penguin pulling 32 amps at full throttle, according to my Eagle Tree system. While the stock 3 blade prop worked well, I found that I liked the quieter sound and increased strength of the 9x7 a little more. As you can see in the subsequent flights in my video, the Penguin can actually handle light aerobatics as opposed to what the manual states. When flying line of site, the wing seems rock solid and only showed flexing when having some speed pulling back hard. This is shown in the 3rd FPV video. It is a very easy and predictable plane to take off and land; although I have not tried hand launching yet, as it was simply not necessary.
Update - I have been flying the Penguin a lot more and tried a few hand launches. It was very easy to give 50-75% throttle and have it jump right into the air with a good toss.
What I Like
I still can’t get over the wonderful flight characteristics. I can do just about anything I want, including loops, rolls, inverted flight, tight turns, and yet it is still stable enough to be a trainer, in my opinion. I must admit that I expected to add further wing support with more spars, but the stock setup is more than adequate, and I have tested it with fairly high G maneuvers. The landing gear is another pleasant surprise. It is able to take off from relatively thick grass and, of course, black top, while not sacrificing much in the aero department. At the time of this review, I have not installed a pan/tilt module, but I think this will make the use of a canopy much more profound than in my videos. Although I feel that the AP camera bay is a bit of a novelty for my use, I am sure that some of you reading this will love this feature. The tail boom is also very strong when compared to other models in the Penguin’s class.
I would like to see some kind of spar in the horizontal stabilizer to help stop the flex, although I am yet to notice it in the air. As seen in the video, the canopy does have some distortion towards the bottom front and a little along the bottom sides. I am hoping that this can be perfected in later production runs; however, my model’s is more than usable. The one big problem I see with the current configuration is airflow. The designers tried to make this happen with a cutout in the nose and some smaller exits near the motor, but I believe more work is needed after finding my equipment very hot after only cruising at 12-20 amps.
I truly believe that FinWing has hit a home run with the Penguin. They have designed an extremely stable FPV purpose built airframe that is still fun to fly. I am hoping that other companies are paying attention and try to follow suit. With kits and parts available exclusively from ReadyMadeRC.com, the Penguin should prove to be a staple in the FPV world.