The Mini Skywalker plane offers the proven Skywalker T-tail model in a miniaturised format. Made from the same EPO foam material as its big brother, the Mini Skywalker is a handy small parkflyer platform with just enough space to accommodate FPV equipment. The plane is only sold in kit form, so in addition to the airframe a complete powertrain must be added. In this article I build and fly a Mini Skywalker to see how it flies.
The Mini Skywalker reviewed here was bought from HobbyKing for £10.47 not including shipping fees. This is a little less than the usual price as it was purchased during the HobbyKing Spring Sale.
The kit format of the Mini Skywalker means that the motor, ESC, servos, propeller and any optional FPV equipment all need to be purchased separately in addition to the Skywalker airframe. This has the advantage of letting each Mini Skywalker owner customise their plane to a greater extent than with a typical ‘plug-n-fly’ model. There is a large amount of information available regarding suggested power setups on both the HobbyKing product page and the RCGroups.com forum posting for the Mini Skywalker.
The Mini Skywalker has a wingspan of 840 mm, with a length of 590 mm and a flying weight of 250-400 grams (depending on chosen components).
With this build I have used HobbyKing’s recommended accessories with the goal of keeping the overall build cost to a minimum. The completed plane as reviewed used the following components:
- 1x Turnigy Plush 12A ESC (via HobbyKing)
- 1x Turnigy Park300 1600kv brushless outrunner motor (via HobbyKing)
- 1x Master Airscrew 6x4 3-blade pusher propeller (via HobbyKing)
- 3x HXT500 6.2g micro servos (via HobbyKing)
- 1x AOMWAY Mini 5.8GHz transmitter and 600 TVL camera combo set (via HobbyKing)
- 1x Boscam 5.8GHz Cloud Spirit circular polarized antenna (via HobbyKing)
- 1x Turnigy NanoTech 1300mAh 3S 45C LiPo Pack (via HobbyKing)
- 1x HobbyKing Discovery Buzzer (via HobbyKing)
- 1x Hitec Minima 6E 2.4GHz radio receiver (via local dealer)
- 1x Carbon fibre rod material for reinforcement (via local dealer)
The Skywalker arrived on time from the local HobbyKing warehouse in a small brown cardboard box. The foam parts were shipped inside sealed bubble-wrap bags, placed loosely inside. In addition to the fuselage and wing sections, there was also a self-adhesive decal sheet and accessory pack.
The accessory pack consisted of the servo rods and horns, canopy magnet, plywood motor mount, elastic wing bands and servo extension leads. There are no printed assembly instructions included, but there is a PDF manual available on the HobbyKing website (link below). The photos below show the Mini Skywalker as it was shipped (click to enlarge):
If you have experience with the full-size Skywalker 1900 airframe, you’ll find the assembly process very familiar - despite some subtle differences such as the motor being mounted on the wing instead of the fuselage. Just like its big brother, the fuselage is split in two halves and must be glued together. The wing is secured with elastic bands and the horizontal stabiliser is glued on to the top of the vertical stabiliser. A recess inside the tail boom accommodates a hollow glass fibre rod to add stiffness. The designers have done a great job of capturing the essence of the full-sized Skywalker design, while making some well thought out adjustments necessary to accommodate the smaller size.
To start the assembly I mounted the Turnigy Park 300 motor to the plywood mounting plate. As HobbyKing list this motor in their recommended accessories section on the Mini Skywalker product page, I was expecting the motor to be a direct fit, however this was not the case. The first issue was that the mounting holes pre-drilled on the plywood did not align with the larger hole spacing on the base of the motor. The plywood plate was only just large enough to fit the required mounting holes. The motor shaft needed to be reversed as it is designed to be mounted in a forward facing position. Also no motor mounting screws were included with either the plane or the motor so these needed to be sourced separately. A small amount of tape was positioned over the hole in the centre of the plywood to keep the glue out of the motor when being fixed to the wing. The instruction manual makes reference to the AX 1806N motor, also sold by HobbyKing, which would have been an easier option over the Park 300.
I soldered some small bullet connectors to the motor and ESC wires, which are necessary to be able to fully remove the wing due to the location of the motor. A Turnigy Plush ESC Programmer Card was used to check the settings of the 12A ESC and enable the brake function. Enabling the brake function is generally a good idea as it allows the aircraft to glide with less drag compared to a free-wheeling propeller when the throttle is cut.
Next I freed up the control surfaces and secured the control horns using epoxy glue. I also took the opportunity to glue on 2mm carbon fibre rod material to increase the rigidity of the elevator and ailerons. There are several reports online of excess flex in the elevator surface when there is no reinforcement, so this is a worthwhile additional step. I used some more carbon fibre rod material to reinforce the vertical stabiliser as shown in the photos below (click to enlarge):
These photos show the completed wing assembly, which unlike the full size Skywalker is a single piece of foam. Installation of the HXT500 servos and motor is straight forward, being secured in place with more epoxy glue. Double-sided tape would work well here as an alternative to gluing the small servos in position. Having the motor permanently fixed to the wing could cause maintenance issues in the future, but the aircraft is too small to consider adding a motor extension cage. As I do with all my foam models, some fibre reinforced tape was applied to the leading edges and tips of the wing for reinforcement.
After completing the wing I fitted the elevator servo at the rear of the plane and routed the servo lead to the main compartment. Due to the small size of the tail boom the standard practice with this plane is to glue or tape the elevator servo lead to the exterior of the plane. The included control rods do not have clevises and are simply bent over at each end of the linkage.
There are many reports of Mini Skywalker pilots finding the rudder to have very poor yaw authority, so I decided to save some weight and not install a rudder servo. In theory such a small plane should be able to fly perfectly well without a rudder control surface.
Having carefully selected very small radio and FPV components, installation of the flight electronics inside the fuselage was simple. I chose to use a combination of hot-glue and Velcro to secure these parts to the side wall underneath the wing. The AOMWAY video transmitter supports a wide input voltage so can be connected directly to a 2S or 3S LiPo battery without the need to squeeze in a separate power regulator. Cutting a small recess in the foam allowed the Boscam Cloud Spirit 5.8GHz antenna to neatly protrude through the fuselage. The HobbyKing Discovery Buzzer and Hitec Minima receiver round out the electronics payload. Even when fully assembled the buzzer provides a strong locator noise despite some of the negative feedback on the HobbyKing product page.
The two fuselage halves were then clamped and glued together using Deluxe Materials Foam-2-Foam glue.
To complete the Mini Skywalker build, I attached the wing with the included rubber bands and connected the motor to the ESC wires. The photos below show how the FPV camera was hot-glued to the top of the canopy. The airframe can handle a good amount of weight on the front end with the Turnigy 1300 mAh Nano-Tech battery providing just enough mass to balance the plane on the recommended centre of gravity point (35mm from leading edge of wing).
The flight characteristics of the Mini Skywalker are very different from the docile Skywalker 1900. The aircraft has fast ‘sporty’ performance capable of long vertical climbs and tight banking manoeuvres. As with many small planes it has a tendency to tip stall quite easily at lower speeds, so maintaining a good air speed throughout every flight is important. Adding some DIY vortex generators to the wing would improve this behaviour. Gliding at altitude in the right conditions is possible for short durations but when close to the ground I found myself flying under at least 40% throttle. The FPV system makes flying close to trees and other obstacles great fun.
I experimented with several battery sizes and found that the 1300mAh and 1500mAh sizes flew the best. I tested smaller 850mAh and 610mAh 3S batteries which worked but would benefit from either some ballast or relocating the elevator servo to the main body area. Some pilots on the RCGroups forum reported good success with 2200mAh batteries but these would be a very tight fit requiring mounting much of the flight electronics on the outside of the fuselage.
When using a 6” propeller the clearance between the propeller disc and tail boom is only a couple of millimetres, so making sure the wing is very securely attached is really important to avoid cutting in to the foam under high G-force manoeuvres.
Here is the maiden flight video taken from my FatShark Dominator V2’s onboard DVR:
Overall this is a really brilliant airframe for such a low cost. The airframe has been well designed and manufactured to a good standard by Skywalker Technology Co.,Ltd. The motor and ESC types are similar to what would be used on a 250-sized quadcopter which potentially makes this a very cheap build if you have some spare quadcopter parts collecting dust at home.
The flight characteristics and the kit format mean the Mini Skywalker is best suited to intermediate to advanced level pilots. One downside to this plane was that without the rudder any damage or twisting of the tail boom introduces adverse yaw which cannot be trimmed out. If you’re looking for a small and portable plane you might also want to consider a flying wing such as the HobbyKing Bonsai or Team Black Sheep Caipirinha.
The Mini Skywalker certainly gets my stamp of approval and I’ll be keeping this new addition to the fleet close at hand for some time to come.
- Skywalker Technology Co.,Ltd Website
- Mini Skywalker HobbyKing Store Page
- Mini Skywalker Assembly Manual (PDF)
- Mini Skywalker Owners Forum Thread (RCGroups)
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