When it comes to large fixed-wing FPV aircraft, the Skywalker T-tail series of planes are renowned amongst enthusiasts for their great combination of performance, design and value. The Skywalker planes are available in several variations with different fuselages and wingspans ranging from 1680mm to 1900mm. In this review I am building the popular Skywalker 1900 (also known as the “SW190”) airframe, featuring an Eagle Tree Systems Vector flight controller and ReadyMadeRC camera pan/tilt platform. Read on to see the build process and the maiden flight!
The Skywalker 1900 model is manufactured by Skywalker Technology Co., Ltd of Hong Kong, and sold by numerous retailers worldwide. The plane is only manufactured in kit form, which means all electronics (motor, servos, etc.) must be purchased separately. The airframe shown in this review was bought from HobbyKing during their Spring Sale event for £50.82, not including delivery costs. The current typical price when not on sale is around £68.
The Skywalker 1900 has a wingspan of 1900mm, a length of 1180mm and an airframe weight of 1.05kg. The “all up” weight of a completed SW190 will range between about 1.5kg to 3kg, depending on the chosen components. One of the reasons I decided to build a Skywalker 1900 was that the power system requirements are very similar to the HobbyKing Sky Eye glider - which I wanted to replace - so was able to recycle several parts from that plane to build my Skywalker 1900.
The completed plane as built and reviewed here had the following specifications:
- Skywalker 1900 FPV glider airframe kit (via HobbyKing)
- Eagle Tree Systems Vector flight controller/OSD (via HobbyKing)
- Eagle Tree Systems micro temperature sensor (via RC-Log)
- Eagle Tree Systems Vector airspeed expander with Pitot tube (via RC-Log)
- Eagle Tree Systems Vector brushless motor RPM Sensor V2 (via RC-Log)
- MultiStar 4S 10000mAh 10C battery (via HobbyKing)
- Turnigy Plush 60A ESC (via HobbyKing)
- 4-Max PPPO-3536 910 KV motor (470 watt) (via 4-Max)
- TGS Precision Sport 9x6 propeller (via HobbyKing)
- FatShark 700 TVL CCD PAL camera (via HobbyKing)
- 6x Hitec HS-65HB Karbonite micro servos (via HobbyKing)
- ReadyMadeRC Skywalker pan and tilt camera platform (via RC-Log)
- ImmersionRC 5.8GHz Video Transmitter (via HobbyKing)
- ImmersionRC SpiroNet V2 Antennas (via HobbyKing)
- Self adhesive LED strips (via HobbyKing)
- Fluorescent orange Solar Film covering (via local dealer)
- Hitec Aurora 9X Radio Control Transmitter (via local dealer)
- Hitec Optima 9 Radio Control Receiver (via local dealer)
Eagle Tree System’s Vector flight controller is a complicated and feature packed system that really deserves its own standalone review and I plan to publish one at a later date. Capable of controlling both fixed wing and multirotor aircraft, the Vector flight controller provides flight stabilisation, autopilot, telemetry and a highly customisable colour on-screen display for FPV flying. I purchased my Vector from HobbyKing as they had the best price I could find - delivery took a couple of weeks but it was worth the wait.
The ReadyMadeRC Skywalker Pan/Tilt Pod used in this build is covered in-depth in my separate review here, so I will not go in to too much detail on the pod here. Feel free to check out that review before continuing with this one.
The Skywalker 1900 plane arrived from HobbyKing two days after placing my order on their website. The model is packaged and shipped in a heavy-duty cardboard box with an illustration of the Skywalker printed on the outside.
The wing and fuselage halves are packed within individually sealed bubble-wrap bags, placed loosely inside the box (as is the horizontal stabiliser). Even though these parts were not secured in position or taped down, there is not much free space available for them to move around during transit. I was pleased to find that there was no damage to any of the parts and nothing appeared to be missing from the kit.
In addition to the EPO foam pieces, two fibreglass rods and a small bag of parts required to complete the plane were taped to the inside of the box. As seen in the photograph below, two flat fibreglass wing spars are held in each wing piece with paper tape. There was also a large decal sheet (not pictured) with various logos and graphics which can be optionally applied to the model.
The photograph below shows the contents of the accessories pack, which was as follows:
- Six rubber bands (for fitting the wing)
- Two small fibreglass rods (for anchoring the wing bands)
- Two tubes of unbranded foam-safe glue
- Two servo extension cables (for rudder/elevator servos)
- Four control horns and linkage stoppers
- Four control linkage rods
- Laser cut plywood parts - motor mounting, canopy and tail retainers
It was a little disappointing that there were no control surface accessories for the wing flaps included, as most builders will want to use flaps with such a large aircraft.
All of the Skywalker T-tail planes feature an unusual split fuselage design where the two halves must be glued together during assembly. This does make the assembly process a little more complex, but affords the builder complete freedom in access to the fuselage when installing equipment. As long as a little forward planning is taken in to consideration during the build process, this is a useful design feature.
Looking towards the rear of the aircraft, the horizontal stabiliser slots in to the top of the tail, where two plywood plates on opposite sides are bolted together. This makes the horizontal stabiliser removable for storage and transport, but appears to be the main structural weak point of the airframe.
On the wing, the flaps and ailerons are marked out with grooves but not pre-cut. As the average Skywalker build is going to be relatively heavy with a large battery payload, buying the extra parts needed to use the wing flaps is highly recommended.
The Skywalker is sold with no decals or paint applied to the EPO foam fuselage, giving the builder complete freedom in customising the fuselage design. The foam finish is smooth and of good quality. It is possible to paint the Skywalker, provided a foam safe spray paint is used, as EPO foam does not mix well with solvents normal paint.
I started the construction process by assembling the ReadyMadeRC Skywalker pan/tilt pod kit. A basic foam canopy is provided with the Skywalker fuselage if an after-market camera platform is not being used. There are also 3D printed camera platforms available on website such as Thingiverse.
Assembly of the laser cut plywood kit was very straight forward, using cyanoacrylate and epoxy resin glue. Two servos are required, one for each direction of camera movement. There is space at the rear of the pod for installation of a FPV video transmitter or dedicated FPV battery. I chose the FatShark 700 TVL CCD camera for this build, which is a perfect fit for the camera mounting plate provided with the pod. The pod is fixed to the fuselage using the same thumbscrew mechanism that is provided for the standard foam canopy.
I added 10cm extension leads to both servos and then soldered a custom cable harness for the camera (for connecting to the Vector’s camera socket). To finish the pod I applied some model fuel-proofing spray, which provides a weatherproof lacquer coating.
With the camera pod completed, I turned my attention to the actual Skywalker kit by assembling the main wing. The wing comes in two halves, just under one metre long each. These halves are joined together using two hollow fibreglass rods. The instruction manual says that the wing halves can either be permanently glued together, or kept separate and only combined at the flying site for easier transport. The way the wing is held together and joined to the fuselage did not leave me feeling confident keeping the wing as two parts, so I decided to glue the rods and wings together using Deluxe Material’s Foam-2-Foam glue. I’m a big fan of this glue and always prefer using it over the no-name foam glues that are included with many model kits.
Once the glue had cured I added some fibreglass tape around the area where the two wing halves meet and then along the leading edges of the wing for reinforcement. Having joined the wing parts together I then glued in the included fibreglass reinforcement strips along the top of the wing surface, which sit in two precut channels.
Both the aileron and flap surfaces needed to be cut free with a sharp knife, and then I fitted the four Hitec HS65-HB servos in to the precut recesses. I found that these recesses were a perfect size for the Hitec micro servos. I decided to permanently fix the servos using ZAP 5 minute epoxy resin glue for maximum reliability.
I then proceeded to set up the control surface linkages for the wing, using the included aileron hardware and some additional hardware I had in the parts bin for the flaps. The rods and horns included in the Skywalker kit are of good quality, using very stiff metal and plastic materials. Small Allen-head grub screws are used to fix the position of the servo horn to the rod. A small amount of blue threadlock (such as this one from HobbyKing) is a sensible addition here for safety. I found using the innermost servo hole and outermost control horn hole provided more than enough surface travel.
The wing includes precut channels for the servo leads from the servo recesses to the centre of the wing. There is an enlarged area towards the middle of each channel to accommodate the plug/socket of a servo extension cable, which is a nice design detail. Once I was happy with the servo installation I secured the servo leads in the channels using some clear tape.
It isn’t shown in the photos here, but I added 2mm carbon-fibre rods to the aileron and flap control surfaces to increase their rigidity as the EPO foam hinges are very stiff and the surfaces were not moving evenly. In retrospect it would have been better to fully cut out all of the control surfaces and reattach them using plastic hinges.
As can be seen in the final wing assembly pictures below, I chose to cover the entire wing using fluorescent orange SolarFilm covering film. This was not only to make the wing stronger and more resistant to ‘hangar rash’, but also to improve the visibility of the plane. Making the plane easier to see increases the safe and legal distance at which I can fly the plane when operating with an observer. I used a ProLux heat shrink iron purchased from eBay to apply the film, working on one half of the wing at a time. The covering process required about four metres of film and took several hours, but I’m very pleased with the final result.
Putting the wing to one side, it was then time to concentrate on assembling the fuselage and installing the various electronic components. Due to the clamshell design of the fuselage, it is necessary to route much of the internal wiring before the fuselage can be glued together. To help with this, I created the wiring diagram shown below:
As shown above, the Vector flight controller sits in the centre of the flight electronics setup, connected to almost all of the other components. This enables the extensive telemetry and ‘fly by wire’ capabilities of the aircraft.
One particularly innovative feature of the Vector flight controller is the use of a ‘wiring harness’ system which not only allows the unit to be swapped between different models, but also standardises the wiring of all connected devices using normal 3-pin servo connectors. Within the main harness are different connectors to select between either 5 or 12 volt power supplies for the FPV camera and video transmitter. This did however require quite a lot of soldering work to have the correct connector types on the various accessories.
The Hitec radio control receiver is connected to the flight controller, using a dedicated harness cable provided with the Vector. It is also connected directly to the flap servos, as the Vector does not typically control these, and the two pan/tilt camera servos. I had to use ‘Y’ cables for both the flap and aileron servos due to channel limitations on both the receiver and Vector respectively. In order to make the flaps move in the same direction, I made use of a ‘servo reverser’ on one of the flap servo leads.
As I currently do not have ‘head tracking’ capable equipment, the pan/tilt servos are simply linked in to slider controls on my radio control transmitter. With the correct radio control and ground station equipment, it is possible to have the pan/tilt cameras move automatically when the pilot moves their head on the ground. This is certainly something I will want to try with this plane in the future.
The photo below shows the electronics installation and wiring nearing completion.
In addition to the main compartment, there is also a smaller compartment directly under the wing. The instruction manual suggests locating the electronic speed controller in this area, but it turned out to be the perfect home for the Vector flight controller unit due to its proximity to the centre of gravity. Various cable and cooling channels in the foam make routing much of the wiring in to this area quite straightforward.
Behind the canopy section is a small recess designed for a pan/tilt camera servo. As I was placing my camera on the ReadyMadeRC FPV pod canopy, this was the perfect location to fit the Vector’s GPS and magnetometer sensor unit, requiring only very minimal foam modification. This sensor unit must be placed away from any high current wiring, motors or transmitters to avoid interference with the compass and GPS functionality.
There are two small holes on either side of the nose and a larger hole at the rear of the main compartment which provide air cooling. Even when mounting it in the bottom of the main compartment as I have done with this build, I found the ESC did not get hotter than about 35° Celsius, which is perfectly acceptable.
The above photo shows a closer view of the finished electronics installation in the fuselage. I used some paper masking tape in a few areas to protect wiring from glue when joining the two fuselage sections. Even with all of this equipment there was still plenty of space left in the main compartment. I kept various wires and components in position using a combination of tape, velcro and hot glue.
The 60 ampere rated ESC is mounted at the lower rear of the main compartment, with the three motor leads exiting the fuselage towards the motor through the rear cooling vent. Temperature and RPM sensors connected to the Vector unit are attached to the speed controller.
I used a short USB male to female extension lead to route the Vector’s USB connection from inside its compartment to the rear of the fuselage body for easy connection to a computer. Also visible in the above photo is a 12 volt switching regulator spliced in to the Vector’s power unit to provide a dedicated supply for ancillary equipment such as external LED strips.
Moving to the tail of the aircraft, the elevator and rudder servos are pushed through precut holes in the vertical stabiliser and kept in place with epoxy glue. The kit includes two long servo extension cables which are placed in a precut channel between the main compartment and the tail.
For maximum RF separation I decided to mount the FPV video transmitter on the empennage, so routed two additional servo leads through the hollow boom reinforcement tube. This provided power, ground, audio and video wires for connecting the Vector unit to the video transmitter, and a separate 12V supply for accessories such as LEDs. There is a small flat area on the tail boom intended for mounting the FPV transmitter, but I felt it was a little too close to the motor and propeller.
I had now reached the point where it was time to marry the two fuselage halves. After a couple of ‘dry runs’, I ran a generous bead of Foam-2-Foam glue around the mating surfaces of the fuselage and pressed the two halves together. I used some small plastic C-clamps and temporary use of fibreglass tape to maintain pressure on the glue while it cured.
I was initially concerned that getting accurate alignment of the two halves could be difficult, but the manufacturing tolerance on the foam moulding was very good and there was no difficulty in lining up the two halves before the glue started to ‘grab’.
With the fuselage now joined together I fitted the air speed sensor’s pitot tube and attached the Hitec receiver antennae to the fuselage. Using HobbyKing coloured LED strips I added red and green ‘navigation lights’ to either side of the fuselage. I also glued the two rubber band anchor rods in to the fuselage using a generous amount of ZAP ‘5 minute’ epoxy glue.
With the fuselage assembled much of the electronic components become difficult to access or even view. However the Vector unit is readily accessible in the upper compartment. Although the wing has a foam protrusion which slots in to this compartment, there is still plenty of space available for excess servo leads when the wing is fitted.
One of the last major assembly steps is the motor installation. The standard Skywalker design approach is to screw the motor housing to the plywood base plate and glue it to the fuselage. The problem with this approach is it is then effectively impossible to service or replace the motor, because the screws are underneath the plywood plate. To avoid having this problem in the future, I used a 4-Max motor cage which keeps the motor in an accessible position.
Using a small brush to apply plenty of glue, the plate was secured using more ZAP ‘5 minute’ epoxy. Once cured this provided a rock solid motor mounting. One minor disadvantage to adding the cage and moving the motor backwards is it will make the Skywalker slightly harder to balance.
Shown above is another angle of the motor installation. Also visible is the optional side access hatch on the fuselage, which can be cut out to provide maintenance access to the electronics compartment. As I don’t intend to access this area very often, I decided to retain the hatch by taping each side to keep it in position.
The horizontal stabiliser is fixed to the boom section by two long screws. These press together plywood plates glued to the stabiliser and inside the tail boom. In theory the stabiliser is removable for easier storage and transport, but I felt the standard design was not very strong and would flutter/move too easily in flight, so also glued the stabiliser in position. I then used some extra control horns and rods to create a brace structure between the bottom of the tail and the horizontal stabilisers. I saw this idea presented in an online forum thread and it worked very well. Keeping an equal tension on each brace is important to avoid the tail being skewed out of alignment.
The FPV video transmitter was fixed to the stabiliser using self adhesive Velcro and a zip-tie through the foam. Whilst the plane flew well in its maiden flight, I plan to remove some of the foam in this area, to sink the transmitter in to the foam and reduce drag.
Applying some of the decal stickers included in the kit completed my Skywalker build. I found balancing the plane on the recommended centre of gravity necessitated the use of a very large battery (4S 10,000mAh) and approximately 60 grams of lead in the nose. It would have been easier to balance if the video transmitter was not mounted on the tail and in hindsight it may have been a better idea to mount the unit on the end of one of the wings.
With the plane fully assembled, I found the RMRC pan/tilt pod was a very good fit for the fuselage.
Overall this was quite a significant build project, but the Skywalker 1900 airframe has been well designed and made the whole process fairly painless.
After spending a number of hours studying the Vector flight controller manual to set up the plane, it was time for the maiden flight. Although the completed model is rather heavy, the two metre wing span provides enough lift to comfortably climb to cruising altitude after take-off at about 85% throttle. I’m glad that I chose to use the optional wing flaps, as these make a noticeable difference when taking off. All of my flights so far have been hand launched by an assistant, but self-launching should be possible too.
Initially I flew the Skywalker with the Vector stabilisation disabled to test the ‘raw’ flight characteristics of the plane and make sure the control surfaces were correctly set. Even with no stabilisation, I found the Skywalker to perform very well, with stable handling and a predictable stall characteristic. With the Vector’s stabilisation enabled the plane flies with incredible accuracy even in strong winds.
I determined my Skywalker build to have a respectable stall speed of 18mph (measured air speed), with a normal cruising speed around 25-30mph. At these cruising speeds the current draw was around 5A, which bodes well for maximum flight times. In terms of agility, the Skywalker is certainly no acrobat, but can perform tight turns and climb steeply if required.
With the 10000mAh battery I selected for this build, I estimate flights in excess of 1 hour in time or 50km in total distance should be readily achievable.
The video below from this Skywalker’s maiden flight gives a good demonstration of the flying characteristics.
The Skywalker 1900 is an excellently designed airframe ideally suited to long endurance FPV flying. The large wing area provides plenty of lift and stability, and allows for the use of large capacity battery packs and plenty of electronics. When used with a stabilising flight controller, this is generally an easy plane to fly, but ultimately still an advanced level model for experienced fixed wing pilots already familiar with FPV systems and kit building.
The design of the plane has been very well thought out by Skywalker Technology Co., with numerous FPV specific design enhancements around the airframe. Assembly of the split fuselage design works very well and makes equipment/wiring installation easier than normal. One minor drawback to the design is the permanent motor mounting system whereby the motor screws are entombed in glue, making it impossible to service/remove the motor. This can be mitigated by using a motor cage as I have done in this build.
The large size of the plane can make transport and storage difficult, particularly if the two wing halves are permanently joined together. The T-tail is quite fragile and worth reinforcing with diagonal fibreglass spars or servo rods. This will not only make transporting the plane a little safer but also reduce tail flutter when flying at high-speed.
Balancing the plane correctly on the centre of gravity can be a challenge, particularly if using smaller batteries and/or placing equipment (e.g. video transmitter) on the tail. When selecting a battery for the Skywalker it is important to keep in mind the plane is designed for high-capacity batteries (over 8000mAh). Using additional spare batteries as dead weight may be necessary.
If you are in the market for a large electric FPV plane with plenty of equipment space and long flight endurance then this plane is definitely worthy of very serious consideration. Having reviewed this plane it is clear to me why the Skywalker series of FPV planes are so popular within the hobbyist community. Keep in mind that there are several different versions of the Skywalker plane available - the Skywalker 1900 as seen here, the Skywalker 1680 V6 and Skywalker Revolution 1720 - each with their own subtle differences. Similar popular planes also worth a look are the HobbyKing Quanum Observer and the MyTwinDream. If you’re interested in something a little smaller, check out my Mini Skywalker review.
- Skywalker 1900 Product Manual (PDF)
- Eagle Tree Vector Flight Controller HobbyKing Store Page
- Eagle Tree Vector Systems, LLC Website
- Skywalker 1900 Product Thread (RCGroups)
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