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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Gemini RC/Mini-Air Extra 300 Flight Review

INTRO                                                                                   

A new line of Ultra Micro aircraft has hit the streets and is being sold under the names Gemini RC and Mini-Air.  How do these mini me wannbees stack up to more established offerings from Horizon Hobby and Hobbico? 
 
It’s time to find out…
 
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The first question that needs to be asked: are these brands even different from Horizon and Hobbico offerings, or are they just another attempt to create faux competition from shady multi-identity companies like Horizon Hobby fronted E-Flight, Parkzone, Blade Ares, Losi, Athearn, Blade, Dynamite, E-flite, ElectrixRC, Force RC, Hangar 9, HobbyZone, Pro Boat, and Spektrum product lines?
 
The Gemini model I purchased seemed different from established brands in some ways, and similar in others…
 
Not so similar are the instructions, which are minimmanualal and printed on poster-sized paper, instead of Horizon instruction manuals’ usual parade of legal disclaimers mostly devoid of useful RC content.  The servos are not the usual UM linear garbage peddled by Horizon, but could that be a strategy to improve without admitting liability for their existing defunct designs flooding hobby store shelves.  The control rods are more substantial, as are the thicker but similar looking control horns.  Hair thin control rods popping through paper thin control horns is certainly a plane-killing manufacturer defect common to Horizon’s UM line, so it would be a smart thing to finally begin to correct.
 
On the similar side of the Gemini/Mini-air offering, the Gemini website uses the same text format for their product html links, for-example-the-dashed-product-description-html-links-which-oddly-include-the-branding-term-Bind-n-Fly-even-though-the-product-web-site-seems-careful-not-use-that-term.  The models also use an antique, tiny brushed 8.5mm motor, which could be a Horizon strategy to draw down obsolete motor stock.  The built in Rx is Spektrum BNF compatible, and the Gemini website might pay too much homage to Horizon “TM” trademark annotations from my understanding of Chinese manufacturers’ cultural ideal that “borrowing” technology is clever, honorable and legally permissible.  The foam looks similar to Horizon UMs, but that could be because all major brands share the same Chinese roots.  Su-26 recreations certainly do look strikingly similar.
 
General build quality is very much on par with Horizon UMs: Poor, generally toyish junk that doesn’t last.  It is eerily similar in that regard. 
 
The listed distribution centers seem unique to Gemini, but the lack of a listed corporate headquarters makes me wonder if Horizon didn’t learn a hard lesson from my immediate unearthing of their latest consumer scam – the claimed independent Ares RC co-founders -- which I quickly proved were on the Horizon Hobby payroll.  Dishonest scam artists.
 
We know that at least two brands of the same model line exist, which essentially rules out a new single entity emerging the marketplace.   
 
So for now: let’s say, “not enough information” to make a certain call. It sux that one of the larger influences in our RC market place has so little respect for their customers that they often re-release inferior product technology (like 5 cent wimpy brushed motors) using intentionally misleading, phony and deceptive re-branding. 

http://www.geminirc.com/shop/2/images/D/GRC001%20%286%29.JPG

Top:  Gemini RC Extra 300
Bottom: Mini-Air Extra 300

SPECS
- Wingspan: 16.1”
- Length: 15.1”
- Weight: 1.34oz (38g)
- Battery: 1S LiPo

FEATURES 
- Display stand with integral 1S LiPo charger
- Wimpy 8.5mm brushed motor

REQUIRES
- Spektrum or DSM transmitter

PAID
- $70

UPGRADES
- None

ON THE GROUND                                                                   

UNBOXING

Boxpacking


APPEARANCE / FIT N FINISH

 The usual UM experience.  A little too much like Horizon UMs for those seeking something different.

BUILD QUALITY/SETUP

Poor foam quality.  Better servos than typical Horizon Hobby linear garbage, better horns, and rods.  Full foam symmetrical airfoil--nice!  No trace of carbon fiber.

The motor and gear box are very smooth, quiet, and efficient.

GROUND ISSUES

  1. Landing gear wire insert did not fit well into the plastic receptacle.  The gear kept wanting to partially pop out.
  2. Aileron droop on one side was difficult to bend straight due to the springy metal control rod.  25% Trim/Subtrim required.
  3. All three wheels do not spin easily = poor ground handling.

IN THE AIR                                                                              

BLUF

Not enough power.

GENERAL CONTROL

The Extra handled reasonably well for a UM.   Wings have a slight anhedral slant, which is probably a mistake, but overall stability was average to slightly better than average for a micro.

Control throw was excellent in roll, good in pitch, and average in yaw.  50% travel, 5o% expo worked well for low rates in both roll and ptich, with 100%/50% in yaw set for both rates.

The slippery airframe and efficient motor cruises effortlessly on 25% power and 20% nose-up trim.

BALANCE & AEROBATICS

Rolls rate is excellent to outstanding.  Snap rolls are outstanding. 

Loops are strained eggs from a lack of thrust, even when entered from a full speed downhill trajectory. 

Spins are excellent, extending the plane’s love of precisely entered/exited, crisp snap rolls.  Inverted spins are possible but not very flat even with power applied.

Knife edge is mostly uncoupled, with a slight need for down elevator.  There is probably enough rudder authority, but not enough power to maintain altitude on a 90 degree KE.  Bummer.

Hovers are not possible primarily due to a lack of power.  The lack of blown thrust creates marginal to inadequate rudder authority to hold the nose in the vertical on 100%+ throw.

POWER SYSTEM

Weak.  Very efficient.  10 minute flight times on a 150 mAh 1S. 

Serious design flaw: elevator jumps to a down-position upon LVC, causing a guaranteed face plant.  Do not fly the battery to exhaustion.

ADVANCED HANDLING CHARACTERISTICS

Not 3D enabled, though control throws would probably be good enough with more blow. 

Stall behavior is a mixed bag.  The airplane’s stall behavior is actually fairly benign when well coordinated, which requires 30% right rudder during ragged-edge slow flight.  The plane porpoises slightly as the sym airfoil bobs above and below critical AOA.  No airleron is required, there is slight positive roll stability throughout the stall sequence and the plane tracks straight and level.

Minus the right-rudder coordination, expect a slow to moderate snap roll to ensue at the edge of slow flight.

APPROACH AND LANDING

The plane glides nicely with the nose up using a battery-forward CG.  This generally leads to smooth, low power or power-off approaches and well controlled touchdowns. 

The plane is impossible to glide or land after LVC.

INFLIGHT ISSUES

  1. Design flaw:  Plane augers-in after LVC, spinner first.

GRADES                                                                           

Appearance: B
Nice.  Don’t expect stunning.  Narrow stance; odd looking gear.

Aerodynamics: B 
Well mannered and largely uncoupled.  Nice snap rolls and glides. 

Power System: D+
Weak.  Very efficient.  Perfect for a high-wing aileron trainer.

Build Quality/Durability: D+
Typical for a UM.  Quirky LVC behavior: plane goes stupid.

Value:  B
Price is right.   Let down by foam quality and lack luster thrust. 

Overall Grade: C-
Sorry Gemini, thanks for trying!  Low cost.  Significant flaws.

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