RCU Review: Great Planes Electrifly VFO

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    Contributed by: Burc Simsek | Published: January 2010 | Views: 45500 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon
    RCUniverse.com Review of ElectriFly VFO


    Distributed Exclusively by
    P.O. Box 9021
    Champaign, IL 61822
    Phone: (800) 637-7660

    • Ultra light
    • Very unique
    • Inexpensive

    • Very fragile

    Skill Level:

    Time Required to Build:

    Frustration Level:

    What do these ratings mean?

    When I first saw the VFO advertised, I thought now this is different. I love the simplicity and bang for the buck that foamies provide and when I got the chance to review the VFO, I jumped on the opportunity.

    In one word, the VFO is a totally "unique" foamy. I don't think any other manufacturer offers anything like this. It is advertised as a hybrid that is part plane and part heli. I was amazed to see the VFO being hovered hands off in one of the advertisement videos and thought to myself, I gotta try this.

    The shape reminds me of the XFY-1 Pogo from the 50s although there are no references to the actual aircraft in any of the ads. But enough talk, lets put this foamy together and see what it can do...

    Name: VFO (GPMA1135)
    Price: $34.99
    Wingspan: 26.5 in (675 mm)
    Wing Area: 382 in² (24.6 dm²)
    Length: 29.5 in (750 mm)
    Flying Weight: 9 - 10 oz (255 - 285 g)
    Wing Loading: 3.4 - 3.8 oz/ft² (10 - 12 g/dm²)

    Radio Used: Futaba 7C 2.4GHz w/R6106HF 2.4GHz Rx
    Servos Used: Futaba S3114
    Motor Used: RimFire 300 28-22-1380
    ESC Used: Silver Series 12A
    Channels Used: 5 total - Elevator, Aileron, 2xRudder, Throttle
    Prop Used: 9x4.7 Slo-Flyer
    Recommended Battery(s): ElectriFly 11.1V 300mAh 20C Lipo or ElectriFly 11.1V 640mAh 15C

    Items Needed To Complete
    • Hobby knife
    • Foam safe CA glue and accelerator
    • Various standard shop tools

    The VFO arrives in a double boxed package with components individually wrapped and securely taped down. The four main parts that will form the fuselage/wing are wrapped together and taped down to the bottom of the box. Another small bag contains the pods, and the various bits of foam used to reinforce the fuselage. The carbon fiber pieces used to create the push rods and reinforce the wings are all packaged together. The wooden motor mount, several pieces of Velcro and the control arms are in the last bag. The wings are already beveled and taped helping to cut down assembly time. This build should not take more than a few hours.

    The manual is written and illustrated quite well. Detailed instructions are given on how to setup the proper mixes to achieve dual rudder and quad surface aileron control.

    Additionally, the manual gives specific instructions on how to take off, fly the VFO and land it as it is certainly not your average 3D foamy.

    Manual (729 KB)

    The assembly process involves using foam safe CA and accelerator to frame up the fuselage and glue in the support pieces. The electronics are then installed and control surfaces adjusted before finally fixing the servos and push rods to the required positions.

    The first step in the assembly involves using the pre-cut pieces of foam to reinforce the locations where the control arms will be glued. There are eight pieces in total, which are glued to both sides of the control arm mounting locations. This is followed by gluing another eight small pieces of reinforcement to the trailing edge of the fuselage where the carbon fiber rods are going to be inserted.

    The four pieces of the fuselage/wing are then glued together and the VFO starts taking shape. I used ZAP foam safe CA and accelerator throughout the build and applied glue to one side and wet the other with the accelerator to make a strong bond. I followed this by running a small bead of CA along the joint locations and sealed them with a spray from the accelerator.

    Next, the reinforcement pieces (doublers) for the motor mount are installed. These are already precut and are supplied in four long and four short pieces. The manual is very clear as to how these need to be installed so that they overlap to give a proper fit. The four pods are then prepared by gluing the small carbon fiber strips to the bottom to act as the landing gear.

    The pods are then glued to the fuselage and reinforced with the remaining eight pieces of triangles. Make sure you mark and glue these in symmetrically as the stiffening rods will be later glued to these locations. Any warping will reduce the contact area to which you can apply glue.

    The supplied circular wood motor mount glues directly to the reinforced foam tip.

    The recommended motor for the VFO is the RimFire 300 and requires a bit of prep work before it can be attached to the mount.

    The motor is shipped with the shaft sticking out the back. If you are going to use a prop saver (which I recommend), you will need to remove the collar and C-clips that hold the shaft in and drive it through the motor to the front. You can then attach the rear C-clip and discard the collar.

    The prop saver is then screwed on the shaft and the motor can be attached to the mount using the supplied wood screws.

    The recommended prop is a 9x4.7 Slo-Fly prop. It will require a bit of reaming to seat properly on the prop saver.

    The completed motor mount assembly with prop saver.

    The 12A Silver Series ESC is very light and can be affixed to the fuselage using a small double sided tape. The supplied Velcro strips are used to attach the battery to the bottom of the fuselage.

    Product Highlight
    RimFire 300

    • Diameter: 28mm (1.1 in)
    • Length: 22mm (0.87 in)
    • kV: 1380 rpm/V
    • Constant Watts: 100W
    • Burst Watts: 150W
    • Weight: 27g (0.95 oz)
    • Shaft Diameter: 3mm (0.12 in)
    • Voltage Range: 7.4V-11.1V (2-3S LiPo)
    • Recommended ESC: 12A
    • Prop: 8x4 to 10x4.5 slow flyer

    Silver Series
    • Length: 33mm (1.3 in)
    • Width: 23mm (0.91 in)
    • Height: 6mm (0.24 in)
    • Weight: 14g (0.49 oz)
    • Input Voltage: 6-12 Cells NiCd/NiMh, 2-4 Cells LiPo
    • Output Current: 12A Continuous, 15A Surge
    • Max Output Power: 150 W
    • On Resistance: 0.03 Ohms
    • Operating Frequency: 8.5 kHz
    • BEC: 5V/1.5A
    • Low Voltage Cutoff: Battery Voltage * 0.67
    • Thermal Cutoff: 110°C (230°F)
    • Timing Angle: 12°
    • Brake: On/Off

    11.1V 3S LiPo


    • Capacity: 300 mAh
    • Rated Voltage : 11.1V
    • Continuous Discharge Current: 6A (20C)
    • Dimensions" 52x32x11mm (2x1.3x0.4")
    • Weight: 28.1g (1.0 oz)
    11.1V 3S LiPo


    • Capacity: 640 mAh
    • Rated Voltage : 11.1V
    • Continuous Discharge Current: 9.6A (15C)
    • Dimensions" 66x35x18mm (2.6x1.5x0.7")
    • Weight: 56g (2.0 oz)

    The airframe requires 4 micro servos. The Futaba S3114s are very small, light and provide enough power to meet the demands of the VFO.

    The manual describes how the servos are fitted with the shafts facing down. The servos are not glued until the radio system is set. The control arms are glued in place such that the elevator halves face down and the rudder halves face left.

    The supplied push rods are assembled using two z-bend pieces and two pieces of heat shrink tubing. Do not shrink bottom connection just yet, you will need to adjust the center points first.

    At this point, I turned on the radio and set the directions to make sure that the surfaces would move in the correct fashion. Then I moved the servo arms around to get close to minimal sub trim as possible. The control horns have to be drilled or reamed with a hobby knife to accept the z-bends. Once the servos are centered, the tubing can be heated to shrink it in place.

    The receiver can be installed with double sided tape and the servo wires routed through the pre-cut holes in the fuselage. I used some small pieces of tape to make sure all the wiring was nice and tidy.

    Product Highlight

    • Available with 4 S3152 high-torque servos (FUTK7000/7001); 4 S3004 ball bearing servos (FUTK7002); or 4 S3001 ball bearing servos (FUTK7003)
    • Dial'n KeyTM programming.
    • Airplane/Heli software
    • Assignable switches/functions
    • Up/Down timer
    • Mode 1-4 selectable
    • Large 72x32 LCD screen with adjustable contrast
    • 10-model memory, 6-character model naming
    • Digital trims, trim memory, EPA, subtrims and servo reversing
    • Dual/Triple Rates* (aileron/elevator/rudder)
    • Exponential (aileron/elevator/rudder)
    • Adjustable throttle cut and Fail-safe
    • Simple one-touch binding
    • Size: 0.85 x 1.53 x 0.48" (21 x 39 x 12 mm)
    • Weight: 0.24 oz (6.7 g)

    A big triangle foam piece is supplied to be used as a carpenters square to make sure that the fuselage is assembled true as the carbon fiber support rods are being glued. The carbon fiber rods have to be cut down to length and glued in place. The same is repeated for the upper supports. 

    Once the supports are glued in, the final piece of assembly involves gluing the servos in place. I used a low heat glue gun to fix the servos in place in case I need to remove them. With that, the assembly is complete and we can move on to setting up the radio.

    The VFO is a unique aircraft with two rudders that can also act as ailerons. To achieve proper control surface deflections, radio mixing is required to slave certain channels to each other. I first started out by connecting the channels in the following fashion:

    Channel 1 Left aileron
    Channel 2 Right aileron
    Channel 3 Throttle
    Channel 4 Top rudder
    Channel 5 Bottom rudder

    The first thing that has to be done is to enable the elevon function so that both elevator halves can function as both elevators and ailerons. This is no different than setting up a delta wing.

    Following this, the first mix (MIX1) is used to make sure that the bottom rudder follows the top rudder. I used a mix to set Ch4 as master and Ch5 as slave making sure that the rudders were moving in unison. At this point, you have a flyable VFO. In order to get the max roll rate, the rudders can be slaved to the ailerons.

    To achieve this, two additional mixes are required. One of these mixes (MIX2) controls the top rudder and the other (MIX3) controls the bottom. The second mix uses the Ch1 as master and Ch4 as slave. The third mix is similar except that the slave is Ch5. Assign both mixes to a toggle switch and you are done.

    Before you attempt to fly the VFO, read the manual and watch the available videos to get familiar with how it behaves. The real tricky part is of course the take off and landing.

    I waited for a nice and calm day and took the VFO to a small park for the maiden flight. My first take off was less than stellar. As I gave it throttle to see when the VFO would start getting light, I directly toppled over to the front. The suggested take off method is to take off and immediately get free of the ground effects, which seem to throw the VFO around quite a bit. This is where the prop saver actually saves your flying day.

    For my next attempt, I gave throttle till the VFO got light and immediately pulled up a couple of feet. If you have a helper, it is recommended that you have the helper hold the VFO while you trim it out. I decided to trim it out in flight and it really did not require much of a trim. The VFO is very sensitive to the CG point though. The two recommended batteries (300mAh and 640mAh) cannot be placed in the same location as one is heavier than the other. Before you take out your VFO, mark the locations that the battery gives you a CG 12" back from the nose. In the manual, the diagram that shows the CG almost looks like it is measured from the tip of the propeller, however I found that you should measure from the tip of the motor mount instead.

    Once you get your CG and trim set, the VFO is an absolute pleasure to fly. It hovers very easily and harriers are a breeze to perform and the VFO looks great doing them. I did have to keep my quad aileron mix on all the time as I did not like the roll rate without it.

    If you keep your nose high and manage your throttle, you can cruise around in high alpha all day long at crawl speed. If you decide to drop the nose, be careful as the VFO picks up speed at a fairly high rate.

    Knife edge flight and inverted flight did not really thrill me as much since the airframe is symmetrical and there is really no difference flying on its side than right side up. I must admit that I was initially very disoriented with the VFO due to its symmetry. It is very easy to miss which side is the top especially when trying to perform rolling maneuvers. If I were to build another one, I might consider painting the bottom and top halves in different colors.

    The rudder is very effective. You can perform flat turns with the rudder alone in very tight circles. The loop or more like flip rate is not bad either. I was actually expecting the VFO to flip in place but I was treated to more of a tight loop instead. I might need to increase the throws a bit more.

    Where the VFO really shines is of course hovering and high alpha flight. It is very easy to transition from one to the other and the ailerons are very effective in controlling rolls induced by the torque of the motor.

    Download and Watch in Windows Media Player here

    High Definition
    Standard Definition

    The VFO is easy to build and a blast to fly. I particularly enjoyed watching the VFO go past me nose high at crawling speeds. It was almost like watching something floating underwater. I would not recommend this for a novice as it is not that easy to fly but if you are comfortable with sport flying, just getting into 3D or are looking for something unique, I would say give it a try. 

    It is not without its weak points though. Since the airframe is very light and has a lot of surface area, it does not like even the slightest wind. Landings are a bit hard to get used to but not a problem overall. If you do however drop the airframe even from short distance, expect to break something. I am not sure why there are no horizontal or vertical carbon fiber support rods built into the foam as I think that would help in the overall rigidity especially in the motor mount area. However, if you carry some foam safe CA and accelerator with you, it will not be a hard to get back in the air after a small mishap. 

    The day we recorded the movie for the review was near zero wind, which gave me an idea of how the VFO should handle. I did not get a chance to try the VFO indoors where it is really meant to fly. I expect that the VFO can be flown with a lot more confidence indoors. Also, I was not able to hover the VFO hands off as I was hoping to do so but I may have better luck indoors with no wind and possibly a more tail heavy configuration.

    Overall, I am very pleased with how the VFO turned out and look forward to taking it with me to some indoor flying sessions. The performance vs. price or simply the "fun factor" of the VFO is very high in my opinion. If you are looking for something unique, you might want to give the ElectriFly VFO a try.

    Distributed Exclusively by

    Model Distributors

    2904 Research Rd.
    Champaign IL 61826
    Phone: (217) 398-8970

    Futaba Radios
    Distributed Exclusively by Great Planes Model Distributors
    2904 Research Rd.
    Champaign IL 61826
    Phone: (217) 398-8970

    ZAP and Pacer Adhesives
    Distributed by Frank Tiano Ent.

    3607 Ventura Drive E.
    Lakeland, Florida 33811
    Phone 863-607-6611


    Comments on RCU Review: Great Planes Electrifly VFO

    Posted by: Dsegal on 02/19/2010
    The weights of the two battery packs appear to be reversed.
    Posted by: grp1940 on 02/23/2010
    I have one i am working on! This review is vary helpful! Thank you G. R. Plumley
    Posted by: Burc on 02/24/2010
    Battery information corrected, 300mAh battery is 1oz, 640mAh battery is 2oz.
    Posted by: finis on 03/15/2010
    My VFO was flown inside and outside with the 300mAh battery the flights was fun but 2min.was all the time I got.I did not see a time for each of your flights but mine was sad
    Posted by: Neeeol on 07/24/2011
    Well, for you, undoubtedly a VERY experienced pilot, maybe. For me, I have found that these little foam things are WAY TOO MUCH for my measly skills. I practiced trying to hover this thing for hours. Finally I decided that the time had come to bit the bullet and try to fly it. I IMMEDIATELY lost orientation, it flipped in a way I hadn't predicted, and within 5 seconds of liftoff it was a pile of packing material. It's $35 price tag is deceiving; I now have a 300mAh battery that is of no use to me, plus a motor and ESC that will be too small for anything I will EVER purchase again. I can fly things that look like airplanes. This doesn't qualify. I'm glad you had fun. I had a lot of expense, time spent building and trying to learn to fly this on the simulator. That's all. These sheet foam things have ZERO tolerance for anything but a perfect landing. Add that to wholly off the wall flight characteristics, and you have a perfect recipe for a short life. I'm glad they make them. I envy you guys that can handle these things. I just have to withstand the temptation.
    Page: 1
    The comments, observations and conclusions made in this review are solely with respect to the particular item the editor reviewed and may not apply generally to similar products by the manufacturer. We cannot be responsible for any manufacturer defects in workmanship or other deficiencies in products like the one featured in the review.

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