Sunday, September 18, 2016

Kylo Ren Helmet - Further Progress

I'm approaching completion of my Black Series Kylo Ren helmet modification. After allowing a few days for my previous painting to fully cure, I set out sanding to correct and further smooth out a few area. I also decided to add some of the scratch details with silver paint, which you can see in the pictures below. I still have some minor adjustments to clean up and then I will add several coats of flat clear coat to protect the final product.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Halloween - Kylo Ren Lightsaber

While my helmet was between coats I decided to start work on a belt hanging prop. I purchased an inexpensive Hasbro telescoping Kylo Ren Lightsaber from Wal-Mart ($13). I started by pulling out the blades and giving it a light sandings so the primer would adhere to the surface. The following pictures depict the progress from primer to finished product; I ended up adding two 17mm sockets wrapped in hockey tape to achieve desired fit in both the top and bottom of the hilt. I've also ordered a 5" leather belt, as well as a 3D printed lightsaber holder and clip, to attach the hilt to the belt.

Applied Ultracote 2X white primer

Applied Rustoleum Metallic Finish paint
Added finishing details to give worn appearance
Reverse details
Details of top (17mm socket visible)

Detail of bottom (17mm socket visible)

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Halloween - Kylo Ren Progress

I've been continuing to make steady progress for my Halloween build of a Kylo Ren costume. After seeing what others have done, I decided to glue the two halves of the helmet together and repaint it. You can see the steps and results over the last few days in the following pictures.
Applied base coat of white primer, sanded, and reapplied
Applied next layer of primer, black semi-gloss
Applied Hammered (Gunmetal) spraypaint (sloppy job covering seams)
Applied clear, matte finish protector
Removed painters tape, some slight pickup on edges

I'm pretty happy with how it has turned out so far, especially considering this is my first undertaking of such a project. There were some slight pickups, scratches, and burrs in the finish, but I plan to use some silver paint to accentuate and give it a scratched steel look. I still have a lot of work to do, but you can see the new features, such as the mesh grill over the eye slit and audio cable, which I use to send audio signals to speaker and transport mic output for processing. I also had a mix up on the robes and tunic for my costume, with the seller sending me these items two sizes too small (measured in accordance with their sizing chart). I've gone and ordered a full-pleated tunic and hope to recieve a new outer robe in the next couple weeks. The 5" wide belt is still proving a bit of a challenge, unless I want to spend some serious money.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Halloween and More: Star Wars Kylo Ren Costume Build

My blog isn't always about work related activities, sometimes I need to focus on fun projects; even if they are design related!
I recently started a new project after stumbling across the Hasbro Kylo Ren Black Series Voice Changer Helmet at a local Toys 'R Us on sale for $59.99. My three-year old and I always play with the inexpensive half-helmet at Target, so I figured why not indulge my geek side. After discussion with the family it was decided this Halloween we would all go with Star Wars themed costumes; my daughter is assembling the components for Rey, my wife is going with a Jyn Erso inspired look, and my son (who LOVES "Bebop") is going for a BB-8 street look. On a side note, we can also use our costumes for the upcoming Star Wars Celebration, which will be held in our hometown of Orlando, as well as side-trips to Walt Disney World (i.e., Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween, sadly no masks allowed).After some research I decided to gut my helmet and replace the stock voice changer, which is plagued by numerous issues, with a couple of options that will support future customization: 1) a trigger-able soundboard loaded with Kylo Ren voice clips, toggle-able (via DPDT switch) 2) aux input, connected to voice modulation.                    
Kylo Ren Helmet Mod
Here is what I have done so far for the modification of my helmet (about $75 for all components):

  1. Removed stock audio board (clipped connections) and wired speaker to an RCA plug (input)
  2. Wired ten momentary (tactile) buttons, power source cable (JST input), and an RCA cable to an Adafruit Audio FX Sound Board (2MB; loaded with trigger *.wav files; see their excellent tutorial for details)
  3. Wired two RCA cables (input and output) and power source cable (JST input) to an Adafruit mono 2.5w amp
  4. Created Y-adapter for power cables (one JST input, two JST output)
  5. Created an "audio toggle adapter" using two RCA cables for input; an RCA cable for output; wired to DPDT switch
  6. Created a USB power adapter; cut one end off USB cable, isolated power and ground, then wired to JST (output)
  7. Modified 3.5mm Apple headphones (with mic) by clipping LEFT earbud off and soldering signal and ground to an RCA (output; very difficult task); also clipped and sealed right earbud
  8. Plug all elements together, as follows:
  • Adafruit Audio FX sound board to audio toggle adapter input 1
  • Apple 3.5mm headphones with mic to audio toggle adapter input 2; slip Apple headphones mic into helmet vocal focus cone (i.e., parabolic dish)
  • Audio toggle adapter output to Adafruit mono amp input
  • Adafruit mono amp output to speaker RCA input (in helmet)
  • Power cable Y-adapter output 1 to Adafruit Audio FX soundboard power input (3-5.5V)
  • Power cable Y-adapter output 2 to Adafruit mono amp (2-5.5V)
  • Connect USB battery to power cable Y-adapter input

I also drilled out holes for each of the buttons (glued into place) in a plastic project enclosure and then placed the amp, audio toggle adapter, and Audio FX sound board inside, with the power adapter input, audio toggle input 2, and amp RCA output leading out through another drilled hole (for connections, as noted above).

For now, I'm using Voice Synth Pro with Willfoxification's [Will Foxwell] Kylo V2.vsp file (check out his great post, adapting Luke Daley's "Voice FX method" here: However, one of the challenges with using this design is the need to leave the iPhone with the screen OPEN (e.g., significant power draw, risk of incoming calls/texts, accidental control engagement, etc.; unless I missed a setting in VSP), so I will also be exploring integration of a hardware-based solution, such as the Velleman Mk171 Voice Changer board, with my setup. I've also added foam to the interior to muffle my voice and am considering permanently bonding my helmet, filling in gaps, and repainting (maybe in the Spring). I'll try to get some videos up exhibiting some of the new helmet features, soon.
Further Costume Details
Initially, I was going for a low-cost costume build (est. $50-100), but I ended up diving in a little more for the background research and was floored by all the options. I eventually ordered what I consider to be a "mid-range" costume" from overseas (approx. $115, including S/H; multiple layers, patterned cloth, etc.), that should be arriving within the week. I also picked up the Toys 'R Us exclusive Kylo Ren Ultimate FX Lightsaber (it's a bit short, but should be Disney World friendly) and have some workable options for my baseline costume (black lace-less boots, gloves, balaclava, etc.). However, as I continue to learn more I plan to upgrade, piece by piece (e.g., full pleated tunic, gorget, Black Series Lightsaber, etc.). I've not decided if I want to go all in and build a 501st certifiable kit yet. For now, I'm happy with what I've been able to accomplish over the last two-weeks since starting down this path: "Forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you it will..." (Yoda, 1980, ESB). Truer words could not be used to describe this endeavor.

A lot of folks have been working on their own Kylo Ren costumes and are amazing contributors to this massive fanbase. If you would like to learn more, I recommend starting with the following:


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

FAA Releases Part 107 and Discusses Details at UAS Stakeholder Telecon

21 June 2016

Part 107 will be enacted 60-days after publication of the rule in the Federal register (5-7 days; late-August)


Related Documents and Materials:  
Paraphrased comments from Marke "Hoot" Gibson
  • Significant day in aviation; fundamental change in aviation
  • Less than 55 pounds, 400 feet above ground level (AGL) maximum altitude, 100mph/87kts, daytime (some accommodation for 30+/- minutes dawn/twilight with lighting), 16 yrs old minimum age, flight only over participants, Remote PIC (control authority), and accident reporting (within 10 days for $500 or more damage)
Paraphrased comments from John S. Duncan
  • Carrying load/cargo permitted (if secured and no adverse impact to flight performance), but only within a State (intrastate operations)
  • Compensation permissible
  • Maximum Gross Takeoff Weight (MTOW) cannot exceed 55 pounds
  • Visual line of sight (VLOS) operations only (unless waiver received for extended or beyond VLOS)
  • Testing to occur at existing knowledge testing centers (for non-Part 61 pilots), otherwise completion of an online course (no student pilots, must be 24mo current in aircraft)
  • Airworthiness certification not required for UAS
  • Part 107 rule does not apply to model aircraft (they follow Special Rule 336)
  • There will be waiver provisions (to permit operations from moving aircraft or vehicle, extended/BVLOS, multiple-UAS, near other aircraft, flight over people, maximum speed/altitude, minimum visibility, and distance from clouds)
  • Section 333s are still applicable (current applicants will be sorted into categories: Tier I – those that fall under 107, Tier II – those covered by waivers, and Tier III - further exemptions that exceed 107 provisions); will help alleviate backlog of current applications (1k+; 90% expected to be covered under Part 107, applicants will be notified of status and any required action, if needed)
  • Micro Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) recommendations (flight over people) are currently being evaluated (see
Questions (abbreviated and paraphrased)
  • Additional detail to be made available at
  • Will operators still need to report under NTSB requirements? Yes
  • What does the FAA define as serious accident or injury? Level 3 or higher (according to abbreviated injury scale)
  • How do Part 61 operators remain current for sUAS? Participate in an online knowledge course every 24mos, will also need to remain current in aircraft
  • Is Part 107 exclusive, how does it interact with Part 91? Most requirements are applicable (copied), otherwise treated as exception in 107
  • Can 333 holders still operate, until exemption expires? Yes, they also have option to choose to operate under 107 (select one). Pending petitions are continuing to be evaluated (by categories) and if applicable, Tier I will be recommended to operate under Part 107; Tier II waiverable petitions will be transferred directly into waiver process (no action needed by petitioner); and Tier III will continued to be processed as 333s.
  • When will Part 61 exam be available? On implementation date (late-August), training course material is available today (no examination, complete course and then apply for certificate)
  • What about operations in non-Class G airspace? Risk-based procedures for operations in airspace are in development (starting with E and D, then C and B).
  • For damage requiring accident reporting, how is $500 defined, does it include sUAS? Damage to aircraft is not included in this total
  • Where will Part 61 knowledge test materials be found? Yes, at
  • Will pesticide application (spraying) be permissible? Part 137 still applies, there is one UAS that has demonstrated this use case
  • Inter/intrastate operations, what is distinction for operations? Intrastate is only applicable for carrying cargo/ external load, otherwise interstate operations permissible
  • Part 61 pilot testing, where will testing be provided? It will not be a test, just completion of an online course
  • Are Aeronautical Test Centers ready now? They cannot give tests until implementation date, they will be ready by date
  • Why was 500ft AGL maximum altitude reduced to 400ft? To provide buffer between general aviation and sUAS operations
  • How does rule prevent unauthorized flight over facilities (e.g., temporary flight restrictions [TFRs])? UAS not permitted to fly in  same areas where manned aircraft are prohibited
  • How does 500ft setback apply? It does not, must ensure no flight over non-participants (people)
  • Would closed set movie making Section 333 (over people) be permissible under 107? Yes, with waiver for flight over people.
  • Any specific provisions for research faculty and post-doctorate at Universities? No specific provisions, but waivers and 333 available to support.
  • Does rule apply to recreational operators not flying under community-based organization (CBO) guidelines? Yes, it applies to all operating outside of special rule 336
  • If a current 333 requests to operate under Part 107, will it be granted? Yes, one or the other
  • Will a licensed pilot need a sUAS rating? Yes, will need to take online training course (available now) and then apply for certificate/rating (available when enacted)
  • Will authorization be required to enter non-Class G airspace? Yes, FAA is developing risk-based procedures and requests will eventually be made through a web-based portal
  • Are notice to airman (NOTAMs) required for routine UAS flights? [NOT ANSWERED]
  • Is there an ability to fly above 400ft and within 500ft of a structure (e.g., tower)? Yes, within 400ft of top of tower (structure)
  • Is there an insurance requirement, similar to part 135? None, no insurance required
  • Are there any provisions for operating near airports outside of controlled airspace? No requirement to coordinate with airport, if in class G, but if any other (B-E) then must not interfere with airport operations (Part 107.43)
  • Is part 61 license at risk, if operating sUAS (UAS certificate or all licenses)? Yes, but it will be dependent on the situation. The FAA will investigate, if operating in irresponsible manner that poorly reflects on aeronautical decision making, FAA will take appropriate action.
  • Will UAS commercial training be allowed (for compensation) under 107? Yes, a non-licensed pilot can operate under supervision of licensed Remote PIC.
  • How are UAS operations in congested areas handled under Part 107? 107 prohibits flight over people (unless waiver approved); exempt from most requirements of Part 91
  • Will FAA form 7711-2 be used for waivers? Yes, but online processes are being built to apply and process (no need to fill out form, FAA will complete on applicants behalf)
  • Will rule allow flights in National Parks? No FAA rules prohibit such operations, but National Park Service prohibits takeoff and landing from their land (same true for any landholder)
  • Should state agencies pursue Part 107 or COA? Will require analysis on part of agency to determine which is preferable
  • Are there any provisions to support University research? Part 107 is less burdensome than existing process, but nothing specific addresses research at Universities
  • What are examples of 333 that are not waiverable under 107? Example, MTOW exceeding 55 pounds
  • Under Part 107 are visual observers required and what requirements will they need to meet? They are allowed, not required
  • Will ATC issue a clearance near airport or will pilot advise of intentions? Under 107, it is not advised, it requires positive authorization. This is currently being worked internally and hope to have application and receipt of approval resolved within the next 60 days (i.e., development of online portal to apply for approval).

Saturday, October 24, 2015

ERAU-W sUAS Buyers Guide - Crowdfunding Campaign

  June Update The ERAU-Worldwide Small UAS Consumer Guide and Operational Test Plan documents are now available. Check them out below. Original Post Help ERAU-Worldwide to develop a comparison and buying guide for small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS). We'll be using your gift to purchase popular consumer platforms and evaluating with a team of students to share critical insight and operational observations with those new to this technology.
To donate and learn more about the campaign visit the following page:

Friday, March 20, 2015

Amazon Awarded Experimental Airworthiness Certificate to Pursue UAS R&D

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has awarded Amazon Logistics, Inc. an experimental airworthiness certificate (also referred to a special airworthiness certificate-experimental category [SAC-EC]; FAA, 2014; 2015) for their UAS design to perform research and development:

The implications of the FAA awarding Amazon Logistics an experimental certificate are far reaching and indicative of the growing collaboration between industry and government. The requirements of the certificate, such as use of certified pilot, aircraft registration and marking, and consistent reporting of flight test metrics (e.g., pilot duty time, malfunctions, deviation from air traffic control [ATC] instruction, and instances of loss of communications) will help the FAA and Amazon better understand how this technology can best be applied in the National Airspace System in a safe manner (Aeronautics and Space, 2004a; 2004b; 2004c; FAA, 2015). This is further evidence of the growing industry need and willingness of government to support the exploration and further development of UAS capabilities, technologies, operational techniques, and safety management strategies. It will be through controlled collaborative research and development efforts, such as this, that we will truly begin to understand how to optimally ensure safety, while still realizing potential efficiency and effectiveness gains in appropriate application (FAA, 2013; 2014; 2015). Read more about this story at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU; 2015) The Globe website:

Aeronautics and Space, 14 C.F.R. §21.191 (2004a).

Aeronautics and Space, 14 C.F.R. §21.193 (2004b).

Aeronautics and Space, 14 C.F.R. §21.195 (2004c).

Amazon. (2014). 2014_07_prime-air_high-resolution02-compressor.jpg [image file]. Retrieved from

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. (2015, March 20). Amazon gains FAA certificate to advance small UAS delivery. The Globe. Retrieved from

Federal Aviation Administration. (2015, March 18). Amazon gets experimental airworthiness certificateRetrieved from

Federal Aviation Administration. (2014). Special airworthiness certificate. Retrieved from

Federal Aviation Administration. (2013). Integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in 
the National Airspace System (NAS) roadmap. Retrieved from