As the talented group of staff members sat around the Airsoft Insider offices, also home to several other hobby publications such as RC Driver, Fly RC and Robot magazine, we thought long and hard about cool things to put in the magazine. As we sat there brainstorming it dawned on us. We were sitting in offices full of RC technology, why were we not trying to incorporate this with airsoft? So… we did. We dreamt up a First Person View Radio Control Assault Truck, a truck equipped with an airsoft rifle that could be driven by radio control into enemy territory from a safe zone with everything viewable through video transmitted back to a monitor. The technology is there, we just had to get it all together and we did.
So we were going to build a radio control vehicle to drive out to enemy territory and lay down fire. The vehicle would need to be rugged, fast, able to climb hills or over rough terrain, possibly plow through mud and streams and more importantly, it had to carry an airsoft AEG and a camera system on its back. With such big demands, we instantly knew we could turn to one vehicle to do the job, a Traxxas Summit.
The Traxxas Summit is available in most hobby stores and is a true all-terrain machine. It is also a favorite among RC enthusiasts for bash and play action. The Summit is a large four-wheel drive monster-type truck with a powerful, waterproof, brushed motor and speed control to put the power to the front and rear ends. What’s really unique about this truck is its driveline. The driver can lock the differentials on the go via a switch on the radio to get up and over more treacherous terrain. The driver can also shift the transmission from the radio system into a high or low gear ratio. The low gear ratio will allow the Summit to crawl over obstacles and up hills and in high gear, where it reaches speeds of over 30mph, it can certainly outpace any person on foot. The revolutionary, rocker-style suspension system gives the truck insane amounts of travel and the tires are ready to tear up the ground. The ultra-tough chassis holds two 5000mAh LiPo batteries that are included with the truck for plenty of power and runtime. Topping off the truck is a wild SUV-like body with an exoskeleton cage. This truck looks serious and pumps out serious performance.
We had to get creative to mount an AEG to the truck since we couldn’t just duct-tape it to the body. For a solid mounting point, we installed a powder-coated steel roll cage from VG Racing to the chassis with the supplied mounting hardware. Once it was installed, we gave it a test by literally standing on top of the cage and truck. It was solid! Now we had a sturdy frame that would support an AEG to bolt a gimbal to. We installed high torque servos in the gimbal so it could maneuver the AEG. Now we had to find an AEG to install. We turned to Crossman for a Game Face GF76 because it was lightweight and had plenty of firing power for what we were looking to accomplish. We tore down and chopped up the GF76 while mounting the magazine inside the cage and running a tube up to the gearbox to feed it.
With our truck and weapon system mocked up, we turned to the FPV (First Person View) system. Looking around the offices again, we stumbled upon a Walkera FPV radio, receiver and camera system. This system has a screen right on the radio to see the action. So what we decided to do was to have a two-man control unit, one to drive with the 2.4GHz radio system that came with the truck and the other to control the gun and gimbal with the Walkera radio system. Both would look at the screen for driving and firing. We mounted the camera to the gimbal and placed the receiver and power pack inside the body; mounting the camera on the gimbal gave us the best view for both jobs.
Now that our Attack Truck looked like something, we tore it back down for a little more customization. We sprayed the stock chrome rims, chrome bumper hoop and roll cage with DuPont bed liner spray. Having a truck with shiny, chrome, attention-grabbing components didn’t seem like a good fit for the truck’s intentions. We also stripped the exoskeleton off of the body, primered over the wild graphics and then added our own camo pattern on the outside in a Lexan-compatible paint so the truck looked more like a military machine than a wild fun truck. When all of the paint finally dried, we reassembled the truck and headed to the field to get a handle on how our build would work.
IN THE FIELD
Needless to say, showing up at the filed with a radio control truck equipped with an AEG grabbed a lot of attention; we just hoped it wouldn’t grab a lot of attention during a skirmish. After a group was done checking out our build, we tested the truck out away from the action.
First, driving the truck from a small screen in a first person view was a little more difficult than we expected. It can be done and done well, but a lot of prior practice will be required. You’ll also want to take into account the terrain and what the truck is capable of conquering. The whole point of the build was for the truck to go out and be our firepower and that just won’t work if you flip the truck over on a bump or rock before you get to your target.
With some driving time under our belt, we tried to fire on a few select trees while the truck was out of sight. The gunner would basically take over the screen to shoot, leaving the driver to wait for the maneuver to finish. We could see some possible implications here if we were to actually use this during a battle. You want the control to be fluid between driving and firing. So we decided that we’d either have to piggy-back the screen, run two cameras, one for the truck and one for the gun, or opt for Walkera’s 7-channel FPV radio system so everything could be controlled by one radio and one driver/ gunner. Nonetheless, this was a fun experiment that we considered to be successful.
The gunner fired a number of shots and the BB’s traveled a distance of only 20-30 feet. You may think this was a little short but that was not the fault of the Crossman GF76. The reason is that we inverted the gun when mounting it for better clearance of the gun’s motor. When doing this, we had to remove the hop-up so the BB’s would hurl at speed toward the ground. Removing the hop-up cut down on the distance, but it actually worked well with the limited distance we could see within the camera.
To further test the usability of our FPV RC Attack Vehicle, we sent a few volunteers out to see if we could locate them. The 2.4GHz radio transmitters and 5.8GHz camera transmission allow us to technically drive the truck up to two miles away from us in perfect conditions. We didn’t travel that far, but we didn’t encounter any signal loss and were able to find three volunteers and fire on them. Success! One target was approached and taken down; the other two had time to move since they heard the truck coming. Being electric, it is fairly quiet but it does have a distinct sound you can hear if you are alert. All in all, it was a fun project truck that worked well in the field. Would we try to use it in a real skirmish? Perhaps with some more practice or if we swapped out the radio system with what we suggested. We would also need the permission of the field director, of course.
We did a little thinking outside the box and came up with a cool project that definitely turned some heads at the airsoft field. It was fun to build up and troubleshoot and we liked that it melded two of our hobbies together. The Traxxas Summit All-Terrain truck is one fun machine, geared up or not. It was pretty interesting to navigate this project and hunt down the enemy and at the end of the day, we were so happy with the results that we are looking forward to fine-tuning our FPV RC Attack Truck to work even better. Who knows? We may have to work on a support drone, too… I think I’ve said too much.
Traxxas Summit 4WD All-Terrain Truck- $590
VG Racing Roll Cage- $80
Walkera F4 FPV TX & Video RX System & Camera, $175
Crossman Game Face GF76, $143
Helicopter Video Gimbal
Words: Greg Vogel Photos: Walter Sidas