Saturday, May 14, 2016

BattleBots Season 2 "Buzz" Fire Drone for Team Caustic Creations, with Team Interviews & fire-shooting Videos

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By Gabriel Staples 
Written: 14 May 2016
Last Updated: 25 Apr. 2017
Update History (newest on TOP):
 - 25 Apr 2017 - updated "motor and prop sizing calculator" link below from (broken) to (new).
 - 11 June 2016 - updated article intro below, and added the big Battlebots photo below, since BattleBots just posted it a few days ago. Also added team photo & link to buy our T-shirts on the BattleBots store.

Related Articles:

I'm the creator of a fire-shooting flame-throwing battle drone (multi-copter), "Buzz," who is an air robot hexacopter companion to our ground bot killing machine, Poison Arrow, of Team Caustic Creations (see our team Facebook page here), on ABC's BattleBots Season 2 (see our BattleBots page here, buy our T-Shirts to support us here), which will air on ABC starting 23 June 2016. I'm just one of 5 members on our team. Our main bot is "Poison Arrow." Read below for some crazy-cool fire-shooting drone previews and build drama of Buzz, as well as team & bot interviews made by our sponsor, Arrow.comshowing and discussing both robots.
Photo Source:

Build drama: why's fire gotta be so complicated!?

So, from ~17 Feb. 2016 to 14 April 2016, I worked frantically to get my fire drone, "Buzz," built from scratch and working in time for the BattleBots Season 2 competition, which was filmed in Los Angeles, CA from 15-25 April. It was very very frantic indeed. It was a very difficult project it turned out, and took me approx. 300 hrs before going to the event, in addition to another 100 hrs or so spent working on the vehicle, writing more code, and competing at the event. It also just so happened to be my first ever multi-rotor I put together from scratch (but don't worry, I've been using them for years and I have a lot of background research experience with them). Zach Goff, our team captain, worked with me to size the vehicle too. Putting our experience and skills together for that part was very helpful, as was this motor and prop sizing calculator here.

I meticulously wrote a couple thousand lines of C++ code (some of which I started years ago, before I had the skills to complete it) running on the vehicle in order to give me greater control over it, for future additions and work which I hope to implement later in order to add more autonomy, hopefully for Season 3 next year. While at the event, in my frantic last-minute coding, I was even able to get a serial BlueTooth device working on the vehicle, and I implemented a custom command-line interface, from scratch, to configure parameters on-board the vehicle using my Android smart phone. I was pretty excited about that! :).

So, without further adieu, here's the result of my hard work. This is a GIF I created from a teaser trailer that ABC made for their show. This was pulled from their teaser trailer here, at approximately 1:40. The teaser is pretty awesome; you should watch it!

As you can see, the vehicle is shooting fire. turns out, was pretty stinking hard. Of my 300 hrs spent on the vehicle prior to the event (I actually logged 288.5 hrs in my project spreadsheet, but who's counting), probably *half* of that was spent just on the flamethrower. I ran into *many* problems, and each was hard to overcome. It turns out making things burn isn't as easy as one might think...especially when you need it all to be remote-controlled (RC). I had to build custom circuits, write lots of code, do some fancy programming in my Tx running OpenTx, and play with lots of hardware. Needless to say, however, I learned a *lot*...and also ruined, burned up, and destroyed some parts along the way.

Just how stressful and compressed was this build? Well, literally 15 minutes before I was supposed to drop my vehicle in a box and do *1-day* shipping straight to the event in California, I was putting out a flaming fireball in the street with a fire extinguisher. Now's a good time to give a big thanks to Alexa, my pregnant wife, for running the fire extinguisher to me while I was yelling and landing the vehicle (don't worry, we had pre-staged the fire extinguisher nearby "just in case," so it wasn't too far). Anyway, that flaming fireball was my vehicle. It caught on fire during a final test flight. I decided I really needed this final test flight since I had only gotten the flamethrower working properly and consistently ~24 hrs the day before I was supposed to ship it, despite my hard work and long hours I put into it. was really windy outside, and the wind blew the flames sideways in such a way they were able to get closer to the bottom of the vehicle than normal and melt through some exposed plastic fuel tubing between the tank and the flow control valve. Below is a picture of some of the aftermath: a burned prop (that was melted around a motor), and an ESC. Luckily, I got the fire out quickly and the vehicle only took a few hrs to repair at the event. Yes, I had to put the vehicle fire out, box it up, and ship it to CA half-burned up, and with fire extinguisher powder still covering many of the components. Of course I removed the (now slightly damaged) batteries and ensured it was all cool and prepared before shipping, but man was that a hectic day. Needless to say I was very stressed out about that.

Let me also give a very special thanks to a couple of my neighbors, including Kerry Starr on one side, and Matthew on the other. Kerry was kind enough to help me frantically box up my burned up vehicle, so I could 1-day ship it to Los Angeles for the filming and event, and he even built the flamethrower nozzle and mounting brackets for me! Many thanks for the custom CAD files and designs, and for using some fancy schmancy CNC machines to cut out the nozzle and flamethrower mounting brackets! And many thanks to Matthew for watching out for us when he thought our house was on fire and came to check (nope...I was just running some manual flamethrower ground tests in the driveway), and for fixing our broken sprinkler head when I was too busy to do so. Also, I'd be wrong to forget my wife, Alexa, who had to put up with a lot while I was working on this, from taking care of our house and daughter, to being woken up at 2AM by our fire alarms while I was doing some igniter and low-flame tests in the house, testing my custom code and driver circuits for my remote control valve and ignition systems, and remote control flame activation and height adjustment.

Watch BattleBots Season 2 starting on 23 June 2016!

If you missed the BattleBots preview episode on 10 May 2016, sorry, it was awesome! See if you can find it online. For the start of the main season, however, it is yet to come, so stay tuned to ABC for BattleBots Season 2, episode 1 on 23 June at 8/7C.

Make sure you are rooting for our team Caustic Creations (see my previous article here), with our main, 232-lb ground robot "Poison Arrow," and our 10-lb air vehicle fire-drone, "Buzz," shown shooting fire above, as you watch the episodes.


While you wait for the main season of BattleBots to begin on 23 June 2016...

Watch Our Interviews with our Sponsor,, & some other videos, right now!

Here are a couple interview videos with our sponsor,

Video 1) Pre-season interview of Zach Goff (team captain) and Casey Kuhns, with the ground bot, Poison Arrow, by's Nick Powers. 
    Casey (our left), Zach (middle), and Nick (our right), discussing Poison Arrow in the video above.
Video 2) In-the-pits interview of Zach & Casey with the ground bot, Poison Arrow, myself with the fire drone, Buzz, and Hana Goff with the controllable tail "mini-bot."
    Nick, from (our left), Casey (middle) and Zach (right) discussing Poison Arrow in the pits at BattleBots

    Two photos above: Nick, from (left) and me (right) discussing Buzz in the pits

    Hana (our left) and Nick, from (right) discussing Poison Arrow's RC tail in the pits
Video 3) Remote-controlled tail:

Video 4) Fire-drone flame testing, with a flip at the end:

Meet the Team:

Team Caustic Creations consists of the following team members:
  • Zach Goff (team captain)
  • Casey Kuhns
  • Hana Goff
  • Ian McMahon
  • and myself, Gabriel Staples
Caustic Creations Team Photo
Left to Right: Casey, Ian, Gabriel, Hana, Zach
Robots: Buzz (10 lb drone/air support, top), Poison Arrow
(232 lb ground bot killing machine, bottom)
Zach and Casey were the main bot ("Poison Arrow") builders, while I built the fire drone ("Buzz"), Hana did a lot of the painting, logos, T-shirts, and general design help, and Ian helped out with the start of the main bot build and provided lots of great pit support at the event. Many thanks to Ian for driving me around at the event, putting up with my late-night programming and "oscilloscoping" in our hotel room, and driving me around, filming, and supporting me while I practiced flying and tuning the drone. He and Hana also helped me build and prepare some spare parts for Buzz in the pits. 

Random Pictures:

Ian McMahon working in the pits
Getting cozy with Buzz
Waiting with our bots (Poison Arrow and detached tail, left, Buzz, right)
Me in the pits

So, watch us on TV! If we are able to get our T-shirts on the BattleBots store, buy some to support us. (A modified version of the T-shirt below is on the BattleBots store now, here!) Thanks for reading and watching, and hopefully we'll be out again next year for BattleBots Season 3! 

Nice work on the T-shirts, Hana!

And she did a great job on the stickers here above and below too!

Individual and team stickers all laid out together fancy-like. Each person on the team has their own personalized sticker. Pretty cool I think. Casey thinks so too. :)


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  3. I found you recommend motor and prop sizing calculator, it's so great! I also found out this article about quadcopter flight time calculator Just share it on here to the beginner.


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P.S. Yo hablo español también. Je parle français aussi. (I speak Spanish & French too).