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I've debated for nearly two weeks on if I should start this thread at all and have had this window open on the post being written for more than two days. But it's time to just fire it off. And since this is going to be a long wall of text, I'll post a short tl:dr summary:


tl:dr summary: I've decided to design and build a CAV dropship, but to put as much engineering realism into it as possible. But I need help on two things for sure, "What is the heaviest squad you've seen/played/think-legit?" and "What's the dimensions of the tallest, the widest, the deepest, and the overall most voluminous CAV?".


Wall of text begins,hidden behind the spoiler for easy, later browsing of the thread, with one dinky semi-related pic:





This all started with the CAV Kickstarter and the discussion about what scale the aircraft would be. The aircraft in previous figures were either at "true scale" to match the CAVs, or shrunk down. See the discussion for both sides of the issues here. It's currently at 16 pages, so here's my short take on why I pushed for a different aircraft scale. If you were to take a real aircraft of today and scale it down to CAV scale, it'd be insanely large to make the larger aircraft. The current CAV aircraft are all attack, and my point was that a transport wold be huge. The decision came down to be true scale, and I'm fine with that.


I did sit down and submit this post where I calculated what various aircraft would look like at this CAV scale (roughly N; 1/180). Fighter and attack aircraft wind up at around 3-4" long and 2-4" wide. And that's roughly what the CAV aircraft sizes would be. But airliners? They wind up being 13" square. And some large military aircraft become even larger. The An-225 was 18x19"! Massive! Course, it's massive in real life, so no real surprise there. But let's get to the deeper heart of this thread, shall we?


A commonly used dropship model (at least I think it is), is the Mil-Net Hercules drop ship by Neil "blitz" Nowatzki. And it's a very nice ship. But understand, it's not "right". Aerospace engineer here. Ten years in aircraft design and now more than seven in spacecraft design. Minus a few years for "systems" related jobs in both areas. But the Herc in that link is a brick. A flying brick. Yes, yes, do a little hand wave and fluff out that it's really a powerful spacecraft and not meant to fly like an airplane. It's Sci-Fi. I agree. That works; carry on as you were. But the little engineer in my head sees a fun little puzzle. What would I design it to look like? So that's what this became.


Right now, the entire thing is just a spreadsheet. I'm working out the design requirements, and all that rot. But I'm a bit stuck right now, and I'll ask for help here at the end of each spot I need it (and underlined). But here's the basics of what I'm thinking.

  1. Useful load of 450 tons -- It needs to be capable of delivering 3 Super Chassis CAVs from orbit. Per the SO Preview file, these are 126 to 150 tons. Each. Fun Fact: Max load (fuel and cargo) of a C-5 is 205 tons; a 747-400ERF is 225 tons; and an A380F is 332 tons. We're shooting for 450 tons! I worried a bit about that, since things are done in squads of four. Just checked, and I think that works. If the DT from CAVBoss' big list is a good proxy for weight, 3 SCs would be 36 DTs. From Girot's force group examples, the first squad listed of 2 Dictators and 2 Assassins would be 34 DTs. Popping around on the various primary squads he's got listed, it looks like that's enough lifting capability. Now, I've never played CAV, but I'm thinking that 4 Super Chassis' would not make a proper squad. I might be off on that. HELP: What is the heaviest squad you've seen/played/think-legit? I'll size it to that. For now, I'm ignoring tanks and aircraft, but I think that's safe.
  2. Ample cargo room -- It'll need to have the internal cargo room to carry a squad. Maybe two squads depending on the size. My thinking here is that while it can carry those 3 SCs in #1 above, that also means that it can carry 9-18 of the smallest CAVs (25-49 tons each) before reaching max load. This is a common cargo aircraft problem, bulking out the room before the weight limit has been reached. This help might be solved by me getting the core set here shortly, however looking at the stats available they don't appear to be the bulkiest. So I need to figure out what the storage space should look like. HELP: What's the dimensions of the tallest, the widest, the deepest, and the overall most voluminous CAV? I imagine that those could be four different figures, but might overlap in places. I'm not certain if I should count "held" weapons, as maybe the CAV can cross it's arms, so to speak, to save on storage space. I'd certainly design them that way. Shoulder mounted pods probably aren't removable, and should be counted.
  3. VTOL capable -- This one is a hand waving Sci-Fi thing. I'm imagining that entire sections of the wing are dedicated propulsion units, and are variable, so that they can provide full vertical hovering and forward as well. That means 450+ tons of vertical force. That's a lot. But since it's Sci Fi, I'm saying it's not a big deal. So there's no help here needed. Just a little insight into my thinking.
  4. Orbital to ground capable -- This was my original path, and the way I started. Then it hit me that it would be a sorry spacecraft to try to take on both orbital and aeronautic roles. Logically, there should be a orbital shuttle that delivers to a staging area, where the CAVs are packed together disassembled. Assembled on the ground and then flown to where they need to be. I decided to chuck my logical objections out and do the dual role anyway. More cool that way. Again, no help needed here, but the underside of the drop ship needs to look like it could re-enter an atmosphere. Or figure out a fluffy way to get around this. I've always imagined that a powerful spacecraft wouldn't need to decelerate with aero-braking. Just reverse thrust and decelerate that way. Maybe I'll go with this.
  5. No Stealth Requirement -- Why am I adding this in here? Easy. I'm also thinking of making another dropship depending on how much enjoyment I get out of this one, but one that's smaller and looks stealthy. Fortunately, I had to leave all the tools I had for doing actual stealthy designs at the old job, or I'd be sorely tempted to use them. I can only go with what is obvious and old tech, and will be omitting any of that purposely. I'll fluff this out by adding lots of bumps on the skin of differing shapes and sizes as countermeasure systems to such an extent that it doesn't need the stealth.
  6. Missing requirements -- This one is wide open for any help. It's always good to get a second set of eyes, or potentially thousands given the nature of the forums. So, anything I've missed? Any vital system, or capability someone would like to throw out to consider is welcome. I'm not really sure what I'm asking here, but that's sort of the point.

Here's where I get to a bit more of my plan. I've put in an order for the Dremel 3D printer. Been wanting one, or a full on CNC machine, for about five years now, saving up bit by bit, and I pulled the trigger this weekend. As such, I'll be able to actually print out the vehicle that gets designed here, and the 3D design stuff is going to be the WIP pictures, hopefully followed by the assembly of those pieces. While I could use my workplace CAD system, that's got requirements, cautions, restrictions and other corporate burdens placed upon me in order to use it for non-work stuff. So I'm going the free software route. It's funny, but I really used to think what we use at work was horrible. It still is for something used professionally and compared to what 3D system I used at my old job.


I say "used to" because over the last year, I have downloaded and tried nearly every free CAD system I could find. And thanked my luck that I don't have to use any of them at work. It was like test-driving luxury sports cars as a regular day job, then driving home in a mid-70's sedan with mismatched sized wheels and a boat anchor dragging from the trunk. I did look into just buying what I've used at work before, but at $16,000 for CATIA V5 and $6,000 for Creo, that's not going to happen. Even Solidworks came in at $3,000. Ouch. And so, I'll be using Creo Elements Direct Modeling Express. It's not parametric, which is going to make iterating the design a pain, but I can at least get it to do a bit of the advanced surfacing that I'll be needing.


I know (or, I at least think I know) how to draw up the basic form of this dropship project in this software, and think I can segment it enough to run it through the 3D printer. That was sort of the inspiration for the "wing propulsion" I talked about in #3 above. It'll give me a chance to make one model and use it three or four times per wing. Then the fuselage sections would be the same way, where I make one segment and reuse it several times. In my mind, I've got the cargo door on one side, under the wing. And while I thought it would be a really cool thing to have some sliders that would move in and out, train-like, through the sections, that's probably way too much work. I suppose I might make the fuselage segments each have a cargo door. I'll just have to wait and see.


I need the CAV sizes so I can start drawing up the fuselage, calculating where the wings need to be to avoid the Mach cone from the nose, what size tails would be need, etc. So there's no design yet and nothing to show. But, rather than leave this just as a wall of text, I might as well toss up one picture. This is NOT what things will look like when I actually start doing the CAD file. This was just a test of what shapes I might want to do, and was trying to figure out how to get what I have software wise do what I wanted it to do. So simple at work, but much more difficult at home. Guess that's why they charge so much.




Now, one thing I was thinking of was to make this a little bit easier to build was by using large sections of PVC pipe from a regular home improvement store. In theory, I could do this anyway and just scratch build the parts and pieces. But what's the point of buying a toy (the printer) if I don't come up with things to use it for? I might just use the pipe for structural purposes, burying a 1" pipe through certain locations, stringing the sections onto it for rigidity. But that's something for down the line, and ponder for a bit.


Anyway, that's it. I think that's all I can spit out. Not sure if this will evolve into a simple picture show-n-tell type thread, or if it'll become a engineer geek-out where we get bogged down into deep discussions about important things such as system sizing, landing gear arrangement, and where the coffee pot should be. But figure it'll be at least an interesting ride either way.




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can't wait to see more!  i have been pondering the Drop Ship designs as well.  Biggest issue for me would be weight.  As in, could you actually pick it up and move it, or would two people sit it (carefully) on the table as a static prop...

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1.  Biggest squads I've fielded or seen fielded:


- Emperor, 2 Dictator B, 1 Dictator A, 1 Vanquisher, 1 Kahn

- Thunderbird, 2 Regents, Spectator, Talon

- Starhawk VI, Ronin, 3 Falcons, Talon

- 2 Rhinos, 2 Tigers, Panther

- Ogre, 2 Mantis, 2 Scorpions, Recluse


2. Widest by far will be the Emperor.  Deepest is probably the Simba or the Thunderbird; maybe the Rhino if the guns are forward.  T-bird might be the tallest too; it's a big hunk of metal.


5/6. Your stealth concept would be cool if it were an in orbit craft and the CAVs come down/up attached to small stealth pods that fit and carry only one CAV each.

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Biggest issue for me would be weight.  As in, could you actually pick it up and move it, or would two people sit it (carefully) on the table as a static prop...


I'm planning on making large parts of it hollow, so in theory it shouldn't weigh much.




1.  Biggest squads I've fielded or seen fielded:


- Emperor, 2 Dictator B, 1 Dictator A, 1 Vanquisher, 1 Kahn

- Thunderbird, 2 Regents, Spectator, Talon

- Starhawk VI, Ronin, 3 Falcons, Talon

- 2 Rhinos, 2 Tigers, Panther

- Ogre, 2 Mantis, 2 Scorpions, Recluse


2. Widest by far will be the Emperor.  Deepest is probably the Simba or the Thunderbird; maybe the Rhino if the guns are forward.  T-bird might be the tallest too; it's a big hunk of metal.


5/6. Your stealth concept would be cool if it were an in orbit craft and the CAVs come down/up attached to small stealth pods that fit and carry only one CAV each.


Those squads would be 50, 41, 49, 44, and who-knows. No semi-current data on the Scorp or Recluse. I actually was thinking a squad was just four, based on the forces that Girot was coming up with. But, reading the SO preview, that's not the case. Hmm. If I bump things up to a max of 4 of the heaviest, that would almost be capable of that 50DT squad. Eh. Four it is. Means 600 tons of payload, but why not?


The Emperor appears to be 1.75" wide, the Simba doesn't have a base to take a wild stab at, can't really see the Thunderbird that well but might be 1.25" deep, but appears nearly 2" tall. So, if I went with a 3"w x 3"d x 2.5" tall, that should be enough space for each CAV. Now, I was pondering this today, and if they all get the same bases, it would be easy enough to place some hex shapes to position each figure actually inside the ship. Might even leave a little circular feature where a magnet could be glued. Shifting back to volume, I was thinking I'd go two wide, but that'll be a bit too large I think. I've got a 9" by 5.9" area to build on, and can go 5.5" high. I suppose I still could go that wide. It will limit the height of the pieces I can do. But it's a start.


As for the stealth dropships, I was thinking single CAV as well. But I've got time to think about that later.


Thanks for the help.

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I'm trying to keep the handwavium to a minimum. I'm for sure taking liberties on how much thrust can be generated, but that's the way the future works, right?


As an aside, I've become a reluctant believer in a "mundane future". We've still got houses in the US that are pushing 200 years old, if not older, so I don't see the suburbs getting rebuilt every 100 years. Thus, less any strange construction vectors, I fully expect the house I've got now to be standing in 200 years, and won't be replaced by a Jetson-style sky house any time soon.


That bellar joint had me flash in a helicopter like aircraft with engines at the blade tips. I want to say that's one of those aircraft put into funny video crashes. At least, I'm pretty sure I didn't dream it. Still, don't think it'd look high tech or futuristic.


But, I was in the process of working up a few pictures and planning to post tonight anyway. Got a couple of results that are leading me into a definite direction.


First, saving off a 3" cube of space for each CAV is great... until you plan on doing 18 of them. If they go 3 abreast, that makes the scaled craft a minimum of 9" just for the cargo bay width. Yeah, that's not really what I was envisioning. I started dropping the amounts, and wound up with 8 for this first picture (behind the spoiler). I'm calling this Stage 1, for lack of a better term.


Some explanation before you view it, tho. This is just a simple scatter plot I used to roughly layout what the right half of the drop ship would look like. There are only four parts modeled, but it looks more complete than it is. The units are in centimeters (quick tip if you need it, 10cm is approx 4in, and 4in is about how wide my flattened palm is). The red line is not the craft, but it is instead the Mach angle beginning at 0,0. The dark blue box is half of the cargo bay, the green and purple are the modular propulsive wing pods, and the lighter blue poly is the rest of the wing.


Stage 1 Excel Chart







Notice that this is roughly 70cm long, or 28in. That's... a bit too big. Now, I could build in some handwavium here, have the vehicle not care that it's traveling at Mach 4.5, and just have the fuselage plow through that disturbance without a care in the world. But, having that angle line in there got me to thinking that it wasn't really that bad a shape to do. It's a bit wide still at 2 CAV abreast.


I've got the load as 4 super heavy and super bulky CAVs. I resized the cargo bay to be capable of just carrying those four with the realization that smaller CAVs would probably be able to share the same space. Maybe not, I am very deficient on models at the moment. I just got my 2nd CAV today with my Halloween trio order (a wife request; gonna be getting all 12 eventually so might as well get a little extra to get free shipping and a ghoulie bag, right?).


But this led to a tighter and nicer design in my opinion, which I'll call Stage 2. Same chart as above, but using different widths and locations.


Stage 2 Excel Chart







This version ends up being about 20" long, but a little over 8" wide when both halves are joined. And it's very suggestive of a dart like shape, which I'm starting to like. I can see removing the modular wing pods entirely, making it a lifting body, or at least super swept wings. Putting in some surface features to represent the VTOL propulsion forward of the cargo bay and on the wings would make the forces balance (I hadn't actually worked that part yet). May move the wings back to put things into better balance, or just strap them to the end.


My original thinking was to have a cargo bay on the side, along with a nice door. That did lead to some issues with removing the actual game pieces, if it was too tight to fit a hand. If I go with the dart shape, the back could be semi-blunt, with a single cargo door that folds down. From there, I just get a good piece of styrene sheet or possibly that stuff they make cheap plastic signs from that looks like corrugated cardboard to make a cargo bay floor that slides in and out. No reason to print a flat piece.


This also has the benefit that I can see for air drops, just like current cargo aircraft. I don't think dropping a CAV out would be realistic, unless it was on a sled (oh no... another thing to make now!). But for resupply and other things, it wouldn't be out of the question and gives more usage out of the vehicle.


That'll be the path I head out on next.


Oh, and for fun, I just took a quick pic of the Dropzone Commander Juno A1 tanks, my original Sovereign III, and the Centurion I just got in the mail today. I've got a Concussion coming on Saturday with the Week 2 Halloween trio. I've got a Mastodon planned for Week 3, but Week 4 I'll pick up the Wizard of Oz figures instead. Those CAV purchases are due to the "Best CAV Not in the KS" thread. They're not in the KS, so might as well go ahead and buy them. And I now realize I've probably got a CAV base floating around somewhere. Wondered why the Sovereign's base wasn't hex shaped. Uh, yeah, you don't actually have the base there.


Tank, Sovereign, and Centurion






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  • 2 weeks later...

A free weekend and get to grind Excel a bit more. Trying to put the horizontal tail in, and found that I had quite a bit of balancing to do. Biggest problem is that keeping the wings out of the Mach angle pushes them so far back that they go behind the center of gravity of the aircraft. Normally, the aerodynamic center of the aircraft wings would be in front of the cg, with the horizontal tail lifting from the other side balancing out the forces. Having it aft of there has three design solutions.

  1. Make the horizontal tail push down instead of up.
  2. Make the aircraft longer, pushing the cargo bay and cg behind the wings.
  3. Turn it into a canard, with the tail in front and wings in back.

Now, I've ignored #1 for now. Generally, having both surfaces lifting provides better efficiency. One could argue that they have power to spare, but unless it was a dire need to do that, I don't think any future engineers would purposely make something less efficient. Unless management had the brilliant idea to attempt to sell upgrades after purchase.




What you see above is my results of #2 and #3. The canard solution is on top, while the longer vehicle is on the bottom. You'll just have to imagine that the canard tail is actually attached to the angled line. I was just too lazy to do the match to adjust the chart right now.


The longer vehicle is more in line with what I was intending the design to look like, as a more traditional aircraft, but is now over 2 feet long (units are in cm, scaled to 1:180, and 61cm is about 2'). I'd give it a bigger tail to look proportionally better, and just give it a less efficient airfoil. Yes, I realize that's a bit hypocritical considering #1, but I can gain things back by saying it'll have more control authority. Plus, it would have the benefit of having a longer cargo bay, as I am still wanting to have the back open up for access.


The canard vehicle benefits by having one less print-job that I'll have to run, since the longer one would require more sections. That's a plus (meaning cheaper). It still has the cargo room I want, and might look a bit more space shuttle like, which I'm not opposed to. But it might be a bit harder to make look nice, especially with the tools I've got. And while canards typically look a little more futuristic, I sort of like a more traditional shape.


Then again, there's nothing to stop me from doing both. Except time. I figure I need to print out the profiles and sketch in some lines to flesh things out more to see a bit more realistic shape each might be. I'm a horrible cartoonist, so not sure the sketches will ever see the light of day.


I am interesting in what others think, so what say ye?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Personally I always think of these dropships as mor clunky modular creatures. Sort of like a modern sky hook or jolly green giant. The power train attaches to a pod which can be dropped or landed and the unit comes from a bigger ship that takes the brunt of reentry.


That said, I am liking the lines of what you have so far. I am looking forward to seeing what you do with it

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In transit, under real mil-spec operating conditions, the CAVs would fold to their most compact, efficient position.


Probably guns straight down, 'elbows' up, knees bent slightly?


Or maybe guns up? taller individual spaces but only 1.5 inches front-to-back...smaller footprint on the cargo deck.

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Yeah, I figure they might even go one step further, and actually be able to be disassembled for transport. Magnetic bearings an all, so why bother keeping it together? I may be way off here, of course, as I'm new to the fluff, but some mechanical latches could be all that's needed on a high-tech bearing of these sorts. Throw in some slight remote operator capability, and maybe a CAV could disassemble itself nearly.


Doesn't work for a model that's been glued together, so we'll just say we're designing for roll-on, roll-off combat capability. Or walk on, walk off. Whatever.


But on to progress. Finally managed to get some time to work in the software, and it's a good thing I did it late on Sunday else it would have ruined my whole weekend. I had the thought that someone coming in green, who'd never touched other 3D software, would find it absolutely amazing. But for me, having the professional stuff during the week and trying to make do with what I've got is a horribly frustrating experience. What I figure I could do in ten minutes regularly takes over an hour on this. I'm disgusted with what I've got below in the picture, as that took maybe six hours to work up. This is attempt #8 in the evening, so it's not that it took that long to actually do, but it just took that long to get up to speed with what I could do.


I contemplated giving up on my home stuff and using my work computer. But that wold involve going into the office. On the weekend. I'd rather suffer at home.


For example at the frustration, I've got the canards modeled. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out how to get a curved surface to "face". Make a surface, whatever one would call it. For a flat panel, it's no big deal. Select four lines that make a polygon, and it's done! Connect enough polygons together, and it will automatically make a solid part. Great right? When I give it a curve, it seems I've thrown it a curve ball, and it just pukes back error messages. Degenerate surfaces, all that rot. Which is why the bulk of the ship is currently flat panels as I was trying to get something done.. But the airfoils... those need to be curved. In a fit of belligerence, I told it to use just the two curved surfaces, get bent (in a little more flowery language), and ... it actually did what I wanted. I guess I was giving it a little too much information?


Now I have to decide if I want to go back and rework things to be a little less blocky and a bit more curvy. For all the grief I gave that foam board Hercules model, mine is certainly starting to look just like it. I want it to look a bit more like the front of the space shuttles, not something as flat. All the wireframe stuff is there, and that wouldn't take long. I think. It's really late for me, and my thinker's sunk.


For reference, the canards are on the second "block" of material. I haven't got the nose done yet (one of those curve issues). The front edges that are on the forward fuselage right now are about 2cm in length. Scaled up, that's about 12ft (4m) wide. I've got a little cockpit planned, but not sure where I'll put it yet.







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