Estes - Oracle {Kit} (2187) [2004-2008]

Contributed by Tim Van Milligan

Construction Rating: starstarstarstar_borderstar_border
Flight Rating: starstarstarstarstar_border
Overall Rating: starstarstarstarstar_border
Manufacturer: Estes
Estes Oracle

Brief:
The Estes Oracle Video Camera Rocket takes captures digital videos that can be downloaded into your Windows computer. It is a pre-built kit that only requires attaching one body tube and installing the shock cord and parachute.

Construction:
The kit is an E2X style rocket, meaning that everything is already constructed and the decals are attached. There is no painting necessary. The only thing you need to do is install the parachute and attach the rubber shock cord.

What makes this rocket unique is the digital video camera built into the nose cone of the model. It is the modern version of the Cineroc, which is what attracted me to buy the model.

The rocket uses plastic fins, plastic nose, and paper tubes. The styling is nice, particularly since it doesn't require anything from the user. The engine is held in place by a plastic retainer, which is used in a lot of the Estes E2X style kits. It worked fine for my first three flights.

PROs:

  • The rocket comes with a nice 18 inch fabric parachute. It isn't rip-stop construction, but it is more than adequate for the model.
  • The video camera is molded into the rocket. This is the coolest feature of the rocket. Like the Cineroc, the camera portion looks out through a mirror, so it looks down as the rocket takes off. If you build according to the instructions, the rocket will take great pictures of the sky while it is coming down. I modified mine to look down by attaching a separate parachute to the eyelet built into the tip of the nose.
  • The decor on the rocket and the graphics of the vehicle are top notch. Cool colors.
  • The instructions were straightforward. Since there isn't much building to do, the bulk of the instructions cover the installation of the software on your Windows computer.
  • You get over 30 seconds of video from each flight. If you do it right, that is an entire flight from liftoff to landing.
  • The rocket worked as advertised. You push the button on the camera to start the process, and after a built-in delay of about 15 seconds so you can get back away for launch, the rocket starts recording the video images.
  • There is a eyelet on the top of the nose cone for attaching the parachute. But the instructions don't say how to use it. However, if you attach the chute to the top of the nose cone, you get great look down video as the rocket descends via the parachute. The designers at Estes had some forethought in creating this rocket, otherwise they would have left off the eyelet. Great work guys!
Estes Oracle

CONs:

  • The software for the video camera only works on Windows computers. Mac users are going to be disappointed. The software seems a bit rustic and could use some tweaking. The Windows plug-and-play (or plug-and-pray) seems to work, but downloading the video off the unit was a bit quirky and slow.
  • The image size of the video is only 320x240 pixels. So the quality of the image isn't the greatest. You can't make out much detail in the video.
  • You have to leave the unit turned on until you download the video. Otherwise it gets wiped off the memory. So you either must take a computer with to the launch range or you have to leave it on while you make the trip home.
  • The frame rate of the camera is 9 frames per second. Compared to the Cineroc which has a frame rate of 30 frames per second, the digital video looks a little jumpy when you play it back on your computer.
  • The file size of the video (.AVI format) is huge! My videos all were about 58MB. I used Apple Computers QuickTime to change them to MPEG-4 format and the file sized was reduced to about 4MB without any noticeable loss of quality.
  • The image is reversed. It looks out the side of the rocket via a mirror.
  • There is an attachment point inside the tube for a shock cord. It is molded into the plastic coupler where the tubes are attached, however, the instructions call for a regular paper shock cord mount on the inside of the tube. The extra attachment point on the inside of the tube did cause a problem on my first flight. Since it takes up room, the parachute got snagged on it, and didn't deploy properly. When prepping this rocket, you have to make sure that nothing is inserted below the plastic coupler or you can expect to have similar problems.

Finishing:
Nothing is required for finishing the rocket.

Construction Rating: 3 out of 5

Estes Oracle

Flight:
I flew it three times on the recommended D12-5 motor. The wind was very light, so the flights were straight. Deployment was near apogee every time.

I didn't attach the parachute that came with the kit. I wanted a look down video, so I attached my chutes to the top eyelet with some 100 lb Kevlar® cord. The bottom section came down by itself with a 18 inch diameter plastic parachute. So the rocket came down in two pieces. I switched to plastic chutes to assure myself that they would come out easily since they take up less space inside the rocket.

On the first launch, the parachute for the tube section got snagged inside. Fortunately, the rocket came down sideways and didn't land too hard. One of the plastic fins popped cleanly out of the plastic fin unit. It was hard to find on the ground. I wished they molded the fins in red instead of black color. After finding it, I simply glued it back on with some thin CyA glue. You couldn't even tell it had come apart.

On the next two launches, I was more careful in prepping the bottom portion so the chutes didn't get snagged inside. The result was worth it.

I flew it three times and got good video back on all three attempts. Three for three!

Recovery:
PROs:

  • Easy to prep and fly.
  • Video camera portion worked as advertised.
  • Plastic fin unit means the rocket flies nice and straight.

CONs:

  • Plastic fins unit can break if the rocket lands on hard objects. But this can be expected of any rocket. Plastic just makes it slightly more difficult to fix or replace if the damage is too great.
  • The rocket did spin a bit going up. This normally wouldn't be a problem, as it would mean a straighter flight. But it makes the video appear jumpy. The fins didn't look warped, so I'm thinking it is some weird airflow coming off the camera mirror hood that causes it to spin.
  • The rocket is heavy at liftoff. The Estes E9 can't be used for this model unless you want it to go horizontal rather than vertical. But the Aerotech E15 and the E30 should be ideal replacements.

Flight Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:
The video camera is worth getting. The cons with the camera aren't all that bad and hopefully Estes will upgrade the electronics as technology advances over time. With just a little better video camera and more memory, this will be an awesome product.

The nose cone fits into a BT-60 size tube. It isn't a perfect fit but close enough. That means if the bottom part of the rocket is ever damaged, you can replace it with a home-brew design. A two-stage version is my definitely on my "to do" list.

This rocket is well engineered and I would heartily recommend this rocket to my friends. It is way cool.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Flights

Comments:

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J.L. (September 5, 2005)
Rocket Pic Check out this staging shot from the C.R.A.S.H. launch on 9/4/05. Beauty.
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J.L. (June 26, 2007)
6/26/07 Oracle flight at the COSROCS/La Plata Investments "Thunderous Groundbreaking". The Oracle was flown out of the middle of 280 rocket mass launch (launched with a single button). ~350 people attended the event. 1.9mb http://www.brandango.us/funstuff/oracle%206-26-07.mov This camera is one of Estes' best efforts ever. Mine has asphalt darted and cowpie darted and after gluing it back together it still works like new. THANK YOU ESTES.
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Steve Lindeman (November 1, 2014)

A great rocket when it came out but the software won't run on anything higher than Windows XP. I've tried to get it to run on my older laptop with Vista but no go. Same with my new PC with Windows 8.1. Called Estes awhile back but they were no help as it's a discontinued item and they weren't planning on upgrading the software. To Bad. Collecting dust for the last four years now as I no longer have a PC that will run Windows XP.

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