Material for best rocket visibility?

The Rocketry Forum

Help Support The Rocketry Forum:

billdz

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2017
Messages
1,333
Reaction score
103
I've seen suggestions about various colors and materials for best visibility, e.g., reflecting tape, mirror tape, orange color. I thought reflecting tape only increases visibility at night, like when a car approaches a bicycle. My limited experience suggests that color and material don't make much difference, only bigger size makes the rocket more visible. Any thoughts?
 

Banzai88

Lvl 1,Wallet....Destroyed
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jul 15, 2015
Messages
2,713
Reaction score
893
Depends on your eyesight and daily conditions.

Like many people, I see bigger, darker rockets easier. For me, white, gray, and any blue other than dark blue turn into sky above about 2-3K feet. Anything smaller than a Leviathan disappears above 2500 feet.

I thought that silver and reflecting tape would disappear, too, but every silver rocket, regardless of size, flashes nicely while coming down. Even with cloud cover, reflecting tape works. Heck, even glossy paint will flash nicely in the sky and make tracking easier.

Green turns into sod/corn/beans on the ground! :wink:

Tracking smoke is your friend :shock:

4" diameter 6 foot tall rockets that are painted a dark color go WAY up before becoming invisible. Things I launch that are going high and/or fast I try to do in large sizes or dark colors.

For parachutes, I make mine in alternating light and dark colors for contrast against the sky and the ground.
 
Last edited:

MikeyDSlagle

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
Messages
2,541
Reaction score
511
Dark colors are easier to see in flight. A good polish will reflect light too, giving a little sparkle on occasion.
 

boatgeek

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 27, 2014
Messages
3,766
Reaction score
2,401
Colors not found in nature. It really does make a difference on the ground it you're looking for something red, orange, or dark blue in a field of green and brown and sage. Even if you paint the rocket some other colors, at least get an orange or red chute. Yellow chutes seem to fade into the sky a little better than red or orange.
 

GregGleason

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 13, 2009
Messages
4,656
Reaction score
7
I go for florescent colors, white, black, and chrome.

Graphics Aft.jpg

Greg
 

dhbarr

Amateur Professional
Joined
Jan 30, 2016
Messages
7,502
Reaction score
1,938
I'm planning florescent orange & magenta w/ silver fins for a tiny machbreaker.

If anyone can think up a higher vis scheme, I'd like to hear about it :)
 

K'Tesh

OpenRocket Chuck Norris
Joined
Mar 27, 2013
Messages
17,294
Reaction score
5,160
Trim Monokote's chrome is great for creating flashes of light in the sky if the sun is out. I ringed my L1 build with it (as a detail) and I noticed that it flashed quite well on the return. Having a florescent pink parachute (a loan from Ed Harrison) also did wonders.

[video=youtube;GdhIjQXxOf4]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdhIjQXxOf4[/video]

As far as I can tell, the best flashes were coming from a band of 1/8" wide Monokote that was wrapped around the base of the nosecone.
 

CPUTommy

Thrust cures All
Joined
Oct 26, 2011
Messages
1,136
Reaction score
161
Location
Massachusetts

ActingLikeAKid

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 17, 2015
Messages
1,133
Reaction score
13
I recently did a group launch with dozens of kids launching their first rocket.
The rocket was the BMS "school" rocket, a pretty simple and lightweight design.
Instead of a chute, it has a wide mylar streamer. On a B or C motor, those rockets would get up quick and far; more than anything else, flashes from the mylar were a good indication of where the rocket was. I've tried the inexpensive "flagger's tape" - about an inch wide and high-visibility pink or yellow. From 1000+ feet, you can maybe tell there's something there, but not "Oh! That's bright and I see it!" Reflective mylar is the way to go.
 

o1d_dude

'I battle gravity'
Joined
Jan 18, 2009
Messages
8,379
Reaction score
1,268
Location
A Banana Republic
I have found fluoro pink and contrasting black to be higly visible in the air. The pink is visible on the ground. Don't forget that your deployed parachute helps with visibilty, especially if you use one with contrasting colors. I use Fruity Chutes for that reason.

I also wear a construction work vest so that I can be seen on the field. You never know...
 

loopy

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 13, 2009
Messages
4,586
Reaction score
2
I'm a big fan of the monokote trim (self adhesive) chrome. Intensely reflective. I love it.
 

billdz

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2017
Messages
1,333
Reaction score
103
Thanks for the replies, lots of good info. Sometimes I can't see the rocket descending until the chute deploys, and on the ground almost always I see the chute first. So contrasting non-earthy colors on the chute and lots of reflecting tape on the rocket.
 

billdz

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2017
Messages
1,333
Reaction score
103
@loopy - I see the monokote requires a heat gun and/or iron. Would a hair dryer work?
@ActingLikeAKid - I see the mylar reflective material is not self-adhesive, do you just use it as a streamer or do you glue it to the rocket?
 

Rex R

LV2
Joined
Apr 21, 2010
Messages
6,104
Reaction score
155
regular monokote will require an iron for at least a portion to get it 'stuck' down and to seal the edges. the good news is one can use a standard clothes iron* (dry, it does take a bit of practice), a hair dryer might work to shrink it. Trim Monokote has an adhesive back(peel and stick) which sticks to most things.
*set roughly half way between silk and polyester.
Rex
 

o1d_dude

'I battle gravity'
Joined
Jan 18, 2009
Messages
8,379
Reaction score
1,268
Location
A Banana Republic
Another highly reflective AND refractive tape is called Sky Sheen. RC glider guys use it so you can probably find it at your local hobby shop. Mine carries it in different widths. Impressive stuff.
 

cerving

Owner, Eggtimer Rocketry
TRF Sponsor
TRF Supporter
Joined
Feb 3, 2012
Messages
4,607
Reaction score
2,075
I'm a big fan of the monokote trim (self adhesive) chrome. Intensely reflective. I love it.
+1. Works REALLY well in the air. As far as on the ground, florescent pink or red is probably the best... I usually spot the chutes on the ground way before I see the rocket.
 

billdz

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2017
Messages
1,333
Reaction score
103
My local hobby store stocks monokote so I picked up a couple of sheets after hearing all the praise. Interesting that there's such a substantial price variation between the colors. The chrome was $2.99 while others, such as neon yellow, were as high as $4.49. They also sell a product called ultracote, not sure if it is useful for rocketry but the carbon fiber looks nice.
 

OverTheTop

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jul 10, 2007
Messages
5,924
Reaction score
3,467
Location
Melbourne Australia
I'm a big fan of the monokote trim (self adhesive) chrome. Intensely reflective. I love it.
One of our guys built a 4" bird that flew on an M. It had a wrap of similar chrome material. Really glinted well in the trip back down.
 

loopy

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 13, 2009
Messages
4,586
Reaction score
2
One of our guys built a 4" bird that flew on an M. It had a wrap of similar chrome material. Really glinted well in the trip back down.
That's why I love it. I put a sort of roll pattern on my Expediter, and you could easily spot it easily as it came back on my L2 flight a bit over 4000'. Great stuff.
 

billdz

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2017
Messages
1,333
Reaction score
103
Put some Monokote on a couple of my rockets and it looks really nice, thanks for letting me know about it. Checked out the Sky Sheen mentioned above, seems similar, although several reviewers said Monokote is better.

I was going to ask if the self-adhesive is enough or should we add a little glue for certainty (I've had several decals and stickers that did not stick well to a rocket), but as soon as I applied the first piece it was obvious that the Monokote was on to stay, the adhesive seems very strong.

Any tips on cutting and trimming to ensure, for example, that a chrome ring around the airframe goes on straight and is exactly the correct length?
 

Banzai88

Lvl 1,Wallet....Destroyed
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jul 15, 2015
Messages
2,713
Reaction score
893
Any tips on cutting and trimming to ensure, for example, that a chrome ring around the airframe goes on straight and is exactly the correct length?
Paper ring to get an exact measurement. Use the same paper ring taped together as a guide around the tube. Also, you might be able to use a water/soap/alcohol solution like we use with StickerShock23 vinyl. Look on his web page for instructions.
 

loopy

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 13, 2009
Messages
4,586
Reaction score
2
I always cut with one of my wife's cutters she uses for scrapbooking to make sure it's straight. As for application, if I'm doing a wrap of it, I'll put a piece of tape around the rocket just above or below, and use that as my guiding edge. Glad you like it!
 

billdz

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2017
Messages
1,333
Reaction score
103
Flew some rockets with the chrome Trim Monokote and did not notice much if any increase in visibility. The sun was shining but did not notice any flashes. Each rocket had about a 3" strip wrapped around the airframe. Is that not enough?
 

K'Tesh

OpenRocket Chuck Norris
Joined
Mar 27, 2013
Messages
17,294
Reaction score
5,160
Flew some rockets with the chrome Trim Monokote and did not notice much if any increase in visibility. The sun was shining but did not notice any flashes. Each rocket had about a 3" strip wrapped around the airframe. Is that not enough?
While I can't speak to why you didn't see any improvement in the visibility, I'll ask you this... Did you put any on the shoulder of the nosecone?

In my case the nosecone was doing the most movement as the rocket descended, and that gave the rocket most of its flashes. Another trick you can try is to take small lengths of either marking tape (the stuff tied around those stakes that surveyors use) or crepe paper, and tape a small coin to one end. Roll that up, and put it on top of the parachute after you've loaded it for flight. The idea is that those coming down can give you more visual clues as to where your rocket is, and what the wind is doing. If you attach small strips of mylar (say from a dollar store hula skirt) you might also see flashes. Nice thing is that it can keep the kiddo's busy with trying to pocket some change (rather than trying to catch your rocket, and accidentally stepping on it (any guesses on why I mention that?)).
 

billdz

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2017
Messages
1,333
Reaction score
103
I did not put any on the nose cone, will try that. Also will try the marking tape, do you actually attach it to the top of the chute? How?
 

GregGleason

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 13, 2009
Messages
4,656
Reaction score
7
Flew some rockets with the chrome Trim Monokote and did not notice much if any increase in visibility. The sun was shining but did not notice any flashes. Each rocket had about a 3" strip wrapped around the airframe. Is that not enough?
Chrome as such is funny stuff. Can it reflect sunlight? Sure can. But the reflected angle is equal to angle of incidence, which means if the chrome surface will flash to only one point if the object is static. If you are not at that point then you will not see it. Think about it: A mirror in your home may be reflecting a bright ray of light, but that light is only brilliant at that point it is being reflected toward. The exception to that rule are spheres (think disco mirror balls) or specially designed geometrical shaped used to capture and reflect light (think stealth technology in reverse).

In addition I've found chrome is a two-edged sword, as it were. Chrome also "adopts" the color environment around it and actually make it blend in to whatever local environment it is in. On the pic below my rocket has a band of chrome Trim Monokote on the airframe just aft of the nose cone. That area in this shot is the least visible compared to the other areas. Since the main is in the upper bay (it's dual deploy) at least that part of the airframe is loose and moves about in the airstream so there are more opportunities for it to catch the light just right.

Ascender.DD.G64-20W.Rail.Clear.2016-10-08.jpg

I have toyed with the idea of adding a tensile "pom pom" but it's just an idea that I have not put much serious thought in because it has its own issues.

For this reason I put chrome and other colors like fluorescents to aid in visual tracking.

:2:

If you come up with a good solution, please pass it along.

Greg
 

K'Tesh

OpenRocket Chuck Norris
Joined
Mar 27, 2013
Messages
17,294
Reaction score
5,160
Also will try the marking tape, do you actually attach it to the top of the chute? How?
You don't... Just let them freefall. The tape will act as a streamer for the coin, and you'll get these ribbons falling down with your rocket. Shorter lengths will fall faster, longer lengths may end up falling slower than the rocket. If you lose sight of the rocket, but see the streamer coming down, you can be relatively certain that the rocket will be found in that general direction, unless the winds aloft are doing some really weird stuff.
 

billdz

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2017
Messages
1,333
Reaction score
103
@K'Tesh - Got it, will try, sounds like it might help.
@Greg - Interesting, and you're right about chrome adopting the nearby color environment. The Trim Monokote comes in a variety of colors but I assumed chrome would give the biggest flashes. Maybe the orange or yellow would be more visible?
 

Latest posts

Top