Illuminated Instrument Panel

Rather than simply paint an instrument panel, I wanted to build up one that illuminated.  Since we are assuming that this N4 would be a "next generation" Coast Guard Heli, we can safely assume large glass displays, with a few conventional instruments as backup.  I formed the bezels out of styrene, and printed the graphics on transparency film out of my color laser.  I had to "double up" on the overlays to get the contrast I was looking for, but they look ok.

Rather than wiring a bunch of discrete LED's I got one of those children's light wands with a "fan" of fiber optic strands.  I outfitted it with a single, bright LED and ran the strands through holes in the instrument panel.  Then, I glued them in, and clipped them flush.  To illuminate the glass displays, I made "Light buckets" out of some bubble container, simply finding two the right size and spraying the inside with chrome paint.  2 white Luxeon LED's light things up, while a few spaced sheets of scuffed plastic act as diffusers to provide an even background light (rather than a point source).  A DeLight controller from Dimension Engineering gets tucked away inside the instrument cowling, leaving only one servo connection at installation time!

Below, you can see the panel right after completion, being tested.  By the way, a handy item to keep on your bench is a little pack you make with a 7.4v LiPo, an AR6100E receiver, and an Align BEC (which has the switch and voltage monitor built in).  This way you always have a test rig handy.