Telemetry Radio
ElGuano's blog
Posted by ElGuano | Jun 14, 2014 @ 02:02 PM | 1,647 Views
Neopixels on the Phantom are finally done!

I added the two front sticks for a total of 32 LEDs, cleaned up the external wiring so they're entirely hidden, and finished my E300 motor/ESC swap.

It's still a mess on the inside, but it looks fairly clean externally:

I decided not to modify the sticks or the shell to fit the clear lenses; it doesn't seem to greatly affect shell/arm integrity, and it would be a lot of work.

Final result: Just like my Y6, front arms are purple, back arms are turquoise. Of course, they mirror the NAZA status LED, so whenever the NAZA flashes green/red/yellow, all four arms do exactly the same.
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Posted by ElGuano | Jun 14, 2014 @ 01:50 PM | 1,573 Views
After >100 hours flight time on my Phantom 1's stock 2212/920 motors, I figured it was time for an overhaul! I picked up an F450 ARF kit (which comes with E300 motors/ESCs/props and costs almost exactly the same as the E300 kit alone, great deal!) and scavenged the parts for the Phantom.

I knew the fit was going to be tight inside the shell, but I really had to shoehorn the ESCs in to get them around the standoffs and ensure they didn't contact other components or the NAZA.

Since the load on a Phantom is known and non-excessive, I sliced off the heatshrink and removed the ESC heatsinks. That saves about 9g per arm.
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Posted by ElGuano | May 29, 2014 @ 12:36 AM | 1,799 Views
It feels like it's been a long time since I've cracked open the Phantom's shell! Well, that ended tonight. After too much time messing with the F450, I accumulated enough parts and motivation to get back to the old P1.

The Neopixel NAZA-mirroring mod I posted about earlier was done on my F450 Y6, but that was really because it was a larger, easier test bed to work with. With that successfully completed, it was time to port things over to the Phantom.

I'm not going to detail the entire build tutorial again, since it's pretty much the same as the Y6 build, so if you're interested in the details and sketch code, head on over there.

I wanted to do this mod because I'd like to eventually replace my old ESCs and motors (100+ hours of flight time so far) with the E300 kit. The E300 ESCs don't have LEDs, so I would lose all of the Phantom's orientation lights, and I really didn't want that. I also didn't really care for the Phantom's red-in-front lighting scheme, so it was really time for something custom. Hence, the neopixels. And of course, the Arduino-based NAZA-LED mirroring is really the icing on the cake.

Instead of the pretty 16-LED rings, for the Phantom I opted for an 8-LED strip, that just fits the stock arm light cutout. It's not perfect and I'll have to shave things down a bit to get the lenses back on, but it's close enough for now.

After a couple of hours of soldering and crimping, I had this. It's not pretty, and this isn't the final config. I...Continue Reading
Posted by ElGuano | Apr 11, 2014 @ 04:42 PM | 3,812 Views
This mod details the parts/setup/programming for an Arduino-based orientation LED system that incorporates the NAZA's (and presumably, WKM/A2) LED signals. My lights are set to display a static orientation front/back, but change to mimic the Naza's red/green/yellow flashes in real time as well. You can also add animations, responses to other RC input (change color when throttling, etc.) and whatever else you can think of.

  • 3 rings of 16 LEDs each (48 total)
  • Fully programmable color and brightness for each LED, including complex animations
  • Total weight installed: 35g
  • Does NOT interfere with USB/NAZA-M Assistant function

Here's what it looks like on the Y6:

And a test and flight video here:
F450 Neopixel + Arduino install completed (1 min 7 sec)

First off, huge props to Yves Gohy's original mod posted here. I used similar parts, and adapted his Neopixels code.


Here's the parts list:
  1. Adafruit Trinket 5V (Arduino-lite controller):
  2. Adafruit Neopixel 16-LED ring (one for each arm). The 16-LED version fits perfectly around the E300 2212/920kv motor housing, but you can get light strips, light bars, individual LED+driver modules, etc.
  3. 5V output UBEC (just use whichever one you want)
  4. 300 ohm resistor for Neopixel data line:
  5. 1000uF 10V electrolytic capacitor (x3, one for each power branch): http://www.mouser.
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Posted by ElGuano | Mar 30, 2014 @ 11:47 AM | 2,931 Views
Not sure how useful this post will be to anyone with a 1.1.1, as anyone who got an earlier version has burned in effigy and taken out a contract on any retailer that sends old stock. But for some of us with older Phantoms, the non-self-tightening motors mean we can't use the integrated-nut props. Finally, DJI has released a version of their 9" 9443 props for holdouts like us.

As mentioned earlier, I got several sets of these genuine DJI non-self-tightening plastic 9443 props ("knockoff" versions of this prop have been available since the Vision first shipped). I've been looking for these for a while, but finally jumped on them when I found them for the standard price of $15/pair and genuinely needed "upside down" props for the bottom motors on the Y6. Of course, I couldn't go without testing them on the Phantom.

Carbon fiber (knockoff) 9443s:

AUW with carbon fiber props: 1282g

DJI NST 9443s:
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Posted by ElGuano | Mar 29, 2014 @ 01:07 PM | 3,409 Views
Here's a compilation of the pinouts for various DJI NAZA peripherals. Hopefully it'll be a useful reference for tweakers and modders out there, and will save you the trouble of shaving injection molded plastic connectors. But it's always a good idea to verify pin-outs with a multimeter!

Some of the pictures are from the top of the connector, some are from the bottom. Apologies for the inconsistency, but I've tried to note it in each case.


Puck from left to right: Yellow, orange, red, brown (Low, High, V+, GND).

4-pin NAZA (EXP) connector (from top): Red, orange, yellow brown (V+, High, Low, GND).


PMU from left to right: Brown, orange, yellow, red.

4-pin NAZA (EXP) connector (from TOP): Red, orange, yellow, brown.

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Posted by ElGuano | Mar 26, 2014 @ 11:59 PM | 3,064 Views
Today was the first test flight! I got tired of waiting for my NST props (they hadn't even shipped out yet, thought I ordered on Friday morning), so I reamed out a few sets of my carbon fiber clone 9443s from my Phantom. Didn't bother balancing them.

I loaded up my partially charged Maddog 2700x2 3S2P, connected with the BTU (BTU?? I got a great deal on a Naza-M V2 + iOSD + BTU combo but would never have gotten the BTU myself). AUW: 1401g.

First flight was over grass. Just spin up the motors, make sure nothing explodes. So far so good. Are the motors on? I can't tell, I almost put my hand in the idling props because the E300 is SO QUIET. Incredible. My Phantom buzzes like a weed whacker with the motors armed.

Give it a little throttle...and it's up in the air, no complaint, no hesitation, it just sits there. Throttle up, throttle down, yaw left and right....elevators and aileron. Everything works. How can that be? First build and everything's perfect? When's the other shoe, or the entire hex, gonna drop?

Nope, it just sits there planted in the air. Wait, what were my gains? I didn't set any. Check the iphone and they're at 120/120/140/130. Huh. OK. While it's hovering there, I set roll and pitch to X1 and start cranking it up and down. Starts wavering at 80%. Solid at 150%. Solid at 190%. Solid at 250% but the pitch of the motors changes a bit. Huh, ok, just like the Phantom. It doesn't care about gains.

I realized I forgot to start my timer. How...Continue Reading
Posted by ElGuano | Mar 26, 2014 @ 02:17 AM | 2,563 Views
Up and running. Almost. I finished most of the remaining build today. Everything's kind of cobbled together and hot-glued in place temporarily just so I have something to test. After a few hopefully successful test flights, I'll break it down and find better positions/mounts for everything.

Trying to fit things into the frame is worse than a jigsaw puzzle. I must have spent two hours dry-fitting and diagraming where the NAZA, PMU, OSD, etc. should all go.

Tight space in the frame:

Standing up the PMU:

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Posted by ElGuano | Mar 25, 2014 @ 10:03 AM | 2,329 Views
The build is coming along slowly. I got all of the motors and ESCs installed on the arms, PDB set up, and connected to the NAZA to ensure proper power and rotation.

Motor mount detail:

10mm carbon fiber rod shaft (semi-press-fit), set screw, and zip ties to hold secure.

All arms completed

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Posted by ElGuano | Mar 24, 2014 @ 12:42 AM | 2,526 Views
This post was inspiring. After pretty much maxing out the power to weight ratio of my Phantom, I was looking for a smallish quad that had a lot more lifting power - something in the 2000g range. The answer, for the moment, is a hex. But most of those are pretty large and unwieldy, so when I saw Bobolavega's incredible rendering and build, I knew that's where I wanted to go.

The base parts: E300 propulsion, F450 frame, two extra arms to scavenge for hex config.

I'm comfortable hacking away at PCB frames, so the first thing I wanted to do was widen the stance of the front arms - that would make it a bit easier to mount a camera, and get the "Y" config a bit more equilateral.

Top plate cutout pattern:

The final cutout:
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Posted by ElGuano | Mar 06, 2014 @ 01:05 AM | 2,994 Views
Well, the iOSD mini itself ships at exactly 16g, so there's nothing special here.

The thing is, my Phantom mainboard has 9g shaved off of it, so the decision to go PMU or upgrade board was a tough one. The upgrade board can't really be shaved (at least, not to a degree that would make a difference). The PMU is a heavy, extra component. I took the gamble that I could make the PMU a bit lighter and opted for that option, also thinking I could always use the PMU on a new multi if I wanted to.

Turns out, you can get a LOT of weight off the PMU, and the iOSD mini as well!
PMU before:

PMU after:

iOSD before:
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Posted by ElGuano | Jan 23, 2014 @ 11:56 PM | 3,860 Views
So today, I hit 30 minutes flight, in not one, in two completely different ways.

The first was a bare Phantom with 5400mah battery @ 987g.

The second, was also a bare Phantom (so to speak), but this time with two 4400mah batteries in parallel, or 8800mah @ 1262g.

Both hit just over 30 minutes. There was quite a bit of juice left in the 8800mah pack afterwards, even with the low voltage alarm blinking for a couple of minutes. I think this is really an indication of how low the IR is on the 5400mah Maddogs - when it blinks, you land.

But another interesting note is that the 1262g 8800mah Phantom weighs almost exactly the same as a gimbal + gopro + fpv + 5400mah Phantom (1268g). That means we can directly compare the effect of having an extra 3400mah "for free," as if the 5400mah had an extra 63% more energy density. The result is ~45% more flight time, from 21 minutes to a full 30 minutes.

Honestly, I don't see myself ever flying this long. There's no camera and no FPV. With the 5400mah, it's under 1kg so who knows, maybe it could be a long-flight acro quad? Probably not. But it's nice knowing that 30+ minute flights are within reach.
Posted by ElGuano | Jan 23, 2014 @ 08:58 AM | 2,852 Views
Still testing my 5400mah 3s2p mod. This time, an endurance run with a completely stripped, bare Phantom. End result:

30 minutes, 22 seconds.

First level alarm came on at 29:04.
Ending voltage: 10.8.
AUW 987g.

The voltage was a bit lower than I would have liked, the Maddogs really need to land quickly once first level alarm is hit on the Naza (set to 10.6v). My 4400s can linger for a good 3 minutes or more. The Maddogs really should be landed within a minute of the first alarm, maybe sooner.

Phantom weight (no battery):

Phantom weight AUW (with battery):

Posted by ElGuano | Jan 22, 2014 @ 08:58 PM | 5,248 Views
So, this is hardly news by now (dotster77 has been running dual-5400s since October), but I finally found the opportunity to get a new set after losing my first 5400, and decided to document the modding process. I wasn't sure if I wanted to post this up, but I think in the end, more information is better than less.


The 2700s I use are's Maddog 2700s. They're true rated, and fit in the Phantom without modification if you're into the single-battery thing

Each battery is 201-203g.

Two batteries side by side - 405g.

This is how big they are compared to my 4400 (2200x2):
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Posted by ElGuano | Jan 22, 2014 @ 08:57 PM | 3,127 Views
1/26/2014: Just a small mod today, took literally 10 minutes. I removed the heavy-shielding GoPro USB cable, and installed 30awg light wire. It saved about 3g.

AUW 4400mah: 1190g even.
AUW 5400mah: 1265g.



5400mah weight (new cable looping around the top left of image):
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Posted by ElGuano | Jan 11, 2014 @ 11:20 AM | 3,646 Views
A list of my current weight saving mods for my Phantom, along with measured weight savings:

Simensays v3 Landing gear: -23g
Soldered 3S2P 4400mah battery: -22g
Shaved in-shell dual-battery mod: -7g (50-80 grams less than external mount)
carbon fiber props: -10g
USB cable delete: -12g
alloy prop nuts: -4g
Shaved Tarot T-2D gimbal: -17g
Shaved motherboard: -9g
Wiring routing: -5g

Current AUW (4400mah battery, gimbal, gopro, fpv, 9" props): 1205g

Total weight savings over similarly configured Phantom: ~110-220g