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Posted by Jack Crossfire | Jan 20, 2009 @ 04:07 AM | 3,633 Views
2 commutes banging on thrust vectoring have really gotten nowhere. Another redesign of the thrust vectoring actuator & it's binding, flexing, wobbling. This was supposed to make it lighter & more balanced. At least we drove back down with a good servo mount. Better get ready to flip the electronics around & fabricate another crazy battery mount to balance this one.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Jan 19, 2009 @ 04:59 AM | 3,844 Views
Since you're all now experts in 4 & 5 rotors, decided we might as well give U a full review of 3 rotors. No-one has ever documented many details about a tri rotor. They say it flies great & move on. The tri rotor weighs the same as the quad rotor. Probably won't be flying until Wednesday.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Jan 18, 2009 @ 07:23 AM | 3,507 Views
Made up a bolt-on penta rotor. It only takes 1 commute to convert between 4 & 5. The hardest part is rotating & realigning the IMU.

U might say it's payload on demand. U can't easily increase the payload of a unicopter without expanding the tail boom, but U can design a quad rotor to take bolt-on rotors.

Unfortunately, once again the penta rotor went nowhere fast. The longest flight was 4 min & that was with the battery always below the cutoff voltage for normal operations. GPS once again never locked, regardless of whether the ESC's were on. Suspect the carbon fiber arrangement is causing some kind of ground loop.

The connection of the 5th rotor did indeed wobble. The wobbling caused resonant oscillation with the rate controller. Spreading the weight more evenly between the 5 rotors may have increased flight time a hair. Now we're pretty sure the use of angled nacelles to defeat torque is sucking the power.

We can eliminate inefficiencies in inline propellers from the list of culprits in the penta rotor....Continue Reading
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Jan 17, 2009 @ 08:44 AM | 3,229 Views
The penta rotor was disassembled in an accidental attempt to convert it into a 3 rotor. There R no plans to rebuild it. After debating 3 rotors & 6 rotors, went back to 4 rotors. 6 rotors seemed too noisy in a final revelation.

So it takes 2 commutes to go between 5 & 4. Takes a lot of soldering, a few miles of ny-ties, & a few acres of double sided tape.

There was no benefit to 5 rotors. In your wildest dreams, if U centered the weight exactly, it wouldn't be as efficient as a quad rotor.

Its only redemption is it was the only pentarotor which was ever built & flown in all human history. Someday someone famous in China will build a penta rotor & the world will beat a path to their door, but U saw it here first.

We did learn computer stabilization can make ANYTHING fly. Angled nacelles can replace counter rotating propellers. Unbalanced thrust doesn't generate yaw from roll. Angled nacelles R a stupid idea since propeller torque consumes 15% of power. U take out another 15% for sideways thrust to counteract the original 15%, sort of like commumericans....Continue Reading
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Jan 16, 2009 @ 01:30 AM | 3,843 Views
Decided we're not going to have enough time off in daylight to work out the solvable bugs, so the first flight was at night. She did indeed crash, but is still holding together. The standard crash is to flip over nose first during takeoff. She also tends to roll over sideways as expected.

Takeoffs require gunning the throttle with neutral pitch & pulling up as soon as the nose lifts off. Takeoffs always start with a nose dive. There isn't enough power to take off with the aft rotor pulling down. Once airborne & trimmed, flight is like a normal copter. Landings R easy. There's no dreaded roll/yaw coupling. That was a test stand artifact.

Yaw control without any wind is the same as the quad rotor.

4Ah 20C is not eough. You'll get 1 minute at a time. Landing gear probably has 2 more battery sets left before it falls apart. Couldn't get any GPS locks with the uBlox. It's either damaged or someone is using 1.5Ghz....Continue Reading
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Jan 15, 2009 @ 12:20 AM | 3,406 Views
So we're not going to fly the 5 rotor until the next hour off in daylight. That could be anywhere in the next 1000 years. Going to have video rolling for the takeoff & crashing.

In the mean time, most of U only fly because U want to make money off it someday, just like how we were crazy about html coding in 1997 & sick of it in 2001. So U get the business blog.

Back in our musician days, we learned the hardest pieces we could find: Rachmaninoff's sonata, the Liszt sonatas, Liszt Etudes, Schumann's Tocatta. Teachers always said we needed simpler pieces to get publicity. We never had to make any money, planned on quitting in a few years & didn't care if no-one ever heard of Transcendental Etude #12, so no-one ever heard of us & we never made any money.

VicaCopter is the most glamorous of glamorous hobbies. Everybody wants to make a powered autonomous VTOL. We bought everything except the uBlox-5 using our own money. We set our own agenda. There was no reporting to anyone. No odd projects for sponsors. No McRosoft. No babysitting airheads. No booth duty. No marketing.

That wouldn't happen if we wanted to build a VicaCopter business. It's almost impossible to build any kind of business with your own money. You have to get sponsored. You have to do the goofy side projects to raise money & get publicity. You have to use Windows. Your product has to feel accessible to the most people.

Everybody wants to make a powered autonomous...Continue Reading
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Jan 14, 2009 @ 01:35 PM | 3,128 Views
First pentarotor tests (3 min 8 sec)

With the 5 rotor on the test stand, noted the following.

Strong coupling between roll & yaw. Every attempt to roll causes a yaw. Aft rotor is tilted in rolls, causing a yaw for every roll. Requires lots of positive pitch trim.

Going to need full time attitude hold, & more Castle Creation tuning.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Jan 12, 2009 @ 08:59 PM | 2,687 Views
Our state of the art computational fluid dynamics system showed the penta rotor would suffer from extreme weather vaning of the tail rotor. Yaw provided by the 2 front propeller torques would not be enough to overcome weather vaning. In the worst case, U would have 2 front rotors stopped & be completely unbalanced again.

Moving the tail rotor closer would make no difference. You'd watch a line of 3 propellers mysteriously turn perpendicular to the wind.

U can pile on a servo to control yaw by deflecting tail rotor thrust & add more weight.

The main problem is preventing rollover on the ground. U definitely need heavy rotor shrouds. Just because Draganfly sells underslung propeller craft for $17,000 doesn't mean you're not going to break tons of propellers. Notice how shows plenty of hand launches but never the landings?

Finally, we have shortened flight time from lifting a 5th motor.

There's not much U can do to increase quad rotor performance. U can reduce flight time. U can increase weight. U can reduce payload. Everything you can do to the basic 4 rotor design is just moving performance from 1 area to another.

Your best option is more software to handle unbalanced payloads gracefully. Others don't clamp PWM values. They reduce collective when a PWM is saturated. Thought that was stupid so we didn't implement it, but clearly a powered attitude controller is different than a swashplate.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Jan 11, 2009 @ 03:22 AM | 2,997 Views
Quad cam 2 (3 min 59 sec)

Have some daylight video from the onboard cam. Hand launched automatic takeoffs, automated hovers, automated landing, manual abort, dead battery. The mane problem is loss of balance as the campaign wears on. Since she's upside down a lot for camera setup, the motors get misaligned constantly.

The humans seem to be getting more stable shots than the computers. The main weapon against instability is reducing position feedback. Position feedback currently tries to get the tightest position possible.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Jan 09, 2009 @ 02:43 AM | 2,794 Views
Since any camera mount is going to require hand launches & landings, we did the hand launch & landing tests. Take a look.

hand launched VicaCopter (1 min 47 sec)

Got 1 hand landing before giving up on the idea. Hopefully your government won't command a hand landing program or your universal healthcare program is going to require a bailout.

Did 1 manual hand takeoff to show it was a bad idea. Hurls sideways for a long time before U get it under control.

Automated takeoffs R going to work for the camera mount. Ground landings R going to work for the camera mount because it won't flip over like a single rotor. To save battery power, U still have ground based manual takeoffs. Down to fabricating a stronger camera mount & lighter power supply. Also need a redundant battery for GPS.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Jan 08, 2009 @ 09:58 PM | 2,655 Views
Should read the $parkfun blog more closely.

Gyros took another step down with the LISY300AL. Now only $12 per axis for the part & $30 per axis for the $parkfun board. That's cheaper than hacking PG-03's. U can build an IMU for under $50 in semiconductors or $110 in $parkfun boards. Expect thermopiles to die off shortly, & gyro stabilized toys to start appearing in malls.

Who knows how well the $12 gyros would do, but we suspect if U managed the voltages properly the cheap stuff could do just as well as the ADXRS150's. They could be the enabler for attitude that uBlox 5 was for position.

The trick with gyros is to get the quiescent voltage right in the middle of the A/D range & to keep the supply voltages exactly constant. A/D converters R nonlinear, so plugging 3.3V gyros directly into 5V microprocessors doesn't work. Not all voltage regulators R stable either.

Unfortunately we have no future IMU plans. UAV swarms, aerial refuelling, air launched daughter vehicles, they're all intriguing ways to waste time but they're not in the budget.

How about a VTOL which is dropped by a fixed wing to perform a mission & then snatched again by a skyhook mechanism on the fixed wing. Hopefully some rich Koreans R up to the task.

VicaCopters can be produced for under $600 in parts although we have no plans to move on it. The largest single cost is the uBlox GPS module.

To commercialize VicaCopter, U would need to do some things.

A Windows...Continue Reading
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Jan 08, 2009 @ 02:07 PM | 2,651 Views
90 minutes & $10 is what each crash is costing. You're in luck because GPS was in a good mood.

The fog was slightly clearer at 7:50, giving a huge GPS improvement. This detereorated hugely by 8:25 as fog increased & the satellite over Texas disappeared behind the hill. The satellites R in the same place every day, so U can mostly observe the effects of weather.

The slight algorithm changes & the 5Hz upgrade seem to be a success. When the air is still, the aircraft movement is a direct observation of GPS drift.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Jan 07, 2009 @ 03:52 AM | 2,483 Views
So U think U can avoid the fog by flying earlier eh. Well, the only time it isn't foggy between commutes is when there aren't any good satellites.

During la ninas, Rain Ramon is socked in with fog instead of constant rain from Dec to Mar. In the 1990 la nina, the fog caused huge traffic pileups, killing almost as many people as the 1989 earthquake. La ninas cause very stable, cold airmasses to last for months in the Calif* valleys.

Today's crash was another bug in the landing software which caused her to shoot up 147ft without enough battery power to descend safely.

Today's flight times with no foam baffles:

Good 4Ah: 9m30s
Bad 4Ah: 6m57s
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Jan 06, 2009 @ 02:19 AM | 2,506 Views
So all of last week's styrofoam miracles R busted. The propeller baffles may have increased flight time slightly, but were too noisy. We need stealth in the communist sardine can.

Had fog, drizzle, & no GPS again. Can now guarantee you better keep around some human pilots if U intend to fly low & slow in fog.

One other thing. Our 57600 upstream Comca$t bandwidth may be related to Comca$t'$ new bandwidth throttling software. Those Romanian attackers R using it to turn everyone's $800/year plan into an $800/year brick by flooding everyone's IP address with garbage. Comca$t detects the attack as a bandwidth hog & shuts U down.

Finally, Hale Wayne or Wayne Hale or whatever his name is had a good story about NASA's management training classes this time.


In the private sector, company training is history, especially company training on mountain meadows in front of lodges. From the gourmet cafeterias to the dance classes, your government sounds like some kind of parallel universe from the 50's. Sheesh, heaven forbid your civil servants have to contribute to a health plan.

The irony is if any taxpayer found out their 70% a year was funding modern dance moves in the mountain meadows, Americans would probably vote to have their taxes raised even more to buy a proper dance floor.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Jan 05, 2009 @ 05:10 AM | 2,774 Views
The first cam flight was impressive in terms of output, not in terms of flying. During manual takeoff, the takeoff position snapped to horizontal because of ground effect. Once airborn, the autopilot entered spirals until we commanded a turn. There was no vibration in the video. The only blurring was motion. Battery exhaustion occured just 5m35 seconds later.

Automatic takeoff didn't work. The computer couldn't handle the rapid snap to horizontal caused by ground effect. That was the end of the camera mount. The only economical solution seems to be hand launching & hand capturing.

Until your government commands a battery stimulus package, it's going to be mostly pencams. Would U believe they're still selling that crummy Aiptek from last year for the same price?

Quad cam without brightness

quad cam 1 (1 min 3 sec)

Quad cam with brightness

quad cam 1 (1 min 4 sec)
...Continue Reading
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Jan 04, 2009 @ 08:42 PM | 2,288 Views
So put on baffles to try to deflect rotor wash away from the fuselage.

Good 4Ah: 9m16s
Bad 4Ah: 8m0s
3.3Ah: 5m16s

But it was windy & we also changed PID constants. There's a chance with the baffles of having a styrofoam get sucked into a propeller.

The biggest problem is we never did full discharges with the 750mm motor spacing. They were just 1/2 battery flights.

For this week's video, we have timelapse hovers using different collective I constants. Thought I=0.0001 was the best. This video also has a vortex ring state which the computer recovered from.

collective tests (1 min 33 sec)

We have 2 ideas for vortex ring states. Stick with the current collective jamming or program some kind of routine which always ascends & descends briefly.

Comca$t lowered upload speeds to 57600 so it's now 1/2 as fast as the cell phone, so U can actually upload video faster on a cell phone than Comca$t....Continue Reading
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Jan 04, 2009 @ 04:03 AM | 2,440 Views
The theory with this is U can land & take off without being level. The main problem is it's going to give real short flight times. Also don't have a way to stick the styrofoam pieces together or attach it all to the fuselage. May be limited to pencams with the quad rotor.

Moved the motors closer in preparation for the camera mount. Got some current flight times with the closer positioning.

Damaged 4Ah: 5m51s
Good 4Ah: 8m51s
3.3Ah: 4m27s

Reason to believe the fuselage is interfering with the propulsion.

Also have finally converted the A/D values to battery voltages.

15800 = 11.9V
12600 = 11.2V
-1770 = 7.9V
-3830 = 7.5V

We've been quitting at 10.1V....Continue Reading