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Posted by waqa | Feb 21, 2011 @ 01:01 AM | 3,306 Views
Thought I'd share this one in case someone else can benefit. Using my laptop at the field is out of the question, I just can't read it in the bright SoCal sun. I can however read my Palm Vx and 505 screens, in fact the brighter the sun the better. Since I've been doing a lot of different testing and needed a ground station I can configure easily I created a basic Palm program that creates a simple LCD screens via commands from the serial port (connected to my Xbee Pro via a MAX232). It is a work in progress at this point.

In short you send configuration commands and update commands from your arduino or other MCU. The commands are small and do the following:

-Place a text box or button on the Palm screen, of id x, size x, at x,y
-Update a text box or button of id x
-Send button pressed events from the palm to arduino
-Clear the screen
-Save the screen

The attached arduino code example and prc program for the palm demonstrate these features.

I'm trying my best to keep the coding on the ardiuno as simple and small as possible and am open to any comments/suggestions.
Posted by waqa | Feb 17, 2011 @ 11:41 AM | 3,872 Views
I finally broke down and made a board to suit my various needs. I really like the Seeedstudio Arduino's as they are small and light, have good 3V power regulators, switchable power, reset buttons on the edge of the board, and a few other features I can't remember. Anyhow, rather than building/buying dedicated boards I wanted a general purpose one that I can use on a few projects I've got going. The wish list was simple:
-Work with MultiWii code
-3V I2C bus
-Serial MUX for up to 3 serial devices (GPS,Radio,Logger)
-Direct Connect RC Receiver
-Pin 13 LED Status

I used eagle to design it and Seeedstudio's fabrication service. The fab service was, well ... fab. They got it done and shipped within 5 days. It was on my door in 2 weeks. Not bad in my book.

Last night I tested everything and the board works as designed, no flaws. I can now at least lower the wire bundles on my projects .
Posted by waqa | May 28, 2010 @ 01:06 PM | 3,900 Views
After much fun deciphering radios and receivers and learning Arduino I decided to take a new approach to building a Unmanned Aerial System, one made from readily available off the shelf parts and recycled Palm Pilot and other low cost technology. I started a thread here and a site here where I'll post my progress and do my best to present the code in an easy to understand way.
Posted by waqa | Jan 17, 2010 @ 10:48 AM | 4,275 Views
Took it out to the desert for a one night car-camp and flew in the early windless morning. Ran 2 batteries through it, doing five 1 minute climbs each. Both batteries still had some power left. I taped my $9 key chain camera to it for some video. My carrier box worked well, no worries damaging the plane. I like this plane more and more, it takes just a few minutes to setup and breakdown. I cart-wheeled it on landing a of couple times into cactus and only had to pull some thorns out, no other visible damage , a built-up covered wing would no have done so well.

Mine still seems a tad nose heavy, I've got the 1300 zippy all the way forward. Once off the power it flies level but very fast, which is good because the control surfaces have plenty of authority and stalls are avoided.

I may try and set it up with flaperons just to see if I can slow down landings a little bit. I try to avoid getting too slow on landings to prevent low altitude tip stalls. My flying areas (besides the desert) have plenty of room for landings.

The camera is angled 10 or so degrees down.


Today I took it out with the camera taped to the horizontal stab and was introduced to the 'tip stall'

I checked the CG before flying with the little camera on the tail and it was still ok with the nose slightly down at the recommended CG. The sky was white and the winds gusty making things a little interesting. I really need to paint under...Continue Reading
Posted by waqa | Jan 12, 2010 @ 10:23 AM | 4,666 Views
With more camping trips planned I wanted to take my new glider out to the desert and get some flight time and aerial videos. My neighbor had a big box sitting out with their recyclables so I grabbed it and made a simple carrier with hot glue and bits of foam. I can now pack it in with the camping gear without fear of damage . I keep my 2 radios in the heli case along with batteries and spare parts.
Posted by waqa | Jan 10, 2010 @ 10:50 AM | 4,454 Views
I spent a week in the desert with my daughter, we had a number of remote locations to hike/camp that we'd been trying to get to for a few years. Just in case I got bored I took along my favorite HK450MT. We car camped a couple of nights at Bow Willow campground in Anza Borrego and the temps were great and zero wind. Both mornings I burned through 4 packs and started doing small 30 foot circuits and figure 8's comfortably. I changed my emergency procedures from dropping to the ground to getting to a safe altitude and level off. Only snag to this emergency plan is I kept ending up 30 or more feet up in the air, resulting in a new situation of getting it back down safely .

I think I'm 40 or so packs into flying and having the zero wind and plenty of background to maintain good visual orientation seemed to help me jump forward in my training to where I probably should be. I've been flying at the same location up until now and I seemed to be in a rut.

I also fly RC gliders and my daughter has always wanted to go up in the real thing so we stopped by Sky Sailing in Warner Springs and she went up for an intro flight in the trainer. They have a camera on the wing.
Posted by waqa | Dec 28, 2009 @ 12:54 AM | 4,593 Views
I think I found my sweet spot for learning. I've been following these instructions as close as possible:


And aside from a few times that I strayed I've been doing ok. But during the last couple days I setup my 2 HK450MT's with 1-2 degrees of pitch at the bottom collective position 1, 5 at mid, 8 at max. I also set my dual rates to 75% which helped alot as well, and will try set them to 75%:50% next time I fly, 100% is just too much and I have no intention of doing any 3D anytime soon. My 11T pinion keeps head speed well below 3000. I also replaced the landing gear with TREX 500 gear raising the tail higher. I also spent more time with the blade balancer and pitch gauge and removed blade tracking errors and as much vibration as I can. Both are much smoother now, and emergency landings aren't as hard. I feel totally comfortable now without the training wheels

My training discipline has improved as well. Today I kept to the plan and practiced small side-to-side and forward-reverse maneuvers until I could do them without thinking too much. I went through 4 packs without any major crashes finally . I feel like I just might one day be able to really fly well


With the higher gear I never hit the tail once. With the 1-2 degree of pitch at the bottom stick the few emergency landings I did ended reasonably soft. My previous setup had my blades hitting the tail boom and destroying the boom and stabilizer a few times. If you notice in the video I'm flying without the stabilizer and braces, I didn't notice any difference in performance though I'm only doing easy maneuvers and not stressing the airframe much.

I'm getting about 8 minutes before the battery monitor starts beeping, from what I read I may get more time with a slightly higher head speed.
Posted by waqa | Dec 27, 2009 @ 10:51 AM | 4,612 Views
I've got alot of these, some a year old or more. I built a small servo tester some time ago and dug it out to test some old servos I wanted to use to replace ones which I broke gears on in my heli training. Most of my old 900's are not nearly as smooth as the new ones I've received over the last 2 months. The recent ones have longer leads, and are silky smooth compared to the older ones.

These servos don't stand up to crashes, I've wrecked the gears in 4 so far. BUT they are cheap! I've kept a bunch of spare gears for months and finally found a good use for them! It is a major pain to replace servos on the HK450 frame but it is easy to replace the gears. So all the servos' that suffered from a crash are now working great with a quick gear change.

It's unfortunate these servos break but I wonder what other component would absorb the energy (deform) if it weren't for these cheap servos. I think I'll keep using these until I'm a more competent flyer and then switch to more long-lasting metal gear servos.


Replacement Gears

MG-14 Metal Gear Servos, next level up?
Posted by waqa | Dec 26, 2009 @ 01:27 PM | 5,721 Views
I've been running my zippy LiPos down to near 3.3 volts and was concerned I may shorten their life span prematurely. I managed this by always flying until I noticed a loss of power. So I found these $3 dual buzzer monitors on ebay and figured for the price it was worth a try. I have the HC ones but they are too quiet and moved them into my radios. I went through 4 packs yesterday with the dual buzzers and they are very easy to hear even at a distance over the heli noise. And they beeped before I noticed any power degradation. They were all discharged to around 3.5V with no load so I'm guessing they are measuring near 3.3V under load. I didn't notice a shorter flight time and can't imaging there is much left in them at 3.5V anyway.

Added 12/30:
After running about 10 batteries with the new buzzers I found I'm putting 2000mah back into them suggesting I've still got about 30+ seconds left in them before they are near over discharged, the precise result I was looking for.
Posted by waqa | Dec 26, 2009 @ 01:13 PM | 5,533 Views
I managed to get all the replacement parts for my spare HK450 so built it up and it out Christmas morning.

Both heli's are setup the same way:
ZIPPY Flightmax 2200mAh 3S1P 20C (HC)
HXT900 9g / 1.6kg / .12sec Micro S (HC)
TowerPro H40A Brushless Speed Cont (HC)
Dual Speaker Low Voltage Buzzer For 2/3/4S Lipo Battery (ebay)

Except for the following items:
Turnigy Typhoon 450H 2215H Heli M (HC)
Hobby King 401B AVCS Digital Head Lock Gyro (HC)

KD KA400H 3500kv brushles Heli Motor (HC)
GY48V (ebay)

I've only flown the main one with training gear so I can't garantee these observations, and I'm no expert:
-The turnigy typhoon appears to have more torque than the KA400H. I didin't notice any bogging of the motor at all.
-The heli seems more responsive without the training gear, alot more than I expected.
-Battery time on the spare was noticeably longer.

I don't plan on doing 3D and have tried 75% dual rates and still find I need to dial it down a little more. I'm going to try 50% today. My only concern is I won't have enough throw to get me out of a bad situation, but so far the high rate keeps getting into bad situations .
Posted by waqa | Dec 24, 2009 @ 08:47 PM | 5,199 Views
I really like these inexpensive radios, especially the $14 receivers from Hobbycity.com. I installed a LiPo in it for longer life and no self discharge woes, and wanted a buzzer to warn me when I left it on. I installed one of the Hobby King Battery Monitor 3S and and hot glued it in the case so the LED's show through one of the existing holes behind the sticker. I've never left it on by accident but now there is much less of a chance of killing my LiPo .

While I was at it I dug up an old CPU fan and made a simple cooler for my cheap balance chargers. I'm flying more often now and these balance charges get real toasty when they are working. Hopefully keeping them cooler will help them last longer. The little 40mm fan, old box, and some hot glue, makes up the box and I drilled holes in the chargers for better air flow. The charges never get hot anymore. I made some long 3S extensions so I can drop the batteries in a small ammo can while they charge for safety, I used the new wire mesh guard from hobbycity to keep it neat. Maybe I'll paint the box one day
Posted by waqa | Dec 22, 2009 @ 02:09 AM | 4,822 Views
Some say you need to have $1000 just to get started in Heli's. I don't have that kind of $$ to spend so Hong Kong suppliers is where I look to save money.

Here's a typical example of what your choices are:

From Hong Kong, 10 days typical:

Blade Balancer: $12

The exact same product from a US supplier:



you'll find the same ratio on all kits, parts, etc. Pay double and get it in 5 days, or pay half and get it in 10 days.

You choose.
Posted by waqa | Dec 20, 2009 @ 04:28 PM | 4,761 Views
Learning to fly an rc helicopter sure is hard. The hardest part I'm finding is staying well within my capabilities because it is so easy to get outside of them and into trouble

Along with the flight training comes learning how to build and maintain these sensitive creatures. The imperfections in my first HK450 swashplate made learning nearly impossible due to the vibration rendering my gyro useless as well as causing oscillations. Running a low head speed made the vibes even more apparent. I swapped the entire head assembly from my spare kit and WOW what a difference, smooth as silk and I finally have a gyro .

So my learning has improved much faster and with less frustration. I'm able to get it into a 4 foot high hover, move it slowly side to side, and forward and reverse without crashing.


So far I've gone through 2 tail booms, 4 sets of main blades, and 3 sets of tail blades plus some miscellaneous hardware. I'm trying to follow the flight training laid our here and it appears to be working:

Posted by waqa | Nov 27, 2009 @ 11:02 AM | 4,893 Views
Earlier this year I wrote some software for my Pocket PC that allows it to program aircraft settings on the PC Programmable Turborix/Esky inexpensive 6 channel radio. The motivator behind this was really the inexpensive receivers, 2.4Ghz, and unlimited model storage capability! Since then a few others have added their versions, some more complete than mine with Heli settings! Since I'm really enjoying Heli's I'll add Heli settings to mine over the next few along with a few enhancements like a place to annotate all settings and maybe a model annotation area as well. I like the PalmPilot version the best though.



Posted by waqa | Nov 23, 2009 @ 09:33 AM | 5,837 Views
After a long break from RC I decided try out RC Helicopters. I've flown a few indoor ones, with single rotors, and coax rotors but wanted something I could learn to fly outstide and later on use as a scale or photographic platform. Being on a tight budget I chose the HK450 and associated parts for a mild scale performer from Hobbycity. I already had a couple radios, plenty of servos, and a 30 amp ESC the total cost was around $60 to get started.

Hobbycity was very nice to send me the full metal version H450MT instead of the plastic version that I paid for, thank you hobbycity !

So far I've practiced hovering alot, and crashed it trying to hover and fly on a gusty day. Damage wasn't too bad and I have the replacements parts to get going again (spare main blade, 1 servo). I straightened out the slightly bent flybar and hopefully I can get it all the balance again.

I find heli's are hard to learn, and it takes time to build the necessary skills needed for quick reaction times on the sticks. If I can do figure 8's by summer I'll be happy.

I always take a foamie with me to the field though, my old BB33 has some serious miles and her .
Posted by waqa | May 12, 2009 @ 07:45 PM | 4,770 Views
Here's some useful information from another member (Aurorae). Since a lot of us here frequently buy our stuff from Hobbyking, it is good to know they have an official claim processes (it appears similar to EMS requirements). So far I have had zero problems with many perfect orders, 5 included a free Turnigy radio neck strap.

If you have received a parcel that is incorrect or incomplete, you must do the following within 48hrs of receiving the parcel ;

1) DO NOT throw any of the packaging or product materials away. Keep the entire package 100% as you recieved it.
2) Weigh your parcel and it's contents. You can use a kitchen scale for this. It must be accurate to 5g.
3) Photograph the parcel and it's contents while weighing it. The photo must show products, parcel and packing materials clearly.

Email cs@hobbyking.com with the following information ;

Order ID:
Parcel Weight:
Problem with order:
Attach photos as stipulated above.

Failure to follow the procedures above will result in a rejection of the claim.

Posted by waqa | Apr 16, 2009 @ 02:43 PM | 5,092 Views
My BB30 has been flying with the ArduPilot and Pencam alot lately. With the added weight it flies faster but handles wind better. And by faster I mean just a bit more than a floater, probably around 10mph instead of 7mph . So it is still a great plane for relaxed flying. Only difference is now I can flip a switch and watch it fly to a few waypoints and take a bunch of pictures all by itself.

I've been flying without the recommended FMA sensor/stabilizer but so far have only flown in low winds and the inherent stability of the plane manages to keep it level. Now I just need to figure out how to have it shut the motor down, stay level, and take pictures to reduce the vibration evident in most of my images.

I also have to give kudos to this camera. For $15 and a $4 servo it takes some great pictures. It only uses 128Mb SD cards, stores about 400 images on each one. I bought a bunch for $2 a piece off ebay! I love recycling perfectly good 'old' stuff

I chose to remove the Pencam case as it adds about 1oz. I replaced it with dollar tree foam and hot glued everything to keep the modifications from coming apart. There are a few threads on this great little camera, just search for PenCam.

I love this platform so much I', rebuilding another one that will be able to carry my Pentax Optio S7, and be able to take a couple sizes of wings and batteries for different flying conditions.
Posted by waqa | Mar 22, 2009 @ 11:40 PM | 4,577 Views
The ArduPilot folks probably think I'm mad but I just had to try it with my BB30. Early this morning, with calm winds, I flew my BB30 about 300 meters away and hit the autopilot switch. She turned around and flew right back to the launch point autonomously!

I dropped the rudder gain in the software to half its normal setting (15) prior to flight anticipating the sensitive rudder and she oscillated a little bit but managed to get on heading just fine. I have adjusted the gain down to 10 for tomorrow mornings test and I expect her to make gentle turns into the way point heading with minimal oscillations. And all this with no FMA to level the wings .

My wife has offered to video tomorrows fun so stay tuned!
Posted by waqa | Mar 18, 2009 @ 01:23 AM | 4,863 Views
I've been working on getting a PalmPilot to talk to the Turborix transmitter but intermittent serial issues have been hampering things. I've also been working on an airframe for Aerial Photography + UAV using the Arduino pilot. I'm leaning toward either a BB40 or an efficient glider design.

I've flew my BB33, Funjet, and Foam Hawk a few times. The Funjet slows down nicely with flaperons. With a 3S battery I goes vertical at 3/4 throttle and I think the 12A ESC might be near capacity. I got carried away with the close in flybyes and flew it into the ground pretty hard and it only suffered minor damage to the nose, I picked it up and fly flew another 10 minutes. I really like it a lot and need to figure out how to paint it to seal the paper so it lasts long.

I built a new wing for the BB33 out of $tree foam and left the paper on. It is much stiffer now and 10g lighter. And it flies like it is on rails now.

I bent the trailing edges on the hawk and it also flies better now as well.

Here's a video of the funjet:
funjet fun with a crash

and a video of the BB33 with the new wing:
BB33 new wing on rails

Hawk video
Posted by waqa | Mar 09, 2009 @ 01:01 AM | 4,948 Views
I'm going to try and add a post here at least every couple of weeks so here's the latest from my RC Foam Plane Works.

FFF Eagle:
After lurking around the Q-Planes and other Bird threads I decided on building the FFF Eagle scaled up a little to fit a 36 inch $tree foam wing. I built the main wing section from a single piece of foam, added the feather tips and trailing edge with hot glue. Dihedral was easy, just cut one side of the paper, gouge a channel, hot glue, bend, scrape the excess glue, and hold for a few seconds. I used hot glue throughout except the control horns (1 drop CA each). All paper was left on, 100 degree v-tail, took about 2 hours to build.
I balanced it 2 inches back from the leading edge and this turned out to be too much. After the maiden I had to add the second battery in the nose to get it to balance just right. I built it to mimick the real thing and it was fun getting it up to altitude and trying to thermal it. Oddly this was the first RC aircraft I've ever got caught in a tree .


I now have it dialed in nicely with just a little reflex and it really flies nicely. Today I flew it pretty hard with plenty of high speed vertical runs, loops, rolls, and the 2S 800mah battery died after over 10 minutes. I think once I get a new 18A ESC I'll tryout a 1300mah battery.

And of course I spent 20 minutes flying my BB33:
This plane is just too much fun, it shouldn't be called a trainer. I ran a full battery down for the first time, nearly 20 minutes of flying on a 2S 800mah. And to think I was going to put a 2S 1300mah in it. The gorilla glue holding the horizontal stab broke loose though I didn't notice it until I landed it. It might be time to build a new one

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