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klaw81's blog
Posted by klaw81 | Jan 01, 2013 @ 06:14 AM | 1,736 Views
Wow, it's been a long time since I updated this blog! I'm very pleased to report that my project has ended up being a success, and a very enjoyable introduction into the world of FPV flight.

My final step in the build process was to make a mounting platform for the "backpack" which comprises the camera and video transmitter in a single portable module. The camera mount is very simple - it's made from 3 small pieces of 3mm depron foam, glued together and shaped to replace the base of the standard Bixler canopy. A strip of velcro holds the backpack in place, and the power cable goes in a small recess at the rear of the mount.

In the air, the whole setup works very well. The camera is held firmly in place, the antenna is positioned clear of the airframe, and the backpack and doesn't move during turbulence or bumpy landings.I can remove the camera and transmitter, and have it working on another aircraft, in 20 seconds.

After all the checked and double-checking, my first proper FPV flight was almost anti-climatic. I very quickly found that flying via goggles is actually quite simple, and feels very natural - and I'm totally hooked on the experience.

Having studied the local area on Google Maps satellite view earlier that day and picked out a number of distinctive landmarks, it was very easy to keep orientated to my surroundings. I also used the "distance measure" tool in Google Maps to determine a rough 600m perimeter around the location so I...Continue Reading
Posted by klaw81 | Oct 16, 2012 @ 01:51 AM | 2,284 Views
There are heaps of threads about how to put a Bixler together, and frankly it's so easy that there's not much more to say. But I've finished building mine, and I'm pretty happy with the result.

I've made a number of modifications to the stock plane, in an effort to make it more suitable for FPV. Most of these modifications have been prompted by other threads on this forum about the Bixler - thanks for the assistance and the valuable information about what works.

My whole fuselage was joined together with hot-melt glue. I am hoping this will allow me to open it up again, should the need arise. The whole process only took 10 minutes or so. I also removed some of the more garish decals, and did a paint job to make the plane a little more distinctive. The tail and undersides of the wings have been repainted, and I will probably add some aluminium foil to the tops of the wings as well. This simple trick reflects the sunlight, even on the greyest of days, and is very helpful with long-distance orientation (and lost planes in long grass).

Here's a list of my mods to the airframe:

1. Remove weights from the nose. This is a simple operation, but they're very well stuck with big globs of hot glue. They took quite a lot of force to remove.

2. Additional reinforcing in various locations:
- a 3mm hollow carbon rod about 550mm long in the base of the tail boom fits perfectly into the groove provided and stiffens the whole structure nicely.
- a 2mm solid carbon rod about...Continue Reading
Posted by klaw81 | Sep 03, 2012 @ 08:51 PM | 1,983 Views
Well, I finally got an opportunity on the weekend to test my FPV equipment properly. I've been working on a construction site for the past couple months, and haven't been able to fly at all. But on a brief home visit this weekend, I finally got the chance to use some of the gear I've been putting together.

My Bixler arrived from HobbyKing a couple weeks ago, but it's still in its box. But I wasn't going to let that stop me - I velcro-mounted my FPV backpack to my trusty ME-163 Komet for some real-world testing of my camera, transmitter and receiver. The Komet is too fast and twitchy to attempt a proper FPV flight - instead, a friend took the plane for a couple of LOS laps while I "went for a ride" via the goggles.

I am thrilled to report that the entire setup worked perfectly - I had a clear picture in all directions at about 300m, with no interference from the ESC (I'm using the same battery for the plane and FPV gear) or radio control that I could discern. I saw a couple of flickers when the plane passed behind some nearby pine trees, but otherwise it was pretty much perfect.

I think I can also safely say that my flying buddies and I are hooked on FPV. They all clamoured for a "ride" and loved the experience.

My next steps are:
a) to get the Bixler built, so I have a suitable trainer platform for learning to fly exclusively from the camera.
b) make a pole to mount my receiver on - currently it's velcroed onto my goggles and the weight of all the cords drags the goggles down.
c) do some more careful range testing to find the oputer limits of my current setup. I will probably set up a buddy-box for this, so that my spotter can take over if necessary.
Posted by klaw81 | Aug 23, 2012 @ 02:00 AM | 2,018 Views
There are heaps of planes available these days which could be used for FPV. Making a poor choice could make the hobby rather frustrating, and make the whole exercise expensive and far less enjoyable.

Choosing the right aerial platform for FPV can be a pretty bewildering, with a massive variety of sizes, styles, construction materials and prices. And many of the models also come in different "stages" from kits to ARFs and RTFs too.

My own choice of plane came down to three simple criteria:

Size
I don't have the space to fly anything larger than a quadcopter in my back yard, so I needed to be able to transport my chosen FPV aircraft aircraft to my regular flying spot in a small sedan - preferably with room left for some of my other aircraft.

This narrowed my choices considerably, since many of the larger planes wouldn't fit in the car and would be highly impractical. However, many models have detachable and/or split-wing designs that make them much easier to transport.

Price
It had to be relatively cheap, or I wouldn't be able to justify it. After all, I do have 7 planes already. Anything over $100, including any extra parts needed and the cost of shipping, was judged too expensive for my budget. I'm pretty tight

Proven ability
I had to rely on the experiences and opinions of others for this one, since I wasn't able to test them all myself. There are a few aspects to ability:

Firstly, I needed a plane that was easy to fly. I am quite...Continue Reading
Posted by klaw81 | Aug 22, 2012 @ 12:06 AM | 2,072 Views
For a noob, the most daunting and tricky part of building an FPV system out of disparate parts from a variety of vendors is making it all work together - especially in a world where manuals and instructions are often missing, unclear or written by people with a poor understanding of the language. This is the price we pay for cheap electronic equipment sometimes, and the information is usually only a Google search away. I was pleased to find that the majority of the setup was actually straightforward and stress-free. Even a complete noob has little to fear here.

The aircraft-mounted parts were the first to go together. Both the camera and video transmitter (VTx) require a nominal 12V power source to operate, which works well with the 3-cell LiPo battery which most of my planes run. In addition, the colour-coding on the wires for the camera and Vtx use an identical colour code - yellow for video signal, red for positive, black for earth. This made connecting the 2 items together very simple; I only had to cut off the standard camera power/signal cable supplied with the camera (it has security-camera-oriented connectors, which are both bulky and heavy) and connect them to the VTx’s bare wiring harness - 5 minutes with a soldering iron, some heat-shrink and it was complete. RCModelReviews has an excellent Youtube video of how to make these connections, and also recommends the adaption of a servo extension cord to allow the 2 items to be easily unplugged. I didn’t...Continue Reading
Posted by klaw81 | Aug 22, 2012 @ 12:02 AM | 2,044 Views
Thankfully for my wallet, I already had all the needed equipment for a radio controlled aircraft, since I’d been in the game for a while. This made my entry into the hobby a little cheaper. - I didn’t need to buy batteries or a charger, and my Turnigy 9x was pretty much perfect for an FPV beginner since it can be easily and cheaply upgraded for longer range if I want to.

I also had a decent collection of tools and other supplies - a soldering iron and solder, spare wires and servos and all those handy bits and pieces that come in handy occasionally. There were still a bunch of things I needed to buy though...

Video transmitter and receiver
Having researched my options for video frequencies, it very quickly became apparent that 2 of the common FPV frequencies were definitely not an option. There’s a mobile phone tower operating on 900Mhz just a few kilometers from my favourite flying field, so 900Mhz was definitely out. I use a ER9X-modded Turnigy 9X radio for all my aircraft so 2.4Ghz wasn’t an option either. Some deeper research suggested that all of the lower-frequency options would probably be rather illegal in Australia without a ham radio license, although I understand some longer-range pilots are risking it and using 1.2Ghz gear.

5.8Ghz was emerging as my best (legal) option, The main limitations of this frequency are signal multi-pathing (causing poor image quality) and the inability to penetrate solid objects. Since I would be...Continue Reading
Posted by klaw81 | Aug 21, 2012 @ 11:47 PM | 2,736 Views
I know there are already lots of “getting into FPV” blogs out there, but I get so much help from these forums and other people’s contributions, and I’d like to give something back. So over the past week or so, I’ve put together some notes on my FPV adventures. I hope they will be useful to someone. Here goes....

I’ve been flying electric planes on and off for about 5 years, but I’ve only become more deeply involved with the hobby in the past 18 months. I now have a collection of 7 foam planes of various sizes, including a couple of depron scratch builds, and I also have a couple of small coaxial helicopters. I’ve dabbled in a bit in 3D stunt-flying (a LOT more practice required for that) and most recently, I made myself a scratch-build quadcopter.

It must have been the quadcopter that got me thinking more about FPV. It wasn’t long after my quad was built that I mounted a keychain camera on it, and later on my new and rather expensive phone, in an attempt to get some decent in-flight footage. FPV and multi-rotors just seem to be a natural fit. Of course, the prospect of being able to fly my planes in a new and novel manner was very appealing too. I watched a lot of FPV videos on Youtube and it looked like a lot of fun. Plus, the technical aspects of putting together a functional FPV system appealed to my geeky side immensely. So after some negotiations with the minister for war and finance (my wife) I decided to...Continue Reading