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Old Apr 23, 2014, 01:54 AM
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Joined Mar 2014
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Mini-HowTo
Modular FPV Pod for Blade 180QX

i've been flying my 180QX for a while now, and i had the thought that it would make an ideal FPV trainer - it's virtually indestructible and flies like a champ. it's also super light-weight, which means it can't hurt anyone or cause property damage. taking this into consideration, i made a little low-power 5.8ghz FPV pod that replaces the (terrible) factory camera. it is easily removable, doesn't need extra batteries, and weighs slightly more than the factory-supplied video camera that it replaces.



first off, this whole project is a work in progress. this post will mainly focus on the first iteration of this mod (seen above). I have tested and flown the system in this configuration. i felt that it is worth while to post because it works very well and all the parts can be purchased from american distributors. if you build this exact thing, you will be very happy with it. however, the tradeoff is that the components used are a tad on the heavy side. i have some super-light components on order from china, but who knows when the hell they'll show up.

so, here's where i am going to confuse you. i am going to list THREE build configurations. the first one is the mod as i have built and flown. the second configuration is a lighter setup that is still domestically sourced but UNTESTED. the third list is the ultra-light setup that includes stuff from china and is also UNTESTED. just to be clear, i pretty much promise that the second version will work - but i haven't tried it yet. the third setup uses chinese mystery stuff, so who knows how that will work out. THE ELECTRICAL CONNECTIONS FOR ALL THREE CONFIGURATIONS WILL BE EXACTLY THE SAME.

if you are the conservative type, and you want to be 100% sure everything will work great, go with the first configuration. if you are willing to take a chance, go with the second - it will be much lighter. my personal recommendation is to use the second configuration.

without further ado, here is the how-to:

the 180QX has a convenient 3-pin servo-style port on the flight controller that supplies power directly from the battery. i decided to use this to power the FPV pod. it also has a pin that is controlled by your tx, but we wont use that for this mod. it is important to keep in mind that the power that comes out of this port will vary with time, since it taps directly into the battery. this means that we will have to add some sort of regulator to keep this voltage constant (more on this later).

all configurations should use the larger Lectron Pro 600mah battery. it provides higher power output, and will last a lot longer with this mod.

CONFIGURATION 1 - this is the configuration that i have flown and tested:
  1. TBS Greenhorn 25mw 5.8ghz Video Transmitter - $50
  2. Lumenier CP-520 Pico - 520TVL Nano Camera - $50
  3. DigiSpark Boost Kit - $12
  4. IBCrazy 5.8GHz BluBeam whip Antenna / 90 degree SMA - $50
  5. RF RP-SMA Male to SMA Female Adapter - $3

i picked out those components because they were easy to get, should ship fairly quickly, and are low power. in particular, i used the DigiSpark boost kit simply because it was locally available, and i could just pick it up at MicroCenter (<-- a local computer store). it weighs a ton (relatively). TBS decided to use RP-SMA connectors for some dumb reason, so you will also need to add the adapter in this configuration (adds 4 grams). total weight for this configuration is about 28 grams. expect 4 minute flight times with the lectron pro 600mah battery.

CONFIGURATION 2 - what you should probably buy and use:
  1. TBS Greenhorn 25mw 5.8ghz Video Transmitter - $50
  2. Lumenier CP-520 Pico - 520TVL Nano Camera - $50
  3. Pololu 5V Step-Up Voltage Regulator U3V12F5 - $4
  4. IBCrazy 5.8GHz BluBeam whip Antenna / 90 degree SMA - $50
  5. RF RP-SMA Male to SMA Female Adapter - $3

this is almost exactly the same configuration, but it uses pololu's fantastic 5 volt step-up instead of the DigiSpark unit. it's WAY smaller and lighter than the DigiSpark regulator. please mind Pololu's warning about the in-rush voltage - this is one of those things that you'll just have to test. i have no way of predicting if this thing will fry when you plug your battery in, but it should be ok. i'll update this post once i try out mine (when it comes in the mail).

CONFIGURATION 3 - super-light chinese stuff:
  1. Lumenier CP-520 Pico - 520TVL Nano Camera - $50
  2. 5.8 GHz AVTx for Fatshark - $40
  3. Pololu 5V Step-Up Voltage Regulator U3V12F5 - $4

waaaaay lighter - probably under 6 grams for the whole setup. possibly easier to damage due to the soldered-on antenna. possibly a huge piece of crap. possibly amazing!

ASSEMBLY
ok, let's get down to it:
  1. assemble the digispark regulator per the instructions, with exception for the two electrolytic capacitors and the large inductor (the two cylinder thingys, and the big thing that looks like a bobbin). you will need to lay these flat on the PCB to make it fit elegantly. see the pictures below for details.
  2. cut the cable that came with the TBS transmitter in half. you only need one side of it. keep the other half as a spare for future projects.
  3. cut the connector off of the wires that come out of the camera. make sure to leave at least 3-4 inches of wire coming out of the back of the camera! you are only removing the connector, here. save the connector for future projects.

REGULATOR DETAIL:


WIRING:


MECHANICAL ASSEMBLY:




ALL DONE!
now velcro the assembly to your quad, and be sure to adjust the center of gravity. have fun!!!

UPDATE:

i swapped out the DigiSpark step-up for the pololu, and it works a TON better. it shaves off 4 grams, and added about a minute and a half to the flight time. the change was so dramatic, that i decided to try and replace the RP-SMA with a regular SMA connector. that saved another 4 grams. all together, the FPV pod now weighs 20 grams, and the all-up weight is about 98 grams. the real bonus is that now i am getting flight times of about TEN MINUTES! that's WAAAAY better than the original 4 minutes i was getting. the reduced weight greatly improved the flight characteristics, also.

i also used shrink wrap to attach the module to the center section of a broken set of landing skids. now the pod screws into place.

i had to use a dremel to get that rp-sma connector off. scary! in this first photo, you can see the tiny pololu step-up stuck to the side of the camera.






9:50!!

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Old Apr 23, 2014, 10:04 AM
The New DaVinci
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United States, GA, Summerville
Joined Oct 2013
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Very Very nice build log Joe, I'm thinking of doing something like that for my fleet. What are you viewing the FPV on? Its nice that it would be moveable from Quad to Quad with the proper hook-ups like the Blade has. Good Job
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Old Apr 23, 2014, 11:35 AM
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Are you considering building and selling ready to go packages? I might be interested. You can make the IBCrazy antenna optional to reduce cost, some people might already have their own to use on this setup.
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Old Apr 23, 2014, 06:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Magoo76 View Post
Very Very nice build log Joe, I'm thinking of doing something like that for my fleet. What are you viewing the FPV on? Its nice that it would be moveable from Quad to Quad with the proper hook-ups like the Blade has. Good Job
thanks for saying that! i am using some fatsharks with the built-in 5.8ghz receiver. i am trying to get into rc airplanes, and i'm going to put this same pod on my sailplane once i get it repaired. the cool thing is that it will plug right into my receiver!

Quote:
Originally Posted by daveOfDefeat View Post
Are you considering building and selling ready to go packages? I might be interested. You can make the IBCrazy antenna optional to reduce cost, some people might already have their own to use on this setup.
man i've had like 5 people ask me for that, already. i'm definitely thinking about it, now!


i've just took some video of the thing flying, and i did the pololu upgrade today, too. the reduced weight improved my flight time by several minutes! i'll post an update tomorrow.
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Old Apr 23, 2014, 07:09 PM
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I'd be interested too. Would really like to learn fpv on my 180!!!

Johnnydrz
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Old Apr 24, 2014, 12:50 AM
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would you guys be interested in a custom 3D printed bracket?
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Old Apr 24, 2014, 01:53 AM
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Congrats for your post, really well documented. Nice work!
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Old Apr 24, 2014, 07:24 PM
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Very nice! What kind of flight times and range are you getting?
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Old Apr 24, 2014, 07:58 PM
The New DaVinci
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joebot View Post
would you guys be interested in a custom 3D printed bracket?
yea custom 3D printed brackets might be nice depending on the price and what they will fit? I'm looking for like a generic sort of thing to be able to transfer this from 1 quad to another.
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Old Apr 24, 2014, 11:25 PM
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That's a very nice setup! If you haven't tried these you should give it a shot and reduce a lot of weight, the Altitude RC Nano 5.8Ghz vtx with filtering and built in power for the camera. You can even use a IPX to sma for using full size antennas if wanted. $50 and they work very well! I use it with a RMRC nano v2 camera on my NQX and 1si ...

http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1800023
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Old Apr 25, 2014, 01:50 AM
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Originally Posted by simontan View Post
Very nice! What kind of flight times and range are you getting?
well i just completed the pololu upgrade, and i also swapped out the RP-SMA connector for a regular SMA connector. flight times are up to ten minutes, now!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Waterbound View Post
That's a very nice setup! If you haven't tried these you should give it a shot and reduce a lot of weight, the Altitude RC Nano 5.8Ghz vtx with filtering and built in power for the camera. You can even use a IPX to sma for using full size antennas if wanted. $50 and they work very well! I use it with a RMRC nano v2 camera on my NQX and 1si ...

http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1800023
wow those are tiny! if the chinese stuff that i ordered doesn't show up or it sucks, that's what i'll go with for sure.
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Old Apr 25, 2014, 02:42 PM
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hey hey if you like this thread, help me out and buy this rad t-shirt i just designed!

a cool shirt for cool dudes
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Old Apr 25, 2014, 04:35 PM
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Originally Posted by joebot View Post
well i just completed the pololu upgrade, and i also swapped out the RP-SMA connector for a regular SMA connector. flight times are up to ten minutes, now!



wow those are tiny! if the chinese stuff that i ordered doesn't show up or it sucks, that's what i'll go with for sure.

Yeah, they are 3g, people are starting to use on bigger quads just due to the performance. One of or the best vtx I have used, very versatile and very compact.
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Old May 05, 2014, 10:00 AM
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Hey JoeBot,

Any updates on if you are going to sell these camera pods pre-built or the custom 3d printed bracket?

Also, I have a dumb question about the Blade 180 that I cannot seem to get an answer to anywhere else....it looks like that FC has a pin header that provides power (5v?) that you hook into to get power to your camera/vTx. Is that correct?

Thanks!
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Old May 05, 2014, 10:07 AM
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Ok put me down for a pod
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