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Posted by ElGuano | Nov 27, 2014 @ 01:19 AM | 22,650 Views
With DJI giving us the 7th channel gimbal tilt control in firmware v3.08, we now have three choices:

1. Buy the new controller with the tilt wheel. $100.
2. Buy the Phantom / P2 gimbal tilt lever. It's $15, but you have to center the lever precisely to stop the gimbal from slowly tilting.
3. Install a knob or slider pot with a center detent, so you have tactile feedback when the gimbal is stopped. $1.50. That's what we're going to do here!

First, you need a pot. It should be 5K ohm resistance, linear taper, 20% tolerance. If you're using a slider, I think 20mm travel is just about perfect. I have a bunch of these from Mouser.com, but they seem to be discontinued now. Plenty of alternatives still available though.

Opened up the TX, and positioned the pot. I like it having it on the right hand side, but it fits on the left just as well.

Testing the LED - the wires are reversed in this picture, but it lights up with 3.5v power. I don't really care for an LED on the pot sucking up batteries, but since it came with em, might as well wire it up, right?
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Posted by ElGuano | Nov 23, 2014 @ 10:43 PM | 21,578 Views
There seems to be a bit of confusion as to which Phantom 2 ESCs are compatible with the new 2312 motors from DJI. I wish I had a definitive answer to this, but safely testing this is challenging.

For now, I'll just throw in my observations from my own multirotors.

I have a P2 H3-3D with 2212 motors and V2 ESCs (as it came from the factory), a P2V+ with 2212 motors and V2 ESCs (again as it came from the factory), and a P2 H3-3D with 2312 motors and NEW V2 ESCs (actually the first P2 mentioned, with the motors/ESCs swapped out.

Here's a pic of the ESCs, the 2312 V2 ESC is on top, the older 2212 V2 ESC is on the bottom:

The only real differences I notice are a lack of a conformal coating on the new ESCs, and some additional labeling on the PCB.

People are saying you can tell if your V2 ESCs are "ready for 2312 motors" if the front LEDs don't light up during the bootup sequence. I have no idea if this is actually the case, but I'll note that there are several different bootup patterns for the P2 ESCs. Take a look here:

2312 and 2212 ESC Patterns (0 min 43 sec)

An "older" P2 with ESCs that are not supposedly able to drive 2312s indeed have front LEDs blinking red during bootup, and continue to blink and beep four additional times after startup. Once the V2 ESCs that come with the 2312 motors are installed, no LEDs turn on at all during the bootup sequence, and no additional beeps are issued.

However, on my P2V+, we see a completely different bootup sequence. This craft also has "V2 ESCs" with 2212 motors, but here you can see both front and back LEDs blink red one time during the bootup. Are these ESCs compatible with 2312 motors? I'm not sure, maybe someone knows?
Posted by ElGuano | Nov 11, 2014 @ 01:12 AM | 22,476 Views
Dr. Turbo was kind enough to send me a set of 2312 motors to test. These are probably going on my P2 H3-3D, officially because it's my heaviest Phantom, and unofficially because the P2's ESCs have those four extra beeps at bootup that I can't wait to silence

V2 ESC hardware and firmware

2312 motors (the entire threaded portion is now anodized silver or black to denote CW/CCW):

New retaining clip and mounting pad:
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Posted by ElGuano | Aug 17, 2014 @ 11:21 PM | 24,119 Views
My F550 E600 has been sitting sans payload for a few weeks. I want to finalize the config and make sure it's stabilized before adding any expensive gear to it. So it's currently very light-2200g, or 366g/axis. I could be flying this on E300s and it'd be fine.

In order to simulate a more loaded rig, I tied a 2lb lead weight to the bottom. That's 910g additional weight, which could be a gimbal, camera, FPV, a new more doodads, and a larger battery:

Final AUW: 3110g, or 518g/axis. That's still comfortably below the recommended load on the E600 motors, but I didn't want to just max everything out on the first try, and I wanted to take into account any minor efficiency loss from the Y6 format.

Results so far:

2190g, 5200mah 6S: 20 minutes 10 seconds (3.69v/cell resting)
3110g, 5200mah 6S: 10 minutes 20 seconds (3.73v/cell resting)

Clearly the 10C batteries I'm using are outmatched and outclassed. With the additional load, the voltage sag is so extreme that it triggers a 21.2v low voltage alarm prematurely, that's a 1.18v line loss. I'll probably keep testing with these batteries, but will need to find better sets for real flight.
Posted by ElGuano | Aug 10, 2014 @ 10:56 PM | 25,468 Views
I decided to take take one step up from the F450 Y6, which as great and light as it is, is still working with a recommended 1800g recommended AUW (Y6 inefficiencies aside).

I really like the Y6 format, but wanted something with a lot more lift. An E600-powered F550 sounded like the idea choice - the frame is already well-suited to the Y format, the motors would allow for a >3000g AUW, and it was big enough to justify running the next size up on Neopixel LEDs - the big 65mm 24-LED ring

First up was modifying the bottom plate so it could take standard standoffs on the positions I wasn't installing arms for a hex build:

Standard top/bottom m2.5 offset:

After drilling out:

The Aimdroix arms are 31mm high compared to 37mm for the standard DJI arms. So I used 30mm standoffs on the other 3 arm mounts, with 1mm washers. Confirming the screws pass straight through:
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Posted by ElGuano | Jul 24, 2014 @ 10:50 AM | 22,474 Views
Trying to get back into building mode...this is just a test fit on a standard length Aimdroix arm, the real thing is going on extended arms, and on the bottom rather than the top

It's certainly going to have a bit more lift, and 27 more LEDs...

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Posted by ElGuano | Jul 20, 2014 @ 04:36 AM | 22,808 Views
I was looking for a solution to mount the large 24-LED neopixel ring onto a 42mm-diameter E600 motor. Not surprisingly, there was nothing out there, so it was time to break out the 3D printer and see if something could be custom-fabbed:

I need this to fit over a hex motor:

After a bit of brainstorming, the rough idea:

The prototype:
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Posted by ElGuano | Jul 16, 2014 @ 08:11 PM | 35,392 Views
The 9450s have arrived! Big thanks out to Dr. Turbo for the opportunity to test these out! My favorite part? They're called the "Thrust Boosted Version"

A few comparison pics and measurements against a standard retail set of E300 9443 whites (I still can't believe how many of these I have, and whether I'll be pushed to replace the whole lot):


Close-up of label:

Unwrapped (the 9450s are a tad yellower, probably due to plastic batches rather than intentional dying:
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Posted by ElGuano | Jul 10, 2014 @ 02:46 AM | 22,838 Views
Finally got around to cleaning up the Trinket (a bit):

I hardmounted it internally so I can connect the USB directly and reach the reset pin. This makes it so I can upload new LED sketches without taking apart the shell. That makes it a LOT easier to program new blink patterns and color combinations.

Just playing around with some options:
New neopixel animation for Phantom (0 min 22 sec)

Posted by ElGuano | Jun 14, 2014 @ 02:02 PM | 24,200 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 | 27,032 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 | 27,202 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 | 58,115 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): http://www.adafruit.com/products/1501
  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. http://www.adafruit.com/products/1463.
  3. 5V output UBEC (just use whichever one you want)
  4. 300 ohm resistor for Neopixel data line: http://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/...i5Pn2foA%3d%3d
  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 | 29,201 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 | 49,201 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 | 25,264 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 | 24,527 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 | 24,184 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 | 24,637 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 @ 02:05 AM | 25,191 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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