mike_kelly's blog View Details
Posted by mike_kelly | Apr 16, 2019 @ 07:32 PM | 5,608 Views
I am relieved to find that with the gimbal attached the Son of FrankenSolo flies just as well as without the gimbal. I am disappointed to find that the logs once again not available. So I can't compare the power usage and determine if it is within the "C" limits of the battery. I am pretty confident that it will be fine but I am not going to do a flight time test until I know for sure. I am not willing to let the battery fail half way through the test.

I started out on this journey in 2012. I knew nothing about RC and RCGroups.com was pretty intimidating. I could not believe how many forums about so many different RC vehicles there were. I wanted to do an abstract photography portfolio that I needed an aerial view to do. I got a delta wing kite kit that was and is a very nice plaform but I needed to hover rather than fly to get what I wanted. I gave up until I saw an article about the new DJI Phantom in late 2013. I got excited about it like everyone and his brother. Until I realized it could only carry a gopro. But that was the beginning. I built my first DJ450 afterward. The first flight it shot up about 40ft and came tumbling down out of the trees out of control. It took me a full 4 months to figure out that the pitch in mission planner radio cal moved the opposite of every other stick if setup correctly. I built a dozen more aircraft over the years. I have a drawer full of half finished gimbals.

So this is a significant point for me. Only took me 6...Continue Reading
Posted by mike_kelly | Apr 15, 2019 @ 06:47 PM | 5,445 Views
I finally got the logging issue taken care of for SOFS. IN the latest versions of Copter firmware there is a new Log_Backend parameter. Because the Solo has a co-computer it can, and defaults to, copying the logs to both the flight controller and the co-computer which does not appear to work right. So I changed the parameter to 1 which uses only the flight controller as normal.

I was really pleased with the vibration charts but it is not surprising given how well the quad flew in it's maiden flight. In the old graph of vibrations acceptable is -3 to +3 for the X and Y axis and -5 to -15 for the Z axis. SOFS is recording values for X and Y of less than .3 to .5 and Z axis vibes just as low. I included the barometer graph right below to show it really was flying during the vibration plot.

I was concerned, and still am, about the battery. It is a 10.5amp Titan LI-ION battery. It has much higher energy density than a equivalent LI-PO but it is limited in it's discharge rate. Think real low C, like 3C. But the battery power graph looks good. It shows about 360w and around 16amps. But this is without the load of the gimbal. So I will have to see how it does on the first gimbal flight.

...Continue Reading
Posted by mike_kelly | Apr 08, 2019 @ 08:36 PM | 6,869 Views
I got a chance to maiden the Son of FrankenSolo in between rain storms this afternoon. Yes OlliW I removed the gimbal

All I can say is WOW. It was so smooth with no tuning at all. Very precise control. No jumping around. Unfortunately I had a "Bad Logging" problem which looks like an on-going problem with Arducopter. I turned down the logging and the log buffer and the IO heartbeat and BAD logging errors are gone. But I will have to do my basic test again to get logs to check the vibs and battery usage trends. I can't wait to take it up with the gimbal.

Son of FrankenSolo project (0 min 55 sec)

Posted by mike_kelly | Apr 07, 2019 @ 09:23 AM | 7,402 Views
Welcome to my blog. Hopefully you will find something worth your visit.
UC4H: UAVCAN for Hobbyists
CANbus Quadcopter using UC4H : Son of FrankenSolo
UC4H part1:UC4H : Son of FrankenSolo UC4H Powermodule
UC4H part2: UC4H : Son of FrankenSolo Flight Controller
UC4H part3: UC4H: General Purpose Node
UC4H part 4: UC4H: Son of FrankenSolo gets ESCs!
UC4H part 5: UC4H: Configuring the ESC's
UC4H part 6: UC4H: Finishing the Notify Display
UC4H part 7: UC4H: CANbus dual GPS
UC4H part 8: UC4H: LIDAR Rangefinder inproves low altitude measurements
UC4H part 9: UC4H: Mavlink Bridge, bringing UC4H to Mission Planner
UC4H part 10: UC4H: Large Display OLED
UC4H part 11: UC4H : Son of FrankenSolo Finished, a gimbal for Son FrankenSolo

Ardupilot Pixhawk:
The cleanest, simplest Arducopter build ever?
UAVCAN: CANbus for the rest of us
The Ardupliot Project Developers: The people that make it possible
Controlling external devices like Gimbals and lights with APM
Pixraptor Pixhawk clone with sensor suspension, a better pixhawk?
Pixhawk LITE, a replacement for the now obsolete APM boards?
Mini Pixhawks compared
New Status display for Pixhawk replaces beeps and flashing lights.

3DR Solo raised from the dead by the Open Solo project
Designing an X8
Pixhawk Advanced Features for Beginners:
Learning Pixhawk & Mission Planner - Part 1: Loading firmware
Learning Pixhawk & Mission Planner - Part 2: Setup and calibration
Learning Pixhawk & Mission Planner - Part 3: Troubleshooting Pixhawk
Super Simple Mode
Landing Gear - retracts
Return to Launch
Motor Order and Motor Test
Controlling external devices like Gimbals and Lights with Pixhawk
Controlling external devices like Gimbals and lights with APM

Newbie to Newbie:
An introduction to Multirotors
Battery Technology
Motors and Speed Controllers
Flight Controllers
RC Transmitters
Learning to Fly
Basic introduction to FPV
Gimbals 101

eCalc Aircraft Performance Simulation
eCalc a design tool for multirotors
Using eCalc to optimize motor selection
Posted by mike_kelly | Apr 07, 2019 @ 09:07 AM | 7,403 Views
Mini Pixhawks compared
Daya H4 680 Alien folding quadcopter
A cheap adroid tablet for APM/Pixhawk and Droidplanner 3 - Tower
Pixraptor Pixhawk clone with sensor suspension, a better pixhawk?
Pixhawk LITE, a replacement for the now obsolete APM boards?
Marek Rokowski Simple FPV Goggle Kit
Marek's 4.3" Goggle kit
Sony QX10

The 3DR Solo is raised from the Dead by the Open Solo Project
Mounting a Gimbal
New Status display for Pixhawk replaces beeps and flashing lights.
InfraRed NIR Cameras and NDVI imaging for agriculture and research
Tarot weights and measures
The Ardupliot Project Developers: The people that make it possible
Linux based Flight Controllers
Evolution of an RC Enthusiast - in search of reliability - ZMR 250 Coaxial
Mini quad motor comparision RCX H1806 RCX1804 RCTimer 1806 DYS BE1806
Ultimate LRS - APM with long range control and telemetry
Tarot 680Pro Extended arms with ESC mounted in the ends
Broken Tarot Landing Legs
Tarot Quick Detach Propeller adapters TL68B35 TL68B36
Tarot TL68B33 Anti-vibration motor mounts
Troubleshooting APM flipping on new build
My Perfect Tarot Travel Case for 650 Sport 680 680PRO 690
Canon FPV Video AV cable for S100 G10 ELPH Powershot
Boscam TS321 RC302 Channel dip switch settings mystery
What's wrong with cheap props?


FrankenSolo: Converting a 3DR Solo to UAVCAN
A new Tarot 680Pro hybrid with Daya H4 680 metal arm clamps
Blackout mini H as a training tool
My Take on a Ground Station
ZMR 250 X8 Octocopter! Coaxial Quads
Posted by mike_kelly | Apr 02, 2019 @ 02:21 PM | 7,924 Views

All good things come to and end and so it is with the Son of FrankenSolo. What a fun project.

I built a gimbal for this project using OlliW's STorM32NT gimbal controller. OlliW has provided excellent compatibility with Ardupilot and your choice of connection methods. You can use PWM, Sbus, Spektrum or serial connections between the flight controller and the gimbal. You can use Mavlink or OlliW's own STorM32 mode serial. Lastly you can use native mode STorM32 as I did which is a serial connection and the Betacopter branch of Ardupilot which includes OlliW's improvements for his gimbal. Native mode has the richest set of features.

...Continue Reading
Posted by mike_kelly | Mar 26, 2019 @ 05:24 PM | 8,237 Views
A man of his word, OlliW has finished the modified Notify node firmware that supports the larger 1.3' OLED display. My old eyes are very happy

In the UAVCAN UC4H DIsplay node set the parameter:
Display Type =0 for 1306 based or =1 for SH 1106 based displays.

Posted by mike_kelly | Mar 25, 2019 @ 04:50 PM | 8,137 Views
When I was going to engineering school, admittedly a while ago, my professors pounded into us the value of standardization. I find that those admonitions are clearly lost on the current generation of engineers. They seem to think that if they can improve something by 1% it is worth throwing away everything that has gone before. To lose compatibility, standardization and the ability to source from different vendors. The value of standardization to the consumer is not to be underestimated. But the value to sales and marketing seems to be to maximize profits at the expense of the customer. Too many customers these days fail to understand the products they buy. They don't do their homework. So when the company brings out the next cool bleeding edge product the consumer fails to recognize that the parts in the product are proprietary and they may go obsolete sooner than later and then the item will not be repairable. Another item in the landfill.

I am tired of buying gimbal motors with entirely different bolt patterns and entirely different than the gimbal frame kits, so nothing fits. I am tired of multirotor frame manufactures making frames that no flight controller or PDB can be fit into.

The only benefit to this level of incompatibility is to force the buyer to buy all their parts from the same vendor.

The problem is that vendors have also decided they don't have to provide technical documentation for the products they sell because customers don't require it anymore.
Posted by mike_kelly | Mar 23, 2019 @ 10:28 PM | 8,429 Views
Like most things CANbus Ardupilot is a little behind the game. We have come a long way on this project from setting up power, installing the ESC's, adding GPS and Mag, getting information from the Notify display and adding the rangefinder for more accurate altitude measurements. The SLCAN tool and the UAVCAN GUI software has given us a great way to monitor data on the CANbus and configure our can devices and troubleshoot. It still allows us to troubleshoot those devices even buttoned up inside the multirotor. We get an unprecedented view of what is going on inside the quad in real time instead of waiting until the flight is over to review the logs. With UC4H we know what the rpm of the motors are and what the temperature of the ESC's is at. We know how many satellites we have locked and that the EKF2 as initialized as examples.

But some of use grew up using Mission Planner and with all the benefits of UAVCAN GUI it would be nice to integrate Mission Planner and UAVCAN. So OlliW developed a way of linking Mission Planner to the CANBus and allow us to connect with CAN devices on our multirotor just like connecting to the flight controller and downloading the parameters. With the UC4H Mavlink Bridge we can get our CANbus information right in the Parameters with all the other aspects of the flight controller we configure.


The UC4H Mavlink Bridge sits on the CANbus and connects to the Pixhawk via a serial connection. It is created using our multipurpose General Node. So simple and so powerful.
Posted by mike_kelly | Mar 19, 2019 @ 05:30 PM | 8,730 Views
The continued epsiodes of the Son of FrankenSolo build. Using Olliw's UC4H and a 3DR Solo surplus motherboard to create and advanced DIY quad.

I have gotten the UC4H powerbrick, UC4H ESC's, UC4H Display Notifier and UC4H GPS/MAG/Baro installed. Kinda the required basics to get flying.

Now for some frosting on the cake. I have wanted to experiment with a downward facing sonar since the APM days but the sensors available have always been marginal or quite expensive. The old HC-SR04 did not do much. The Maxbotix had noise isssues to deal with and the true LIDARS were in the hundreds of dollars.

For low altitude measurements Pixhawk depends on it's barometer. But the Barometer senses air pressure and that changes with the weather. So adding a better sensor for low altitude height measurements could improve landing and AltHold flight mode.

The new kid on the low altitude sensor block is the Benewake TFTmini LIDAR. It is not a true LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) because it does not use a laser. It instead uses a less costly LED light. But it seems to work well and is moderately priced at around $50.

OlliW took advantage of this new sensor and added it to UC4H. The UC4H Rangefinder. It could use the UART Tunnel technology but it is easy to setup and use as a UAVCAN device or the generic mode.

First install the UC4H Rangerfinder firmware on your General Purpose node.
using the UAVCAN GUI tool. Choose a unique node ID and leave the Channel ID=-1, to...Continue Reading
Posted by mike_kelly | Mar 17, 2019 @ 09:59 AM | 9,413 Views

Adupilot is heavily dependent on GPS for accurate position information. It uses position information for all the various modes that set it apart from other flight controllers. Auto missions, loiter, position hold, follow me etc etc all require a great GPS lock to function. Ardupilot has made great strides in recent years by implementing dual GPS capability and allowing the evaluation of the GPS signal quality and switching to the best GPS or blending the data from the two GPS. It brings greater reliability to Ardupilot.

In my first FrankenSolo I used a UC4H GPS node to convert a Here GPS to UAVCAN. This conversion caused the Here GPS to send out UAVCAN messages with GPS information to the CANbus. In the second generation UC4H OlliW has implemented a new message type that is a tunnel to send serial data to the Pixhawk. The new message has raw serial data as a payload and allows any serial device to create a tunnel to deliver that data to the Pixhawk without creating special UAVCAN messages for every serial device. So I am replacing my old UAVCAN node with a new gerneral purpose node with the GPS/MAG/Baro firmware. The GPS data uses a serial_TUNL to get its data to the Pixhawk and the compass and or barometer send their data through normal UAVCAN messages.

There is also a general purpose node firmware to provide nothing but serial tunnels. The firmware is called the UART Bridge is used to provide extra serial ports to the Pixhawk from about any serial device.

I then...Continue Reading
Posted by mike_kelly | Mar 15, 2019 @ 07:50 PM | 8,998 Views

I used the UC4H Notify display as an example of flashing the firmware to a General node now I'll just finished up that project. The UC4H is similar to the Ardupliot status display. It is really useful to get some important information before you fly without having to haul around a ground station. It is particularly important to have a good GPS lock before you fly with Ardupliot and a simple LED on your GPS indicating a 3D Lock is not adequate. The Notify display gives you the number of satellites you are using and the quality of the signal. It also has a ticker tape line that gives you the messages that you would normally have to get from the message tab in Mission Planner. It will tell you what your battery voltage is and all in plain text rather than having to decipher sequences of blinking lights or musical tones.

The notify display using a cheap and commonly available SSD1306 .96" OLED I2C module. Becarefuyl to note that these modules can look identical from various vendors but instead, stupidly, have the power and ground pins reversed from module to module.

...Continue Reading
Posted by mike_kelly | Feb 27, 2019 @ 12:27 AM | 9,551 Views

OlliW's new Pixhawk Cube carrier for UAVCAN. Very exciting.
Posted by mike_kelly | Feb 26, 2019 @ 01:29 PM | 9,833 Views
Amazing! I did not melt my ESCs into slag and they all work. Yippie!

One of the nice things about a UAVCAN ESC is it doesn't need to be calibrated like a standard PWM ESC. But you do need to configure the ESCs, each with a unique node ID, and set them up so they are in the right position on your frame.

To set the node ID we go into the UAVCAN GUI, click on the automatic Node ID server, and let it assign a random ID so we can see the node. Then we simply open each ESC node, click on "fetch all," and then change the node ID to whatever we want. Each node can have any ID up to 126. I am setting mine so they are 60, 61, 62, and 63 but it could be 34, 68, 92 and 101. You can choose any ID as long as each node has a unique number and it is not greater than 126. Be sure to click "save all" afterward to change the ID for each ESC.

There is an index to identify the ESCs. I have four ESCs so the count starts at 0 then 1, 2, 3, unlike the Ardupilot count that starts at 1. Each ESC needs to be associated with it's Arducopter arm/motor number. Don't be confused with Arducopters motor test which starts at the upper right and goes one motor at a time clockwise labelling each motor in turn A, B,C and D.

For Arducopter, my X frame (picture on the right), motor order is upper-right motor 1 then, going clockwise around the quad, lower-right is motor 4, lower-left motor is 2, and upper-left motor is 3.

We need to associate each ESC, where we have placed it on the...Continue Reading
Posted by mike_kelly | Feb 24, 2019 @ 04:22 PM | 9,969 Views

I hate doing ESCs. Because of my unexceptional soldering skills, I tend to melt them into a pile of slag. I'm going to try real hard not to do that today. I could use the general-purpose node and program it for ESC. It would have the advantage of being able to use one general-purpose node for all four of my ESCs. The ESC firmware supports up to 6 PWM or 4 Dshot outputs. Just a reminder that you can make all these UC4H devices with simple "Blue pill" STM boards that are really cheap. They may not be as neat and clean but it makes UC4H super accessible.

>>>> But I want to use the OlliW super-special Kiss ESC carriers. Super cool!

...Continue Reading
Posted by mike_kelly | Feb 23, 2019 @ 08:25 PM | 9,512 Views
Ok, I got the basic platform up and running. The UC4H Power module is powering the Pixhawk 2.1 Cube and the CANbus. I can connect to the Cube with Mission Planner and I have installed Betacopter 3.6.6 from OlliW Github respository. OlliW has provided pre-compiled versions for three standard flight controller FMUs. Use ArduCopter-v2.px4 for standard Pixhawk 1s and Cubes. Use ArduCopter-v3.px4 for Solo boards and ArduCopter-v4.px4 for newer boards like the Pixracer. You do this by going to the install firmware tab in Mission Planner and Load custom firmware. Loads just like any normal pre-compiled version of Arducopter.

Now we can have some fun. The SLCAN device is a basic tool for monitoring the CANbus. If you are a network type it is like an ethernet network sniffer. Think Wireshark or Bloodhound. It listens in on the bus and can capture the messages going by. You can make one or buy one from Jdrones or Zubax. The UAVCAN GUI tool gets this info and displays it for you. So get UAVCAN GUI from the UAVCAN.org site and install it.

Plug your SLCAN adapter into your computer via USB and a CANbus cable is plugged into one of the two CANbus ports and then to your CANBus. In the following picture you can see my SLCAN plugged into my computer and then to my CANbus expander.

On the CAN Interface Configuration screen choose the usb port your SLCAN is connected to. (You can unplug the SLCAN and run the UAVCAN GUI again and see what port disappears if you are unsure.) The...Continue Reading
Posted by mike_kelly | Feb 22, 2019 @ 01:07 PM | 9,481 Views

I have checked that the UC4H Powerbrick and the Power Distribution Board are connected correctly and working. The correct 5.3v is powering the CANBus. I am using JST-GH expanders made by MRO which he makes for I2C but work for the CANbus. The CANbus is not designed to be a STAR topology but a daisy chain. But given the short distances involved on the quad it just does not affect anything negatively and it is so much easier to use the expanders.

...Continue Reading
Posted by mike_kelly | Feb 21, 2019 @ 06:41 PM | 9,502 Views

I received all my UC4H modules from Jani at JDrones and some modules OlliW built for this project. Thanks, OlliW! I'll use a UC4H V2 Powerbrick to power the system. The Universal Modules for GPS, Serial Bridge, Mavlink Bridge, LED Notify and Display will finish off the system. I'll use OlliW's UC4H Kiss 32A ESC carriers but I could use Universal Modules for the ESCs also.

I suppose the place to start a new build is the power supply because everything depends on reliable clean power. One of the problem areas and points of confusion in APM/Pixhawk builds over the years has been supplying power. The flight controller is a flying computer with sensors. In order to operate it needs clean reliable power to stay working and to evaluate its sensors accurately. So you don't supply power to your flight controller from a BEC on your ESC. Those voltage converters were made for simple devices on airplanes, not the rigorous requirements of a flight controller. Also, we can't power everything in the whole world off our flight controller power module. So just don't do it. Use a separate voltage regulator for other devices that need significant power. A flight controller pulls a few hundred mils so don't think about powering a 1 amp 5v led strip with the flight controller's power module.

The next very important aspect of a flight controller power module is to be able to monitor the power we are using to estimate our available flight time. We would like to know as accurately as...Continue Reading
Posted by mike_kelly | Jan 10, 2019 @ 10:22 AM | 17,913 Views
When I discovered the 3DR Solo main board as a building block for DIY, because it has a Pixhawk 2 and a companion computer with HD video and telemetry for a very cheap price, I built the FrankenSolo. I used a recycled set of plates from a Daya 680 because it was wide enough for the Solo mainbrd. But it is not necessary to use a Solo mainbrd, all of this could be done with a normal Pixhawk.


But as with most DIY builds I had to do a lot of bubble gum fitting and compromising to get it all to work. The quad flew better than any of my previous builds and I was sold on the concept. I used OllW's UC4H components to bring UAVCAN to the build. My reason to use Ollw's UAVCAN was to have a build with cleaner simpler wiring and real time monitoring.

Since that build OllW has continued to refine and make UC4H an even more compelling platform for DIY builders. The FrankenSolo used 15" props and hovered for nearly 40 minutes which was much longer than the original 3DR Solo. I was tired of builds using pre-made frames that just don't fit the components we need to use. The hole patterns never seem to be designed for any of the standard sized parts that are available. I also wanted to use 17" props to see if I could extend the flight time. I sketched an extended version of the Daya Mainplate that would support 17" props and have all the proper hole for the components I wanted to use so I would not have to cut and...Continue Reading
Posted by mike_kelly | Jan 04, 2018 @ 04:14 PM | 30,113 Views

I have been looking for a gimbal that will support and work well with a Sony Nex mirrorless camera and not too expensive. I am not in the market for $1000 gimbal. Plus I really want to make it myself. I have built a lot of gimbals and early-on I learned that the wires running sloppily all over the place will never allow for a really good gimbal. The prop wash and rubbing of the wires totally messes up the stabilization. So for me the wires must go through hollow shaft gimbal motors and be dressed cleanly and tightly. Two, the gimbal must be adjustable enough to properly balance a bigger Nex sized camera.

I played with the DYS that is popular but the way they attach the camera platform to the pitch gimbal motor blocks/precludes running wires through the hollow shaft pitch motor. Next promising was a gimbal from GoodLuckBuy similar to the MOY, but the movements are not adequate for me to balance my Sony Nex 5 even though it is supposed to be designed for the Nex.

I finally found a possibility and that is a gimbal sold by Hobbyking and others called the Stormeye 5N, made by FCModel. It is cheap and it has a two point support for the camera platform. It is light but some of the parts look weak. The gimbal motor attachment plates are flat pieces of carbon fiber so it would be relatively easy to get replacements made to fit the gimbal motors I want to use and to add a third axis plate since the stock gimbal is only two axis.

That is where Nick at CNCmadness came in. I...Continue Reading