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Posted by FullmoonCat | Mar 15, 2012 @ 06:04 PM | 2,767 Views

I took my quad out over the past weekend to a local park to try FPV for the first time outdoors. I think I did okay, considering I had a number of issues. My monitor doesn't seem to handle cutting-out or static in the video signal well, since at even somewhat close range it was cutting out a lot more than I feel it should have. I am using a portable DVD player, so I am guessing it simply has a feature that undermines this sort of work. Also, despite being overcast, the screen was just not bright enough to see what was going on.

But the main issue I had was the quad itself. It was just too heavy with the 200mW video transmitter and antenna, plus the camera, plus the dome. It was time to concede that, no matter how cool it looked or how well it protected the FC board, it was just not the right setup for a microquad. And as much as I wanted to be different, there's a reason why most of these quads all look similar... weight. At the end of my flights, the quad could not even maintain a hover at full throttle.

So, I pulled the dome off, removed the video Tx and camera, and replaced it with the wooden top shield that came with the frame kit. I will be adding the camera again once I can order the 10mW micro video Tx, because I still need to learn FPV on this thing before I will be comfortable doing it on my expensive Witespy copter. But until then, I will just be LOS flying with the now much lighter and zippier microquad.

In my last blog, I promised to get...Continue Reading
Posted by FullmoonCat | Mar 08, 2012 @ 04:28 PM | 3,090 Views

I was able to fix all of the motors, finally. The grub screws in the motor base mounts are 1/20" hex sockets. Once I had the correct allen wrench, it was easy enough to remove the motor from the base, pop off the c clip that holds the motor shaft in place, and remove the motor bell. Then, I used a vice and a piece of wood with a hole drilled in it to move the motor bell slightly further up the motor shaft, so that the c clip was not so tightly restricting the motor movement at the base. It worked amazingly well, and now all of my motors spin freely.

But of course, what would any fix be without problems? In the process of trying to put one of the c clips back onto the motor, it went flying off in some random direction and is lost in my carpet somewhere. I still haven't found it. The good news is, the motor doesn't really seem to need it. I have flown the quad without that c clip many times since then with zero problems. If I ever do find the clip, I will put it back on the motor, of course, and will probably steal one off of one of my new motors when they arrive just for the sake of safety. But it's good to know it can operate without them, just in case....

As you can see from the pics, it's been flown quite a lot. I went from basically having zero skills to being able to fly pretty well (except nose-in) on a single set of props! These ones are beat all to hell, but I am waiting to change them until one actually breaks, just out of sheer...Continue Reading
Posted by FullmoonCat | Mar 02, 2012 @ 11:18 AM | 2,975 Views
I decided to try to fly my mini quad FPV, even though I am still having stability issues because of that motor (I should be getting the tools to try to fix it today). It was not a pretty thing.

Since I am just flying in my house, there wasn't a lot of room for error. But I figured if I could just get up above the furniture, I'd have some room to bumble around a bit. Easier said than done, apparently! Even though I am getting really good at LOS flying in my house, FPV is like having to learn all over again. Not being able to see what is behind the quad ended up being my bane. I was doing somewhat ok for a couple seconds, but then got a little too low and drifted backward right into my TV! I was in the other room at the time, so I had no idea what I had hit really. I came out to see a bunch of propeller slashes all the way down my television. It's a brand new TV, too.

Luckily, the prop marks were only plastic from the props, and there was no scratching of the screen itself. I was able to simply wipe it away with some cleaner, and the TV is good as new. But for a few moments there, I was a bit panicky. I think I will stop my FPV experiments until I can try outside where I am not going to damage anything, and have more room to mess up. It was still a fun experiment.
Posted by FullmoonCat | Feb 27, 2012 @ 04:17 PM | 3,013 Views
It's funny what you can accomplish when you have nothing to lose.

To make a long story short, I was able to repair that broken motor. Remembering my electronics lessons from my dad back when I was a kid, the electrons will follow the easiest path from point A to B. So, I figured putting a tiny blog of solder on the wire coils wouldn't be a problem, as they would create a bridge for the broken wire, but not impact the flow of electrons for the other wires. The motor was broken anyway, so....

It worked! I was able to fly a whole battery pack at lunch time, and there were no problems. And, as a bonus, now that I know how to take the motors apart and put them back together with nothing but needle-nose pliers, I'm going to take apart my other problem motor and see if I can fix that, too. So maybe I'll get two spare motors out of this fiasco rather than just waiting another month for a working quad.

I love when things work out.
Posted by FullmoonCat | Feb 27, 2012 @ 01:21 PM | 2,970 Views
After waiting months for my parts to arrive, and finishing my microquad, I flew it a few times and was getting pretty good with it (despite the motor issue outlined earlier). But on my last flight yesterday, I got a little too cocky and tried to land on a high shelf to "test my precision". I missed by about an inch, and the quad tumbled off the shelf and hung from some window blinds by one prop. I was amused by this, and didn't think anything of it. There did not appear to be any damage, thanks to the prop savers. I put the quad away, and went throughout my day without giving it another thought.

later last night, I wanted to show a friend my newfound piloting skills, so I plugged in the battery... and one motor didn't spin up. The same motor that was stuck to the blinds earlier, of course. Upon inspection, one of the tiny wires going to the motor has snapped off up inside of the motor bell.

Curses! I already have two motors on order. I was going to have one to replace the motor that arrived damaged, and one just to be safe (and a spare if both motors were good). Now I have to hope both of those motors work well, because I will be replacing two motors immediately when they arrive.

I don't have the tools to disassemble the motor yet, I just ordered them. When those arrive, I will try repairing the motor. But those wires are so freaking tiny, I'm not sure I am up for the task. Then again, I often surprise myself. We'll see. It's just very frustrating to have spent so much time waiting, only to have to now wait longer. It is the fault of my own stupidity, of course.
Posted by FullmoonCat | Feb 26, 2012 @ 12:50 PM | 2,783 Views
Well, I thought I had messed up one of my motors trimming the wires down, but I guess I didn't. After striping that wire all the way to the motor bell, I found that there really is only one tiny wire strand coming from the motor wrappings, so there's no way I messed it up. I re-soldered and shrink tubed it, and the motor is still the same. It was only then that I noticed that motor doesn't turn very well, compared to the others. When I spin them by hand, that motor is about twice as hard to turn as the other three motors, so I guess it's just a bad motor.

I oiled it, and it spins slightly better now, but still doesn't work right. Does anyone have any suggestions on how I might be able to fix the motor? I have another or order already, but it would be nice to get this one working.
Posted by FullmoonCat | Feb 24, 2012 @ 04:03 PM | 3,061 Views

So I was a bit off on my estimate for final weight (ok, kind of significantly off). But the final weight isn't really out of the norm for these builds, so I don't think it will be an issue. 266.5 grams with battery, 207 grams without.

I tried to fly it a bit during lunch, and it would seem my initial impressions of the motor issue were mistaken. In manual mode, it absolutely does try to flip. It will only fly in autolevel mode, and it's very hard to control due to basically running on two motors at that point. Even still, it hovers at about 60% throttle and gives about 10 min fly time on a 1000 mAh 2S battery.

Seeing that it is basically unflyable the way it is, I will be attempting to fix that broken motor even before the replacement gets here, since I have nothing to lose. Hopefully that will work, and I will just have two spare motors instead of one. But, I am not depending on it.

I still have to repaint the dome, since I had some velcro on it at first, and removing the velrco also removed a lot of paint. And, I need to buy some small screws to hold down the motors, since right now I am just using tie wire (which works, but I don't trust it). But I tried the video link, and it works really well (not that I flew it that way, since it's not possible the way it flies right now). I am looking forward to when it actually works the way it is supposed to.
Posted by FullmoonCat | Feb 24, 2012 @ 12:14 PM | 2,908 Views
No picture for now, since I just finished it up before running out the door for work this morning. Last night, I spent a couple of hours working on it and got all the motors attached and spinning the right way, etc. And then....


Of course. The first problem I had was before I finished attaching one of the motors. It would stutter a lot on start-up, which the other three didn't do. Even setting the ESC timing higher did not stop the stutter, but I noticed it got less pronounced when I compressed the motor wires a bit. I concluded that there was a break somewhere in the motor wire. So, I figured the best solution would be to trim it down below where I thought the break was, eliminating the problem. GENIUS, I thought. Sadly, the type of wire they use in those motors is very brittle, and consists of two tiny wires twisted together. In the process of trying to strip the end of the wire, one of those little strands pulled loose somewhere very close to the motor bell, leaving me with only one strand. The result, exactly what I was left with before trimming the wires. One motor stutters on startup, and also stops much more quickly than the others. In short, it's not getting as much juice. I could maybe fix it if I was very adventurous, by pulling the cover off of that section of wire entirely and trying to solder a new wire to the little strands that are left close to the motor bell, but I don't have a replacement motor in case that fails. I just...Continue Reading
Posted by FullmoonCat | Feb 23, 2012 @ 03:31 PM | 3,230 Views

What a mess!

Actually, despite the way it looks right this second, this build is going to look extremely clean once fully assembled. Well, mostly anyway. I was going to cover the ESCs with something and paint them the same color as the arms, but then I read they can sometimes get a little hot. So, I thought it would be best to leave them directly in the prop wash, for now. I just stuck them to the arms with small zip ties for the sake of simplicity. If they do not get hot, I will be covering them to eliminate the appearance of wires, as was my goal with this build.

Since my last blog, I set up some vibration absorption for the motors and the Quadrino board, in the form of thin rubber pads. There is one under each motor, and a double layer directly under the FC board. I think it should help, as it did with my Witespy quad.

I received the motors, batteries, and ESCs in the mail yesterday and was amazed at just how tiny everything is. I also found out that the props I bought have too small a diameter of hole for the prop savers that come with my motors. So, I reamed them a bit, and now they fit perfectly. I just used an Xacto Knife. Totally ghetto, I know.

Today, I soldered the wire harness and XT60 connector. I had hoped to get farther along, but since this is my first build (my other quad was RTF), I was not prepared for how difficult it would be to get all of those little wires to stay together as I soldered them. To complicate things, I glued my frame together already, so I had to have the frame hanging off the wires while soldering. But, I think I did a really good job in the end. All that is left to do now is solder the motors and program the ESCs.
Posted by FullmoonCat | Feb 10, 2012 @ 04:26 PM | 3,444 Views
It's like "Captain's Log, Supplemental". Yes, I am a giant nerd.

I snapped a quick picture of my evolving nano-quad setup:

I think it looks pretty cool. And I checked the interior of the dome, and it would appear that I will enough room for the ESC wires. It's a VERY tight fit, of course, but definitely doable. The wires coming out of the bottom in that picture will go to the wiring harness, and run the video Tx. The camera (which you can see peeking through the front hole now) runs from 5v output from the Quadrino board itself.
Posted by FullmoonCat | Feb 10, 2012 @ 12:43 PM | 3,401 Views
I spent some time last night with a soldering iron and shrink tubing and managed to actually cram my current video Tx (pictured in the previous blog on the top of the quad) and radio Rx into the dome, with the camera in place! I had to remove the Rx from its plastic casing and cover it in electrical tape, and bodge up new connectors for the video Tx, but it worked! We'll see how it does once I add the ESC wires into the mix, but for now I am able to keep everything under the dome with only antennas protruding. It looks totally slick.

I'm no expert on this stuff, being a total newbie with the hobby, so I'm not sure if I'm doing any disservice to the workings of my board or other components by having them in such close proximity. The radio is 2.4 Ghz, while the video Tx is 5.8 Ghz, so I don't think the signals will be a huge issue. I'm really only worried about the board's magnetometer and whatnot, not that I've ever gotten it to work properly anyway.

On another note, now that I have gotten the Video Tx inside the dome, I weighed the setup and it's actually not that heavy at all. The video Tx itself weighs 26 Grams, which seems like a lot considering each motor is only 10 grams, but altogether so far the setup is 104.9 grams with just the frame, board, Rx, and video Tx (and associated wiring). The battery weighs 60 grams, each motor is 10 grams, and each ESC is 6 grams. Then there is a small wiring harness and XT60 connector, which couldn't possibly weigh more than 6...Continue Reading
Posted by FullmoonCat | Feb 09, 2012 @ 05:14 PM | 3,099 Views
I've begun building my nanoquad, using the BlueSkyRC "Funsized" wooden frame. My motors, ESCs, and batteries are on their way from China via Swiss Post (ugh), so it'll be a while before I get them. But, I have glued and painted the frame, and created a dome for the top:

The hole in the front of the dome is for the little FPV camera lens to poke through. It will be hot glued to the top of the dome interior, and will hopefully be at an adequate level for a decent line of sight. The Rx on the back of the dome will be replaced with a smaller, lighter Rx I also have coming from Hobbyking, which I may also move to the interior of the dome if there is room.

The Video Tx on the top of the dome will eventually be switched out for a tiny 10mW unit that will be housed in the interior of the dome, glued right behind the camera with the antenna poking out the rear of the dome. However, for the time being I am stuck with the larger unit due to the fact that I have spent too much money recently to buy the new one right now. The quad will struggle under the weight, but based upon other builds I have seen I know it will lift it with severely reduced flight times. It will still come in under the weight of some of the ones on the forum thread for this frame with the same motors.

The plan is to try to keep the camera, Rx, and video Tx under the dome, and all wiring tucked out of sight, for a very clean build. I believe it will be possible, but we'll see. It really depends upon the size of the new Rx. This quad will be using the Quadrino board I currently have on my Witespy quad, which has all wiring on one side of the board, leaving plenty of room under the dome for other components, especially since the new Rx is PPM capable, reducing wire clutter.

Here are the components I will be adding as they arrive:
Motors: http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/s...idProduct=5358
ESCs: http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/s...idProduct=4318
Battery: http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/s...dProduct=11900
Posted by FullmoonCat | Feb 06, 2012 @ 01:55 PM | 3,097 Views
After my big crash, I have resolved to not fly my Witespy quad again until I am able to do so in a more open area. I have a park right down the street that would be perfect, but it's been a matter of finding time to go fly. I am involved in a big film project right now that is consuming all of my weekends, so the only real time I have is lunch breaks and after dark. So that pretty much leaves me not flying at all.

I am waiting for my parts from HobbyKing to build my microquad, so that I can get to flying indoors during those times that I actually have available. Unfortunately, I ordered LIPO batteries from them along with my motors, ESCs, etc. I was unaware that would increase the shipping time by as much as a month!!! So now, I am waiting around while willing myself to not go out and fly my larger quad in poor conditions again.

I did get my FPV gear all set up finally, though. I have a small ground station that consists of a portable DVD player for the monitor. Maybe some day I can afford the video goggles, but the monitor will work for now. I'm pretty stoked to try it out, but seeing how lame I am at piloting my copter right now, that won't be soon. I want to be somewhat proficient at line of sight flight before going into FPV, even though I know for a fact I will be much better at FPV.
Posted by FullmoonCat | Feb 02, 2012 @ 11:51 AM | 2,973 Views
I have been itching to get out and fly my quadcopter set-up for a long time now, but the weather has not been cooperative. I just finished getting everything set up, including my camera mount, and I have been dying to see if my PID settings and anti-vibration measures would actually result in stable video. So, when I came home for lunch the other day and the wind wasn't blowing, and the sun was out, I thought it was finally my chance! This is the result:

Witespy Quad Crash (1 min 1 sec)

I had actually only intended to hover a few feet off the ground a bit, but I was not used to the new settings and the trims are all off. I somehow managed to gain too much altitude, and the quad drifted right in front of the sun. From there, I lost orientation, and the rest is self-explanatory.

On the plus side, the video is free of vibration, so it looks like once I actually learn to fly this thing, I'll be good to go in that regard. On the down side, the crash was pretty bad. The quad fell from about 10-15 feet onto blacktop, snapping one of the arms clean off at the center plate. All four props were broken, and three of the prop adapters appear to have taken a bit of impact, based upon the scarring. I am hoping nothing there is bent. The camera gimbal came apart at the glue seams, and the camera mount plate was broken on both sides. Luckily, I was able to recover all the pieces.

Yesterday, I sat down with some superglue and cut up an old credit card to make...Continue Reading
Posted by FullmoonCat | Jan 30, 2012 @ 12:29 PM | 3,256 Views
My aerial video quad build is mostly complete. I just received my camera, which is slightly longer and even more front-heavy than I anticipated. I will have to make an add-on to the mounting plate of my gimbal to get the camera on there, but preliminary tests show that the servos have no problem handling the weight. I was worried about that. The only real issue is the placement of the TV out port on my camera. Instead of on the side, like a GoPro, the port is on the back of the camera, under a hinged door. The cable that came with the camera will not allow me to mount it on the gimbal at all, so I had to order a new cable with a 90 degree connector. That should solve the issue, I hope.

I could just cut some holes in the sides of the camera and re-route the ports to the sides.... but then I'd lose the waterproofing. I'd rather keep it all intact for now, since it is nice to also be able to use the camera underwater (not on the quad, lol!).

My other struggle I am having with the gimbal is with adjusting it in the MultiWii firmware. I have gotten it so it will sit pretty much level going one direction only on either servo. For example, rolling the quad right, the gimbal makes correction exactly as it is supposed to and keeps the camera level. Rolling left, the gimbal corrects too quickly, causing the reverse tilt of the camera. The same goes for the pitch. Pitch forward works great, pitch backward does not.

I think I need to mess with the linkages to...Continue Reading
Posted by FullmoonCat | Jan 23, 2012 @ 12:33 PM | 3,135 Views
Having flown my quad a total of three times, I am now back in wait mode as the rain and snow pour down outside, and the wind rages. In other words, winter in Idaho. The last time I flew the quad, the wind was a bit gusty, but didn't seem all that strong. I quickly learned I am not experienced enough to judge that, or to handle wind, as I broke my second prop.

I am also in the midst of adding my FPV and camera stuff to the quad. I received my gimbal early last week, and finally found time to assemble it a few days ago. It looks like a really great camera mount, and the servos and linkages are solid with no wiggle like I have heard many camera mounts have. I consider myself pretty lucky, but have yet to mount the gimbal to the frame and actually hook it up to my Quadrino to see how it works in reality. In fact, I'm not exactly sure how to set up the tilt parameters in the MultiWii config yet. I'm sure I will figure it out.

So, because I can't fly my AP quad due to the weather (and likely won't be able to for some months), I have begun a micro-quad build that I can fly indoors to get some practice. I think it will prove invaluable in improving my piloting skills while I can't be outdoors (and it should also be really fun). I'll just be borrowing the Quadrino board and receiver from my Witespy quad for the micro-quad, to keep costs down and also to keep consistency. Best to learn to fly the Quadrino with whatever particular quirks it has.

I am planning to...Continue Reading
Posted by FullmoonCat | Jan 12, 2012 @ 05:25 PM | 3,696 Views
Parts from China have been flooding in, so after a long wait and a lot of studying, I can actually start to assemble my quad. Or more accurately, improving it and changing out parts, since I ordered it pre-assembled.

I am putting vibration-dampening pads under each motor, which requires slightly longer screws than the ones the motors came with. It turns out the ones I bought are a bit too long, so I will have to trim them down (which would be easier if my Dremel tool hadn't literally caught fire last month while working on some film props). Then I have to drill some holes in the aluminum tubes I am using to make my landing gear, and probably hot glue some stuff. as well.

I already started upgrading my Turnigy 9x radio to the FrSky system, and just have to drill some holes and hot glue a little board in place to be finished with that. Hopefully I did everything right. It's not complicated, but my soldering iron is crappy quality, and so are my soldering skills. :P But it all looks like it will work, my solder blobs are just far too large.

It's very nice that it can finally start coming together after all this time of just staring at the quad with no means to actually do anything with it. I fear it may be a bit longer before I am able to send it on its maiden flight, however, because I lack the connector I need to charge the battery it came with, or the connectors I would need to put on the new batteries I bought to use them with the quad, or the connectors I need to hook up my new Rx. LOL! Damn connectors.

Hopefully the one local hobby shop that carries RC items will have the connectors I need. Otherwise, it's back to thumb twittling while I order them online. Sigh.
Posted by FullmoonCat | Jan 03, 2012 @ 12:39 PM | 3,407 Views
Well, I have still yet to fly my quadrocopter. I received it, and it looks great, but I am still awaiting my transmitter, receiver, and various other items I need before I can fly the thing. I am also adding some padded landing gear to my frame since it would seem that the legs are easily breakable (based on other peoples' experience with the same frame).

So, in the mean time, I have been practicing flying with the Phoenix flight simulator. I have become pretty good with it, with the exception of accurate landings. I find it extraordinarily difficult to get the quad to land smoothly, and always have to plop it down or it drifts around on the prop wash. This is another reason I am making padded landing gear.

I do have to wonder how the simulator compares to the physical craft. To be honest, I find the simulator extremely easy and only crash if I am doing something intentionally stupid such as 10 flips in a row. Even pretty complex acrobatics are very easy on the simulator. I am guessing this is not the case in reality. Also, the simulator is of a perfectly tuned (probably unrealistically) Gaui 330x, which is only superficially like the quad I am using. So, I imagine there will be a lot of difference once I go to the real thing. But I really hope all of this simulator practice will spare me the sorts of newbie crashes I constantly see described on the forums.

It might be as much as a month before I get all of the parts I need to actually fly my real quad....Continue Reading
Posted by FullmoonCat | Dec 12, 2011 @ 12:47 PM | 3,581 Views
Hi everyone! I'm new to the world of RC in general, having only flown tiny toy helicopters previously. But I am a filmmaker in Boise, Idaho, and see the obvious potential of utilizing multi-rotor helicopters in my productions.

The ability to get aerial footage in a low-budget independent film production is previously unheard of, due to the cost of renting a helicopter service even for a simple fly-over. And due to the nature of film production, the time you'd need to spend getting shots would really rack that cost sky-high (pun intended). Remote control helicopters offer an attractive solution, now that camera technology has brought us tiny high-definition cameras like the GoPro Hero 2.

I was watching the film Minority Report (2002) last night with some friends, and the final shot of the film was a camera shot through the window of a cabin, that then transitioned seamlessly to an aerial fly-away shot of the cabin and surrounding landscape. The shot was not particularly steady, in all actuality, though there was no vibration. I am certain the shot was a combination of dolly/hand held in the beginning, jib boom at low level, and then helicopter footage for the fly-away. This difficult shot would have taken a fair number of hours and planning, not to mention a helicopter. But of course, that was a huge-budget film starring Tom Cruise (the actor, not the Hoveround guy).

Now, less than ten years later, I could potentially get the same shot with consumer equipment and a...Continue Reading