Hexacopter AP Build Planning - RC Groups
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Apr 23, 2012, 05:32 PM
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Hexacopter AP Build Planning

Hey guys,
The multirotor bug has bitten me quite viciously and wonít let go until I get a decent AP rig up in the air. I wanted to share my plans and get any advice from all the wealth of experience and know-how on this forum prior to taking the expensive plunge.

First off, let me introduce myself. I am an aerospace engineer, who works on small UAVs for a living. Needless to say, my hobby isnít much of an ďescapeĒ, but it passes the time . This is my first post, but I have been browsing for a while and active on other forums. I joined the multi-copter craze last year, but have been doing RC for numerous years, cars and planes mostly.
I currently run a quad setup using the APM 2.0 Arducopter platform, which has improved tremendously over the past few months. The setup, my first multirotor, has been very fun and quite the learning experience. The open-source nature of Arducopter, along with the pretty sophisticated hardware of the APM 2, makes it fun to experiment and test things out. However, given the size of my current setup itís not ideal for anything more than my Go-pro.

Which brings me to my next build:
My goals are primarily vibration free, stabilized video with decent (10-15 min) flight times. Reliability is up there too because my budget isnít infinite, and crashing with my camera wouldnít make my wife too happy. Itís going to mostly be for fun, but I have family and friends in the video/film industry who are salivating at the chance to have a AP rig at their disposal. I am trying to keep this build under $2.5k, $3k at the max, which I believe is very doable.

As you can see from the parts list below, itís nothing ground-breaking. I am currently leaning towards a hex over an octo simply because of the size of the gear I will be carrying. A hex will be smaller and a bit less expensive. My payload is going to range from a Go-pro to a T2i or GH2. The motors are the ever popular Avrotoís, which coupled with 12x3.8 SFs, should give me decent margin on the T/W and flight time. Seeing as this is going to be an AP rig, I wonít be performing acrobatics, but added margin for additional payload is always nice. From my experience, UAVs always end up heavier than originally planned!

Parts List:
Frame: Rustyís UAP-1 with hex upgrade, floating camera plate and CF booms - I like the modularity of this design, makes it pretty versatile if I decide to change things up.

FC board: APM 2.0 - leaning towards starting with this and seeing how it performs with a nice platform. There are a lot of people, me included, having success with this FC, and the functionality is hard to beat for the price. Plus, the almost weekly updates have it performing better every week! I know of a few people using this on AP rigs successfully, but it obviously isnít as popular as some of the more expensive options out there.

Motors: Avroto 2814-11s

ESCs: Turnigy Plush 30 amp

Battery: Undecided, either a single 8000mah 4s or smaller packs in parallel. Looking for 12-15mins of useable flight time, which may be asking too much when looking at my analysis.

Gimbal: AV130 - I am torn on this one. I like the photohigher products, and most of the nice videos I have seen use these. I know that the AV130 is rated to up to a 550d (T2i) sized DSLR, but does it perform well? Videos are few and far between as far as I can tell, since most people seem to be using a smaller camera with the AV130. I know that AV200 would be easily capable of handling the T2i, but it adds weight and requires bigger LG, which ups the size and cost of this project. To me, the AV200 seems like it prefers Octo or X8 setups. Any advice from those of you using the AV130 would be appreciated.

Gimbal Stabilization: RSGS or similar Ė seeing how the APM 2.0 may be my FC board, I really want a separate gimbal stabilization system. The RSGS looks pretty spot-on when coupled with the AV130/AV200. I am sure we will know more in the next few weeks with its release.

BEC: Castle Creations BEC in order to run the gimbal servos up to 6.5volts.
Radio (already own): Hitec Aurora

Obviously, that is not an all-inclusive parts list, but it hits all of the major players. I will probably through my cheap HK FPV setup on there for first tests as well.

I welcome any constructive criticism or advice. Thanks!
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Apr 24, 2012, 09:12 PM
Registered User
I should point out that the primary debate that I am having with myself right now is whether to go with the AV130 or AV200. From the vidoes I have seen and reviews I have read, they are both very capable gimbals. However, I have found little info on what is more optimal for a T2i or GH2.

I realize that the Av130 is rated to carry those smallish dslrs, but does it perform well? I would hate to spend $800 and realize that it's performance is subpar for stabilizing a T2i.

On the other hand, I know the AV200 would carry the T2i fine and have room for bigger camera. But it adds weight, requires bigger landing gear (even more weight) and may force me to up the size of the copter, increasing size and cost yet again while decreasing flight time. I am really trying to stay within the capacity of a hexacopter because of these reasons

Since I am not planning on using anything larger than my T2i, I am leaning towards the AV130. I really want to see stabilized video from a T2i with a Av130 if anyone knows of some.

Thanks again
Apr 24, 2012, 09:31 PM
p0st4L's Avatar
Hey there jcmonty!

I was just about to type of a thread like this for myself, but luckily found yours first.

I too, have been bitten by the multi-rotor bug and have jumped in head first. I currently have a X525 frame (kk powered) with light FPV gear that i'm learning with / playing with... but because I'm the business type, I tend to always look at ways to make things make money.

* Insert Aerial Photography Co. speech here. *

So, Here we are, both with about the same budget < $3k, and both leaning towards the hex instead of the octo.

I have been browsing over the Mikrocopter stuff, since it's licensed and such... which makes for a good business purchase, but because I don't have any clients lined up, or even my APM 2.0 in my hands at the moment, shelling out the $5k all up front isn't my wife's favorite idea.

So... with that being said, I may still start with a mikrocopter frame, and customize as I go along.

I'll be keeping an eye on this thread, as I'm sure this is going to become very interesting.
Apr 24, 2012, 10:22 PM
Registered User
Glad to hear you are considering a similar route. I haven't looked at the Mikrocopter setup, but it does seem to be popular for AP rigs. Do you have any idea what payloads (i.e. cameras + gimbals) you are looking to carry?

I will keep you posted on how the APM 2 works out with this setup. It's much cheaper than the alternatives and performance is admirable with recent firmware upgrades. This summer should bring even better performance when they are legally able to use the processing components to their full potential.
Apr 26, 2012, 02:07 AM
p0st4L's Avatar
As for the camera, I'll probably go with a Canon 4D or 5D. As for a gimbal, it seems that belt driven seems to be the way to go.
Apr 26, 2012, 02:29 AM
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kinderkram's Avatar
You guys both sound like you're already pretty well settled on the matter.
Your plans look reasonable.

Starting with an APM on a Hexa carrying up to 500gr of camera weight will be a good entry into AP/AV. A GH2 or similar on an AV180 is surely a good combo to give you some decent shots.

The price you'll end up with will also sooth your ministers of finances at home.
Upgrading to a "high class" flight controller like the MK or WKM will cost you 1000+ bucks. Might be an option later once you have paying customers...
Apr 26, 2012, 04:58 AM
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w4Rd3n's Avatar
what does MK or WKM better than APM?
i read not that good about wkm in the past weeks.
Apr 26, 2012, 02:37 PM
Registered User
Good point. Most likely I will end up wanting more and better down the line to support any work that I actually do get. Right now its just for fun,practice, and maybe a little supplemental .income

apm is an opensource diy project. The latest hardware its pretty competitive,especially considering the cost. However due to the open source nature, firmware is always improving and setup can be more difficult than other platforms. I don't know if there has been a fair test between a properly setup apm 2 and a dji or mk setup. My guess is that it would be closer than people suspect.
Apr 26, 2012, 07:20 PM
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Jeffem62's Avatar
What booms will you be using? Size, length vender?
Apr 26, 2012, 08:20 PM
Registered User
I don't have the link handy but I was planning on using carbon finger weave booms 5/8th in. expensive but worth it I think. Length to do up to 13 or14 in props
Apr 27, 2012, 01:22 AM
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Jeffem62's Avatar
Please post the name when you find a vender for the booms. Thinking of getting one of rustys frame to do a build for ap work also.
Apr 28, 2012, 12:21 PM
Registered User
http://www.carbonfibertubeshop.com/small%20tubing.html SM6260F \ Roll Wrapped Fabric

Expensive, but worth it imo. Better anti-vibe properties, stronger, and cooler looking
Apr 28, 2012, 01:59 PM
manual flying apologist
Adidas4275's Avatar
I am fairly sure that cf resonates vibrations better than aluminum.....

I have used both but if you have good isolation and balance motors and props you'll be good.

I will give you my opinion.

I would get a cinestar gimbal.... Photohighers are nice but that cinestar is amazing. It is what I would own if I had the $$

If you have the $ the cinestar frame is great too. If not Rustys frame is reliable and will hold any weight.

The Panasonic GH2 is really the best fit for AP right now..... Weight v Performance

I love the smoothness I get from my HoverFly controllers, but many fly MK an DJI as well. With HF you can get their controller for $450 and add GPS later with out having to start over.

Oh and most guys who I would call pros dont use GPS or any fancy feature when flying just Smooth GYROs.

Have fun
Apr 28, 2012, 02:58 PM
Registered User
Thanks for the reply Adidas.

Interesting, maybe I will start with cheap alum booms and upgrade if I find that I need it.

I do like the cinestar products. They look to be top-notch and users put out great videos. I have contemplated going all out and getting a cinestar frame, but the expense is really holding me back. This is mostly going to be a recreational rig, with the legality of AP for hire being debated and my current lack of skills being un-hireable. Plus, I like the modularity and DIY nature of Rusty's frame. If i had more time and the right tools, I would definitely be more seriously considering designing and fabricating my own frame. Maybe if i get a CNC someday.. first i need a garage

Have you any experiences that would indicate a cinestar gimbal is better than a photohigher? I like that it roll-axis of rotation seems to be right where the camera lensewould sit, rather than the the pendulum roll motion of the photohigher. However, from the videos that I have seen, the photohigher gimbals do very well at stabilization. I also could imagine it would be difficult to mount the gimbal on Rusty's frame without designing some sort of interfacing mount. Not sure if anyone has done it yet

I have access to a GH2, but my main camera would be my T2i. I like that the Gh2 is a bit lighter and smaller since less weight = more flight time.

Thanks for the advice on the Hoverfly. How do you find the camera stabilization feature performs on those boards? I agree that GPS is a bit superfluous unless you are doing autonomous missions. RTL, loiter, waypoints are all nice features, but the resolution of the GPS available commerically doesn't make for rock solid loitering capability, using a few meters by a few meters box at the best. The APM has a GPS already integrated, but as of yet, I haven't used it for anything other than loiter.
Apr 28, 2012, 03:14 PM
manual flying apologist
Adidas4275's Avatar
i used the HF gimbal stabilization on this video with a out of tuned MKTR
Aerial Video of 3D airplane from Multicopter (3 min 48 sec)

i think it works great!

also this is what sold me (well not really since I dont own one) on the cinestar mount
CineStar 3 Axis Gimbal (3 min 42 sec)

tabb firchau is really one of the best in the industry and from what i understand the cinestar design is his baby....

here is another example of what that gimbal can do....
3 Axis Camera Gimbal Test with Paris v4 IMU (1 min 20 sec)

show me that with the PHAV200 and i am in..... but i have not seen anything like those 2 clips from any other gimbal...

it has me dreaming

I love Rusty's Frame..... grab one with 6 AVrotos and a HF Pro controller and a Cinestar 2 axis mount and go shoot amazing stuff..... then when you have the cash get a cinestar 8

that is my oppinion. others really like WKM but look at the pro footage of the HOW and WHY videos
Nikon - HOW of WHY (11 min 43 sec)

shot with HF using gyros only, Call George or Al over at HF and talk to them, they are good guys and all HF gear is US made

I just have yet to see smooth video at production level from a WKM..... i am not saying its not out there, i just have not seen it.

I am sure others will chime in.

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