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Nov 06, 2017, 02:32 PM
Registered User
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discouraged


Greetings All,

I have recently become fascinated with FPV drones / quads after watching the likes of Charpu, LeDrib, Mr. Steele, etc. As a middle-aged man, I was a bit worried about the learning curve, but figured I'd take the plunge. I do not have much R/C experience. I've played my share of video games (including the old flight sims and air-air combat games), but this does not seem to translate well. I have a Blade mSR X helicopter that I can just barely hover in my living room without crashing into things.

I thought quads might feel similar to R/C helis. I started off with a Parrot Bepop 2. It was pretty fun, and takes decent videography. I really had no idea at the time that the drone was essentially "flying itself." But the fact that my young children could fly it without crashing should probably have tipped me off.

I wanted to fly "real" FPV drones, but was reluctant to enter the "build your own" side of things. I tried to get a Furibee X-215 from GB, but the order took forever, so I cancelled it. I ended up getting and Eachine Wizard X220S, along with a couple of Tattu 4S batteries (1300 mAh, 75C).

I had already been getting familiar with the Taranis X9D radio. I dutifully purchased the LiftOff simulator game through Steam. So far, I've logged about 10 hours. I find LOS really difficult in that game because of how quickly the drone can get far away and tiny, and the changing camera view is a bit nauseating for me. I find FPV mode much easier, and tried to go ACRO from the get-go, as is often recommended by Internet gurus. I can fly around without running into trees / buildings. I can do some of the easier race courses with gates. My biggest problem is making turns too widely and/or having to bail when my angle of attack is wrong and quickly climb to safety. I had been trying to fly the most underpowered quad I could find / make, which seemed to help (forward cruising speed of "only" 25 or 30 km/h).

Unfortunately, I had a false sense of confidence when trying out the Eachine. Don't get me wrong - I did not think I would be some kind of virtuoso. But I thought I could at least fly it around a bit in an open field. I was quite mistaken.

Issues:

- Could not find BNF version, so went with ARF. Got myself a FrSky XSR receiver. Gingerly took the quad apart, and soldered the receiver to the FC for SBUS (never soldered before). I made sure to heat shrink the connections and vary painstakingly put everything back together. I ended up zip-tying the receiver to the rear / bottom area inside the rectangular prism "computer box." I had the two antennae poked up through some holes in the carbon fibre of the top plate.

- Spent about 2 or 3 hours figuring out how to program the Taranis and do setup in BetaFlight, setup the OSD, etc. Never could figure out how to flash firmware, but the version seemed recent enough.

- Maiden flights were at a local field / public school. Ambient temperatures about -10 or -15 deg C. This was bad for my manual dexterity. I was trying to take off from a piece of tarp on a field of snow. The wind was blowing everything around. Tried to fly LOS in angle mode. Had terrible throttle control, and made repeated "hard landings" and then overcompensated by bouncing the quad back in the air (while physically trying not to wince at the sight).

- Switched to FPV mode (using an Eachine EV800D). I was actually flying around 20 m up, and then without warning the craft rolled to the R 180 degrees and then fell out of the sky.

I gave up, went home. Realized I had somehow lose one of the sideplates. Kicked myself for not noticing before retreating into my vehicle and driving away. Designed and 3D printed a replacement sideplate out of PLA that was far less durable but still offered some protection.

The next day, I tried again. I neglected to strap down the "balance charging" cables of the battery. The props sheared this off instantly. Now I have an almost new battery that I cannot charge. I accidentally momentarily touched two of the severed wires together and was met with scary sounding sparks.

I install the new battery. When I tried to take-off again, one of the 4 propellers is only twitching, not moving like the others. I tried turning the radio and quad on/off a few times, but this did not help. They I tried removing the prop and re-installing it. This also did not help.

I concluded my quad was "broken" and went home in a funk, feeling depressed for a few hours afterward.

Today, I tried in my basement again, and the quad seemed operational. I cannot fly acro in such a small space without risking hitting myself or a wall. Even flying angle mode is a challenge, mostly due to throttle control management and trying to stay high enough to avoid ground effect without hitting the ceiling.

***

I do not know how much of my problems are piloting error / deficiency, vs. temperature / weather vs. poor soldering / install vs. inherent crappiness of the quad vs. damage from early mishaps.

I loaded up LiftOff again, just to check things out. I setup a quad that looked similar in specs and capabilities to the Wizard (e.g. 10 x thrust to weight ratio). I was again able to fly this simulated model around the hay bales and "easy" areas without difficulty.

Sorry for the length. I tried to be descriptive to help experts who might be able to recognize my problems and offer advice. (Even if that advice is, "I'm sorry, but you just seem to suck at this. Go back to fake flying your Bepop 2 and leave REAL flying to us men.")

I was a bit close to throwing in the towel yesterday (especially when I thought the Wizard was completely dead).

I have ordered a Mantis 85 micro quad from BangGood. I am hoping this will be easier to control, less powerful. I considered going all the way to Tiny Whoop level, but they seem to have inherently different flight characteristics from "standard" 5" quads.

Thanks in advance...
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Nov 06, 2017, 03:32 PM
Regurgitation Utensil.
xanuser's Avatar
Sounds very similar to my start, and probably many others.

if you are struggling with acro and fly betaflgiht, you can dial the auto level back in horizon mode, so it basically flies like acro, except for a little bitof auto level at the middle of the sticks.

in lower section of PID tab;
lower strength and transition to 30-40 or lower for both. strength = amount of auto level. transition = how close to center sticks the auto level kick in.
raise angle limit to 90+ if you want to fly at angles past 55 degrees. like in a dive.
Last edited by xanuser; Nov 06, 2017 at 03:41 PM.
Nov 06, 2017, 04:01 PM
Registered User
Xanuser,

Thanks for that. I'll try to make those changes in BF and see whether I can progress gradually via reduction of "relying on crutches." :-)
Nov 06, 2017, 04:26 PM
Registered User
Horizon mode is a good mode to start out in because you can still fly fairly aggressive and do rolls and flips but have the auto level to fall back on. The only thing I dislike about horizon is if you aren't paying attention and you give it too much forward or side angle it auto flips and throws the quad into a new orientation so be ready for that.

Mini quads are good to start with because they can take a beating but I think u'll enjoy the feel of the 5 inch more once you get better. At some point you stop learning in horizon mode and you have to make that jump into acro if you want to fly like a bat out of hell. Make a note of things you have done in error each time and skim that list before each flight until you do them without thinking about it. I always forget to tighten my screws on motors or the base plate and have landed missing half my screws on a motor. Most of all have fun because this isn't a very forgiving hobby and getting upset at yourself for a mistake never helps trust me on that lol!
Nov 06, 2017, 04:46 PM
Regurgitation Utensil.
xanuser's Avatar
also try making the simulator more difficult to fly. over power it, and raise the rates just a little. that way when you fly in real life it seems easier. its like pro baseball players practicing fielding grounders but with golf balls.

another thing that helped me was using FPV gear to record my LOS flights, then studying them later. it really helped me to "see" what my quad was doing when I did do something right, and also show me what i was doing wrong or needed to work on. I feel it helps acclimate your muscle memory to what you would be seeing in the goggles.
Nov 06, 2017, 05:23 PM
And You're Not
I've been flying one month yesterday, maidened my first quad October 5th. I have been flying various RC including (barely) helicopters for quite some time. I never made much progress with simulators - I could fly the simulator like a pro, it never seemed to cross over into actual flight. So I just bought a couple hundred props and went at it. Spent about a week in angle mode, never tried horizon, and then into acro mode, all LOS.

I'm up at higher than default rates (both RC rate and super rate) in BF now and can do flips and rolls. I learned to fly in the backyard, where it's pretty tight and disaster waits if the inputs are wrong. I think learning in the confined space (and having a strong frame like the Chameleon) and low altitude (I try to keep it lower than the fence) helped a lot, when I take it to the flying field with some open area I can really relax and let it go.

But my sticking point is trying to fly via FPV. I can get off the ground (I've done all my FPV flights on angle mode) and fly around, but spatial orientation is hard for me. I only fly FPV at the field, no way I'm trying that in the yard. I make a turn and can see the pits - don't want to fly there - but after I got a spotter he tells me I'm not heading towards the pits. It's the FOV of the FPV camera that's got me seeing a lot more than I'm used to. Same with altitude, I think I'm head high or so and then bounce off the ground. I think I'm too high but the spotter tells me I'm at about 20ft. I got down wind and lost orientation (there are no land marks, it's a field surrounded by more field, out in the middle of fields) by the time I finally pulled the goggles off I couldn't even see the quad, but the spotter could and we got it back to the field before the battery went dead. I can tell this part is going to take some getting used to, but now the weather is getting lousy, days are short, and I would really like a spotter to be there, too.

But I can fly the heck out of that thing in acro mode LOS, and I still try to fly at least a few packs daily.
Latest blog entry: My Quads
Nov 06, 2017, 05:49 PM
Very Soft Target
BOOCAKE4U's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by sarcopenia
Greetings All,

[snip]

I have a Blade mSR X helicopter that I can just barely hover in my living room without crashing into things.

[snip]

Today, I tried in my basement again, and the quad seemed operational. I cannot fly acro in such a small space without risking hitting myself or a wall. Even flying angle mode is a challenge, mostly due to throttle control management and trying to stay high enough to avoid ground effect without hitting the ceiling.
You will no doubt receive a ton of good advice in this thread. I will give you mine in the simplest form possible because I think it is important and will be helpful to you.

1. Don't discount angle mode. If you can't manage throttle and basic directional input with the craft leveling itself, acro will break your heart and wallet. You should master angle mode (nevermind horizon mode for now, in my opinion). This is step one. (Also, you should be able to maintain orientation via line of sight even if you never intend to fly that way. This is where having a small, non-threatening birdy comes in very handy. Having a howling four-headed wasp-nest meat slicer coming at your face does not allow you to think efficiently.)

2. Flying through the goggles is a whole separate dimension. This only clicked for me a couple weeks ago, after flying pack after pack all weekend long. Suddenly, my brain finally accepted that I could now be a tiny fat little hummingbird and could work off of purely visual input, and even keep track of what was around me without me having to see it. (Just getting used to even being IN the goggles took me a while, like "mental claustrophobia".) This is step two.

3. Acro - Learning it myself. I can whoop around the living room LOS in agility (acro) mode. I learned the bass-ackwards way and started with a mCPX copter (micro collective pitch) so there was a bit of that learned already. I once heard it compared to balancing a ball on a sheet of glass, and that's pretty close. Some time in a big field and we will try some of this tomfoolery through the googles. This is step 3.

Long story short, you're a sharp guy and you'll be fine. All you really need is practice, and to be realistic in terms of your progression. I won't say "baby steps" but yeah, you crawl before you walk (or fly). Get out there on a warm day and just try to keep that thing in a hover inside a 20 foot imaginary box, and go from there.

Hope that helps you!
Last edited by BOOCAKE4U; Nov 06, 2017 at 06:11 PM.
Nov 06, 2017, 07:38 PM
FA3PR9WM79
Oldgazer's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeffery
But my sticking point is trying to fly via FPV. I can get off the ground (I've done all my FPV flights on angle mode) and fly around, but spatial orientation is hard for me. I only fly FPV at the field, no way I'm trying that in the yard. I make a turn and can see the pits - don't want to fly there - but after I got a spotter he tells me I'm not heading towards the pits. It's the FOV of the FPV camera that's got me seeing a lot more than I'm used to. Same with altitude, I think I'm head high or so and then bounce off the ground. I think I'm too high but the spotter tells me I'm at about 20ft. I got down wind and lost orientation (there are no land marks, it's a field surrounded by more field, out in the middle of fields) by the time I finally pulled the goggles off I couldn't even see the quad, but the spotter could and we got it back to the field before the battery went dead. I can tell this part is going to take some getting used to, but now the weather is getting lousy, days are short, and I would really like a spotter to be there, too.
You need to get your head into the cockpit. You're not flying LOS, so you can't loose orientation, but you can loose your sense of direction.

Do what the Blue Angels do: Walk the field. Make mental notes of where things like trees, rocks, alien artifacts, and old car bodies are and use them as landmarks and directional reference points. You can also use the shadows from trees and other tall objects, and if you really want some markers, go to your local big box hardware store and buy a hand full of wire boundary marker flags.

Another trick the Blues do is they talk through every portion of every show they give. Its kind of strange to witness, but basically the flight leader calls cadence for every part of every demonstration they fly...

Fast forward to 7:00 minutes....

Blue Angels - A Year in The Life (39 min 36 sec)




If you have an OSD, set it up with a cross hair and artificial horizon markers in the center of the display. This will give you a graphical representation of the aircraft attitude and help you concentrate on the center of the FOV.

When you fly your FPV sim (I recommend FreeriderFPV) put your mouse cursor in the center of the screen. This will help you get lined up on the gates and such. And, if you can, add a VGA to composite converter to your computer and run the video to your goggles. Makes flying a sim much more realistic and a whole lot more fun....
Nov 07, 2017, 09:19 AM
Registered User
TeeDubbleYoo's Avatar
If you haven't had much experience with hobby RC, things like not strapping down the balance cable, accidentally touching wires, are absolutely easy mistakes to make. On the upside, they're also the sort of mistakes most of us only make once...!

I think one mental barrier to get over is that quads are somewhat more disposable than other RC discipline. You'll be making a lot of replacements in the course of flying, (compared to my own experience in RC cars). Props are basically a consumable, frames can break, cameras or flight controllers can die when one tiny component fails. The requirement that they be so light inherently leads them to being fragile, if you're learning to fly, you'll be crashing, there's no getting around it. Just get into the habit of checking your craft after a crash before lifting off again. So have no fear! At least parts are cheap for the most part.

For me, getting the hang of flying came from having a cheap toy grade (no altitude hold!) quadcopter that had decent power, and most importantly plenty of batteries! I had a Furibee F36, and a Syma X11. The Hubsan H107L is also a good one. I flew them around the living room, they help a lot with throttle control and figuring out co-ordinated turns.

After that I basically went out and flew my micro brushless. Look particularly for a space that's not very densely populated with trees so you can get the hang of having some obstacles/goals to fly around. (just make sure you have a large poking stick on hand). Having a point of reference when flying is very helpful. This applies equally to a 5", you'll just need a little more space

The Wizard had a fair bit of power for it's time, so if you want to soften the learning curve, try watching Joshua Bardwell's video on using 3s vs 4s, in it he teaches you how to adjust your throttle end point (on a Taranis no less) to limit your maximum thrust. Just don't forget to start raising the limits once you get more comfortable

Just practice practice practice!
Nov 07, 2017, 04:48 PM
Registered User
In the OP you mentioned a motor just twitching, instead of powering up with the others. That sometimes happens because the flight controller doesn't see any need to run that motor, because the quad is already level. But it might be indicative of a poor connection somewhere between the motor and its ESC, and it could be the reason your quad executed that 180 degree roll. So I would check the soldering on that motor.
Nov 07, 2017, 09:19 PM
Registered User

Thanks!


Hello again,

I just wanted to express my sincere appreciation at all of the useful tips and encouragement that have been offered.

I did manage to figure out how to "soften" the controller inputs (including the throttle curve). It is now almost trivially easy to fly in my basement LOS in angle mode. I just need some better weather to try outside again (I'm in Edmonton, Alberta). I'm a bit concerned about possibly landing in snow (even softly) and having water issues. I do have that Mantis 85 coming in the mail. Should be small enough to fly indoors (after I "detune" it like the Wizard).

Re: the motor twitching / soldering aspect, it is a 4-in-1 ESC, so I am not sure how to troubleshoot the connections on that. I am crossing my fingers that this problem will not come again (I do wonder whether the electronics do not like operating in -20 deg C, but I'm not sure).

I hope to one day be in a position to "pay it forward" and help other newbies, once I have a bit of experience and competence.

Again, thanks.
Nov 08, 2017, 03:34 PM
Very Soft Target
BOOCAKE4U's Avatar

What a difference a day maaaaakeesssss


Excellent! Very glad to hear such good news. Expo and some "rate-softening" can definitely help all the way around. I use two of the 3 position switches on my radio for just that. One for three selectable throttle curves, and the other for three selectable rate/expo profiles. Goes (in general) from 70% travel and heavy expo to full travel and a bit less expo, then full 125% rates and zero expo (aka robo-hummingbird). Similar deal on the throttle curve. Really helps with precision flying and then when you can manage to get full stick you have that "Oh yeah" moment and realize you can click everything to 11 (or more like 13). That has made a huge difference in my flying, along with the precision flying itself. (I am learning that slow, smooth and clean turns quickly into fast, smooth and clean. Not so much the other way around.)

Kinda coveting that little Mantis myself. Need a few hundred more Youtube reviews before I make the move (or maybe just another paycheck.)

Happy flying! (I can almost hear the Wizard shrieking in the basement, bobbing around and just itching to get out. Glorious! Man I love toys.)


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