07 July 2014

Learning to fly: from toys to UAV

I have been doing things just not many motorcycle things.  Oddly, motorcycle things let me to this new interest in radio controlled multicopters, or what are more commonly called drones but should be called UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles).  My journey started with cheap on board video cameras.  It has progressed to UAVs.
From cameras to quads because the videos they posted were very cool.  How would you like to see the area around your house without having to buy a plane ticket?  How about flying through the park along paths you wouldn't dare take?  Fly high and take a picture just to see what the view would be like in front of a window.  You know I had to try it.

The little toy copters held no appeal.  They all look silly:
Syma X1 Bumble Bee
Syma X1
WLToys V929
WLToys v212
Ladybird clone
Me being me, I tried big!
X600 eBay kit mid build
Who wants a to fly a bug?  It didn't matter which brand they're all based off of some mutant looking bug or an alien ship or something like that.  Plus they copy each other like crazy.  It's hard to tell which one was the original one.  Half the time, the copies are better than the originals.

Then I saw this cute little thing:
JXD385 (clone of Hubsan x4)
I got it for around $30 from eBay, my favorite online shopping place.  This little thing sounds like a herd of angry mosquitoes!  I've also broke, repaired, lost, replaced, and broke it since I got it late last year.  When it disappeared in the blue sky, I already had another on the way to accompany it.  Same palmed size but with more lights so I could see it better.
WLToys v252
These little things were to teach me to fly the big one I was building.  I got the kit for under $100 and already had the brains and battery for it.  I just needed to build it.  What they don't tell you on the forums when they list all the components for their build is you need wires and connectors and screws that are not available from any source locally at a reasonable price.

In hindsight, I should have known better.  When I was building my gyro-cam (that I haven't figured out how to mount on the bike so I haven't written much, if anything, about it), I needed a special connector to connect the lipo battery.  Fortunately, the local hobby shop had it but I got 2 for $6.  Later I ordered more and got 20 for the same price.

It took 3 months to finish it but it doesn't fly.

I bought a kit so I could be sure I had everything I needed to make the build.  Problem with the kit is some of the components are not the best.  My frame is stout!  It's made from aluminum (for the arms, motor mounts, and landing gear) and class fiber or friber (for the plates that hold those arm).  It included the right motors for the weight of the frame and motor controllers to help the motors do what they should.

First lesson learned:  Don't buy a kit.  Okay, maybe not don't but know the seller of it and that all of the components will be good.  My kit should have worked fine, there are hundreds on the RC forums with the same kit that didn't have the trouble I did.  The ESCs (things that control the motor) that came with my kit were cheap.  Cheap as in bad quality not low price.  They failed to control the motors like they should so I got a flipping quad that won't fly.

I'd read that they didn't need to be programmed to work.  Since I didn't fully understand programming, I thought it'd be alright to build it, get it to hover, and then learn programming.  Wrong.  I still don't fully understand programming but I do know how to do it using the transmitter.  (In fact, I could write a whole other entry on my transmitter lessons!)  Suckers still didn't work!  So I learned how to program them using the software that flys the quad.  You can see in the video above, still didn't work.

By the time I realized my ESCs were faulty, I'd been flying my little "learner" quads and knew the one I was building was too big.  I didn't really want to spend more money on it.  I'd already invested about $150 on stuff I couldn't even use.

Second Lesson learned:  The programmable tx I bought doesn't control the learner quads.  You can't just put your receiver on it either.For the record, programmable doesn't mean you can program it to fly whatever you want.  Programmable means you can program it to control what works with the transmitter better.

Reluctantly, I spent another $30 on programmed ESCs.  I haven't spent another two days soldering to even see if they'll work.  Remember those learner quads?  Well, I added to the fleet.  I got an alien then an angry bee because they were bigger than the palm-sized ones.

The angry bee because I could finally use the transmitter I bought.
I don't know what to do with my not flying X600.  I know it's too big to be a front yard flyer which is mostly what I do.  I know I will spend the time to replace the ESCs just so I'll know it can fly.  I also know it won't fly right out of the box, so to speak.

Third lesson learned.  I like to fly in the front yard.  The X600 measures 600 mm motor to motor.  The v212 and x1 about 150 mm.  The v252/JXD 385 even smaller.  These are great in the front yard, the X600 can hurt someone or thing badly.  When the motors spool up, it sounds like a real helicopter.  Bug canopies = bug sounds like bees and mosquitos.

Why did I start this?  I have a fantasy quad in mind that can follow me on the motorcycle and take video/pictures so when I make my motorcycle videos, I have external shots that don't mean leaving my camera on the tripod along side the road while I ride by then have to turn around to get it.  You can't do this with a toy quad.  To do this, you need something you can program and tune with motors that sound like a real helicopter.

What's that you say?  You haven't seen that in any of my videos?  You lie.  We did it once.  It was a pain in the ass.  There's only so much time on a ride.  I like my videos to have different POVs and not just be
If you watched all 15 minutes of that and said, "That's a great video.", you're more dedicated than I am.  The best moto-video I've taken was the Hwy 28 one where I had several POVs:  High, low, me onboard, me from another bike, etc.  I get tons of video of Cruzman but I want more me.  Me riding, my view when riding, and so on.

My non-flying x600 is capable of this and probably why I won't sell it.  But then I may sell it because I can build a prettier one.  Not so big so it'll fit on the bike better too.  I didn't think about that when I bought that kit.  I didn't know to think about it...it folds up, should fit.
ecks's EX0 440.  Will this be my next "big" quad?

In the meantime, I'll stick with my learner quads.  I'll transplant the control board, motors, and props to a more durable frames.  I will build another quad but in the front yard flying size not the kill the bride-groom size.

There is a guy on the forums producing some of the best looking frames I've seen.  Two actually, the first is Ecks from sweden.  I'll end up with one of his too but not now.  For my birthday last month, I gifted myself some of the other guy's (woodsturning) frames.
Picnic Frames made by WoodsTurning
with the plan of transplanting the parts from my fragile micro (palm sized) quads to this much tougher stuff. On in the standard X form we know and love, the other to the H form I like.  What you see on my tablet case is about $30 worth of stuff that will allow me to raid the quads trash bin to make 2 micro quads look better.  I was happy for a few weeks.  Until I cooked something on the little x, bastard won't fly now.

For my July purchase, I've requested a larger x frame that is closer in size to my bee and pill bottle top ones.  And another for my first--uh second brushless build. There is so much more to tell there (remember that transmitter post I mentioned?  Might have to actually do it.), this time there'll be no kit.  I will order this:

Thanks for reading,
patrice, theWolfTamer

After breaking the frame on my V252, I found a more durable replacement.  Naturally, I fried the damned board.

My fleet:  An alien (v212), an angry bee (X1), and palm-sized in a cage (v252)

My v212 with the alien canopy replaced by a custom pill bottle one.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this knowledge. In most cases a quadcopter that has the price of around $40-$80 would be something with a lot to show off. Sadly, it usually ends up being a not-so-great performer or only offers decent flight performance/battery life. See more http://mydronelab.com/reviews/syma-x1.html


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