How hard it is to build a RC plane without plans and starter kits? To do it in “Trust me, I’m an engineer” style. In mid June I’ve decided to give it a try and right now I can tell: it’s hard, but not that hard as one might imagine. All the problems I’ve faced were faced previously by someone else. I only had to ask right questions, read a lot, and use engineering sens to make plane work.
And well, it works. Way better than I expected it might work. Look for yourself.
When few weeks I wrote how to solve a problem of broken USB port in Flip32+ flight controller, I suggested that one of the solutions is adding a serial Bluetooth module to provide wireless connection with a bord. And telemetry. Excellent news is: this is pretty simple and cheap.
Rule number one when doing flips with multirotor (quadcopter) drone is to watch your altitude. Specially with bigger machines without big thrust to weight ratio. If you will not control altitude, it might end like that:
Quadcopter (built on Raptile 500 frame and Flip32+ FC) survived without a scratch. Camera (RunCam HD) survived as well. It “only” detached for quadcopter and traveled few meters by itself until landed in grass.
Servo tester is a useful little device that is needed specially when you do not have one. I’ve been placed in a situation like that few days ago what I was trying to connect ailerons with servos on my Depron plane and setup correct control throw. Luckily, I own a few Arduinos, so 15 minutes later I owned a divice like that:
It is an extremely simple servo tester based on Arduino Pro Micoro that can send 3 different PWM pulse lengths: 1000us, 1500us and 2000us. That gives min, neutral and max stick position on RC radios. Perfect to setup control throws and neutral positions.
Arduino. Any Arduino will do. I used Arduino Pro Micro, but any can be used. Even barebone ATmega328 running internal oscillator on 8MHz,
Low price equals low quality. At least usually. I became clear to me (again) when I’ve broken USB port on my Flip32+ multirotor flight controller. I’ve pulled USB cable and USB socket stayed on a plug. Cheap solder. Or too quick soldering. No idea. Bottom line: unable to connect to flight controller board using USB cable. To make things worse, quadcopter was not tuned yet. It was flying, but not in the way I wanted it to.
What are the options in this case? Well, there are 3:
get new flight controller board. Quite expensive since the only thing that is broken is USB port itself. Everything else works just fine,
resolder USB socket. Might be the best solution, but since it’s surface mounted micro USB, it’s way above my soldering skills. THT? Why no prob. Simple SMD like resistor? Why not. More advanced? No…,
use different way to communicate with flight controller.
I’ve chosen the third way. Flip32 (and Naze32) has build in hardware UART ports (as well as SoftwareSerial) that can be used to establish connection with a PC. Software like Cleanflight already allows you to use any serial port to talk to flight controller. Continue reading Flip32 with broken USB port
SimonK is most widely recognized ESC firmware in multicopter world. But there is a second option, in many ways much better than SimonK firmware. It is called BLHeli. It supports many different ESC, including both Atmel and SiLabs based. Plus, it has a cool software that allows you to configure you ESC without programming card. Just connect your ESC via serial-to-USB interface and you are ready to go.
AfroESC were supposed to be state of the art controllers, SimonK out of the box, easy to flash thank to special USB interface/programmer. And ready to accept different software, BLHeli included. There is only one huge “but”. You can buy them, you can buy Afro USB Linker (Turnigy USB Linker is exactly the same), but nobody will tell you how to do it. Number of articles is very limited, and the only useful I’ve found is this one. So, here we go, now there will be a second one!
There are many cheap quadcopter frames on market. Big, small, X, H, foldable, good and bad. And choosing a correct frame for a purpose is both hard and critical for further drone performance. One of cheap, and on a first glance, versatile frames, is x525 V3. Is it worth the money?
Well, it’s a hard question. Before I will go to any conclussions, short description of x525 frame.
Material: glass fiber and aluminium
Type: X or +, you can choose, it is symmetrical
Weight: around 385g,
Integrated landing gear with sping amortization
Power distribution board
Landing gear is quite clever and should absorb most of impact force in case of hard landing. In theory it is correct, but my experience says that it does not matter. It maybe works in case of normal, controlled landing. But in case of really hard landing, read as crash, it does not matter at all. It is a useless feature that only breaks, adds extra weight and really does very little. After breaking 3 sets of front landing skids, I just replaced them with some steel wire. Does the same, and weights less. Like I said, useless feature. Continue reading x525 V3 Quadcopter Frame Review
Last week I was, finally, able to perform a maiden flight of my DIY wooden quadcopter (here and here). I will not say it was huge success, but it was a success alright. What went like expected? Well, quite alot. First of all, it flies and has enough thrust to weight ratio to do flips and rolls. And is pretty stable in hover. What went not like expected? It is highly unstable on yaw. Really, really unstable. Probably rear propellers are too close to each other and I have to work on PID settings. As soon as I will have enough spare time…
In a mean time, here is a short video from DeadRat’s maiden flight:
Final configuration goes as follows:
Motor to motor diagonal: 500mm,
Motor to motor front arms: 370mm,
Motor to motor rear arms: 300mm,
Materials: 3mm plywood and 15mm wood spars
Motors: Suppo A2212/13 1000KV
ESC: XT-Xinte 30A
Flight Controller: OpenPilot CC3D (clone)
Battery: Turnigy 5000mAh 3S 25C
Propellers: Gemfan 1045
Start weight: 1212g
Hover time: 21 minutes
Next steps: tune it up and move battery to top. Somehow I do not want to construct a landing gear for it…
Hitting the ground with a drone is not healthy. For pilot’s self esteem and UAV both. Specially when impact’s force will be taken by one of the motors. Most probably it will survive, they are quite tough little devices, but delicate bearing will take punishment and might wear off. Luckilly, signals of damaged bearings are easy to notice: motor starts to make strange noises and you can hear oscillations during maneuvers. At this point you have two options: replace whole motor, or replace bearings.
I faced this situation last weekend when one of my MT2213 935KV BLDC motors stated to rattle in flight. It was very hard to notice in hover, but audible in turns. So I had no other option and decided to replace damaged bearings. Continue reading Turnigy MT2213 935KV bearing replacement
In theory, battery strap should be one of the least important parts of any drone, quadcopter, or any RC device. And no matter what anybody will say, it is one of least important ones. As long, as it keeps battery in place and does not unfasten itself out of nowhere. Especially in flight. So, as an addition to cheap battery straps from ebay/china we can choose something more fancy. Like Turnigy Battery Strap 330mm.