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Old 07-30-2014, 12:53 PM   #1
Birdmanpete
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Default Making a Start with UAV.

In January 2014 I started a thread for all those who were working on the Walkera QRX 350. At the time, the general feeling was that the QRX 350 was really bad news. Since then huge progress has been made by modellers who were happy to share their successful experience and seek help with their problems. My Walkera has flown almost every day since then and I am still to bend a prop or change a part.

But the world has moved on. The simple GPS multi-rotor has become capable of pre-programmed autonomous flight. All of a sudden the challenges of quads have quadrupled.

I have been following the path marked APM. That's the open source program which seems to have been adopted as the nerve-centre for several big manufacturers and retailers. (Including Quanum/Cheerson. HK Mega and Walkera Pro.

APM sometimes described as ArduPilot, ArduPlane and ArduCopter is backed by the online resource APM: DIY Drones: and 3D Robotics. (All excellent)

When I bought my first unit I knew next to nothing about any of that. I just did my deal with Ready to Fly Quads (I had done a heap of good deals with them and they work with my budget.)

Since then I have discovered Michael Oborne's "Mission Planner" which could be described as a management system for people with little or no computer programming skill. (That's me.) It is usually called a Graphic User Interface.

So that's where I am and I have got my first Quad into late stage setup. It flies very acceptably and now I have to learn how to use the functions. I do not expect it to be quick or easy. But I will keep you posted. There have been some very scary moments and there could be more; but I will be fighting hard.

If you are anywhere along the learning curve in UAV Quads (or planes) please let us know and share your experience. If I can help with details of my setups it will be my pleasure and I will respond within twelve hours.

Let's make it safe together.
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Old 08-01-2014, 05:20 AM   #2
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Talking First steps (after disaster).

Like I said I had a very unhappy experience. For a couple of days I really wondered if I was clever enough for this (there are still some doubts). I decided to do a lot more reading from the APM wiki. This was a good idea because it is a very well set up resource. Let me give you an idea. I read somewhere about a fence which can be built around your calibration (launch) area. This was new to me so I Googled APM 2.5 Geo fence I should explain that 2.5 is my model number. There are several models including 2.6 or Pixhawk.

All of a sudden I was learning how to restrict my flight area (radius in metres)to a safe zone. Better yet I can put a lid on it. I do not want the Quad to go above 5 metres height or beyond 25 metre radius. If it hits the fence or the lid, it returns to land. (not put to the test yet)

And the same search trick works across the whole enormous subject. You should not make a first flight without applying that search cue to Stabilise, Alt Hold, Acro and Return to Land

I am practicing one at a time and I am now fairly confident with Stabilise, Loiter and Alt hold.

I had a bit of a struggle with PIDs. I am thinking of making a cradle so that I can "fly" while trapped in an elastic web and still attached to the computer. But I have got the pids more or less right with P set at 0.1150, I set to 0.0950 and D to 0.0040.

Using 25 mm of old silicon fuel tubing I have extended the FM switch so that it is easier to find it by feel. With Loiter and Alt Hold I keep my finger on that switch for a few seconds after applying it, just in case I don't really like the response. Switching back to stable is a good first reaction in a crisis.

A very interesting search subject is Drift. This is a variation of the Walkera IOC control. The video makes it look a ton better. But I will not be setting that one up for a little while yet.
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Old 08-08-2014, 01:45 PM   #3
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I am making progress. After a shocking start with the APM 2.5 I seem to be doing better and feel very confident with Stabilise Loiter and RTL. Maybe I am ready to go one more round with Acro and Drift. But I have been distracted by the arrival of the Hawk, Witespy's version of the PixHawk. It was fairly easy to set up but I have found myself frustrated by the lengthy searches to solve simple problems. Today the Issue has been LED's. The Hawk has at least ten and all but one are small and hard to read in daylight. Sometimes I think open source can be a tad too original. The first flight of the Hawk was really great except for one thing it would not Loiter. Another search is about to begin in the on line files. My problem is that although the computer told me that the GPS had a 3D fix it clearly was not good enough to hold position when airborne. And which of those tiny lights is reading GPS. I spent half an hour following at least 8 advisory sources and I am still not confident.

Well tomorrow is another day. No damage has been done and it did fly very well.
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Old 08-17-2014, 12:46 PM   #4
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Default Going well in most departments

I now have three of the APM flight Controllers. Two APM 2.5s and a version of the PixHawk) One of the 2.5s was damaged by a friend in a workshop accident. It looks as if it should work (on the computer) but it doesn't (at the field). I have not totally given up on it but it's in the back of the cupboard.

The other 2.5 is flying well. I am not sure why it went mad some weeks ago but it has not done anything strange since. I suspect that my selection of a very low altitude for the Geo fence, coupled with my selection of a fairly powerful rate of climb, combined to give me a very big scare.

And that is a good example of how people like me, who have always flown GPS in fully developed designs, like the Walkera, can get caught out. With APM boards and Mission Planner you can make mistakes in the setup, which are off the radar with proprietary designs. When you are picking up the bits after a disaster it seems like a bad system. In the longer run, when you have got your head around the tuning which is available; it is a blessing. So now that I have got on top of the basics, my second 2.5 is on Pit Straight and being prepared for programmed flight. You wont get to hear about that for a few weeks because I am off overseas to be a Paragliding Hero.

But before I go, I want to explain a silly situation which has taken some of the joy out of my more expensive adventure with the Hawk. All of these designs emerged from the wonderfully sharing community of open source programmers. Unfortunately the sharing runs into rough seas with the sales teams and the support material. Here's what has happened to me. The Hawk works beautifully in every respect but one. It is super smooth in the air. It finds satellites very quickly and it delivers excellent GPS performance figures. It is all great BUT !!!

It never gives itself the green light and it never accepts its GPS functions. And the team which shares the support material does not answer requests for individual assistance. Why would that be ??? Well I don't really know. They did respond in my first difficulties, with the first APM 2.5 but during that event, they wanted to know the name of the retailer selling the board and they have not responded since. I can sort of understand that but I find it very disappointing.

My strong advice is to make sure who it is who will guide you through the maze, before you do the buying. I did not expect this to be as complex as it is. I thought that the paperwork trail would cover all eventualities. It doesn't.
I will let you know how this all works out.

Be warned

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Old 09-19-2014, 06:31 AM   #5
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Default A dead end for now.

For the moment I am turning my back on Arduino based flight controllers for UAV flying.

I am sad about this but not grumpy. I have bought four flight controllers. Three came from "regular" suppliers and one was a discount deal from Ebay. Of the four the "cheapie" is the only one which worked in all functions as you would hope or expect. The other three had a range of issues which eventually have defeated me. The back up on websites looked fabulous but it did not solve my problems. I am still not sure whether the problems are based in the design or the manufacture.

My advice for the present is that this line of controllers is not worth the investment unless you have access to an advisor who is happy to help. In a club with a really "cluey" tech head it would probably be worth trying. My investment ran to about $350 and I still have not achieved an autonomous flight. I am sure that the one "cheapie" will do that but for the moment I am shelving the Arduino dream.

You will soon see that I have stepped off on a new path. I have ordered the very economical ($269 post free) Quanum Nova in a BNF configuration. I will be trying to control it with one of my three 7 function radios. We will see. Here's Hoping.
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Old 09-19-2014, 07:53 AM   #6
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Default

Sorry to hear "investment" provided few dividens.

I'm sure you'll need the files shown below as well.....

Customer files:
Nova FC design 6281kbExternal Compass 226kbMode Sticker 158kbCX-20 Manual 9252kbCarbon Fiber Props for Nova 90kbNova Prop upgrade a Must 90kbCX-20 factory parameters for Mission Pla 5kbManual - Quanum Nova QuadCopter 879kbLanding on JD Gator Quantum Nova 2984kbTraining gear 57kb


Hope you have better luck with the open source APM 3D Robotics firmware.....

AMA 928214
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Old 09-21-2014, 11:14 PM   #7
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Thanks for your honest story Birdmanpete.
I have a mate who has Arduino and now Naze and keeps trying to talk me into a Naze.
I have never seen any flight that inspires me after over a year of him flying either and have no thoughts of moving on from KK until something is released that I see fans raving about.
The KK has been very kind to me. I am on my 4th now. 2 of them I have sold to my son in law who absolutely loves them. The first quad he bought from me unfortunately got caught in some sort of vortex. I was flying beside him and my quad was thrown to the ground but he was more unfortunate. His was sucked up and all we could do was watch it go and it disappeared over a dense state forest. Even with throttle cut it kept going. We could see it trying to respond but it had no effect.
Hence, I had to sell him the second one.
KK hasn't got all the bells and whistles but it can be set to many flight parameters and a real smooth flight envelope can be easily achieved. Lately I discovered the fun of mixing yaw and roll and some spectacular turns can now be achieved.
The new KK Mini of course is no bigger than the Naze but I have been buying the Hard case ones as they are less likely to suffer screen damage (they haven't got one) and I love the remote programmer.
I currently use a 580 frame for aerial photography with a SJ4000 and DJI Gimbal and it does a superb job.
My new machine is just for fun and is a new release from Hobby King. I just like it.
Anyway, I will keep following your progress and maybe one day branch out but I am still waiting for that magic FC that will drag me away from KK.

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Old 09-22-2014, 03:31 AM   #8
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Default A most welcome reminder

Panther makes two very good points.

1) There are some fabulous low cost approaches to multicopters
2) The flying is more exciting than the buying.

For a few seconds he had me fooled. I thought he was saying that the KK flight controller had added GPS programability. I had to check that out and I think I am right in saying "Not Yet".

I would be very excited about that because the KK series with screens (or programmers) (I have two, too) are truly fabulous. Especially good for newcomers to multi-rotors because they allow everyday modellers to fly a range of multi rotor types. Surprisingly that is still uncommon at this end of the price market.

While distracted, I must give myself permission to credit another fabulous flight controller. The Witespy Flip is, in the best sense, incredible !!! I have at least four (lost count) and another four have been bought on my personal advice. At purchase you nominate the frame type and it comes "ready to fly" In my case these cost $15 each (more than two years ago). Basic but wonderful. With a reasonable setup you probably will not want to adjust anything. Just fly, and fly and fly.

Still distracted may I add that to date I have never had any flight controller fail while flying. Bad management in the hangar has done damage but never in a flight or in (whisper whisper) an arrival. (Crash)

So in my search for my hoped for KK programmable GPS controller, I went back to that favoured international supplier which now has two pages for flight controllers.

And there I saw that the APM formula boards, have made great progress. For those of us wanting to experiment economically with way point missions, in GPS, the range of options is terrific. I am very tempted (but still short of cash) to try the HK version of the PixHawk (PX4) If you have not looked at HK for a while, today is a great day for temptation.

But, still distracted, I saw the Eagle Tree offering. I am wrestling with my conscience now.

But back to Panther and the sad story of an alien abduction (by a vortex). That is one sad story. I once lost a fixed wing model in a swamp. I could not sleep until I found it. A multirotor alone and lost in the forest, would be a desperate time for me. But I would like to know more about the vortex event. I did once have a similar experience. When last seen, or heard, were the motors still running?
We can allow distractions here.

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Old 09-22-2014, 11:33 AM   #9
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In reponse to your last questions. The motors were running as we struggled to get the quad back. We could see it was trying to respond but even cutting the motors didn't help in the early stages. It just kept going up and away. It was still in range at all times but in the finish it was just a speck in the sky but had come down considerably, however I believe the battery was just about used by that time so it could not have made it back to base anyway. As it got lower, for safety sake, I cut the throttle and let it drop. At a guess it would have been at least a klm away as it was very small and difficult to see.
Two excursions were made to locate it over the next week or two but it is very mountainous and also thick Lantana is rife. Just too dificult.
It was late in the afternoon when it happened and beginning to lose light and would have been easy to find anywhere else as it had LED lighting on it.
If I had been handed the TX quicker I would have just dropped it sooner but I knew it would be difficult to find so tried to bring it back.
It would make a great DJI runaway story. I did send my Electric glider over with a camera looking for lights but I was worried about losing it as well.
This is the sort of country where it came down.

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Old 09-22-2014, 02:25 PM   #10
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Default Hmmmmm !

That's what I think of as Tiger Country. A thing as small as a quad, four metres below the treetops might be quite a challenge for my old eyes. It occurs to me that Flyaways might be a great subject for a thread. It reminds me too that I have never programmed a failsafe into any of my standard models. And that too is a deep and complex subject

You haven't told us about the other one which came down. I got the the impression that the two events were simultaneous, as if there was some single event which triggered one to climb uncontrollably and the other to descend uncontrollably. Have I got that right ?

I have looked at my KK programme and I don't see a failsafe in it. A lot of radios and most autonomous flight controllers do have facilities where the receiver (usually due to loss of signal) decides to go to some preset routine, ie 50% throttle and slow left turn or return to land. I have never been too sure what is the best option. But Return to Land is the one I most often choose. An on screen display with FPV systems is good, if the flight is being recorded. That's because it shows the GPS co-ordinates prior to the crash and then the matter gets much easier. I did rescue one of mine using that system. (Cyclops Breeze OSD)

I must admit I have a bit of a phobia about fly aways. It seems to me that a one kilo device falling at 32 feet per second, per second, totally out of control, in my urban environment, is so nightmarish that it almost persuades me to stay home and watch the news on TV. Well, almost !!! But in some ways your Tiger country looks a lot less worrying.
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Old 09-23-2014, 01:24 AM   #11
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LOL, well I can tell you that it is panther country. Literally! I have seen them.
Not just because I (Panther) live there.
Yes, the events were simultaneous.
My quad that was turfed during the episode suffered bent arms and broken 'tupperware' container, however that is quite acceptable as I still had it to fly again. Not like poor Shane. We were perhaps 20 - 30 ft apart at about the same height at the time.
Our quads are set with failsafe (we use FrSky systems) but RTH (RTL) would be a nice feature. I am now of the opinion that it 'may' have helped somewhat.
Being a pensioner I can't lash out on expensive systems and at 66 (today) I like things to be simple to set up.
I guess the two features I would like most are RTL and Altitude hold, but a friend has altitude hold on his Naze and it seems to make it go crazy if he moves controls too far so I have my reservations as you can understand.
Technology is improving rapidly and I guess I may see my ultimate FC before I have to give the game away, but hopefully I have many years of play left in me yet.
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Old 09-23-2014, 02:31 AM   #12
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Default Happy Birthday Dear Panther !!!

Let me start by saying how much I admired your frame in your post a couple of days ago. One of my first designs was an H copter and I still like the style. But yours is much prettier than any of mine ever were.

I have no idea what can have monstered both machines. I have to wonder if you have ever heard of Roswell

The various GPS autonomous systems are great when they work but they introduce new levels of complexity and with those, there can be an increase in anomalous events. The old KISS principle does still have merit but the technologies are evolving very fast and the reliability of the gear has always been much greater than that of the pilot. Even back in 1973 when I first got entangled that was true.

I am 71 and my budget is as wobbly as my computer skills but already I have had some unquestioned success with GPS and autonomous rescue techniques.

Like you I have seen some expensive systems which seemed to be working poorly but I am inclined to think that maybe the operator has not understood all of the designer's intentions. With my own investments I have always had the worst experiences in the first months. That thought suggests that the real problem is me. That is why I feel so strongly that our products are "under explained". But I still insist that manufacturers do not seem to care about publishing comprehensive guides and so we come to depend on clubs (if we are lucky) and forums if we are not.

And that explains to some degree why I became involved in Web sites and Youtube.

But all the best on this magic day. Try to get a flight. That's what I would recommend most.
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Old 09-23-2014, 02:46 AM   #13
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Thanks for the wishes Birdmanpete!
Just wanted to say that, yes, I guess you could call it an H copter, I am certain that it needs to be setup as a X copter. The measurements are identical each way between motors.
Funny thing is that they are not yet on the Hobby King Australia site. If you type in Hercules, you will find it. They are there but twice as expensive (+) as any other frame I ever bought before.
I will be tracing around this frame before I assemble it.
Is that naughty?
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Old 09-23-2014, 04:43 AM   #14
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Default When is a clone, not a clone.

I'm no ethicist but....

... if in the process of copying something, you fail to make a faithful copy of the cost, value or price; it cannot be regarded as a Clone.

But with respect to your question. You could still be naughty.

I think naughtiness is the spice of life.
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