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DJI Flamewheel F450 "Gidget"

10-10-2015: Reinstalled video system without any OSD. Think I'll take her out tomorrow for some test hops and landing practice.


10-9-2015: Time to look at Gidget again. Tonight I studied how to use the Micro MinimOSD with the Naza Lite GPS. I've got a 12 volt camera in a five volt world, so I installed a 12 volt step-up / down regulator on the camera, now it'll take 3 volts to 20. You can see it in the picture below, right next to the camera. I tested it separately, and then with the Fatshark 250mw transmitter as shown. Somehow the transmitter didn't like my bench power supply, I had to use a 3s battery. Looked OK to me. I also cleaned up the wiring a little bit, and cut the original gear off the arms, saving about 20 grams. Thought it would be more. Now I appreciate how much weight matters! Also thinking of painting Gidget Hunter Orange for easier recovery, and adding a bluetooth lost key finder.



6-6-2015: Quick test flight after re-installing the NAZA Lite with GPS. Thinks port is bow, otherwise lifted and landed OK. Found the Deviation INI file I found online had the ports mixed up.Deviation to Dragonlink to Naza all OK. No video system or OSD aboard during test flights.


5-3-2015: Flew Gidget again with disasterous results. Of course the ground station failed to record my flight / crash, but worked perfectly for everyone elses. I sent her up a hundred feet or so, and again she drifted away at an alarming rate. So I turned her around and brought her down. Right into a tree. When she hit the ground the landing gear screws all popped out. Two props broke. That's it for the Vector, I'm getting a new NAZA M V2. I've still got a spare, new Iosd mini. I repaired the landing gear and removed all the electronics. Another pilot crashed three quads in a row and didn't seem to be surprised. Maybe I'm missing the point, or I was just spoiled by Christine and her Naza-M V2. I might use my existing EZ Antenna Tracker with a new Immersion Tiny Telemetry, since I lost my EZosd. I've got an unused Iosd Mini, and I can use my DragonLink mini as before. I'm worried about my Fatshark video transmitter, maybe I'll use the Immersion 600mw unit instead. And I've got to add brighter orientation lights on Gidget.


4-21-2015: Found the source of video trouble, was just the signal wire from the camera. Used a little hot glue to keep things from shaking out. Since the strobes don't really help with orientation, I'm considering a LED panel I saw with six or eight red lights for the front of the aircraft. Maybe two smaller ones on either side of the camera, or strips on the arms.


4-19-2015: Flew again today, briefly. Lowering the gains a smidge helped, more should be better. First non-violent landing. Video problem stopped DVR from recording flight. The ground station recorded other people's flights recorded fine. Overheating transmitter maybe? The strobe lights didn't help much with orientation. At the Van Nuys RC airport I have to fly to the south, right into the sun.

map of today's flight chart of sensor outputs


4-15-2015: I finally got my strobes from Flytron.com. They arrived via Deutsche Post (German postal service) instead of "Her Majesty's Post" as advertised, and there was no tracking number either. They never even responded to several emails requesting the tracking number. I'm using one each white, green and red, mounting them in standard aviation format. They're all powered from an extra channel on the receiver, and are painfully bright to watch.After several attempts I was only able to catch the flash once. All were coated with liquid tape to prevent shorts. The white strobe is taped under the lower deck, and the port and starboard lights are held on with a nylon tie. There was already a hole in just the right spot. Nearly all the black paint has chipped off the legs, after all the hard landings. They are tougher than I thought. You can also see the aluminum plate with my momentarily blurry contact information.

Tail light Close-up of tail light Port light flashing Port light not flashing


4-12-2015: Flew Gidget today, way out in the desert. She was fierce and jumpy, roaring in each direction as I fought to keep her under control. Once again I had to bring her down hard. Learned that the "loiter" function does NOT emulate the GPS mode in the Naza. It locks the unit in place. She did hover just fine in that mode, but could not be flown from that spot without returning to that spot. Back in "2dhold" mode, she was flyable, and I flew her line of sight around fifty yeards out. The home arrow did not point home, and I'm not familiar with the location, so the usual orientation problems occurred. The video system worked fine, but I can't read the menus with my sunglasses on, or see the aircraft with my reading glasses on. Need the strobes from Flytron.com. The DVR didn't record the flight,


4-8-2015: I'm worried about my strobe order to Flytron.com. Neither the strobes, nor any tracking number have arrived, and two emails to them have been ignored. I was tempted to buy the $500 thermal camera, now I'm glad I waited. Their server is still up, it sent me a birthday discount code. Excuses don't impress me, but it wouldn't cost anything to set up an auto-reply if there is some reason they can't respond. I'm only out $26 bucks, but I'm surprised to be having trouble with a British firm. While I expected it, no Chinese company ever failed me. Maybe I'm just lucky. In other news, I joined the local flying club, and the national association. I found the local field being used exclusively for club members more this year, and the national club has a liability insurance policy that might save my ass. Once Gidget seems reliable, I'll do the long-range flying out in the desert.


3-31-2015: Today I added the adjustment knob, set to trim the vertical height. I toyed with enabling the other switches, but there isn't much else to do with the vector. I don't intend to use a sub-mode switch, manually control the strobes, or use the motor kill function. The knob doesn't go from zero to 100%, more like 25% down from 100. Yesterday I added the audio harness and enabled the audio alerts for voltage, altitude (500'), and distance (2500'). A little more warning might save the aircraft, even if it's a little annoying. I'll adjust the limits out further when I can trust her.


3-29-2015: Tinkering with the settings on the bench. Added the simple horizon to OSD, so I can see if she's leaning. Set max pitch to 80% in both 2d and loiter, and max roll to 25% in both normal and loiter. Pitch, roll and yaw gains are all at 90%. Autoland is at 3.5v/cell. Idle throttle is at 1173 uS, mid-typical. Mode switch set to Loiter, which seems like GPS in the Naza, but have to use 2d-hold to launch. Set vert alt to 100%. Recalibrated sticks, mid-stick is 1495 uS, doesn't look like 50% on computer, but radio screen says 50%. Zeroed the gyros, and tested RTH by shutting both transmitters, the Dragonlink and the Walkera.


3-28-2015: Don't know what the problem is, but it's getting frustrating. Flew about 2 minutes today, still drifts to port, and won't hover. Struggled to put her down without damage again. "Brownout detected" message on a full (4s) battery. DVD recorded the compass calibration but nothing else. Packed up and went home. Next weekend is for club members only (as an increasing number of weekends are), so will either have to find another place to test, or wait two weeks. Not sure what else to monkey with. Feel like putting the NAZA back in.


3-21-2015: Took Gidget for another spin today. Having updated the firmware and adjusted the gains down, I was hoping she would fly and land better. Well sorta. The landings were a lot better, perhaps because I was close by to fly better. She still wandered around, both vertically and laterally. After just a few minutes of flight I decided to try a compass calibration, and tried again. She just won't hold a hover at mid-stick. Back home, I reset the horizontal level, and increased the vertical setting.
map of two flights
Here's the sat map of today's flight, just a screen-shot from the Vector software, under mapping.
map of two flights
The firmware update seems to have changed the lettering from white to yellow. Added RSSI.


3-15-2015: Maiden flight after the Vector rebuild. Idled OK, and took off well. Flew entirely in 2d-hold mode, which I was told is necessary because I'm using the Walkera radio in center-stick mode. Flew two batteries for about eight minutes each. Gidget drifted to port all the time, and doesn't "brake" when I release the stick. And she lands like a pogo stick, bouncing several times rather violently. Without a Flytrex core, I can't upload any data to Flytrex, so I'll post it here. After this flight I upgraded the firmware in the Vector, and turned the gains down to stop the bouncing. The rough landings chipped the paint off the landing gear.The video looked much better, using a Securitycamera2000 board camera, and the Fatshark 250mw transmitter down under the aircraft. Was also relieved that the black paint sprayed on the antenna didn't seem to affect it at all. Also messed with the OSD to change the "gauges" back to numeric, because they were transparent, no indication at all. Added RSSI.

Flight 1 map Flight 2 map osd image


3-13-2015: Ordered a FR632 Video receiver for around $70 delivered from HobbyKing.com. This is a 32 channel, scanning, diversity unit that gets good reviews. Next I want a high-gain antenna to use with it. And with it's scanner function and wide frequency range I can watch other flyer's FPV easier. Think I figured out the throttle problem with the Vector: The Walkera transmitter has a "travel adjustment" which actually adjusts the ESC endpoints. I set that to 150%, and the throttle climbs over hover. And when using a center-stick transmitter, it looks like I have to set the mode to 2d-hold. That tells Vector that center stick is idle when on the ground. I think. Problem was that when arming in 2d mode, the vector would arm and hold at 50% throttle, and climb no higher. Their instructions said to remove mixing in the transmitter, so I zeroed all the trims. The Vector has an idle speed adjustment, but no min / max setting. So the transmitter has to be adjusted. Minus 150% to 150% is the maximum adjustment, I'm now set at 0 to 150%. Once I throttle up over idle, Vector wants to hover at 50% throttle. The DJI would fall back to idle at mid-stick on the ground. I've turned "disarm on landing" on, I hope it knows when it's on the ground.


3-3-2015: Having spent a month underwater, the paper label with my contact info (on Christine) is certainly gone. I never expected her to end up in water. To correct this, I ordered a laser-etched aluminum tag yesterday from keyring.com. It's anodized red to attract attention, and will be epoxied and riveted to the top deck. It only cost two bucks, five including freight. I've been playing with the Eagle Tree Vector's log files, hoping to upload them to Flytrex as I did Christine's logs. Was not able to find a log file converter anywhere, so I may upload screen-shots of their software's charts and maps here. The summary screen after each flight, which I record on the groundstation, could provide the stats. To address the changing idle speed I checked the Walkera transmitter for any mixing or setting problems, and found nothing. Had another look at the Vector settings, but turning the idle speed down just stops the motors from turning. Changed the mode switch settings to 2d-hold, cart-hold, and RTH. Using cart-hold lets me just pull back on the stick to bring her back, no matter which way she's pointed. Also enabled "yaw towards home on RTH", so I can see if she's actually coming home. I'm afraid she'll just lift off when armed. On the groundstation, I removed the beam for the big patch antenna and the EZ Antenna Tracker, since I lost the EZosd on Christine. The Vector sends the GPS down the video line, and I've found no way to export it to an audio modem. So (eventually) I'll buy the Eagle Eyes, the Skyview (?) pan / tilt, and maybe a second ImmersionRC Uno receiver, and a bigger 5.8 Ghz patch antenna. For now, there's a lot of line of sight testing to do. I've also got to order the pins for JST connectors, and shorten all the cables to fit. Eventually I may experiment with 1.3 Ghz again, but for now I'm staying with 5.8 Ghz.


2-28-2015: First motor test. New ESC's have to BEC, connected RX to 5v port on Vector. Re-bound and calibrated Dragonlink. Motors start. Enabled beacon in Dragonlink and tested OK with scanner. Triggers on loss of signal. Changed delay from 5 mins to 1. Added a heatsink on Vtx, just held on with zip tie. Motors don't stay at idle speed, speeding up. Have to stop that. Took some pictures with new motors.
Port side, vid tx underneath Dragonlink rx Pilot cam mounting Bottom showing current sensor and video tx DJI 2212 motor Eagle Tree Vector current sensor

2-27-2015: None of the nearby DJI "authorized dealers" have any stock of the E310 system, so I bought a F450 RTF kit with the E300 system for now. At least these are NEW 2212 motors and ESC's. They do have the coaxial power cables, which I cut short as possible to minimize noise. The new top plate replaces the damaged one I was using.I put the E310 system on order, and they should arrive in a month or two. Today I'll test-fire the motors and correct their direction if needed. I also want to enable and test the beacon system.

2-25-2015: Going to buy the DJI E310 Tuned Propulsion System. The Vector flight controller can't make use of the feedback from the smart ESC's, or the active braking (yet), but there are lots of advantages. For once I want to be ahead of the curve. And the motors come in black. In related news, I bought an old Radio Shack scanner on Craigslist to use if Gidget is lost. The Dragonlink mini has a built-in transmitter that activates in failsafe mode, but you need a UHF receiver to use it. Have to look into directional antennas, and it assumes the battery is still connected.


2-21-2015: She's not done yet, but Gidget is getting a make-over. I added a battery deck to Gidget, a DJI Flamewheel 450, to lower the center of gravity clean up the upper deck, and shield the receivers from the video transmitter with the battery. I made the deck with a PC board traced with the main deck, and supported it with 40mm standoffs used in the TBS Discovery. I cut it to shape with a dremmel cutting wheel. The landing gear are DJI units painted black. I really wanted to extend the stock landing gear, but couldn't find any in stock. Most of this stuff is from GETFPV.COM, including the Dragonlink Mini receiver. I've got a big investment in Dragonlink, and this receiver is what I should have bought the first time. It's much smaller, and the software includes a spectrum analyzer to help find interference sources and fix 'em. I have not bound the transmitter yet, or tried to configure with the Vector yet, but I think it will only need one cable to the receiver. I'm using a whip antenna on the receiver for testing, although I have several dipoles for longer range later.
Nose view Starboard side Tail view Port side Top, nose up Top, nose down Top, nose down 2 3/4 nose view

2-15-2015: Picked up the Eagle Eyes Vector 2 flight controller / OSD today, and hooked it up for a quick look. The aircraft is still splayed across the workbench like a gutted fish. While it was very easy to hook up, I did have to fuss a bit with the Fatshark video transmitter. After spinning up a cable I crossed my fingers and plugged her in. As usual I couldn't read anything in the Fatsharks. But in the groundstation monitor I saw the bench top overlayed with lots of new text. Now I have to wait till the DragonLink receiver arrives to figure out all the setup problems. I found this jelly-like adhesive backed foam to mount the electronics with, and I'm using 3M Dual-Lock velcro on top of that, so I can remove things. A replacement set of Discovery standoffs (40mm) are coming to support the battery deck. Expect it to take another two weeks to get parts in, set up the system, and ground test everything.
Rebuilding with Vector Still has HobbyKing 40a ESC's Vector first startup on table

2-15-2015: Started rebuilding Gidget today. Everything will be lighter, cleaner, and more reliable I hope. I flew it twice last weekend, with only ATTI mode available. I crashed twice, but nothing was damaged. Might be a bad NAZA unit. Decided to keep the DJI F450 frame, because it's so easy to work with. I can drill holes in it without worrying much about traces. I've ordered a replacement Dragonlink (mini), and I'm picking up an Eagle Eyes Vector flight controller / OSD tomorrow. Today I made a camera mount from some aluminum angle, and sealed the board camera up with liquid tape. I'm concerned that vibration might be what did Christine in, so I'm researching vibration control, to mount all the electronics in a more stable way. To improve balance and leave more space, I'm adding a lower deck for the battery. To make room for the new deck, I'm adding taller landing gear. The video transmitter will be mounted under the lower deck, shielded from the flight control systems by the battery. For the moment I'm sticking to 5.8 Ghz for video because I've got two extra transmitters, and I don't intend any long flights for some time. The ESC's are Hobby King 40 amp. I know that's overkill, but I hope it will add reliability.

Test fitting camera Pilot cam after liquid tape Camera mount 1 Camera mount 2

10-3-2014: Started building a DJI F450 Flamewheel from spare parts generously given with the TBS Discovery. Ordered another board camera for FPV, and some ESC's for the used motors. Spare control receiver and DJI Naza lite with spare arms and props. I wanna fool around with the Naze32 controller, and the Pixhawk fully autonomous controller. This one is named Gidget.
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