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Mark's Ground Station Page

I've enjoyed the ground station as much as the aircraft. Here you can see it evolve over time as I learn and experiment.

9-20-2016: Recently bought an Eachine E010 to replace the lost Blade Inductrix "Frieda". This requires the NRF24L01 module to control with Deviation, so I get an .INI file and a daily update for the DEVO-10. Thought I bricked it. Would boot to only the USB symbol, and wouldn't allow access to the USB drive. Uh Oh. So tried the USB uploader, wanted to format the drive which I did. Then downloaded the most recent "daily" and flashed that, copied the whole file system over (minus the .zip file) and copied over my models, tx.ini hardware.ini, and icons. That fixed it, and it flies the new toy just fine. This also proves that I installed the module OK, which I wasn't sure about. Flies much better on Deviation.

7-15-2016: Emailed to GetFPV to ask about the Luminier DX800. Customer service rep Blake advised me to check the channels carefully, and that was it. The channel scanner picked the wrong one. And there are viewable channels on all the bands, which doesn't seem right. Radios have something called rejection which is supposed to prevent this. On the right channel it's just fine, just can't trust the channel scanner. In addition to the sunshade, I shaved the latches off the stand in the back also. It was impossible to pry it open without a tool. Using the stand is more stable than a tabletop tripod.

7-13-2016: Finally had enough of the RX-LCD5806, and bought a Luminier DX800. It's only 5 inches, and not diversity, but it works better. It outputs AVI files that my editor can live with. The buttons work right and make sense. It doesn't come with this antenna or tripod, but it does come with some cables and a sun shade. That shade wouldn't open without a fight, so I shaved off the latch thing.

5-26-2016: I really didn't wanna do this, but the module was only eight bucks at Banggood. So I bought the NRF24L01 and today I installed it in the Devo-10 transmitter. Now I can control a long list of quads I don't own. Happily I can still control the six I do own, and no magic smoke came out of the transmitter. I decided to stick it to the back of the main board, and to stick the new antenna out the top, instead of hiding it inside. That made it much more difficult because it comes with a very short cable. I also confused the sticks and had to open it back up several times to get the sticks right. I did get into the hardware.ini file over USB, and found it had ALL the modules enabled. Turned the extras off. Earlier I installed version 5.0 of Deviation, so it should have most of the current aircraft available.

5-17-2016: The receivers in the RX-LCD5806 are terrible. After ALL my micros looked terrible I did a side-by-side test using "Patty" as a camera. I stuck the FRS-632 on the back of the LCD5806 with a 3s lipo. I installed a new battery, so now the timestamp appears in the video.

Here's a link to the test video.

5-16-2016: Hoped to find a problem with the RX-LCD5806, while I replaced the dead clock battery. You have to take it all apart anyway to get at the button battery clip. There are only a couple of cables to disconnect, and it's easy to get it back together. The boards look well made to me. With the new battery the green timestamp appears, but no change to functions. Or lack therof. Here are some pics.

4-17-2016: Ran side-by-side video tests with Patty and Lucy today. Thought the video system on Patty was broken, but she works better than Lucy. Breakup must be due to reflections indoors. Tests outside were better. The current groundstation is much harder to work with. Turned auto-record OFF because every time there's a signal loss it STOPS recording. Changed resolution back to 720, because 1080 creates much bigger files, which I still have to up and download to convert. Also, the radio doesn't seem as good.Maybe I should do side-by-side tests with the old cigar box station. Also, I broke the fragile reflection shield, which pivots on fragile plastic pins.

3-27-2016: Think turning the volume down on the RX-LCD5806 cuts the audio feed from the aircraft, allowing the on-board microphone. Had the video timer set to 10 minutes, was turning off recording, not segmenting it. Changed setting to unlimited, now segments recordings into about 400mb each. Changed auto-detect to ON. Just left the system ON the entire session, about an hour, to capture everything.

3-21-2016: This RX-LCD5806 is starting to really piss me off. I'm only getting the first few seconds of recordings. It's controls are infuriating. And it's files are in Quicktime format, but with sound at some weird setting that none of my Linux editors can work with. So again I have to run it through a transcoder to use the filez. Tonight I (eventually) switched the record limiter OFF, and drilled a hole for the tripod's rotate limit pin. No matter how tightly I screwed the tripod base in, it would spin and unscrew. I'm losing faith that this unit. Since it's got a USB port, it should have a "configurator" program like Cleanflight or Baseflight to modify the settings. There could even be a Bluetooth interface so the settings could be changed or files transferred with the phone or tablet. Because everything's better with Bluetooth.

2-21-2016: Last weekend's flying showed me that the screen on the new monitor is so shiny all I can see is myself. So I installed a screen saver from Office Depot.Tests a little better, but is not matte.

The .MOV files it creates are damaged somehow, and have not worked right with any editor I've tried. I've found both an online trimmer HERE, to accept the unit's files and send back a format the editor likes. This also fixes the sound issue. One thing I really wanted was to go straight from DVD to editor, which I won't get with this unit.

The cable on the IBCrazy crosshair antenna is too thin and wimpy, allowiung the antenna to sag and eventually fail. I knew this cash register roll core would come in handy some day. It's extremely light and tough, already cut to the right length, and the hole is exactly large enough to fit over the connector. A little hot glue, mostly inside the corrugations for a clean look, and it supports the antenna instead of the cable. I angled it up a little because the monitor is always angled down.

2-6-2016: Took new groundstation out to fly, forgot to turn the "record" button on. Very frustrating. Good picture after putting antenna on "b" receiver. Think it's stuck on channel B.

1-31-2016: Time for a groundstation makeover. I bought an RX-LCD5806 7" monitor / receiver / DVR for $170 bucks from RCTIMER.COM. Now that FPV has been criminalized I'll have to fly more covertly. This system has other advantages: It's 720 or 1080p, although my cameras are only 700 lines. The DVR records in MP4 format, without any artifacts to fix. The 32 channel diversity receiver has auto-search like the Boscam, but faster. It's got a bigger lipo battery built-in, and can use an external when needed. It runs on a wide supply voltage, 7 to 24 volts. The picture is amazing, and it comes with a better folding and removable sun-screen. There's also a PIP function, record voice-over, and HDMI connector I don't plan to use. The battery meter, and a safety shut-down is built in. There is no tracker, but none of my micros flies far enough away to need one. I can still plug in my 1.3 Ghz or other radios with the aux inputs, and output to a 25mw fatshark transmitter if I want to use them. So far I like. PM EDIT: Found a firmware update HERE that adds features and fixes some issues. I unpacked and put the 2 files in the root of the microSD card. On powerup it asks to update. The bar-graph didn't move, and I saw no indication it was working. After ten minutes I got bored and unplugged it. I did this several times, and viola! I see new items in the menu. Even the update needs an update.

1-24-2016: How disappointing! My IBCrazy crosshair antenna broke. The ground cable isn't soldered correctly to the back plane. It was just soldered in one little spot instead of all the way around. I was able to fix that without opening it up. There's a copper tube running out of the plastic case, and the center conductor was still connected to the crosshairs just fine, so I suspended it from the connector and re-soldered the ground conductor back together right. Since I'm not flying long distances now (in part because FPV is illegal in LA and it makes everybody nervous when I do it anyway) I'm keeping the Crosshairs antenna in the flight box, and I'll mount it when needed. I don't think the receiver ever switches to it anyway. I discharged and discarded my two groundstation batteries after they bloated out to alarming size. Without a meter on it, the groundstation drained them practically to zero several times. I'm using a much larger 3S battery left over from Christine, and watching the meter more carefully. Would kinda like a better DVR, but they're all too large.

11-16-2015: Turned off the timestamp on the DVR again. I think powering it up without the SD card installed resets it to on. Wish I could turn the timer off. It resets at 15 minutes when a new file starts. This was done when I was flying the TBS Discovery, with a 15 minute average flight time. By limiting the file size I avoid breaking video editors that run out of memory. Now I'm flying aircraft with five minute flight times, but I want to record the set up / calibration steps before the flight also. The latest quad "Marcie" has an EAgle Tree Vector flight controller, so I can use the Eagle Eyes antenna tracker again.

10-5-2015: While I'm not using the tracker these days, I still use the ground station to fly FPV and record that video. After puffing several batteries by running them down too far, I've added a little LED voltmeter from BANGGOOD.COM. They're about two bucks each. You can also see the right angle Right Hand Circular Polarized (cloverleaf) antenna, also from BANGGOOD.COM, which works great on close-in flying. I've been buying more stuff directly from China. The quality has been better than I expected, and there have been no great surprises. The price difference is well worth waiting for delivery from China. Every contact with them has been gracious, prompt, and extremely polite. This applies to both HobbyKing.com and BANGGOOD.COM, among others. My local shops have no stock of the stuff I'm looking for. Here's what it looks like today.

5-24-2015: Here's how I'm using the ground station today, mostly flying the little Horizon Nano QX3d. I've pulled the Eagle Eyes off, and connected the monitor to the DVR output. This means I get a positive indication of when the thing is recording. I've missed some great stuff by assuming it was running. The white foam keeps the pan and tilt from tilting straight down. I'm getting about four hours from a 3S / 1100 maH lipo, which is about how long I last also. I ran that lipo flat recently, so I also stick on a little battery alarm when flying, and unplug the battery when not flying, just to be sure.There isn't much need for the high-gain antenna, the Nano can't get very far away. The receiving antenna in use came from Gidget, the same one that fell off Christine last year.

4-12-2015: Tested the tracker on the ground.

Here's the "flight map":

4-11-2015: So the Eagle Eyes arrived, and it seems to work with the HobbyKing pan and tilt system OK. I tried setting it up by plugging the usb port into a PC with Eagle Tree's Vector program without much success. Later I configured it with the Vector itself plugged into the PC (by usb cable), and using the Vector software. The calibration software is easier to understand than the ImmersionRC EZantenna Tracker, because it uses 360 degrees of compass rotation, NOT plus and minus 180 degrees. Eagle Eyes has fewer settings to figure out, and it's mostly complete in a couple of minutes. BUT... In the field you must tell it which way it's pointing, and unless you bring a laptop along, you must learn how to navigate the stick menus. It only takes a couple of seconds to enter the compass heading once you're familiar with the stick menus, which are much easier to use than I imagined. There's one gotcha that confused me for a while. There's a "lock" function that holds the servos at any angle you want. I thought it meant that when no signal was received it locked them, when in fact it locks them whenever on. Below are some pics of how it looks today. I'm using some white packing material to keep the front-heavy servo from falling forward. I remove the upper piece to fly. The servos turn 180 degrees left and right, and tilt about 45 degrees up. I'm sure this will keep the aircraft in the cone of reception, not to be confused with the cone of silence.

4-2-2015: Ordered Eagle Tree Systems' "Eagle Eyes" groundstation system from HobbyKing. I needed this to use the antenna tracker with the Eagle Tree Vector on Gidget. It also lets me run pure video to the monitor, and the DVR seperately. I tried the goggles with the Vector's OSD, and I still can't see anything. I don't need the diversity feature, although I could run my ImmersionRC UNO receiver with an even wilder antenna for laughs. Although the Vector logs everything internally, I'm tempted to hook the Eagle Eyes to a laptop and see if I get more / better data "live" while flying. Thinking of putting the Eagle Eyes inside the cigar box, because the tracker is having trouble dragging the two cables around. It's snagging a little on the DVR.

3-27-2015: Fancy TrueAerial (IBCrazy) crosshair RHCP / 5.8 Ghz / 10 dbi antenna arrived from GETFTP.COM. It cost $65 bucks, and it looks cool, but does it work any better? Notice the label doesn't say anything about gain. Maybe gain is like watts were on stereos when I was a kid. A 100 watt stereo would turn out to have 10 watts when measured in RMS (root mean squared). Suddenly receiver you lusted over is crap. Now I lust after DBi's, the more the better. But wait! What happens when your aircraft moves laterally out of the narrow beam of high output? Your video quits. You can wave your antenna around whilst flying, hoping to regain contact. Or you can throw the "return to home" switch and hope it knows where that is. So I'm still getting a tracker, because I really need video to get home. Here are some pics of the new antenna on the FR632, after reassembling the pan and tilt from HobbyKing. Next I need the Eagle Eyes tracker controller from Eagle Tree. That's because the Vector sends GPS info over the video channel, instead of the audio like ImmersionRC and everybody else. Is there a tiny modem available to convert the Vector's GPS info to audio, so I could use the ImmersionRC EZ Tracker I already own? Nope. The up-side is that the Eagle Eyes has lots of video outputs, so I can feed the DVR and monitor separately, instead of daisy-chaining through the DVR, which overlays more junk on the image.

3/4 view shows pan and tilt back in place, both antennas Front view shows how cool the new IBCrazy antenna looks. Hope it actually works.

3-21-2015: Here are some pics of the new FR632 receiver mounted on the old cigar box. It's a diversity, 5.8ghz, 32 channel, scanning receiver. I bought it from Hobby King for about fifty bucks. Today's videos on Gidget show much less interference or drop-out. It turns out the ImmersionRC is also a 32 channel scanning receiver, you just have to unlock the other 16 channels by depressing both the buttons during power-up. But it's not diversity, and doesn't have a digital display. Can you see the digital display? Neither can I without some effort. I've always wanted to eavesdrop on other flyer's video, but they all used Boscam frequencies that I didn't know I could receive.

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3-7-2015: In the belief that using 1.3 Ghz might have contributed to the loss of Christine, I removed the 1.3 gig receiver and the antenna boom, and re-installed the ImmersionRC Uno with a 3-turn helical antenna. After lots of short range testing I might install a 5.8 Ghz pepperbox, or another big patch. I found one that is for 2.4 AND 5.8 Ghz that looks interesting. I haven't tried 2.4 Ghz yet, but I'm in a crowded urban area full of noise. Also thinking of a hand held spectrum analyzer to check for interference levels before flying, also good for testing existing gear for noise. Found one that works up to 6 Ghz for $300. If I get into long-range with a tracker again, it will be in a flat, dry desert area with roads to allow fast access to the area. The tracker will be a much heavier unit with a slip-ring and 360 degree rotation. I've given up trying to get glitch-free video for now. Maybe when digital high-def gets cheaper.
Left side shows bracket used to mount the receiver with 3M ProLock, a better Velcro replacement
(above) Left side shows bracket used to mount the receiver with 3M ProLock, a better Velcro replacement. The bracket is necessary because the raised edges of the receiver don't allow it to mount flush on any side. The bracket is left over from mounting the video transmitter on Christine. I put ProLock on both sides so I can mount something else on the other side as well, maybe the Eagle Tree "Eagle Eyes" antenna tracker.
Right side shows the the big hole left where the tracker servo was removed, and the three turn helical antenna
(above) Right side shows the the big hole left where the tracker servo was removed, and the three turn helical antenna. Since it has a 180 degree field of coverage, with huge side lobes, it wasn't a very good candidate for tracking anyway. I plan on doing lots of local test flights first, so no long-range video needed today.
Inside shows the tangle of wires, as I keep the RCA connector cables, for flexibility later.
(above) Inside shows the tangle of wires, as I keep the RCA connector cables, for flexibility later. I got pretty good at cutting cables down, but with every experiment I have to re-do it. Better to just keep the stock cables with connectors. They hide in here anyway. I get RCA Male to Male and Female to Female adapters cheap from All Electronics nearby in Van Nuys.

1-24-2015: Winds gusting to 45 mph will prevent any flying this weekend. But that gave me time to finish version 4 of the ground station. ReadymadeRC flew the missing antenna right out, and I got it Friday, and I thank them for fixing it fast. The beam design works as hoped, supporting the 1 pound antenna without stress. The antenna is mounted to a plate with velcro, for easier carrying or swapping for others. Had to re-learn how to set up the servo in the EZ Antenna Tracker. These are only 160 degree servos, so it only rotates 80 degrees in each direction. The beam length was to allow the antenna to turn 90 degrees side to side, but this is good enough.

The shots above all show the finished 1.3 Ghz conversion. I was flying the ImmersionRC EZosd just to feed the EZantenna tracker shown. I had to buy the piano wire to make the push-rod, because nothing else would hold the corners and still fit the little holes in the servo / control horn. The right-angle on the receiver was necessary for the antenna to clear the cable. Two big patches of Velcro hold the patch antenna to the wood mounting plate, which is spare wood from the cigar box.I ended up cutting the mini-din cable on the EZ Antenna tracker for a cleaner installation, but it carries nothing different than the separate cables.

1-20-2015: Redesigned the ground station for the larger patch antenna. The servos in the HobbyKing pan/tilt aren't strong enough to support the one pound antenna, but should be fine panning it back and forth with the weight supported on a hinge. The beam lets the 8.5" antenna pan 180 degrees without hitting the box. I tried to move the 1.3 Ghz as far from the GPS as possible, but there seems to be some interference. Initial radio testing outdoors showed about half the normal satellites being located. I may end up moving the GPS further aft, or shielding the edge of the antenna closest to the transmitter. Still have to wire the audio from the receiver to the EZ antenna tracker, and tidy things up. Also considering a repeater so I can use the Fatshark goggles wirelessly again.

Groundstation ver 4 Hinge takes weight of antenna

Above pics show the 1.3 Ghz setup without the patch antenna, using the stick antenna the receiver came with for testing. Two L-brackets and a hinge from the hardware store make up the moving part of the mount. Whole thing less than ten bucks, a lot cheaper than a heavy pan servo.

1-12-2015: Ordered 1.3 Ghz radio gear from ReadymadeRC.com. Got the RMRC v4 receiver with 8dbi patch antenna, the gold budget US 1.5w transmitter, and a cloverleaf antenna for the transmitter. Not the most expensive, but this should be an improvement over 5.8 ghz. All I want is a solid three miles of range, even in a noisy urban environment.I tried to buy this stuff locally without success.

1-4-2015: Have not flown in several weeks, either too busy or sick with flu. Sadly, I have to admit that everyone's right, for long range FPV you need 1.3 Ghz video. So I'm preparing to convert from 5.8 Ghz to 1.3 Ghz. I'm going to keep the antenna tracker and ground station already built, but I cleaned it up a little in preparation. I'm going to mount a boom atop the tracker, with the new, larger antenna on one end, and the receiver a the other. I'm going to make an adapter cable for the PS2 style cable from the EZtracker unit, to maintain the one-cable functionality. Below are some pics of the cleaned up ground station. I put more of the cabling under the deck, and removed the 5.8 Ghz receiver and antenna for the moment. It can be restored in seconds.

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12-14-2014: Field tested the antenna tracker, which works quite well using the $13.95 pan / tilt assembly. There remain both artifacts from the cheap DVR, and lines of noise from the motors (I hope).The last pics below show the toolbox with the DragonLink transmitter mounted on it with velcro. I thought that interference from the transmitter was causing all the noise in the video picture. Now I run a 25 foot coiled cable to the Walkera transmitter, about ten feet away. There's a small 3s battery for the transmitter, plenty for the two or three short flights I can make in a day. At least I never block the transmitter antenna.

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12-10-2014: Modified the ground station again. Installed the pan / tilt mechanism from HobbyKing ($13), and mounted the ImmersionRC Uno plus antenna atop it. Ordered the ImmersionRC EZ Tracker v2, which is currently rather hard to find. With the ImmersionRC EZosd and 600mw transmitter it'll be a plug and play video system. Also re-ran the wiring through a hole in the hinge side of the box. Duh. I'm not sure if the servos in this pan / tilt are strong enough, even for the little 5.8 ghz system. The plan is to move to 1.2 or 1.3 Ghz later, with bigger antennas. The 7" monitor was easier to read than the Fatsharks, but does wash out in the sun.

12-3-2014: Rebuilding the ground station around a 7" monitor from HobbyKing. Think the video distortion might be interference from the DragonLink transmitter, sitting right next to the ImmersionRC Uno receiver. The DragonLink transmitter will mount to the toolbox I carry everything in, to keep it's antenna vertical. Also learning just how bad 5.8 Ghz is for video, and lusting after Lawmate 1.2 Ghz hardware. Tilting the cigar box flat, so a future antenna tracker can be mounted on top..

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11-17-2014: Built a primative ground station from a cigar box, with battery and power wiring inside. This eliminates the need to guess where the aircraft is, and point the antennas in the right direction. Like everything else, it's a work in progress. It all runs off a single 3S Lipo, with a terminal strip as a "power distribution board".I still like the idea of an antenna tracker, but people tell me it's a pain. With this I have to plug in the battery, and two cables (goggles and transmitter pilot port) and go.Also expect this ti improve my video quality, the ImmersionRC receiver has a 3-turn helical antenna you can't see.Looking for better places to fly, I've run out of room here.

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