Month: December 2015

The Day After Boxing Day

The weather’s horrible again. It’s dark, it’s windy and it’s raining. Plus it’s still Christmas so I generally have a break from flying anyway. That means that I haven’t flown fixed wing for the whole of December. With the UK Drone show on the 5th and 6th, I’m fairly sure that the only flying I’ve done this month was with multi-rotors. That’s a very worrying thought, so the first New Year’s resolution is to go back to flying fixed wing.

On the plus side, I have been getting on with the ATOM Autogyro. In the end I just had to bite the bullet and stick the tail on. Now that’s done I can sort out the rudder linkages and controls and after that I’ll glue the mast in and work on the aileron and elevator.

IMG_20151227_093925 IMG_20151227_093936 IMG_20151227_093948

I’ve also been doing some filming (of multi-rotors) with the GoPro Hero4 Session camera that I had last week. I still haven’t really warmed to it as, even after flashing the camera with the latest firmware, the buttons still don’t work and it has a habit of crashing all the time. It’s just the most annoying thing to use, but it does take good high resolution pictures. Once I get a tripod I’ve got to film the disassembly of the quadcopter that we used for the UK Drone Show.


That’s It for Multi-Rotors

I think I’ve had my fill of multi-rotors for the time being after the intense amount of work leading up to the UK Drone Show (#ukdroneshow). There’s no flying this week as I’m still getting over last week’s cold and the weather is looking a bit grim anyway. It’s currently a bit windy, grey, overcast and looking like it’s about to be wet sometime soon. No, I spoke too soon, while I’m typing this post at 11am, there was a really heavy downpour, so not going flying looks like a really good decision.

Anyway, I’ve got some things I need to build, starting with the ATOM Autogyro. It’s nearly finished, apart from some gluing of major components and making things work.

We’ve got a GoPro Hero4 Session action camera for work, so I had a go at taking some pictures of the autogyro with it. You can see the results below. It has a really wide angle lens, so you can get up close to the subject and still have most of it in the field of view. In order not to get the whole of the room in the pictures, I’m less than 10cm from the airframe.

The reason for the getting the GoPro is to use it to film a time lapse of the build of the quadcopter that we used for the UK Drone Show. The results will go on the dedicated drone blog that we’ve set up:

I’m not really very happy with the GoPro camera though. It’s just really, really annoying to use. I want something where I can point and click to take a picture, not mess around for half an hour trying to get the stupid thing to switch on and connect to the app on my phone which is telling me to download the latest update. It’s OK once it’s working, but I don’t think the firmware on the camera is very good. In fact, I think it’s buggy and completely useless. The first problem was that somebody else had set up the wireless on their own camera and we didn’t know the password. No problem, the instructions say press and hold the small wireless button on the back for 8 seconds, say “yes” to reset wireless and it’s ready to go. Two hours later, having pressed every combination possible, it was still unusable. I actually got the wireless screen to come up with the “yes/no” option, but the button to select “yes” refused to do anything. Like I said before, the software looks so buggy as to be useless. I did eventually get it to reset and the instructions are correct – press wireless for 8s, toggle to “reset WiFi? yes” and it will reset and then pair with a new camera. That was last Sunday, so I assumed I could just turn it on and it would immediately work with my phone again. No such luck, the buttons don’t work to turn it on. After about half an hour of playing with the buttons again, I finally got it to switch on and connect to the camera. The Android App works quite well and I was then taking still photos fairly quickly, with the ability to see the shot on the phone’s screen.

In short, the Go Pro Hero4 Session takes great pictures, but it’s such a pain to use that I would never recommend anyone to buy one until they fix the problems. On the plus side, it’s a good size to fit in the palm of the hand, which is why this one is going to get thrown at a wall.

I have one other project for today, which is to get my old Great Planes transmitter working with the computer again. It uses a gameport connection, which have been superseded by USB these days. I’m going to get an Arduino and use the analogue inputs to connect the joystick to the Arduino and then the Arduino to the computer. It won’t behave like a regular joystick as you have to read the axes back via the Arduino COM port, but then I write my own simulator software so it doesn’t matter. If it works well, then I might buy a cheap computer gamepad and rip out the electronics.

That’s it for this week, except to say that I thought I turned the Hero4 off, but I’ve just noticed that it’s sitting on the corner of the desk winking at me every few seconds. Fantastic, not only can you not turn it on, but it won’t turn off either.

The UK Drone Show

I missed last week’s post as I was at the UK Drone Show in Birmingham flying in the University Agility competition. I don’t think I would have been flying last week anyway, as the wind was ferocious as we were walking across the car park to the NEC. This week isn’t much better, as yesterday’s gale force winds have been replaced by persistent heavy drizzle.

You can find a more detailed post about our visit to the UK Drone Show here:

It was a pity they didn’t let us have a go at the main FPV racing course as I had been practising with our QuadSim simulator, but I don’t think the universities could have managed it. I dumped the Black Pearl screen and Fat Shark Teleporter TX after the Saturday test flight, once they had shown us the agility course which could be flown from a 3rd person viewpoint. I can’t use the Fat Shark goggles and had never flown FPV, so it made sense to fly the way I normally fly, even if I can’t judge the depth very well. None of the other universities flew FPV and Southampton, who won the competition, had an experienced RC helicopter pilot flying for them. Watching the FPV racing through our own goggles was awesome though. Until you see it live, you don’t realise just how little these guys can see. The picture was breaking up all over the place and most of the time they were flying the course by memory.

The video shows some of the main FPV racing. You can just about see some brightly coloured objects whizzing past despite my shaky camera work. It’s not easy to capture something like this using just a hand held camera phone.


The fenced off flying area, with the agility course formed of the nano gate and box, just visible above the white carrier bag. The black “Hoverspeed” holes between the two flags form another one of the obstacles.


This gives you an idea of the size of the FPV course.


A bit more of the course, showing the tunnel. 


A DJI Inspire about to give a demonstration.


This was amazing, a radio controller spider that walked around and show 1 foot foam missiles at visitors.

One thing we discovered at the show was that we seem to have the only open source quadcopter simulator, as everybody else is selling them as commercial products. I’m going to have to spend some time getting the code together on GitHub so we can do a proper release. I’ve even built my own nano FPV gate so I can recreate the agility course in the simulator:


One of the Nano FPV gates built using Blender.

OK, I’ve had enough of quadcopters for a while. Now I’ve got that out of the way I can finally get my autogyro flying.