Month: March 2017

March Winds, A Lost Hour and A Drone Workshop

I don’t think I’ve actually done any fixed wing flying in March this year? This week it’s very windy again, but bright and sunny like Spring’s finally here, so it’s just annoying to be sitting indoors. I am completely exhausted from losing an hour’s sleep as the clocks went forward this morning. Then there was the Drones4Good “Engineers Save Lives” event that we ran yesterday. We had two new frames this time around: Dimorphodon and AeroTurtle.

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If you’re wondering what the event itself was like, then this shows things in full swing:

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You can just see one of the butterflies hovering in the foreground.

I also managed to get some drone to drone shots (drone squared?) with the new HubSan X4C HD camera filming the butterfly in the air:

I’ve been trying to get a shot like this for ages, but it’s really hard to do. I’m also not that impressed by the video from the HubSan’s camera. We were getting better video off of the camera in the custom built FPV quadcopter that we also had, but didn’t have the ability to record from it. The quality of the FPV image in both the FatShark goggles and the Black Pearl display was so good it was frightening. It also turned into an unexpected opportunity for the children to take selfies of themselves by photographing the screen while pointing the drone’s camera at themselves.

That’s three of these events that we’ve done in total now since March last year. I think we lost quite a bit of the kit this time around, but I still need to check it all over on Monday. The frames actually survive remarkably well as I saw a few of them hitting the concrete floor quite hard. We have 5 sets of kit at about £35 each, so it was always intended to be expendable. Anything we can salvage afterwards is a bonus and we got to teach the children how it all works, how to fly them responsibly and how we use them for aerial surveying.

Next week everything is back to normal.

A New Thing Spreads Its Wings

It’s blowing an absolute gale this week, so I’m still grounded. That’s probably a good thing, though, as it’s the drone masterclass next week and I’m snowed under with work.

Earlier in the week I got a new 3D printed quadcopter frame to fly. It’s a very strange and mysterious creature from the early Jurassic. Can you guess what it is?

OK, it’s the Dimorphodon model. When I was filming the first flight, it was a bit dark and I looked back at the flight video and saw that the shadow it cast on the wall looked just like the fossil picture I was copying it from. So, afterwards, I got a desk lamp and hung the model on a piece of wire so it cast a shadow. Following a tricky bit of juggling with the Dimorphodon on a wire, swinging around in front of the lamp while I tried to work the camera one handed, I got the photos above. If you look at the pictures, the wire it’s hanging from is obvious, but it does look like a fossil.

We decided to go back to the model with the wings spread out full span, rather than the folded wing model that I showed a couple of weeks ago. I’m really pleased with that decision as the results are fantastic. I’ve always wanted my own flying pterosaur ever since I saw the one in the movie “War Games”. Of course, a bigger, gliding, version would be better, but a micro quadcopter will have to do. These images show what it really looks like:

And, yes, the head is held on by foam tape, but it’s all I had and I was in a hurry to film it flying. I think the flying videos are going to have to wait until next week.

That’s it for now, I’ve got an aero turtle to make…

Still Grounded

It’s been drizzling with rain all morning, so, in retrospect, staying indoors was definitely the right choice. I’ve built an FPV micro quadcopter for the workshop we’re running in a couple of weeks.

OK, so the camera’s a bit wonky, but I’m waiting for the glue to set before I fix it properly. I’m quite pleased with this as the flying weight is 54.9g, whereas a regular HubSan X4C (HD) is 51.0g. This is the quadcopter frame from the “Acrylic Blue” video in January, which is the lightest I have. The FPV camera is a cheap one which only cost £30, but weighs over 9g, compared to the 4g weight on my £50 Hyperion camera. This way, I’m hoping to get flights of over 4 minutes out of it, but I haven’t done a proper duration test yet. All the electronics check out, using both the FatShark Goggles and my Black Pearl screen. To make the screen work, I’ve made myself a custom power lead which has the Black Pearl 12v jack plug on one end and a Deans connector on the other. That way I can use my regular flight LiPos to power it as the screen’s internal 3S battery is completely wrecked. The funny thing is that the goggles worked straight away, but I had to switch the screen from NTSC to PAL. I’ve had both of these working with my Hyperion camera on NTSC previously, so I can only think that I must have already switched the goggles and just forgotten about it? For anyone who doesn’t know, once you get the right band and channel, you should see some sort of image that you recognise. If it’s black and white with the image rolling slowly down the display, then the NTSC/PAL setting is wrong and the transmitter and receiver are using different modulation schemes. I haven’t found any compelling reason for choosing one over the other yet, so stuck with the PAL that the camera was set to. It’s usually configurable at both the transmitter and receiver end, but the cameras are tiny and usually harder to figure out. The video looks really good, so I’m looking forward to flying it around the house (with blade guards added).

That’s ticked off my main task for today, but now I’m off to fix the geometry on my Dimorphodon quadcopter frame so I can do a 3D printing test tomorrow.

I believe it’s called seasonal weather

It’s blowing a gale with heavy showers this morning, exactly as forecast, so I wasn’t planning on doing any flying. It’s probably a good thing too, as I spent the whole of yesterday filming how we hack the HubSan X4C electronics for the next drone workshop that we’re running at the end of the month.

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I 3D printed myself a mount for the GoPro camera on Friday, which came out really well. It’s the orange cylinder that you can see in the picture, clamped into my drill press taking the place of the drill. The GoPro is screwed to the underneath of it, just visible in the picture. Originally, I was using a small tripod mount, which I gaffer taped to the drill press, but this works a lot better for filming. The picture is showing the end of the conversion process, when I have the four motors from the HubSan and the flight controller with wires attached and connectors which let you plug it together easily. I’m going to edit the video later today, so I’ll see how it turns out. I’ve had several goes at filming this process, having now converted 7 of them, but never got any satisfactory footage that I could use.

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In case you’re wondering what the flight controller and motors attach to, my Dimorphodon frame is almost ready for printing. Whether this will actually work or not is anybody’s guess.

I’ve also got to get the micro FPV quad working, for which I’ve used my super light depron and acrylic frame. This compensates for the heavier Eachine EF-01 AIO camera, which is 9g compared to my Hyperion version weighing just 4g. It checks out with the Fat Shark Predator V2 goggles, so I just need to get everything attached to the frame. Then I’m going to solder a 5.5mm power jack to Deans connector to power my Black Pearl screen so everybody can watch without having to use the goggles.

Maybe I’ll get some flying in next week, but for now I’m busy building stuff?