Sunday, July 6, 2014

Quadcopter Drone - Repairs Complete, Rocket Launch

After the crash a few weeks ago, I was a bit hesitant to get the drone back up in the air again.  But the repairs were simple, and I really need to get more experience with the drone in the air.  I also had a neat opportunity to record my kids launching the model rockets they just built.

They each had built their own rocket (with Dad's help), and it was a good excuse to take the drone out again.

Pretty short flight, and only shows 1 of the 2 rockets taking off.  After watching this, it is pretty obvious that I need to get a gimbal to help stabilize the video during flight.

Wyatt's (the smaller one) went higher than expected, caught a good gust of wind once the parachute deployed, and could not be recovered. He didn't seem to mind, since launching it was worth it for him. Kianna's did great, and was recovered after their uncle Kaylon ran it down over 1,000m from the launching point. Dang wind...

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Quadcopter Drone - Maiden Flight and Crash

The first real flight with the newly constructed drone didn't go as well as I had hoped it would.

Things started off pretty well, and I was getting some great shots of my parent's house and surrounding areas.  But the drone started to climb too high, and it became very difficult to tell which direction it was flying.  I tried to bring it back home, but it seemed to just keep drifting farther away.  Then it seems the distance was just too much.  I lost connection and saw the drone spiral down to the earth.  

I felt like I had been punched in the gut, dwelling the on the possibililty of losing both my drone and GoPro camera in one blow, in rual Franktown, CO.

Here is a video of the entire event.  There is good news and more pictures after the video.

I have been practicing on a PC Simulator at home. It is helpful for general flying,  but doesn't really portray an accurate simulation when the drone hits really high altitudes.  I should have kept things nice an low during my first few flights,  but I took the quick route to finding out what NOT NOT to do in the future. 

The area where the drone went down is pretty heavy with trees and shrubs, and my first thought was "Its gone." Then I remembered that my GoPro was still transmitting transmitting WiFi signal from using the App on my Phone and Tablet to control various camera functions.  We drove around the area looking for a "ping"  from the GoPro's WiFi.   We finally go a hit,  and jumped out on foot to continue the search.  I had my tablet, and my brother with my phone,  we used the WiFi Analyzer app for Android that allowed us to use the WiFi signal similar to a radar ping. Here is a Screenshot of what it looks like. 

After about 10 minutes of searching, we finally recovered the Drone. Luckily we have had heavy rain over the last few days, and the ground is pretty soft.   The landing struts were buried about 2 inches into the ground,  and there was minimal damage to the Drone overall.  Only thing that was broken was one of the booms.  Very easy and inexpensive to replace,  coming in at $6 to fix. 

Overall it was still a fun experience,  and a good story to tell.  I have also learned the limits of my drone,  and will NOT be flying anywhere near that altitude in the foreseeable future. Need to do the repair and it will be back in the air in no time at all. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Quadcopter Drone - GoPro Accessories & Storage

A GoPro is a very fun addition to this type of project as it can add a very cool component to what the drone can do, which is aerial photography and video.  I currently have a GoPro Hero3 Black Edition.  These active cameras have a ton of accessories that you can pair up with them, and I had a hard time keeping it all organized.  So I picked up a bin from Lowes that is made for screw and nail storage.  Turns out it is the perfect size to fit my GoPro and all the accessories.
  1. GoPro Hero 3 Black with Protective Dive Housing
  2. Mini Tripod w/ Camera Mount
  3. Anti-fog inserts, extra LiPo Battery, and WiFi remote USB cable
  4. Skeleton Case Backdoor
  5. LCD Touch Screen Backdoor
  6. Various Mounts and Attachments
  7. Protective Case Backdoor
  8. Standard Case Backdoor
  9. LCD Touch Screen, and WiFi Remote
  10. Lens Protector, other camera protection bits
  11. Adhesive Surface Mounts
  12. Tripod Camera Mount Adapters
  13. Head Strap and Had Clip Mounts
  14. User Manual and floating water attachment

Now I can easily pack around everything I have that is GoPro related, except maybe my “GoPole” and Walking Stick / Monopod.  So with this and my Drone Hard-case in tow, it is almost time to head out and FLY!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Quadcopter Drone - KK2.1 Setup, Training and Simulation

Instead of trying to type out what I did to setup my KK2.1 Flight Controller, here is a video I shot that explains the whole process, including calibrating the ESCs.

Ok. I am done building the Drone for now, but before I feel comfortable flying it, I need to get better at controlling this type of aircraft.  After all the time and money spent on this guy, the last thing I want to do is crash it during my first flight.

One great way to begin learing how to control a Quadcopter is with a Blade Nano QX.  These little drones are really fun, and can be safely flown indoors.  My kiddos love playing around with this guy as I fly around them, and occasionally do a fake "dive bombing run" towards them, quickly pulling up at the last second.

They can be purchased at many online retailers, but I picked one up at my local Hobby store when it was on sale for a killer price. These are very durable and can take a beating.  Very squirrely drone, but an excellent option to learn the basics of multi-rotor flight.  I used a $5 hard case from Harbor Freight Tools and some Pick and Pull foam I had left over to make a better carry case.

To get a better feel for the larger drones, I decided to go with the Phoenix R/C Flight Simulator for my PC.  I purchased a USB adapter that can plug into my Turnigy 9XR transmitter, so that I can fly a quadcopter drone around on my computer with the same transmitter that I will be using with actual drone.   The software works really well, and is very easy to learn once you have set up the transmitter to work with it. My kids picked it up within just a few minuets, and can now fly the various models around like pros.

I have more training to do before I am ready.  But soon it will be time for the Maiden Flight! 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Springfield M1A Archangel Precision Stock Upgrade

I have had my Springfield M1A Loaded edition for about 4 years, and it is probably my favorite rifle.  Not as easy to modify as my AR-15, but really fun to shoot, extremely accurate, and is now my dedicated Elk rifle. The only thing I don't like about the M1A is that the factory stock (mine was synthetic OD Green) doesn't work that well with a scope and requires a cheek riser.  The Factory stock also doesn't have any way to easily attach accessories requiring modification for things like a bi-pod.

I had previously looked into getting a JAE-100 stock from J. Allen Enterprises to give the rifle a more modern / tactical look and functionality. But I ultimately decided not to go that route because of the extremely high price (almost more than the actual rifle), and the 1+ year wait times to get one.

Recently I came across a new replacement stock for the M1A called the Archangel. When I purchased it from Midway USA, it was on sale for around $120, which is about 80% less than a JAE-100, and it has most of the features I wanted in a new precision replacement stock.

Here is some info on the stock, directly from the manufacturer website.

The next generation, fully adjustable stock for Springfield M1A™ and M14 rifles.  Drop-in fit.  Built entirely of our proprietary, lightweight, carbon fiber reinforced polymer.  Impervious to weather, and will withstand all standard gun solvents and oils.  The Archangel M1A™ Precision Stock is tough as nails, and will deliver outstanding accuracy shot after shot, year after year.

  • Extremely durable construction, yet weighs only 4.2 lbs.
  • Precision fit inlet provides excellent accuracy.
  • Length of pull is thumbwheel click adjustable from 13-5/8″ to 14-13/16″
  • Cheek riser is thumbwheel click adjustable in .05″ increments.
  • Equipped with two standard sling swivel studs.
  • Incorporates 4 integral steel inserts for ball-lock/push-button QD sling swivels     
  • Grip storage compartment
  •  Integrated forend Picatinny rail with extended rail cover.  
Below you can see my M1A with the original synthetic stock, bi-pod, and cheek riser, next to the Archangel stock directly below it. 

Close up of the ribbed "Drop-in" section of the stock.  I am told the ribbed sections offer greater strength while limiting weight.

The angled grip also has a storage compartment.  Currently I have my "BoreSnake" stored in this compartment.

Here is the lower Picatinny rail.  I will be installing my Harris Bi-Pod towards the front using a quick detach bi-pod adapter, and will use a standard rail protector on the remainder of the rail to make it more comfortable to hold.

I decided to add a second smaller Picatinny rail to the bottom of the buttstock.  This was done so that I could use a Mono-pod, Accu-Shot PRM (Precision Rail Monopod) with Quick Knob Option, for greater stabilization when shooting in prone.  I had to file down a small part of the stock where there was a sling attachment, and drill two small holes to accept a Magpul L2 MOE Rail Section. 

Installing this secondary rail was very easy and it works perfectly.

Here is another shot of the new rail directly from the side. Here you can also see the click-wheels that are used to adjust both the length of pull, and the cheek riser.  They work very well, and are pretty solid.

Here we have an exploded view of the M1A's upper receiver, and the trigger assembly, ready to be dropped into the new stock. You can also see the bi-pod and mono-pods have been installed as well.

Here we have the fully assembled rifle along with the new stock.  Installation was very easy with the included instructions. I did have to file down a tiny part of the stock as recommended in the instructions, but overall took no more than 10min to get everything nice and snug.  There is no noticeable play, and everything feels very solid. 

Same as above, but with the bi-pod and mono-pod deployed.  Looks pretty sweet!

I had some extra foam from the hard-case that I made for my Drone, so I decided to use it to make a new foam insert since the stock now has a different shape. 

Using the Pick and Pull foam, I was able to make a perfect "mold" for the M1A's new outline.  It fits perfectly and will do an excellent job protecting my M1A.  I have only had one opportunity so far to shoot with the new stock installed.  My groupings are just as good, if not a tad better, and because of the adjustable components, the rifle is now a perfect fit for me.  I haven't done enough shooting with it to give it a full review, but so far I am very pleased with both the look and performance of this new stock.

Thanks for taking a look.  Now time to get back to my posting progress about the Drone.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Quadcopter Drone - DYI Foam Hard-case

Now that the Drone is done being built, I need a way to protect this precious gizmo.  I looked into hard-cases online from various brands, but most weren't quite the correct size, or were very expensive.  So I set out to build my own that would be the perfect size, and save a few $$S in the process.

For the case itself, , this particular model is called the "Stor-It-All Tote"  and I went with the one that measures 25"W x 17-1/2"D x 9"H.  It also has locking handles for the top lid, and can be purchased for $16 at the Container Store.

Next I picked up some foam "Pick and Pluck" from the FoamFactory. The very bottom / base is simply 1/2in of regular Solid Foam, but the rest of the case is using various thicknesses of the Pluck and Pull foam.

Pluck and Pull is pretty great, and much easier that cutting out parts of a foam block. I used a combination of two (2) 2.5in thick sheets and one (1) 3in thick sheet.  Both were the larger size of 24" x 26".  I purchased more than I needed for this case, and used it for another project, which I will post soon.

Here is the first layer of Pick and Pull, on top of the solid foam base.  You can see where I removed parts to make room for the landing struts and the GoPro camera.

After about an hour of figuring out what peices had to come out to make for a perfect fit, things are looking pretty good.  Had plenty of room to fit all parts of the Quad, transmitter, battery charger, extra batteries, and even replacement props.

Another picture of the complted foam hard-case, along with the lockable top.  I added foam inserts to the top to keep everytihng nice a secure while in the case.  Nothing moves around, and this case does an excellent job of protecting everything inside.

Next up, I will use more of this cool foam for another project.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Quadcopter Drone - UBEC Install and Prop Balancing

There is one part of the overall install that I forgot to post, so adding it now.  I had to add a UBEC (Universal Battery Elimination Circuit) to power the KK2.1 flight controller and the Reciver.  The ESCs and Motors can take the voltage directly from the 3S LiPo battery, but the Flight Controller and Receiver require a lower voltage.  So instead of having 2 different batteries (adding unnecessary weight), a UBEC will basically convert the 11.1v output for the 3S battery to 5V to be used with the flight controller.

This particular Turnigy UBCE can accept an input voltage of 6-23v, and output either 5.1V or 6.1V depending on the jumper position, both at 3Amps. This particular model also has a Ferrite Ring for interference reduction.  I am using the 5.1v setting for my components.

Since the ESCs draw power directly from the LiPo battery, the Servo Connectors that plug into the Flight Controller are actually only using 1 of the 3 wires which is the signal wire.

So to clean things up, I just took the 2 unused wires out of the 4th connector, and spliced in the Negative / Positive leads from the UBEC.  Also made sure to cover the unused connectors with heat shrink tubing to eliminate any possibilities of a short.

Then I just plugged the connector back into the flight controller, and we have power!

Now that we have that out of the way, on to Prop Balancing.  This is an important step in building a QuadCopter, especially if you are going to be shooting videos or photography. Unbalanced props can cause small "micro-vibrations" that can make videos have a Jello like effect. Luckily, balancing props is an easy task, only requiring a balancing shaft and some sandpaper.  You basically balance the prop on the stand (or even a drinking glass), and if one side dips down, sand a bit off until things even out.  Not going to go into much detail here, as there are lots of great tutorials on YouTube if you would like more info.  My balancing was pretty easy and took around 15min for all 6 props that I currently have.

 Next up we have a cool DYI hard-case storage for your Quad.  Stay tuned!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Quadcopter Drone - Flight Direction LED Wiring

Next I am going to add some LEDs for directional indicators when flying the Quad at night.  I purchased 1M LED light strips from Amazon, one in Red the other in Green.  Green will indicate the front of the Quad, Red the back.  They work off of 12V, so the input of 11.1v from my 3S LiPo battery will work just fine for this purpose.  Here we have a few of the pieces of the LED strips cut off and the clear plastic stripped off the ends, ready for solder.

Solder applied to the contact points on the base of the LED strip.

Same as before, but with heat-shrink tubing applied to each lead.  They were a bit too close together for comfort, so I wanted to eliminate the chances of a short.

Here is the "daisy-chain" of multiple light strips linked together.  They will all come back to one JST connector that will plug directly into the battery.

Quick pic of all the light strips once they have been soldered together and connected to the battery via a JST connector.

LED Light Strips Installed, not turned on.

LED Light Strips Installed, turned on.

LED Light Strips Installed, turned on, with lights off.  Looks pretty good.  Can't wait to try out some night flying.

Next up I will be binding the Transmitter / Receiver, and setting up the KK2.1 flight controller board for motor direction and various calibration steps.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Quadcopter Drone - Receiver Wiring & Antennae Mounting

Haven't had a chance to do much in the last two weeks, but I was finally able to sit down for a bit and make some progress on the drone.  First up, going to show what I have done with the Receiver, both connecting it to the flight controller board, and setting up the antennae.  Here is what the receiver looks like out of the box, with the "whip" style antennae.  I have been reading that for the best possible signal reception, the antennae should be mounted at a 90 degree angle from each other, so I will show how I achieved that on my Drone.


The Receiver itself is mounted to the frame using Velcro tape so that if needed, it can be easily removed.  Before attaching it to the Drone, I plugged in the servo leads, and labeled them to make it easier to keep track of which cable is which.

Here are the same leads, again labeled with Roman Numerals, plugged into the Flight Controller.  

Now that the Receiver is mounted to the frame and wired up, its time modify the antenna.  As mentioned before, I wanted the two whips to be set up in a 90 degree angel, so this is what I did to achieve that.  Using some acrylic leftover from my most recent Liquid Cooled PC Mod, I cut a small block and drilled a few holes into it.  I then inserted antennae tubing into the holes, which are set up with the 90 degree angel and the whips can go directly through them.

Here is a close up of the tubing with the whip pulled through and capped off with a rubber end cap.

And here is the setup attached to the frame next to the Receiver.  I used double sided tape and zip ties to secure the antennae mount to the frame.  It is very secure, and I am pleased with how it turned out.  

The next thing I had to do was change out the connector on my batteries.  They came with the "bullet" type connectors, but for use on my Drone, and to charge them, I needed to change it out with a TX60 connector.  Nothing too complicated here, just cut off the bullet connectors, and soldered on the TX60 leads.

Here is the finished connector, with heat-shrink tubing applied. 

And here we have the battery charging with the new connector, hooked up to my Turnigy Accucell.

Now we are going to attache the LED indicator and Speaker to the Flight controller.  Out of the box, the KK2.1 flight controller only comes with the speaker.  The speaker gives audible chirps to notify of status and errors with the flight controller.  This works great up close, but not whey the Drone is more than a few hundred feet away.  So an LED is needed for visual indicators.  

I purchased the LED on eBay, and then modified the wires on the Speaker to match.  Both the Speaker and LED can be plugged into the same port on the flight controller, so to use both at the same time, I made a Y adapter with FST connectors.  I would have done the same twisting wire look with the Y-connector, but I ran out of the wire I needed, so just did a few turns instead.

The speaker is tucked inside the frame and is not visible from this angle.  The LED was attached to the back of the Receiver, which is the "back" of the Drone, so I can see the indicator while in flight.  Going to set things up to that as the battery loses its charge the LED will flash faster and faster to let me know when its time to head back.

Now that everything is plugged into the Flight Controller, I figure its a good time to show a pin layout for the board, along with a bit of explanation at to where things get plugged in.  The leads from the receiver control plug into the left side of the board.  On the right is where the ESCs are connected, and control the motors.  I actuallly have to make one small modification with lead #1 to provide power for the the flight controller, but that will be in a future post.  

Last we have the LED / Speaker indicators that we just went over, and the Voltage Monitor.  The Voltage monitor basically just allows the flight controller to know what the battery level is at, and uses the speaker and LED to show that battery status.  Battery status will also show up on the LCD screen.

Next up I will show what I have done to give my Drone some Directional LEDs for night flying.  Thanks for stopping by.