Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wiring in the brain of the quad

Today just wire in the Flight Controller (FC) and receiver.  Hooked it up on the computer and transmitter for the initial setup.  So far things are connected properly

Finally tidy up the wires, mount the top deck and the GPS.

Next will be setting up the FC and GPS properly.

More bits going into the quad, its taking shape

Today a few more parts arrived.  Soldering is finished, done the battery terminal and power management unit (PMU).  I have also used clear silicon to insulate the soldered joints.

Mounted the motors, arms and propellers.  Its now taking shape.

As a distraction, I have put in the trainers on the heli.  I have also stripped and replaced the battery terminal to be a XT60.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Some parts have arrived and got my hands started in building a quadcopter

Some parts turned up today to build my quadcopter, the F450 frame box was damaged.

All the parts seem to be in good physical order despite the damage on the box.  Below are the contents of a F450 frame kit, E300 propulsion system, Naza lite and legs.

Got my hands started after doing my usual stuff.  My kids kinda help me a bit.

Got the soldering iron out and tinned the lower deck, which also serves as the power distribution board.

After smelling some lead from the solder and mustering out my basic soldering skills, I got all 4 Electronic Speed Controllers (ESC) done.

I need to stop here, as it late and I also did not have all the parts yet.  Hopefully some are coming tomorrow.  Oh here is a photo of the cheap 10 channel transmitter that comes with a Heli... hehehe.

Figuring out what quad copter to build

There are a lot of quad copter to build, lots of different choices.  My initial object for the build are:
  • Medium range (500m to 1000m) Aerial Photo (AP)
  • Basic First Person View (FPV) flying
These are my nice to have next objectives:
  • Long range (1km to 2km) AP
  • Full experience FPV
  • Unmanned Autonomous Vehicle (UAV) aka Drone
My likely dream hard-to-get objectives:
  • Night flying
  • Commercial application of UAV
  • Drone to drone communication to choreograph manoeuvres of a fleet of drones
Ok lets get back to more basic attainable objectives.  I have short listed it into 2 platforms:
  • DJI based quadcopter
  • 3D Robotics based quadcopter
Both have their strength and weaknesses.  I like the 3DR platform, as it based on open source and open hardware.  There platform is also more aligned to my nice to have objects.  The DJI products however based on research is more polished and a popular choice.  Its kinda like the difference between an Android phone and iPhone.  I use both phones, and there is no clear winner.

Then there is a 3rd option is combine both, use a DJI frame, motors, propellers and 3DR Flight Controller (FC), GPS, compass.  This is the ideal combination for me, I have seen also a few people gone through this route.

I have finally decided to build a DJI based quadcopter, then eventually move to a 3DR FC.  Using a DJI based quadcopter seems to be a more safer choice as this will be my first real quad and flying rc at the same time.  Once I understand better on how things work, then I move to a more custom quad.

Since I will be moving to a 3DR FC, I only bought a DJI Naza lite FC to keep the cost down.  The frame would be a DJI F450 Flamewheel as it a pretty versatile platform.  I will couple it with a DJI E300 propulsion system.

useful links:

For the transmitter I wanted to have a Futaba one, as on my RC cars I used Futaba controllers.  The Futaba controllers cost a lot.  So looked around and found that the cheap ones are just as good like the FrSky Taranis 9XD.  Although I ended up getting a Walkera Devo 10; as it was cheaper, good enough and it can control a few Walkera helis that where pretty good.  So I ordered a Devo 10 that came with a Walker Master CP helicopter, this is how I sold it my wife:  "I need a transmitter, hey if I add $50 more I get to have a nice heli!"

Dreaming to Fly, make it real by building a quadcopter

Since I was a kid, I always wanted to fly a plane and helis.  Wasn't able to do it... yet.  The closest way for me to experience this is use a computer and flight simulator games.  Fast forward today while I was buying some parts for my RC cars which I play with my kids, I saw an AR Drone 2.0 on sale.  So I decided to buy it.  The rational behind it:  its not too expensive and if I don't get to have enough interest and time its a ready-to-fly (RTF) product.  The kids can use the AR Drone 2.0 without much fuss.

The AR Drone 2.0 was a pretty good starter quadcopter.  Here are some actual videos of it:

Now sold the AR Drone 2.0 and decided to move into more serious quads.  I wanted longer range, better stability against strong winds.   

Hopefully I can make a short series of post as I build a quadcopter.  This should be helpful for me as my notes on how I built it and if anybody is interested to do the same thing.