You may see these three letters all the time these days but you may not know what it really means. What FPV means is “First Person View” which means a video camera is mounted on the vehicle and broadcasts the live video to the pilot on the ground so the pilot is flying the aircraft as if he/she was onboard the aircraft instead of looking at the craft from the pilot’s actual ground position. FPV allows you to fly much higher and further than you can from the looking at the aircraft from the ground. FPV control allows for more precise flying around obstacles especially with vehicles like quadcopters which can easily fly indoors and through forests via FPV where you wouldn’t be able to see obstacles from a fixed position.
When out flying at the local field quite a few people ask about the durability of a quadcopter. After all, if there is any kind of failure, a quad is going to drop from the sky like a lead balloon. An airplane can glide to a landing, a helicopter can auto-rotate, but there is no backup on a quad is something goes wrong. This was put to the test at the local field this past weekend in grand style.
In trying to tempt fate, I was showing how well the Walkera MX400 handled in a strong wind and although I am not certain what exactly went wrong, I think something in the auto-leveler freaked out when trying to correct for a strong gust of wind and the copter tilted over at about a 90 degree angle and lawn darted at full speed into the asphalt.
Midland Radio, known to many of us from our older CB Radio days, has launched a new wearable sports camera and we got our grubby hands on one this week and started putting it through it’s paces. There will be a full review as we try out more of the different options and modes so this is just a quick demo of it in flight.
Below you can see a comparison in size between the GoPro HD Hero and the Midland XTC. On the bottom of the XTC is a standard tripod mounting screw where the GoPro has no mounting option without its extra housing. This small feature does make it easier to mount the XTC but there is no built-in option to record the video upside down so you will have to process that in post production which may take longer than normal depending on your software/hardware.
The camera was hard mounted on the bottom of the Walkera MX400 for a quick test flight. You can see from this quick test that it’s not immune to the rolling shutter Jell-O effect. Stay tuned for more information and the full review to come later.
Quadcopter 101 and Multirotor 101
I was asked to write an article or ebook about the basics of quadcopters so I am kicking off a series of “getting started” articles to see if I can help people new to the hobby. Please also read for some other helpful articles.
Let me start with saying that flying model aircraft is exceptionally rewarding and quite addicting. There is just something about being able to control something that is flying that brings something out in you since it is the most accessible way for an individual to break the boundaries of Terra Firma and take to the skies.
Walkera has made a huge name for themselves in the helicopter segment so a lot of people couldn’t wait to see how their quads would play out. Early versions were pretty good and they have continued to evolve the product with versions such as the MX400.
The MX400 is one of the very few quadcopters to come standard with 3-blade propellers. The props themselves have a keyed base to prevent slipping on the motor housing but this does mean finding replacements might be a little more difficult. Most resellers have said that replacement props are on their way and should arrive within the next couple of weeks.
While you may feel nice and comfortable taking your copter or drone out to your local park or school for some afternoon flying, you should do yourself a favor and check your local laws and make sure you aren’t risking some serious fines by flying where you are not supposed to. The reality is that most cities have very strict regulations on where you can fly and where you can’t. Many cities actually forbid the flying of model aircraft of sUAV’s (Sport unmanned aerial vehicles).
Probably one of the easiest things to do and yet one of the least done tasks is to balance the props on your heli or quad. If your rotors are not balanced, one blade will be heavier than the other which will cause an excessive amount of vibration. This vibration will cause extra wear on motors and bearings, make sensors less accurate, and make getting good video almost impossible.
The AR Drone is very simple to fly but does not fly like anything else on the market. If you are going to move up to bigger or more advanced quadcopters you are going to need a different set of flying skills. In this article we are going to start learning how to fly them and help you get your copter off the ground.
The first thing you need to know is that flying a quad is exactly like flying a R/C helicopter. The controls are exactly the same so if you have helicopter experience, you can easily fly a quad while flying a quad is excellent practice for flying a helicopter.
The Rotor Concept HPQ-1 is a big step up from the AR Drone in that it has a lifting capacity of a full pound. With a GoPro camera weighing only 3.3oz and even larger camcorders weighing in around between 9-14oz, the HPQ-1 can be used to lift a wide variety of small size gear.
Their larger HPQ-2 can loft up to three pounds which is enough for small DSLR’s and Compact sized cameras. Rotor Concept was selling the HPQ-1 for only $299 instead of their regular $499 price and they were flying off the shelves (pun intended). For a few extra bucks you got nice aluminum case with custom designed foam for the copter.
If you are used to flying helcopters, this is dead simple to fly. If your only flight experience is with the AR Drone than you better have an experienced quadcopter or helicopter pilot take it up first and dial in the trim settings. Adding the GoPro made it a little front heavy which I easily trimmed out. I had to be VERY careful as I have a very small backyard so the video isn’t that interesting or impressive but she does fly easily (again, if you are used to regular helicopter controls).
Flying for the first time, you probably will need to dial in the trim settings for it to take off straight and hover level. If you do not know what you are doing, I can’t stress enough that you should get some help with this Once it is dialed in, its pretty simple to fly. The left joystick controls the altitude and rotation while the right joystick controls the forward/back and left/right pitching and movement.
You should start with an area with enough open space to allow for some moving around without smacking into trees or walls. Part of the CES special included a camera mount so my next test was to mount a GoPro camera on it. Below is the video from the GoPro, more info to come as I get more used to flying it and can take it somewhere that I can open it up.
I got a chance to sit down with the folks from Parrot at CES and ask them about the AR Drone 2.0. Unfortunately, for existing AR Drone users, there isn’t a whole lot of good news to report. Virtually everything on the AR Drone 2.0 is brand new and is NOT, I repeat NOT compatible for the original AR Drone. The only thing that seems to remain the same is the main drive gear and the propellers, although they did say there is a change to the propellers as well.
The cross member is all new and will not fit into the original AR Drone nor will any of the electronics boards. Even the motors are new.
So what should you do with your original AR Drone? Well…keep flying it. The new AR FreeFlight 2.0 software WILL be compatible with the AR Drone 1.0. Expect the new software to arrive when the AR DRone 2.0 ships which is “sometime in Q2” which translated to “sometime between April and June”. Given that it is only January right now, don’t expect to see the AR Drone 2.0 flying near you for another 4 – 5 months.
Until then, here is some video I shot during CES and no, you cannot do flips and rolls with the AR Freeflight 2.0 software. ust like the current software if the AR Drone has too much of a tilt, the Drone’s motors will shut off. These demos are done with custom firmware designed for the shows.