A simple to build foldable spider quad for AP and FPV

As some of you might have understood I’ve done some experiments with multirotor helicopters for the last couple of years. Mainly because I think it is extremely interesting what you can do when you combine these machines with cameras. Stuff like this:

And if you want the best images you need to be at the right place at the right time. And for images like this you need to be there with your copter. So the copter needs to be easy to carry.

IMG_0006 copy

I wanted to build a FPV quad that I could carry in my ground station case together with my radio and some batteries. I have built several mini-multirotors that fits in that space, but now I wanted to build a bigger quad that should be able to carry a bigger video Tx, gopro and even a Sony RX100.

IMG_0011 copy

I ended up building a foldable quad. So far I am very pleased with the result.

I’ve built several multirotors during the last two years. Quad, hexa, Y6, X8, tri, octo. I’ve built in wood, alu, carbon fiber and combinations.

But i like wood. It gives less jello in my recordings because it is slightly flexible so it absorbs some vibrations. And the flexibility also makes sure that it survives a lot of crashes. But it is not too flexible, so it is stable. And it is cheap. And environmentally friendly. Doesn’t block radio signals. Doesn’t transfer current. And it is easy to work with.

So, here is my wood based foldable quad:

There is a bit of jello in the recordings here. It is 2.7K @ 25p with no ND filter. Will probably get rid of it with some tweaking of the mount.

Update:
First FPV test flights. Now with GoPro Hero2 at 720@50p and a horribly misplaced ND filter. But: absolutely no jello!

The arms are tightened with four screws. Folding and unfolding takes approx 30 seconds.

Spec:
Motors: Sunnysky 2212 980 kv
ESC: HK F30A SimonK
FC: DJI Naza GPS
Props: 8 inch
Motor-to-motor: 58 cm
GoPro mount with Tilt
4S Batteries

Some images from the build:

A simple to build foldable spider quad for AP and FPV

Moose vs. quadcopter

First of all. If you want to know what I’m up to next, follow me on twitter: @eirikso

So, I posted this video on YouTube two days ago:

And it have gone completely viral. It was made in a hurry and leaves a lot of things that might need an explanation.

Moose

The place and the moose

The video was shot just outside of Oslo. We have a lot of moose roaming around the woods here in Norway. And some of them very close to the city. They’re shy of people, dogs and other living creatures, but are pretty used to the sound of cars, trains, helicopters, planes etc. To see a moose is not very uncommon in Norway.

This moose is probably a 1,5 year old female. She seems more curious than afraid. And we spotted her again from far up in the sky later. Still calmly walking around eating in the same wood.

The technology in general

One of my hobbies for the last year have been to build and fly multirotor helicopters. When I fly them I do it either by flying Line-Of-Sight (LOS) or First Person View (FPV). When flying LOS you simply take off and fly the thing around while watching it from the ground. For quadcopters this limit the range because the copter is symmetric and you loose the orientation pretty fast. However, as I’ve gained experience you start to feel the direction based on speed and the way you control the copter, making it possible to fly further away. I fly LOS when I want to do acrobatics and train accuracy and pilot skills. Here is an example of some acro flying with a very small quadcopter:

KK2 Acro FLights from Eirik Solheim on Vimeo.

But for the video with the moose I fly FPV. Meaning that I have a dedicated camera connected to a video transmitter on board the copter. I feed the video signal into a pair of video goggles and navigate the copter like I was sitting inside it. Based on the video signal. When flying this way I always have spotters beside me that keep an eye on the copter and what is happening on the ground.

In addition to the goggles I have a screen and a digital recorder on the ground station. That recorder also has a mic and records the audio from the spot where we are standing. Ensuring that we got the recording of the quite enthusiastic spotters and my rather nervous comments about battery status and the fact that it is darn difficult to navigate this thing between and under the trees.

The camera

On the copter there is also a GoPro Hero3 to record HD video on board. The video downlink is only SD-quality. In the video I cut to the footage from the DVR at some points to show how it looks from my goggles. Here’s a screen shot from that feed:

MooseFPVview

You can see the battery status in the top left corner. We spotted the moose at the end of my flight. At 13,2 volts the batteries will be harmed and the copter will descend automatically or simply crash.

Because the HD footage is done in the GoPro on board the copter it was pretty important for us to get it back in one piece. On this copter the GoPro is mounted “naked” without the water proof box. To save weight and make the mounting easier. So I don’t want to crash it in the snow.

The recording in the GoPro is 2,7 K @ 25 FPS. It is slightly stabilised in FCPX and rendered at 1920×1080.

The camera is mounted on a vibration dampened platform under the copter.

IMG_0018

The details

The copter I use here is this one.

It is a quad rotor helicopter. Based on a X468 frame that makes it possible to wrap it together for easy travelling. It is controlled by a DJI Naza flight controller that has gyros, accelerometer, barometer and GPS to assist the stabilisation of the copter.

I am using an old Futaba 9C remote with FrSky Tx and Rx modules.

After my previous post about the copter I have changed to three blade, nine inch props (9x5x3). They give me less jello and vibrations in my recordings. In general I find it easier to get rid of vibrations with smaller props running at higher speed. So I run the copter on 4S batteries. Usually two 2200 mAh in parallel. That gives me up to 12 minutes flight time with GoPro and FPV equipment. But 12 minutes is with completely new batteries and when I am pushing the limit. Usually I fly around 8 minutes and land when my batteries are close to 14V. In this video I push it all the way down to 13,2 V when I land.

I have also changed the ESCs on the copter. From Turnigy Plush that I mention in the article about the copter to HobbyKing F30A with SimonK-firmware. That change made the copter way more stable.

Sony RX100

I am also flying this copter with a Sony RX100. It is heavier than the GoPro, giving slightly lower flight time. But the RX100 has excellent image stabilisation built in and you get rid of the GoPro fisheye-look. Here is a RX100-video from the same copter and same area.

The dangers

Multirotors can be dangerous. The props are spinning fast. And they might cut your skin if you get too close when they are running. On my copter I have pretty soft and cheap GWS props. They’re not as dangerous as the carbon reinforced props that many people use. But if you are flying high the pure weight of the copter is dangerous if it falls down. And they do. That is why we are flying outside of the city over fields with no people. And always have spotters on the ground when we fly FPV.

The lipo batteries are very powerful. And can explode or catch fire if they are damaged.

In addition to this there are rules regarding remote controlled devices. They are different in different countries. In Norway you can fly up to 400 feet. And you need a special license to be allowed to put a camera on anything that flies.

If you want to to professional AP work you need an extra license from the civil aviation authority.

The fun and the problem

Lots of people immediately say “I want one” when they see how fun this is. And I can really recommend this hobby. But you need to be patient. First of all it is very difficult to fly these things. It has taken hours and hours of training to be able to fly the way I do in this video.

And even more hours fixing the broken copter after crashing. That is why I build them myself from the ground up. For the first couple of months I never returned with empty batteries. I always returned with a broken copter.

RCgroups is one of the best recourses if you want to start. If you are Norwegian I can recommend our build log over at NRKbeta.no

To start training I can really recommend this small and harmless copter: WLtoys V929. It is a toy, but it is four channel and is controlles just like the bigger copters. If you learn to fly this thing it will be easier to fly bigger and more dangerous copters.

Moose vs. quadcopter

New toy: Micro Hexa Multirotor

Just finished my Micro Hexa. Small, not deadly like the big monsters and lifts GoPro and FPV equipment.

Spec:

Frame: BlueSky RC Micro Hexa

M1822 Motors from Leadershobby (I decided to give them a try. $3.45 is kind of cheap…)

Alternative motors that might work:
Heavier, more expensive, more powerful and high quality: Roxy 2216

Heavier and more powerful but cheaper than the Roxys: Turnigy from HK

Or these on 2S batteries: smaller Turnigy from HK

5x3x3 GWS or gemfan props

10A HobbyKing ESCs flashed with SimonK

Dji Naza FC for now. But I also have OPCC, FF and others.

Turnigy Nano 1300 3S batteries

5A BEC to power the GoPro

FrSky and Futaba 9C

Total Weight: 577 g (645 when I add my FPV equipment)

Rough price estimate:
6 x Motors: $60,-
6 x ESC: $48,-
Frame: $25,-
Cables and connectors: $10,-
Tot: $143,-

Then you need a flight controller. I’m using the rather expensive $240,- Naza. But will fly fine with a much cheaper FC. A rabbit for $90, a Naze32 for $75,- or even a KK for $15,-

Flies 5 minutes on a 1300 mah Turnigy Nano and 8 minutes when I tested it on a 2200 (both tests with the GoPro on board). Will probably get 10 minutes of FPV sight seeing if I remove the GoPro.

The motor mounts didn’t fit, so I had to drill new holes.

And I hate prop savers so I modified the motors to accept collets. The shaft on the motor is 2mm. I simply removed the built in prop saver using brute force…

After balancing the cheap motors and the props I have nice and smooth video and no jello.

Here’s 10 minutes of different clips from my first tests. Raw footage dissolved together. All flying done line of sight:

New toy: Micro Hexa Multirotor

How to get rid of vibrations in your multi rotor helicopter

If you want to snap images or record video from your quadcopter it needs to be as vibration free as possible. When you manage that you get shots like these:

But when you start googling you get the same answer all over:

1. Balance your propellers
2. Balance your motors

But I did that:

And I still had vibrations, blurry stills and jelly-looking video. After a lot of trial and error found the solution.

It doesn’t matter how much you balance your props if they’re the wrong props. You need high quality very stiff props for aerial photography (AP). So, on the same quad, with perfectly balanced props I had lots of vibrations with one set of props and no vibrations with another.

I have had best results with Gaui props and Graupner E-props.

In addition to this I made a dampening system. First I tried to mount the camera directly on a small plate that was mounted on the quad with rubber dampers. That din’t work very well:

(Dampers = red)

Then I made a long extra board under the quad. Mounted it to the quad using four rubber dampeners and mounted both the camera and the battery on that one. Wow! No vibrations with any of my cameras!

(Dampers = red)

Update:
And this is how video looks like if you don’t limit the vibrations.

How to get rid of vibrations in your multi rotor helicopter

X468 Traveller quad

Just finished my build. It flies like it’s on rails. With plenty of power. And it’s silent and nearly vibration free.

http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=109615

It folds in the best possible way so that it is easy to carry in a bag or suitcase.

I’ll post videos later.

Update:
A video and a story about how I got rid of vibrations.

It carries my GoPro with clear jello-free images. But I still need to do some work on the smallest vibrations if I want to film with my Canon S100.

Frame:
X468 Traveller Quad

Motors:
T-Motors 2216 900KV

ESC:
Turnigy Plush 25A

Flight Controllers:
Dji Naza
OpenPilot CopterControl
(Testing both)

Power Distribution:
100A from GLB

Arms:
250 mm carbon from GLB

Motor mounts:
Alu from GLB

Props:
Graupner 9×5 and Gaui 8×4.5

Mounting of the round arms done with parts of a square alu rod from GLB.

Landing gear is made of parts from Kites and fun things.
4 – APA Type “B” Leading Edge Connectors
60″ .25″ fiberglass or carbon tube
6 – Stand off holders – Size Medium

Radio:
Futaba 8U running FrSky 2.4 GHz

X468 Traveller quad

Quadcopter in the Gustav Vigeland Sculpture Park

I’ve installed a CopterControl board from OpenPilot in my home brew Quadcopter.

It’s pretty impressive stuff.

The camera is a 808 HD. And the build log is in Norwegian: Part 1 and Part 2. Here is the Google Translate version: Part 1 Google Translate and Part 2 Google Translate.


Link to video on YouTube.

Now I just need to buy a GoPro HD Hero 2. I’ve already ordered a stabilizing mount.

Cost and flight time

$200,- for the quad (frame, motors, speed controllers etc)
$100,- for the Copter Control Board
$25,- for a 2500 mAh battery giving 10 minutes for flight time
$70,- for a second hand Futaba 8U radio

Build time: approx 10 hours

Time spent learning how this stuff works, learning to fly, waiting for parts from china: don’t know…

Quadcopter in the Gustav Vigeland Sculpture Park

One year in one image

Follow me on Twitter if you want to know about my projects before everyone else: @eirikso

Update: the videos I made from the same footage is here.

I’m currently working on a new time lapse project. Not a sort-of-time-lapse. But a true one. To put it short: I’ve had an SLR camera in my window at the same spot for one year. Snapping an image every half hour. Resulting in some pretty nice time lapse videos I’ll post here in a couple of days. But first a still image.

The resolution of the 16 000 images I now have from 2010 are 3888×2592 pixels. So I selected 3888 images snapped during the day. Then I got some generous help from my blog readers and twitter followers. To make a script that would take one line from the first image, the next line from the next image and so on. Jo Christian Oterhals, Nikolai Kristiansen and Aslak Helles√ły provided complete code for the solution.

I used the script from Aslak and made the following image:


You can click it to make it bigger.

It shows one whole year. January at the left and December to the right. You can clearly see that we have a pretty long winter and a decent summer here in Oslo, Norway.

The spring and autumn are both quite short.

It would have been nice to make an interactive version of this image. Where you could mouse over and get info on exactly when the image providing the line was taken. And maybe also bring up a thumbnail of the complete image. Maybe I’ll post all the 3888 images and hope that someone will make a solution like that…

Update:
I have now posted the full 3888 resolution image on flickr.

The diversity

Light and timing are some of the most important factors in an image. I have huge amounts of images snapped at the exact same spot. With the exact same focus point and the same f-number. The only thing that have changed is the season and the light. Bringing diversity like this:

But now I have some amazing videos to finish… :-)

One year in one image