Have you ever gone to an event where everyone knows about what’s going on except you? That’s how I felt last Friday night when we went to cover aerials for a church event at 1BL in Long Beach. They were holding a “Kajabe Can Can” tournament… “a what?!” — that was me. Turns out this is a ancient game that lots of people knew about. Just not me. Here’s the scoop:
Usually played outdoors or in a big room, but could be played in a smaller facility with smaller groups.
The participants get into a circle around the trash can and hold hands. If a player touches the trash can in any way, they are out. Also, if players break their grip on one another, they are both out. Play pauses after an elimination, giving a much-needed time for players to re-firm their hand-holds.
The game is pretty intense, and I’m not entirely sure how tempers don’t flare, but the refs and all the people organizing kept is really loose so I think that helped a lot. Looked like a lot of fun! But not as fun as flying over it!
This was the most we’ve flown over people… like ever. So we make sure we gave the copter some good testing before flight. Once we were confident in it, we took to the skies. And you see the result above. It was a great night!
– Homemade Hexacopter (Rusty/aglhobbies frame)
– Sony NEX-5R w/ 20mm prime lens
– 3-axis RCTimer ASP gimbal
– both 1.2 and 5.8 VTx video downlink
– custom Wild Pilots ground station
– SunnySky 3508-16 700kv/12″ props/40A esc
– 2x 4000mah 4S lipo
– Futaba 10CAP (Pilot), Taranis (CamOp)
A couple of weeks ago, we went out to a dry lakebed near Joshua Tree National Park. We thought we would experiment with some chase shots. This is the result.
Another great trip! Flying among those trees was so much fun. We were up there for 4 days and the rain helped off until the last day. Everyone we met up there was very friendly, and they were all of who were very interested in what we were doing, naturally. A quick brief on Sequoia National Park from wikipedia:
Sequoia National Park is a national park in the southern Sierra Nevada east of Visalia, California, in the United States. It was established on September 25, 1890. The park spans 404,063 acres (631.35 sq mi; 1,635.18 km2). Encompassing a vertical relief of nearly 13,000 feet (4,000 m), the park contains among its natural resources the highest point in the contiguous 48 United States, Mount Whitney, at 14,505 feet (4,421 m) above sea level. The park is south of and contiguous with Kings Canyon National Park; the two are administered by the National Park Service together.
The park is famous for its giant sequoia trees, including the General Sherman tree, one of the largest trees on Earth. The General Sherman tree grows in the Giant Forest, which contains five out of the ten largest trees in the world. The Giant Forest is connected by the Generals Highway to Kings Canyon National Park’s General Grant Grove, home to the General Grant tree among other giant sequoias. The park’s giant sequoia forests are part of 202,430 acres (81,921 ha) of old-growth forests shared by Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Indeed, the parks preserve a landscape that still resembles the southern Sierra Nevada before Euro-American settlement.
Enjoy the footage!
A week ago, Wild Pilots (West Coast) went on another team outing. This time we headed toward Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, home to the giant Sequoia trees. These trees are (arguably) the largest living things on the planet, and they were amazing to be around, let alone FLY around. Being in the presence of such historic things, we made sure to take great care in leaving only footprints. The trip was a huge success and we got a ton of great footage. We’re going through it all now and will have some video available in the near future to document the amazingness. You have got to see these trees from above!
I feel the need… the need… for… shoot, I forgot what I feel the need for.. hang on, it’ll come to me.
Anyway, we thought a bit about what kinda video we would do to follow the breathtaking scenery of Death Valley. What we came up with doesn’t compare to that trip or the videos that came out of it in any way, shape, or form. But what it might do is take you down memory lane, get a laugh out of ya. So, the idea we had was to parody a popular flight sequence, and Top Gun was a no-brainer. Crispy Cargo used to watch Top Gun over and over when he was kid (didn’t we all?), so I knew he was on board. We recruited Vork to do some camera work, and be the stand-by Goose if we needed one (don’t tell him Goose dies). This video is the rest of the story. We hope you enjoy the cheesiness of this thing. We sure had fun putting it together!
We’re calling this idea of parodying movie clips, “RC Cinema”– and hopefully this is the start of something. If it’s not, it’s not, but it would be cool because there’s a million clips I’d love to see re-enacted with Radio Controlled vehicles. Heck we had a hard time choosing which scene from Top Gun to do, just think of all the awesome movie scenes that have car chases, plane dogfights, and space battles (hello, Star Wars!). If you end up doing one, let us know! You can download the RC Cinema title here (1080p-h.264).
BTW, I think I feel the need for bacon, just to close the loop.
Death Valley is certainly one of my favorite places to go in the US. Everything there is so unique, and fascinating, and SO random (as you’ll see in our videos). The terrain seems to change with every passing mile; hence the name “God’s Scrap Pile” 😛
Growing up, my family would come here every Easter for vacation; it was our number one tradition. And while I’ve seen most of this gorgeous creation, we still never managed to visit everything. But while I’ve seen so much, this trip was extra special because I got to see it all again with a VERY different perspective.
My flying experiences here, though short lived (yeah, I crashed…), were exhilarating. And when I wasn’t flying, I would act as a separate pair of eyes during FPV flights. We WildPilots always work in a group. Its just safer that way: one pilot, one copilot, LOS operator, and cameraman/2nd LOS operator. With so many sets of eyes, our habits exude safety, confidence, and (of course) fun.
What a rush Death Valley was. We had an amazing time! Although we barely scratched the surface of what DV has to offer,we still ended up flying in 8 different locations around the National Park. Enjoy the first episode and stay tuned for a couple of different takes.
Last weekend 4 out of the 5 of us took on Death Valley, California. One of the most diverse terrains on the planet, Death Valley is 140 miles long and full of lake beds, canyons, craters, sand dunes, and even the lowest spot in the Western Hemisphere. We’ll be posting footage from this trip soon, so sit tight. Here’s a shot to tease a little.
We’re very proud to add some commerce to our site! Our first product offers some options for the multi-rotor pilot who cares about how their copter looks in the air. We’ve taken authentic DJI 450/550 arms and put them through our dying process so that we can offer them in 5 new colors!
This is something that will hopefully fill a niche need with pilots of DJI frames, TBS Discovery, Ov3rQuad, and the many other custom frames which use these arms.
Head over our the store to pick up some arms that will surely make you the envy of your flying buddies.
Crispy and I were experimenting with a new smaller quad build (more on that later) and decided to pop the new GoPro Hero 3 on in 720p/120fps mode. Sure makes for some fun slo-mo!
Crispy Cargo and I went on a field trip to Yamaha motor division’s HQ in Cypress, CA. We met up with JohnnyCat500 of the OP Forums, and co-creator of the Ov3rQuad and took some aerial footage of the grounds. Much thanks to the folks at Yamaha for letting us have our fun at their place for the day.
Crispy flew his TBS Discovery
Spackletoe flew his Ov3rQuad “Bruiser”
JohnnyCat500 flew two of his Ov3rQuads: the not so “YellowJacket” and the “Green Hornet”
Music is “Above and Beyond” by Bassnectar
Out of almost nowhere, an opportunity to be one of the first to try a new frame design by Ov3rmind fell into my lap. Ov3rmind, with help from Johnnycat500, describes the frame as “Open Source FPV Frame for all. Inspired by numerous DJI arm-based conversion kits.” I’ll agree that it does share some features from a few of the popular frames around today. Similar to the TBS Discovery, the HT-FPV, and the QAV500, the frame is a simple asymmetrical design. It uses DJI flamewheeel 450/550 arms.
One major difference in this design vs. the rest is the addition of two vertical supports that run parallel to each other down the middle of the frame. The thinking here is rigidity. When flying it you’ll notice this, combined with the stability due to it’s size. It’s about 6 inches longer than my HT-FPV, but about the same width (see pic below). I can’t help but compare it to the HT-FPV since that’s the frame I flew before building this one, and maybe it’s me, but I was never able to tune that frame so that it flew like I wanted. I was still cursed with the dreaded tail wag that a lot of people have with that one. But this is not about that one, it’s about the Ov3rQuad!
During my build, and you can see pics of all of it below, everything went together well. The only thing that was a little weird was that there were things that fit really tight and after assembly I noticed that one arm would hover about 1cm off of the ground. I loosened up everything and tried again. Still did it. Upon further testing, this can be blamed on the DJI and clone DJI arms, seems they aren’t all the same and this could happen. That’s the bad news… the good news is that it makes no difference when they’re ALL off the ground!
Shortly after my build, I felt great about the maiden so I took it for a road trip. It flew great in the high altitudes! I think you can tell by the video that there is still some tuning to do, but wow is this quad a ton of fun to fly! On our trip, which most of the video is from I accidentally recorded a few flights in 1080, so you’ll see a little jello, but at 720 it’s non-existent, and I’ll get it that way on 1080 too with some tuning and balancing.
So yeah, it flies great, but how’s it crash? Well, I had a couple of piloting errors and radio foibles where I found out. The most extreme was a radio cut-out as I had JUST flown over a creek. Lucky! When I lost it, I was about a weak failsafe probably cushioned the impact a bit, but I didn’t even break a prop on that one. Dusted it off and flew some more. I know that JohnnyCat500 had a break of the G10 near one of the arm on the top plate. As this is “open source” it’s ever evolving, he’s since strengthened the frame there, but I have the version that might have that problem (or maybe not, who knows?).
My build consisted of:
FC: OpenPilot CC3D
ESC: RCTimer 30 (flashed with SimonK)
Motors: Sunnysky 2212-13 980kv
Batt: 3S 4000Mah nano-tech
Props: I’ve flown with 9″ tri-props from himodel.com and 9″ gemfans — both great!
FPV Stuff: Maineiack 1.3GHz CL/SP/Crosshair, Sony 600TVL Super HAD FPV cam
Video: GoPro 2 on 720p/60
Seems it was common practice to give Ov3rQuad builds a nickname. Because of the black and blue color scheme, I went with “The Bruiser.” Seemed appropriate.
To sum it all up this is a great frame! I highly recommend it. It’s a great frame that flies like you think it should. For further reading, there’s a HUGE thread about this frame over on the OpenPilot Forum. If you’ve heard enough, and you want one for your very own, then order one!
Well I ordered my TBS Discovery back in late July and I finally received it a few weeks ago. The demand for the Disco is so high and it takes a while to get it (at least for me it did). And after I opened the box I realized the reason for the high demand. This frame is VERY well built and thought out. And assembly was very easy too! I had a few screws missing from my order, but a quick email to Trappy at TBS solved that – they’re sending the extra hardware free of charge.
To me, the icing on the cake for this copter would have to be the TBS Core. I’ve always flown 4S and when I got into FPV that posed a slight problem because FPV equipment runs off of 12V or 5V and the 14.8V+ from my 4S LiPo’s would most certainly fry them, so I resorted to running a separate 3S battery. In no way did it ever keep me grounded, but it certainly was a thorn in the side – having to deal with the extra batteries, charging them, dealing with excess weight, another thing to plug in and slap a LiPo alarm to, blah! No thank you. With the Core all I have to do is solder a few jumpers (once) and plug in the battery and GO! AND… I now have OSD (On Screen Display). The Core only informs you of battery voltage, current, mAh used, RSSI, and flight time – and really when you’re flying a multicopter, you don’t need anything else.
Here are my built pictures showing each step I took in assembly. I’m very pleased with this quad and I know its going to be my no. 1 quad for a long, long time.
Alright. This post is really for anyone who is a multicopter pilot, but its focused specifically toward those who fly with the affordable and available DJI arms.
As most of us know, the DJI arms seem to break easily and it’s my opinion that they were designed to break that way. Upon impact with the ground post pilot error or mechanical foul up I’m sure I’m not the only one would would want my most expensive items on board to remain intact while the other cheaper items take the brunt of the asphalt assault. After all, I’d rather my $4 DJI arms take the hit and break off than my $75 TBS Discovery frame!
So, to the point of this post, these arms we are using are not alone when they take a hit, they obviously have motors bolted to them, and most times they contain the ESCs, and sometimes a few other gadgets. Now if you do a Google search for “DJI arms crash” you’ll find several images of broken arms from the result of a crash and nearly 100% of the time the arm will break in 1 of 2 spots.
And as you can see, the leads for the motor have been ripped out – leaving this person with a worthless DJI motor. So what I suggest is to zip-tie those motor leads to the outer most part of the leg and use 3.5mm bullet connectors so in the unlikely event that we’ll crash, that part of the arm will break off, taking the motor and zip-tied leads with it, and “hopefully” the bullet connectors will do their job and allow the leads to slip out once they are pulled on. Illustration:
So, anywho, that’s my little tip. I hope it helps.
With most of the parts finally delivered, my DJI 550 Flame Wheel hex build has begun. There is something very gratifying about having all the necessary components spread out on your work bench before assembly commences. Before I did anything I spent a great amount of time doing research and probably spent more money than I needed to but in my opinion this hex will be made up from “the right stuff”.
The frame is a DJI product and is made from high-quality components. The 550 Flame Wheel is nearly indestructible and based on the way I usually “fly” that feature will surely come in handy.
The ESCs are Hobby King 20 amp UBEC flashed with SimonK firmware and soldered directly to the bottom frame plate. The 550 Flame Wheel bottom plate has circuit board traces built in resulting in tidy wiring. I trimmed the ESC wires to the exact length required in an effort to keep the total weight down and also making for a cleaner appearance. The signal wires are braided wherever possible to avoid unnecessary RF noise which could potentially interfere with control system, video transmission, and GPS module.
Once assembled the frame has very little flex which is an important factor as I will be flying with 6 powerful 900kv 210 watt Tiger Motors. Each of the high-strength polymer arms are held in place by 6 aircraft-quality hex screws. The Dragon Link long-range system which will eventually be installed down the road.
Initially I had purchased six custom made G-10 landing gear legs which bolt directly below the motors without needing to drill any holes. It sure makes the hex mean looking!
The 6 landing gear legs have since been replaced with AeroXCraft’s fantastic DJI 550 landing gear and GoPro gimbal which attaches to the frame using existing holes. This lightweight landing gear is very well designed and allows for super easy CG balancing by sliding the battery carrier and gimbal back and forth on black anodized aluminum rails. Assembly took a couple of hours but I can’t say enough about how clear the included instruction booklet is. This is certainly a well thought out product.
I assembled the AeroXCraft 2-axis camera gimbal with HiTek high-speed metal gear mini-servos. Both axises rotate on flanged bearings and is super smooth. Rubber grommets hold the G-10 gimbal in place on aluminum rail mounts and combined with the foam padded lining on the inside of the camera box, the camera gimbal should dramatically reduce in-flight video “jello”. Again, assembly took some time but the included instruction booklet is excellent.
My mini FPV camera is placed directly above it between the mounting rails.
FPV is transmitted using a 900mHz 500mW transmitter mounted directly below the propeller tip on one of the arms for optimal cooling as video transmitters typically generate a fair amount of heat. To avoid RF interference, an in-line low-pass filter is installed where the antenna comes out of the transmitter.
The 900mHz dipole antenna for video transmission is mounted below the lipo battery carrier keeping it well away from the GPS module, thus reducing the potential for GPS interference.
The on-screen display is handled by an early version of the EasyOSD which is mounted on a different arm. The EasyOSD comes with a small GPS antenna (not plugged in here) which gives compass headings in the display but I haven’t tested it yet to see if it will interfere with the NAZA GPS module.
EasyOSD’s in-line current monitor module is conveniently mounted behind the battery carrier.
The NAZA GPS module comes with upper and lower aluminum mounting brackets and a CF post. There are several ways to assemble the GPS post including epoxy glues and velcro but it is important to retain the ability to rotate the module for slight magnetic declination adjustments based on where on the planet you might find yourself flying. I chose to drill and tap 2 set screw holes in each bracket (top and bottom) which do a great job of holding the CF post in place yet still allows for any adjustments if needed. I mounted the GPS module as far away from the camera gimbal as possible because it is known that GoPro cameras are guilty of being super noisy when it comes to RF interference. At some point in the near future I may look into building a thin copper-clad G-10 lining around the GoPro to shield any potential RF interference leaks.
The all-important NAZA V-SEN unit with built-in BEC and status LED is temporarily mounted on the back of the battery carrier. I intend to mount it in a more unobstructed area where it can easily be viewed from the ground no matter what direction the hex is flying. The V-SEN unit also has a USB port which enables programming by the Assistant Software I installed on a cheap little PC notebook.
And finally, the heartbeat of the beast: the NAZA-M flight controller. It is mounted in the center of the frame as close to the CG as possible. This unfortunately makes access to the ports a bit tedious but with long-nose pliers the job gets done. It certainly is well protected in there!
One of the early flights after the GPS module was installed. The hex did a pretty darn good job at pirouetting during an altitude hold, all without any fine tuning! Needless to say I was pretty impressed. Now for the fun stuff: tweaking! Stay tuned…
Angeles National Forest was the site of our first dedicated copter trip as a team. Vork, Crispy Cargo, Spackletoe and Bandicoot were the participants in what amounted to a weekend that closely resembled a Vince Vaughn movie. But before that, the plan was to go somewhere not too far away, camp quickly and fly a lot. We got a little more than we bargained for. It started on Friday the 13th — more on that in a second. We took off after work in a couple of different cars and went straight into the mountains North of Azusa. It didn’t take long to find a spot to burn through a few batteries: a huge open area with a large paved turn-out on the roadside. This is where we had our first casualty. The plan was since Bandicoot didn’t have a copter of his own, that he’s use one of my old ones that still (barely) flew. The first quad I ever made with a multiwii Paris board in it. Welp, for some reason it decided to flip and crash inverted on the asphalt. Dunzo. Glad I was flying it and not the newest Wild Pilot. Anyway, the rest of us flew there a bit and then we moved on just as it was getting dark. The road we planned on taking over the mountain was closed so we decided to find tent space for the night. Ironically, being Friday the 13th, the place we found was called “Camp Crystal Lake”! We slept there, keeping watch for Mr. Vorhees throughout the night.
The next morning we decided to get up early to check out something we saw on the way up. As luck would have it, there was a grand opening for a 4×4 Rock Crawling OHV area just down the hill! We approached the folks in charge and asked them if they minded us flying overhead a bit to capture the action. They were thrilled with the idea and we spent all morning geeking on giant vehicles and flying. After we did that, we all piled into Vork’s truck and we took some some of that 4×4 terrain. Was a blast and Crispy got some more flying in down there too.
After lunchtime we decided we ‘d better get going to the other side of the mountain to see if we can get in some ski runs. On the way there we saw a spot with these HUGE rocks jutting out of the ground that we all agreed to come back to later (which we did!). Then Vork drove up a hill and accidentally parked on a rattlesnake! After determining it was mortally wounded we had to put it out of it’s misery, it was a tragic comedy as we didn’t really have the tools for that job. After dealing with the serpent, and of course getting some more flying in, we made our way down the road a bit more and found the ski runs. Crispy nearly flew to the bottom of the entire mountain from up top! I was having all kindsa trouble with my copter, so the only thing I did up there was crash. Just before dark, we made our way to the next camp site: a ridge that had amazing views to both the North and the South of us.
We went into town for dinner that night, and on the way back there was a lightning storm! It was crazy looking. We had to stop and take some pics.. so we did.
After sleeping up on the ridge that night, Vork and Bandicoot got up early and flew around another ski run. Vork came up on a deer and got some nice footage of that. We took off and headed back to the giant rocks where the next crazy thing happened. First of all, it was windy, probably too windy to fly, but we seem to be using the “heck we have flashed ESCs, we can fly in any wind!” excuse lately (thanks SimonK!). So I take my misbehaving copter up and fight with it to stay in the air for a battery. Not much usable footage out of that one… but we noticed that there were some falcons living in the rocks that took a liking to the HT-FPV. Next it was Crispy Cargo’s turn. Right out of the gate, he literally throws caution to the wind and dives under a bridge, that was cool.. but it was later in that flight that was the kicker. That falcon came out again and had designs on fighting with his quad! We were all yelling at him telling him the bird was on his tail so he flips a couple times and on the 2nd one shook the pursuer, all while grabbing some great footage of it.
Check out the video for some of the stuff we got over the course of the weekend. The first Wild Pilots field trip was a huge success. I’m sure there will be many more.
Video Music: Personal edit of Skeleton Boy (Zio’s Stellar Extended Remix) by Friendly Fires
A little over a month ago, we were camping up in the San Bernardino Mountains and came upon a HUGE meadow. Turns out it was Bluff Lake Reserve. This place is cool! There’s a big lake, and the meadow has a dense tree-line surrounding it, and even though the wind wasn’t really cooperating, it made for some fun flying. While we were setting up to fly we ran into Evan Welsh, who manages the preserve, and Doug Chudy, one of the summer rangers. We showed them our gear and explained what we were up to and they told us that it was “coolest thing they’ve ever come across someone doing on one of their properties” — needless to say they were excited about the footage. If you’re interested in the area, check out their page on Facebook or their web site. It’s only a short drive through the countryside south of Big Bear Lake.
On Monday night all the Wild Pilots met up at Spackletoe’s garage to help SkidMark get a new quad in the air. This was his first with an OpenPilot Copter Control and since most of us have had good experiences with CC’s and have much faith in it, we figured the night would go smoothly…. which it did! SkidMark was up in the air before long and we were tweaking settings.
Here’s some key ingredients of the quad to be:
Cheapo frame (pretty basic with girl colors that he was teased about constantly) – $26
Hobby King F-20 ESCs (flashed with SimonK’s of course!) – $7 x4
Exceed-RC Optima 400 2215-740Kv $17.15 x4
10×4.5 MultiWiiCopter props – $9.95
OpenPilot CopterControl – $89.95
Power distro – $1.45
Various 3S batteries… I think we were flying 3S/4000’s mostly.
SkidMark lives in Florida, so it was a rare treat to have eveveryone in one place. We need to do that more. While we don’t have any video of the maiden flight (worth showing), here’s some photos of the evening. SkidMark promises to get plenty of footage from this bird in the near future.
This frame should address many of the issues people have with the Discovery, including the tune-ability of an asymmetric frame, and a possible fix to the vibrations that the arms seem to attenuate.
I was saving up for a Discovery frame, but now that I see this post, I’m gonna have to wait at least to see what they are talking about.
And according to Trappy’s post here, again on FPVlab.com, he considers the frame complete and not in need of any modifications or updates. So that tells me that this new prototype is not an updated Discovery frame like I originally assumed, but an entirely new frame design. But who really knows. We’ll just have to wait and see. Here are some more shots of the beautiful TBS Discovery:
Fun outing with the WildPilots. I made sure to keep within the confines of the school’s playground – no need risking a crash into someones backyard!
This was one of my favorite flights so far. Beautiful time of day – Golden Hour! Enjoy.