DIY Black Forest QuadCopter

So I decided to build a QuadCopter. Sure I could’ve gone to HobbyKing and bought a DJI Flame wheel for all of $12, but where’s the fun in that? Instead I’ve been a reader of the FliteTest blog for a while and came across some pretty simple plans for a folding Quadcopter: The Black Forest Quad.
Black Forest Quadcopter

I’m also a big fan of the whole DIY aspect of the RC hobby so this fit right in. The guy’s build in flite test is way cleaner than my own, but it still get’s the job done. I’m using the HobbyKing KK2.0 flight controller currently with this guy. I’d like to upgrade to a better board with GPS and more programmable features (MultiWii Pro), but I just want to get the hang of things first with the KK2.0.

First flights went pretty well, It took a little tuning with the PI controller (Who’d think the most boring subject from Engineering school is actually very practical and useful). I took it out to a bigger field to really test it out, it has a TON of power. A little too much in fact, I gunned it one time and the controller thought something else was happening than the quad going straight up and the thing flipped and crashed (woo first crash!).

Part List:
Q Brain 4 x 20A Brushless Quadcopter ESC 2-4S 3A SBEC
ZIPPY Flightmax 2000mAh 3S1P 45C
4 x Turnigy D2836/11 750KV Brushless Outrunner Motor
Hobbyking KK2.0 Multi-rotor LCD Flight Control Board
1045 Slow Fly Electric Props (10″ x 4.5 deg)
1/8″ Plywood for frame
3/8″ Wood Spars for Arms
M4 Bolts and Nuts all around

And that’s really all there is to it. Total cost was around $130 or so. The arms and props are pretty break pretty easily by design. Those things will break, they’re cheap and easy to replace and save the more critical components. I still need to make a better mount for the receiver, protection for the board, and a few small other things. Eventually I’d like to mount a camera and FPV gear once I start getting things dialed in.

IMG_2447 IMG_2407 Nice DIY Folding Quadcopter Four 750kV Brushless motors

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Beginning of FPV Flight

I’m getting back into RC aircraft. There has been a big shift in the recent years to much more durable, powerful, and generally robust aircraft. It’s also getting cheaper to do things such as GPS guided auto-pilot and FPV (first person view, same as POV but much less internet content to contest with). I’m mainly interested in FPV with some applications with bike racing. Here’s some playing around with a foam aircraft called the Bixler:

 

HobbyKing Bixler 1.1 FPV setup

My FPV setup for the Bixler 1.1 from HobbyKing

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Amazon Drone Delivery is Vaporware!

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos let on that they’re looking to start delivery by Amazon Drones in the near future.

This is a very cool, futuristic idea. However there are a few problems that get simply skirted over:

GPS signal commonly fails in Cities

Large cities have very crowded radio frequencies, not to mention all the interference with the signals bouncing off buildings. This can be remedied with improved antenna, but it is not a perfect solution.

GPS does not account for buildings.

Even if you have a VERY accurate GPS system to match the user locations, GPS does not know necessarily where building, or other interference may be. He claimed it would be great for city delivery, but think about the process of dropping a package off on a porch, there’s typically no direct vertical path to a porch. A drone would have to drop down from altitude, navigate below obstacles (like a roof) in order to drop off the package.

It would probably require a Pilot

One way around the variability of where the package is delivered is to have a Drone pilot. The US drone fleet for instance uses pilots for many tasks including takeoff and landing (although fully autonomous systems are being used). You could have an autopilot system, but that would require a whole host of sensors and processors, significantly reducing the range of the Drone.

I the technical problems of automating a drone like this is on the same order of having a self driving car. There is the technology out there, but it is currently too heavy for small drones. Bottom line is the delivery area and method is HUGELY variable.

A 10 mile range is dreaming with current technology

Given this is a few years off with the FAA 2015 thing, but at current rate, flight times for quadcopters of this size, especially large Hexa- and Octacopter drones are currently only 30 minutes maximum. 10 Miles (which is 20 round trip) is going to require a much larger battery capacity, especially with a 10 pound payload (copters are very sensitive to weight).

Not to mention your delivery area would be influenced by local wind conditions.

Not to say it’s not doable, but the Amazon Drones would require some pretty big advancements in sensor weight and battery technology before it’s viable.

The 2015 FAA Drone Rules are not yet Known

It is still a huge unknown. Currently drones are technically limited to a 400 ft max altitude and must be flown by line of sight. Once 2015 hits it’s not that it will be drone free for all. The FAA at this point only has an IDEA what it needs to figure out how to regulate drones. Knowing the FAA there’s going to be a whole host of not only airworthy requirements for drones, but Sense and Avoid systems, secured communication hardware, battery redundancy, and flight traffic integration requirements that are not yet known.

Basically the FAA could sink the Amazon Drone system before it even gets off the ground.

 

Drones will at some point come into our every day lives, the advances in battery technology, sensors and flight controllers are seeing to that. But it’s not as simple of a problem as Bezos makes it seem.

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