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Posted by on Sep 24, 2012

Decoding RC Flying

Decoding RC Flying

  There is a lot to learn when you first get into the world of RC (Remote Control, see? It’s started already.) aircraft. Here’s some stuff you’ll come across that will confuse you if you don’t know what it means… General Terms & Abbreviations UAV – Unmanned Aerial Vehicle SUV – Small Unmanned Vehicle FPV – First Person View (Video piloting) FOV – Field of View FPS – Frames per Second RPM – Rotations per Minute ESC – Electronic (sometimes wrongly called Engine) Speed Controller FC – Flight Controller TX /RX – Transmitter / Receiver RTH – Return to Home (Failsafe L2) OSD – On Screen Display LiPo – Lithium Polymer (Battery packs) IMU – Inertial measurement Unit – the sensor used in GPS and gimbal controller systems to detect airspeed, altitude, acceleration, angle and position RC 4-Channel Controls: THROTTLE controls THRUST, which, on a multirotor is  UP / DOWN ELEVATOR controls PITCH, which is FORWARD / BACK RUDDER controls YAW, which is ROTATE LEFT / RIGHT AILERON controls...

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Posted by on Sep 22, 2012

The Epic Heights of Hampshire

The Epic Heights of Hampshire

This particular mission took a bit of planning. I didn’t want to get in the way of public and their dogs or the RC glider club that flies from there, but I did want some video of the epic hills of Hampshire viewed from the highest place I can reasonably get. 3pm yesterday was the perfect time, I had deduced, and indeed there was no wind, only about 3 people and no flyers at all (I had hoped they’d be there on windier days, and perhaps not when there was none). There was a hang glider off the South West face, but I was miles away from him and a lot higher. That is a very impressive mast they have up there. In bigness, if nothing else. It felt a little bit like all my piloting training had to come to this, and I had my own little Olympic ceremony moment, basking in the glory of all that I might achieve etc. I didn’t cry, or thank god, but...

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Posted by on Sep 21, 2012

Mystery Flyings Episode 1

Mystery Flyings Episode 1

For today’s adventure I thought I’d add some excitement in the form of some breaking and entering. Not really. Although it is fair to say they have made a reasonable effort to keep people out, certainly cars, I was able to walk in unobstructed, though mainly because I am quite thin, but was fairly confident the owners would be absolutely fine with it, I was certainly going to do no damage. It could be argued that were accidental damage to happen, then there’s possibly no less harmful place for it to do so, and it’s not going to cost anyone else anything to fix. I had seen the area on Google maps, and was very much looking forward to a close ground flight round a disused limeworks, but Google had let me down, and everything was massively more overgrown and inaccessible, and newly fenced than their satellite photography had led me to believe. I had to miss out all the amazing rusting mining machinery they have dotted around the...

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Posted by on Sep 18, 2012

Drive-By Flyings Episode 4 – Millham’s Copse, Froxfield

Drive-By Flyings Episode 4 – Millham’s Copse, Froxfield

Today we’re at Millham’s Copse, discovered by chance on the road through to Froxfield, Hampshire. Great flyings, and loads of interesting things to see, but I only flew over about a third of them, because I was having to fly eyes-on, not ‘on-board’, due to one slightly forgotten bit of FPV monitor cabling. So I was quite lucky to get the close-ish passes of the spire, as it was quite difficult to guage distances and angles from my position in the field opposite. Tried a low angle of about 60 degrees for one flight, which I think always looks good over trees. Hellos to Caroline & Anne (apologies if no ‘E’) who joined us for one of my 4 flights, and seemed very interested to know all about the quad. Music today harmlessly borrowed from Dream Theater, with their 2007 remix of ‘Another Day’. I must confess I’m mainly in it for the guitar solo and sax work. On reflection this might be my worst choice of music yet....

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Posted by on Sep 17, 2012

Wind Chasing Episode 1

Wind Chasing Episode 1

Although I very much got into quadcopters for the aerial photography aspects of it, it has been a revelation to me just how much fun, and what an exciting experience it is to pilot a multi-rotor. With FPV (First person view) of what the craft is seeing on my video headset, it is the closest feeling you can get (with zero pilot risk) to flying as ‘free as a bird’. Despite all the clever technology I employ to provide the smoothest, easiest, safest flying possible, sometimes it is fun to just turn all that off, and practice your piloting skills by ascending into some reasonable level wind, and fighting your way round a location for nothing more than the sheer fun of it. It is in these situations that I tend to abandon the smooth cinematic moves I am aiming for most of the time, and it becomes more about speed, judgement, decision-making and calculated risk. The fun stuff essentially. I have several of these ‘training grounds’ at my...

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Posted by on Sep 15, 2012

Terminal Velocity

Terminal Velocity

Always good to show the bad bits as well as the good. This is what happens when of one of your props falls off, as viewed by the onboard cam. Lessons learned, threadlock applied, and no probs since. GoPro, as ever, manfully records everything, and sustains no damage itself....

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Posted by on Sep 15, 2012

Introducing Discovery 1.1

Introducing Discovery 1.1

In the beginning there was AC1 Discovery v1.0. then we had a crash, and a repair upgrade, and v 1.1 was born. AC1 – Discovery Version 1.0 DJI F450 Frame DJI 30 A ESC DJI 920KV Motors DJI 10″ props DJI Naza Flight Controller + GPS upgrade Camflyer FPV Video (stock antennas) 5.8GHz GoPro 2 HD Hero TPPacks Isolation Cam Mount / Landing Gear Walkera Devo 10 / RX-1002 TX / RX  2.4 GHz 2 x 2200 mAH Li-Po Battery packs AC1  -Discovery Version 1.1 Replaced 2 new frame arms, and lower board after crash DJI props in bin. Graupner 10 x 5 (8mm Bore) fitted + threadlock Added LED Navigation Light Kit Swapped standard video antenna for Cloverleaf / Skew-planar type (massively extended range) Replaced 2 x 2200 batteries with 4 x 3300, and 1 x 3900 Added programmable message board for public flying Added forward pointing Strobe Position Indicator Added permanent mount Voltage Alarm New Battery Cradle straps    ...

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Posted by on Sep 14, 2012

AC1 Discovery Gets An Upgrade…

AC1 Discovery Gets An Upgrade…

The DJI Naza-M flight controller does a damn fine job of keeping my quad upright, and fighting the most piercing of winds to remain where I put it in the sky. My TPPacks camera mount does an admirable job of eliminating ‘jello effects’, which are video artefacts caused by the vibrations of the 4 rotors. But all my footage to date lacks that real sense of professional smoothness I am aiming for. No matter how smoothly I fly, I just can’t get rid of the movements and wobbles caused by fighting the wind, and flight controller stabilisation. To do that, I need a camera gimbal, like this one.   This will absorb the majority of smaller shakes and bounces that flight generates, and assuming my flying continues to get smoother and less ‘flingy’, then we should be on the road to broadcast quality video. Of course if you have a gimbal like that, you have to also have some landing gear so it can mount to the quad properly…...

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Posted by on Sep 14, 2012

Turbulence at Ground Zero

Turbulence at Ground Zero

And so we return to the field in which I first flew my crappy little spycopter all those months ago when I first realised that flying stuff was brilliant… The cat had agreed to spot for me if I poached her a fillet of Salmon afterwards.  So together we went back to ground zero so we could test the new GoProLens circular polariser that arrived today. It’s not a fair test, as a) this is not the extra bright middle of the day, when the filter is meant to be optimal, b) there aren’t many reflective surfaces with which to judge if it’s working, and c) it has to be installed at the correct angle to work, and there didn’t seem to be any reliable way of guaranteeing that mine was in the right way up. I’m guessing it IS the right way up, as most of the video is too dark :) As soon as I got in the air and attained some resonable height the wind came...

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Posted by on Sep 14, 2012

Tide Lines and Sandcastles

Tide Lines and Sandcastles

Just got back from what can loosely be descibed as ‘work’ over on the Island of Jersey, where I was playing a client’s wedding. Took my faithful quad with me in case opportunity should present itself whilst I was there… On the Saturday we had a day free, so straight down the beach for four or five 8 min flights, and we can all admire the beautiful coastline of St Helier. I thought that would be my flyings over, but no ! We had a couple of hours the morning after the gig too, so we took the coast road to Gorey, where they’ve got a suitably excellent castle. They’ve chosen to call it Gorey Castle. It lies on a very steep cliff top with densely populated town on one side, sea on the other, and jagged rocks everywhere. It is what I would describe as a ‘level 3 flying challenge’, that is to say fairly bloody dangerous and high risk of ‘money intensive’ damage or even losing craft...

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Posted by on Sep 14, 2012

Skate Park – Episode 1

Skate Park – Episode 1

…in which I venture out into the world of people, and hover stuff around them while they do whatever they are doing. In this case, it’s Petersfield Skate Park, and the thing they’re doing involves BMX’s. They are quite fearless those guys, I was not expecting them to jump so high and willingly towards the spinning blades of death. As this was a bit of a spontaneous mission (previously planned Devil’s Punchbowl AP mission aborted for various reasons) I hadn’t thought through any action camera moves, so it’s all a bit random for now, but they seem like a decent bunch of kids, so will probably go back there and do it properly, and then do a really good edit, not the sort of rushed out effort you’ve got here because I have to leave the country in 8 hours. But I wanted to get something up from tonight’s flyings so here it is. Some good high bits over Petersfield as well, but it was windier up there than...

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Posted by on Sep 14, 2012

Big Blue Sea

Big Blue Sea

Lovely as fields and trees are, you can have enough of them sometimes and on occasions I yearn to do my flyings nearer something a bit different, a bit more challenging and with  colours other than green. So taking one of those rare British weather opportunities in which the sun remains out for longer than 4 minutes, myself and Special Assistant M went to Hayling Island to see what was going on down there. Pretty good views, and a lot of water was the answer. Lots of sea and a big lake. People and dogs and curious children and fairly epic 30mph gusting wind. No ice cream, but no wasps either, so swings and roundabouts etc… All started well. Began with the epic heights and got some good panoramics of the harbour and all the little boats… A while later I was having maximum FPV fun when I went for a steep descent round the back of an embankment, and lost FPV for a few crucial seconds in which...

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Posted by on Sep 14, 2012

The View From Above

The View From Above

We’re at the hilariously named ‘Devil’s Punchbowl’ today. It only looks very slightly like a bowl, and there is nothing to indicate that any sort of alcoholic party drink has ever filled it, or that the Devil owns it (or exists). There’d be more thorns and fire and wasps, wouldn’t there ? Not lovely trees and greenery. Oh well. Didn’t do very good flyings on both trips I took to film for some reason. Sun was in my eyes a lot for the dawn flight, and I lacked a decent plan for the afternoon too, so apologies that these shots are all a bit disjointed and random. We had Special Assistant M on spotting duties, and ultraStu doing safety, commentary and occasional filming on his Galaxy S3. Drew quite a crowd in the afternoon – everyone seemed very interested in seeing it fly, and they were all very nice. I will go back and do this again – I think it could be filmed a lot better, and not...

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Posted by on Sep 14, 2012

High Times

High Times

I’ve been saving a few bits of video from the last week’s flights, as I’ve been pushing new boundaries in the height department on occasions. So here we fly as high as I dare (highest so far at the end) in a variety of places, and you can all admire the views thanks to my thoughtfulness, a TPPacks isolation cam mount from the US and the GoPro2 Hero, which certainly lives up to its name. How high is ‘high’ though. No idea. I’ll have to wait til I get an OSD to know anything like exactly…so for now I guage relative height with the amount of seconds at which I give the craft maximum elevation. The quarry one was 40 seconds, and I guestimate the quad climbs 5m/sec at full whack with the load I’m giving it, so that’s about 200m or 600 ft. But it feels higher than that, so will be interesting to see. Annoyingly my flight controller contains an altimeter but only for its own purposes,...

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Posted by on Sep 14, 2012

Drive-by Flyings Episode 2

Drive-by Flyings Episode 2

I’ve been out doing the drive-by flyings again, where you literally get all your quad gear and lots of batteries, jump in a car with google maps on your phone, and go find yourself some new flying ground by driving about until some appears. Today’s random fields and bits of woodland are mainly around the Rogate / Liss area. We’re mainly quad-walking in this one, or doing the nice low FPV field flying, as I’m saving all the epic panoramas for another vid. Music this time kindly ‘donated’ by Linkin Park, and it is my hope you can forgive their hilarious self-obsessed whining youth lyrics and just enjoy the decent groove and ridiculous guitar sound. Thanks to ‘Bagman’ Stu (his own suggestion), who took some excellent footage on his excellent phone. We needn’t concern ourselves that Chester Bennington apparently isn’t sure what’s real, can’t justify the way people are looking at him, or falls over whenever he’s confused, which is...

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Posted by on Sep 14, 2012

Dawn and Dusk

Dawn and Dusk

Got up early (by which I mean ‘remained up’) long enough to be at the peak of Butser Hill by 6 am. It was absolutely covered in mist, and you couldn’t see anything, so I waited half a hour for it to clear, which it didn’t, and so I moved down to the lower fields, under the mist… Much fun to be had trying to keep horses in frame, and trying not to worry sheep, and then a nice climb to the cloud layer where everything goes surreal and drifty for a bit. Then, later we’re back nearer home for the second golden hour of the day, and trying out our new antenna combo with some FPV tree skimming. I miss the GoPro2’s wide angle, but it annoys me that there is no way to get the legs out of shot if I use it. I’d hoped angling it right down might solve that, but no – it really is VERY wide angle. Will do more with the (almost)...

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Posted by on Sep 14, 2012

Waverley Abbey

Waverley Abbey

Hooray etc ! It’s my first video where I’m not massively embarassed by the piloting. Was making a bit more of an effort to try cinematic stylee moves. Had a great time today at Waverley, and no crash action despite taking more risks than usual. Even flew down the river for a bit, but didn’t have time to get it in this vid. GPS assistance disappeared whenever I went into the ruined buildings, so that was all additional fun. Nice panorama at the end; you can never have enough of...

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Posted by on Sep 13, 2012

Drive-by Flying Episode 1

Drive-by Flying Episode 1

Whilst yesterday’s flyings were all about the safety and the views, today’s is all about ragging it round a random field. Today’s random field was somewhere in Liss, apparently near the A3 which I didn’t know until I looked at the footage… Now I know why everyone flies in corn fields. Crashed mine at speed (but not height) and corn absorbed all shock, and quad was undamaged and back in the air straight away… Music today contributed by up-and-coming light lounge trio...

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Posted by on Sep 13, 2012

Petersfield Cricket Ground Aerial Panoramic

Petersfield Cricket Ground Aerial Panoramic

‘The Only Way Is Up’ warned 80’s pretend musicians Yazz and the Plastic Population in their horrible song of the same name. But I mean ‘up’ as in the sky, and it’s not the only way. Sometimes I am painfully reminded that there is ‘down’ too. But not today. Today it’s up all the way… As I didn’t have any spare friends this evening, I thought I’d try a solo height challenge and some ‘quad-walking’. This video is about the first bit of that. Deliberately chose launch sites right in the middle of trees, so that I become comfortable working very close to them, and become less paranoid that I will lodge my quadcopter in one, as happened with my original RC helicopter several hundred times. But a quadcopter, especially my one, with its GPS / Naza Flight Controller, is not a little toy heli, and it has the sort of power and control that makes the fear of trees entirely unnecessary. Yes I don’t want to fly into...

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