Testing the Typhoon H
Here are my thoughts on the first sessions with the Typhoon H. Hopefully not only is this a record of the flights for me but might be useful to other pilots about to fly the H for the first time.
Large open space with nobody in it…
(OK, 2 people and a dog in it, but even so…)
When you get a new flying machine, and have done all its updates and hardware checks, the only thing remaining to be done is to get out there, fly it and learn its systems and responses. Being a pilot of some reasonable experience I know that this is best done far away from other people, so I have a selection of local ‘test grounds’, where I have permission to fly, and if I go early or late enough in the day the chances of encountering other people is very slim. All those are cricket pitches in my case, which are very good flying environments (when there isn’t a match on!) because of their nice short grass, lack of obstacles and big clear spaces. In my case, the only downside to these flight grounds is dog walkers (and only then if dogs are off leads), and I try and go when there are fewest of them.
The first session went very well considering; I did all my calibrations, and successfully took to the air so I could begin to learn how it responds to control input. Although i immediately felt the need to adjust all the rates up, I had no real problems at all, except a little drifting at landing, which on 2 occasions resulted in a near flip of the hex, and a small amount of ground contact for the props, and resultant juddering caused the gimbal to dismount from 3 of its rubber dampers. A small price to pay for a lesson well learned. Know your landing options !
So at the end of session 1 I had the following things to sort out and think about…
I had Special Assistant Andy with me for this flight, and he really has the knack of getting those rubber dampers back in the holes that I don’t (though I have since found a different way involving dental floss ), so was glad I had him around to sort that out. No problems from that since, probably because every landing since has been flawless or hand-held. The Gimbal is a big part of what makes this hex great – it is utterly independent of the craft, and its infinite 360 rotation is a pilots best friend. Awesome bit of kit.
The Typhoon H is beginning to feel quite comfortable in my hands, but felt a little odd initially, presumably because of the wide controller surface. After the first session I decided I didn’t like the RUDDER rate, which was far too slow, and found both ELEVATOR and AILERON to be a bit twitchy around the centre-line, so sorted both those out by setting some different rates on the controller. But the sticks themselves, and indeed all the other controls on the ST-16 are superb, smooth, positive, grippy and very well engineered, as is everything about this craft.
Also did some forum research and discovered how to either avoid or completely circumvent the ‘drift-on-landing’ problems I had before. If drifting when close to ground, first thing to try is jumping straight up to about 30 feet and release both sticks. In most cases, that will stabilize the craft, and a slow downward (ultimately to a sustained minimum level) movement on throttle should then bring it down in a dead straight, non-wavering way, with little to no bouncing when it touches down. If that doesn’t work, and there is still drift when closing, then abandon the attempt, raise to 7 ft and hand-catch.
All the videos I have seen on this suggest catching the H by grabbing some part of its landing gear. I vote don’t do that, because even though it can take it and is very strong, it does place the whole weight of the machine on the joint which is not ideal, and there is some possibility of the craft twisting in your hand if you don’t exactly grab the T-junction part, and possibly a little even if you do ! Instead I will be catching mine in a top / bottom pincer movement from the back, holding on to the whole back-side of the craft, so it can’t twist or move whatever the props do while you are turning them off. No stress on the landing gear system, no unpredictable movements, and, presuming you keep the craft high, and raise your hand from below, nowhere near props.
So far the GPS has been good on every day I have flown, and I have experienced no losses of that whilst in the air, and only one whilst grounded. Generally the craft finds about 20 satellites and the ST-16 controller gets a few less for some reason. Apparently take-off is safe if both have 9+ satellites, but I have always had roughly double that, so haven’t been worried. That does not stop me being prepared for GPS to disappear at any time, and occasionally I will turn GPS off just to practice angle mode flying without it, which will help me if the worst ever happens…
Return to Home
Another feature we test early-on is the RTH, in this case ‘Home’, a flight mode all to itself under the Angle mode switch position. Just flick that down, and your craft will jump up to the level you set earlier (I have mine at 100 ft), rotate so it faces the pilot, fly back to you at the maximum speed it can, rotate itself so its back end faces pilot (helpful !) then waits for you to cancel, and if you don’t slowly descends, dropping its own landing gear, and turning off its own motors when it has landed. Full marks from me for this system, which has worked perfectly on the 3 times I have tried it.
Note: Always check you have GPS lock (solid purple+ white blinks) before initiating RTH / Home Mode. If you do this without that, it will go very wrong.
These are a great addition to the craft, and smart with it. If you try a descent without the landing gear down the UAV will stop descending at 10 meters no matter what you do with the throttle until you remember to put the landing gear down, at which point it will let you continue !
Fast Bleeps Craft Connect Error
Once I turned the UAV on only for it to do red lights and constant beeps. Forum research revealed that this is what happens when the controller has a switch in an unexpected position, usually Flight mode or Landing Gear, so check those, wiggle the sticks and reboot. Mine was fine after that and it hasn’t happened since.
Things that click…
Batteries double-click into place very positively, and I have no worries so far that one will ever detach in flight. Likewise props go on with the same reassuring click-to-lock sound. 5 of my rotor arms do the same when rotated upwards into position. The 6th doesn’t for some reason, but it is easy enough to check it has locked into place, and does lock fine, click or not !
Most of the pre-flight time involved is in setting up the camera to produce Pro-level shots. Whereas the competition largely does this out-of-the-box, we have to work a little harder, but can get awesome results from this camera if we do. So at the start of each flight I need to (bump the d-pad, which resets cam settings for some reason) set White Balance to Auto, point at a white or grey surface (or less ideally the ground or the sky) then lock it, change Exposure to Auto, then Manual / adjust ISO / Shutter Speed to lock that too. We then have to choose Natural image mode, turn sound recording on (if we want that for diagnostic purposes later), and lastly set the metering to Spot, Average, or Centered. If I had one complaint about the H it would be that none of this is remembered by controller or camera, so has to be done before every flight. I will get quicker at this, and less worried about doing it in mid-air, so it should bother me less as time goes on.
With the latest software (Oct 2017), the D-pads do VERY cool things now, which is great, because before that they didn’t do anything at all. Now, the left one does WB mode (left-right) and EV compensation (up-down), but even more helpful is the cruise control on the right D-pad. Now we can have ELEVATOR and AILERON movement (forward, back, left, right) in incremental clicks, which is a stunningly predictable way of achieving exactly even forward flight for tracking shots that would be very hard to achieve with sticks alone. This leaves us free to do manual camera pans. Also great for positioning the craft exactly over something, when that is useful.
The tablet in the ST-16 is not quite as bright as I’d hope, but isn’t bad at all. The superbly designed included sun shield helps that a lot, and in most conditions you can clearly see what is what. Slightly harder to film the screen, so may have to get either a chest mount for the GoPro or a media recorder to get the HDMI output directly.
I am taking things fairly slow, both in the air and generally, so have not yet explored any of the following:
- Curved Cable Cam
- Follow me (could be used to great effect with my Gotway wheel!)
- Orbit / Point of interest
- Journey Mode
- Smart mode
- Obstacle Avoidance
- The Wizard !
I will get to these things in good time, which should keep the length of this post more reasonable.
More flyings, and the first of the videos very soon !