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Cablecam and Ronin gimbal with one Futaba14SG

Recently A friend of mine bought a cablecam in order to use it with Ronin MX and he called me to complain about a problem that as I have learned most of the people using cablecams and Ronin gimbals have, they have to use two remotes, one for the cablecam and another one for the Ronin gimbal and they have to either use the cablecam with two operators or they need a table to lay down the remotes and work simultaneously on both of them like some sort of DJ 🙂

I have tried searching on google for solution but only found forum posts of users complaining that it is impossible task.

He bought the cable cam from ROTTOR TEAM website and received a FlySky FS-I6S transmitter with it, he had the RoninMX and a Connex full HD video downlink. Also, he owns a Futaba 14SG that he uses on a big X8 heavy lifter quadcopter. So I had three different remotes to work with and find a way to use only one transmitter.

Futaba 14sg transmitter with R7008SB receiver

I have started with the one that comes with the Ronin MX gimbal, I thought that it will be easier to add the two channels from the cablecam to the remote since there were plenty of spare channels. I was hoping that DJI may have done something similar to the  feature on the A2 flight controller where you can have multifunction PWM output channels F1-F4. Unfortunately, there are none (DJI please) and there is no way to map the spare channels on the remote to something useful.

I have continued reading the Ronin manual and there was part explaining that you may use custom remote that supports SBUS, so I said to myself, OK, fine I can try with the Futaba and R70008SB and maybe pair 2 similar receivers with the remote, one for the Ronin and another one for the cablecam, but I had only one receiver and there was no time to order and wait for the other one.
I have managed to connect the R70008SB on the D Bus port on the gimbal and control the gimbal with the Futaba on 12CH Mode but I had to find another solution.

Connex HD video linkThen I have remembered reading that you may use the Connex along with the Futaba to control the gimbal, without the need of an additional receiver. Here is a tutorial that explains how to connect and use the Futaba to control the Ronin gimbal.

I have gone trough the steps on the video and I had the Futaba control the Ronin in no time by using the training port, so one part of the problem was solved. Now I have had one R70008SB that was bound to the Futaba in 14CH Mode and I have plugged in the two channels from the cablecam into it taking care that I use the throttle channel 3 for cablecam movement and channel 5 for the cablecam limits since the only the throttle channel wasn’t used for gimbal control. After that I have powered the cablecam and voila, everything was working.

As I’m writing this article the cablecam is used on a local pop star concert, I have been there for a while in order to make sure that everything is working as it should.

Let me know if this article had helped you in any way and if you have any additional questions.

 

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Revo F4 from BangGood.com – firmware update, wiring and configuration

Yesterday I have received the long awaited Revo F4 flight controller board from BangGood, also known as Flip32 F4 and Flip F4. I have ordered it to replace the old Naze32 board that I was using for the past 2 years.

Bang Good revo f4 review ratingIt is the cheapest board on the market and judging by the reviews on Bang Good it seems that there are no complaints about the quality, so I have decided to order it and give it a try.

There is no wiring diagram or manual, only small relatively understandable lettering on the back side and it, so I have done some searching and found that Ready to Fly Quads offers the same board for the same price, the only difference is that they have better description and more pictures of the board and also a detailed wiring description.

My board came with Betaflight 3.0.0 so before starting to configure it I have updated it to 3.0.1
The firmware flashing procedure is relatively simple, hold boot button, connect the board to usb and it should display DFU instead of COM port on the right corner of the Betaflight configurator, if not you should use Zadig in order to update the STM32 drivers. Please refer to this youtube video for the whole process of updating the firmware.

revo f4 wiringI have created the layout diagram on the right for anyone having problems understanding the existing diagrams that could be found on other websites. This is a bare minimum for my setup, no led control or current sensing only SBUS, motor connections, buzzer, VBAT, telemetry and powering the board from the motors rail (PWR).
I’m using X4R SB receiver that is soldered directly to the SBUS, no need for hacking into the receiver in order to get an uninverted signal. The board is powered with 5v from my PDB. VBAT gets the voltage directly from the main battery connector cables.
And I’m using UART3 TX port to send telemetry data to my X4R SB receiver, one important thing to note is that you cannot just plug the telemetry wire from X4R on to the UART3 TX port since it will not work. You should follow the instructions found here (X4R-SB solution is at the bottom of the page) and solder the wire on the SOT23 transistor leg. If you need the technical aspects there is a really good explanation on the link above or you can just find the transistor and solder the wire on the specified leg.

My board came with MSP enabled on UART1, you should disable that and enable Serial RX in order to enable SBUS working  with X4R.
And if you feel lazy and if you aren’t sure if you are setting the board right, here is a dump of all settings that should work with the wiring diagram that I have provided. Stock pids, stock filtering, nothing changed except the rates but you can reset them to defaults.

Let me know if you need any further help or if this blog post had helped you.

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The lucky owner of the Revo F4 flight controller is my modified QAV-R that had the top and bottom plates broken in a crash so I have had to convert it to nearly true X. Hardly waiting to have some more time to take it out on a test flight.

 

365

365 photo project with aerial twist

It has been a while since I have posted something here. Probably because I was waiting for something important or maybe because I have spent much more time with my family and outside than by my computer.

There are few other blog posts that I plan to write in near future like the one for my relatively new stone balancing hobby and pottentionally some reviews of the equipment that I’m using for this project.

For the past 9 days I have posted one aerial photo per day on Instagram, so yesterday I have decided to start a 365 project but done only with aerial photos. For those that need an explanation, it is a photography project that requires you to take a photo a day for a whole year. It will be an interesting challenge to go out and take an aerial photo almost every day with exception of the days when it will rain or snow. For such days I will have to have a backup solution, either an aerial photo taken another day or I will use that day for checking the equipment and have a picture of that. Since this is a big commitment I will start with 30 days first and see where will that take me. I would be glad to hear your thoughts.

Here is one photo that I took today, not so good weather but I will have to work with what I have

Skupi archaeological site

Scupi is an archaeological site located between Zajčev Rid (Зајчев Рид ‘Rabbit Hill’) and the Vardar River, several kilometers from the center of Skopje, in the Republic of Macedonia. A Roman military camp was founded here in the second century BC on the site of an older Dardanian settlement.

All photos are shot with GoPro 3 strapped on my QAV210 freestyle mini quad (drone). There is no gimbal and no GPS positioning so it requires some patience and a bit of circling in order to frame the perfect shot.


I certainly hope that at some point in time I would manage to get some sponsors that will help me replace some of the old parts on my quadcopter.

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Feel free to visit my Instagram profile here and check my progress.

 

DJI A2 Flight controller

Downgrade A2 from 2.7 to 2.1 – GPS pro / GPS pro plus problem

Why would I need to downgrade A2?
It seems that DJI had forgotten that not all their customers that use DJI A2 FC have the latest GPS pro plus module

DJI A2 Flight controller

Recently I have encountered a problem after upgrading DJI A2 to the latest 2.7 firmware. The GPS pro module started acting and I wasn’t able to arm my multicopter.

After doing some research I have found that this is a well-known problem because the latest firmware requires you to have GPS pro plus module and it cannot work with the regular GPS module that came with the A2 when it was bought.

You should downgrade A2 in order to continue using the pro gps module

So you would say, that is easy, just downgrade and everything is back to normal.
That could be done if are keeping previous versions of the Assistant software so you could uninstall the latest and install the one that is compatible with the required firmware.
Unfortunately if you try to find previous firmware versions on the DJI website, there aren’t any. You could only download the latest one. So there is no way to downgrade A2 unless you have an older version of the Assistant software.
I have started searching for an older version of the Assistant software in order to do downgrade A2 and after an extensive search, I have found a link to download the 2.1 firmware – http://download.dji-innovations.com/downloads/a2/A2_1.2_Installer.zip

After the installation, all went back to normal, but I started wondering if I’m forced to use 1.2 version or the link could work for the other firmware version, just by changing one number in the filename. It turned out that all other versions are there,and you can downgrade A2 to any firmware you want, just replace the number 2 in the link with the required version http://download.dji-innovations.com/downloads/a2/A2_1.[enter your number here no brakets]_Installer.zip

Just in case DJI decides to remove the previous versions from their server, I have uploaded the file on 4Shared

 

Saving for P4

Saving for Phantom 4 Phantom 4 Pro

After watching every available youtube video review and some of the early video shots that were taken with Phantom 4, I have decided that it is time to ditch the ideas of DIY multicopter that could carry Sony Nex sized camera and start spending some money to buy myself a P4.

I own a 650 sized quadcopter that could carry a mirrorless camera, but so far I have been using it with GoPro and Zenmuse H3-3D gimbal. Although I get near 30 minutes of flight with it, I have found that it is too bulky to carry it on shoots and almost impossible to take it with me on a hike because of the weight and bulkiness. I could have made it more portable if I have used folding arms, but nothing justifies the weight of the LiPos (1350 grams per battery), so I was stuck somewhere in the middle of decision whether to invest and buy gimbal and mirrorless camera like Sony A6000 or A6300 or go with the Phantom 3 Advanced (P4 was not out yet), since the camera + gimbal equals or it will be higher for A6300 than the price of P3A.

Tarot 650 Sport could not even compare it to Phantom 4 internals

It was a hard decision because I really like the way this quadcopter flies, but in the end, I have concluded that the features, portability, and the camera photo and video quality outweigh the quality  of the pictures that I will get by using A6000 or A6300.
That’s why I have decided to sell this rig and some of the equipment that I wasn’t using so I can have enough hobby funds to buy Phantom 4 which at this moment isn’t available here in Macedonia, but it will be, by the time I collect enough money 🙂

Phantom4 internals

Image from http://drone.farm/consumer-drones-its-all-about-integration/

One thing that makes me a bit uncomfortable after 4 years of making DIY multicopters is the way DJI had integrated everything on one central board. If something fails, there are no spare electronic parts but the whole board must be replaced and that is not cheap. Also, the markings on most of the electronic parts are stripped so you have no clue about the part that needs to be replaced.

Saving for P4

1/4 of the funds collected so far. Sold my old GoPro Hero 3 black and already had some funds from an aerial job that I have done two weeks ago, so far so good 🙂

LS210

Lisam 210 (QAV210 clone)

I have bought this frame for another build, but while I was waiting for the parts for the new build to arrive I have decided to migrate from ZMR250 to this one.

Work in progress

Fairly fast switch since I have had everything ready, only some wire shortening and some soldering.

Scale comparison

Here is a quick comparison that I have done while I was trying to decide how to set this build. I have ended with the Mobius version and 509 grams, since I have added a mobius 30 degree wedge

LS210

I have tried this build Mobius and it felt really punchy on 3S and since the motors are closer to the center of the frame it is much more responsive with same RC rates as on the ZMR250. There are no vibrations visible in the recorded video and that is an improvement over the previous frame.

 

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Naze32 and X8R using SBUS and SmartPort telemetry (Rev5 and older)

Eagerly waiting to finish charging my last pack, I have had everything packed and ready to go out and fly. Unfortunately as soon as the pack was charged it started raining, so since I have already planned to have a rest break I have decided to switch from PPM to SBUS.
Ever since reading this great article on PPM vs SBUS,  I have been thinking of jumping on the SBUS wagon.
I have had a spare X8R to do the job and I have been a bit doubtful if the Naze32 X8R combination will work, especially that I haven’t had the SBUS signal inverter.

Naze32 X8R uninverted signal wire

So after doing some research, I have found here and here  that it is possible to get the uninverted signal from X8R and X4R SB by accessing the second pad from the left on X8R and “A” pad on X4R SB.

I have soldered the signal wire on the second pad and connected it to channel 4 on the Naze32, then I have followed the Oscar Liang’s instructions and everything worked great.

Next, Smart-Port

Naze32 SmartPort channel 5 and 6 soldered

I have soldered channel 5 and 6 on the Naze32 by putting a blob of solder and signal wire between them and connected the wire in the Smart Port signal port.

After updating the Naze32 settings and powering up the transmitter and my mini quad I was disappointed when I have heard the battery voltage reading zero volts 🙁 but I have continued reading and found that the voltage is now referred as Vfas, so I have changed that and still nothing. I have continued reading trough the comments and got lucky, there was a comment from a user named Scoobler that suggested disconnecting the USB, power cycle the transmitter and mini quad and that solved the issue.

Naze32 X8R telemetry screen on the Taranis.

Taranis telemetry screen. You could even read the accelerometer data (AccX and AccY)

Since X8R has those big plastic thingies on the end of the antennas, I had to find a way to secure them to the frame, so I searched for 3D printed holder on Thingiverse and found the appropriate 3D model

FrySky Taranis X8R Antenna Mount

And after 40 minutes with layer height of 0.1mm, the part was finished.

Now the only thing left to do is assemble and tidy up the miniquad and wait for some appropriate weather so I could test it.

ZMR250 and Taranis with Naze32 X8R

ZMR250 with D4R II

D4R II range problems, acting all of a sudden

Today, I have had some spare time and I have decided to go and fly few battery packs on my favorite spot.
Everything seemed OK while I was flying the first pack and when I started the second after a minute or so my Taranis started blabbering telemetry lost/recovered. I have landed and checked all connections, antennas the D4R II receiver and so on but everything seemed to be in order.

Well, that was odd, but I have decided to continue flying since I have wasted only one pack. I have continued flying and ignored the warnings up till a moment when I have lost signal completely and the Naze failsafe kicked in and my miniquad started falling as a rock.

Enjoying the sunset over Skopje, the moment when my D2R II receiver started acting.

Screenshot taken just before the failsafe on my Naze kicked in

Up side down. D4R II acting strange.

Aaaand one second after that. It would have looked more scary to me if this was the first time that my quad is up side down 🙂

Luckily enough I was flying relatively high at the moment and the link got restored, so I have had more than enough time to stand up and see my miniquad falling and then again look at my monitor (no goggles here), flip it over and continue flying.
I flew the rest of the packs in closer range noticing that something is definitely wrong, either with my transmitter or the receiver on my miniquad.

When I have got back home, I have tested the range just to see that the RSSI signal was dropping to zero when I entered another room with a concrete wall between the transmitter and receiver.

I needed to check if my Taranis is OK first, so I have turned on my bigger quad with X8R on it and walked with the transmitter between the rooms without any issues, the RSSI signal was between 60 and 90. So the Taranis was  functioning perfectly.

I have removed the D4R receiver from my miniquad and powered it with a spare ESC so I could test if maybe there is some interference that is causing the problem. Still the RSSI signal dropped to zero when moving in the other room.

Next thing that I have got on my mind was replacing the antennas on the D4R with new ones, that didn’t help either.

I had no other ideas so I have tried googling the problem. No luck there too.

Replace D4R II with X8R

X8R replacement receiver

At the end, I was ready to give up and replace the receiver with my spare X8R, so I have bound  it in place of the D4R and I have created new model for the D4R just in case I needed it sometime in future and once again, for the last time I have tested the range, just to discover that the range problem was gone and my D4R receiver displayed RSSI values similar to the ones of the X8R.

So it seems that there was some kind of linking problem between the Taranis and D4R II and when I relinked them in order to use it with the new model, the problem was gone.

After this, I have once again linked the D4R with the ZMR250 model in the Taranis and everything worked without any issues.

My two cents, if you experience similar problems, try rebinding the receiver with the transmitter, it may save you some time and possibly $$ for a new receiver.

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Revisit with my ZMR 250

I have kept my battery packs full, waiting for the right moment to go and fly at the same spot that we have visited few days ago. I have been using ZMR250 and mobius for aerial photography for quite a while. I love the portability of the ZMR250, everything fits in a really small backpack and that enables me to reach most remote places.

It was raining most of the day, but it suddenly stopped and the sun came up so I have grabbed my gear and rushed to just in time to see the sunset.

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I have decided to fly at two locations that were close enough to fly from one spot to the other but in order to save battery life I flew one pack at the first spot and then moved to the other one.

Ohrid lake aerial photography

Although most of the people doesn’t like the fish-eye distortion these small wide angle cameras produce, I have found that sometimes the effect could look really interesting when used for aerial photography.

Land and water division - aerial photography at Ohrid lake

It was windy, but nothing that my miniquad could handle. You could see how much I had to lean it to the wind in order to counteract its force.

 

Aeriall photography - old boat stranded on the shore of the Ohrid lake

The boat was still there, at the same place. This time, I have decided to take some photos from another angle since I liked the colors of the sky reflecting in the lake.

Lake panorama

The end of another beautifull day spent in Ohrid.

You could check the whole gallery here. Having set my Mobius to take pictures each second, it is really hard to pick the right ones among 907 photos.