Category Archives: FPV

RC Almost Finished

Here’s the case after my best attempt:

 

It looks… bad. The paint coat is horrible and full of scratches and the screen is too big.

But worst of all, the screen is not bright enough in direct sunlight. Not even close. I don’t have a photo but after brief testing I’d say it’s unusable.

So I’m pretty disappointing with the result – I ended up with a big, heavy RC system that is too dim to be usable for FPV.

I searched for a week for alternative capacitive touch screens, preferable in the 5-7 inches range but found nothing bright enough under 100 euros.

So after a mild diy depression I got an idea that will solve at lease 3 of the issues – cost, bright screen and the RC size: use my Galaxy Note4 phone as the screen.

The setup will look like this:

  • The quad will send video through 2.4Ghz, packet injection (a.k.a. wifibroadcast method) and RC stream through 433Mhz
  • The RC will receive both video and RC data and relay them to the phone using another 5.8Ghz wifi UDP connection. The phone will decompress the H264 video using OMX (or whatever is available) and display it with telemetry on top.
  • The phone will also act like a touchscreen interface to control the RC/Quad

 

Basically this is what most commercial quads (like Mavic) are doing. I’m sure the video link is 2.4GHz due to longer range than 5.8 and better penetration and the connection with the phone is done over a 5.8, low power link.

 

So the next steps are:

  • Redesign a smaller case that will accomodate a Raspberry Pi 3, the RC stick and fader + buttons and wifi cards
  • Write a quick android application that can connect to the RC and decompress the video stream
  • Profit!

Comms, revisited

After the latest incident and the loss of my quad it became clear that I need reliability. So far I focused on physical reliability – if the quad is sturdy enough to take a light crash, if it’s well balanced, etc. But I kind of ignored the other 2 aspects – software and comms. Well – not ignored, more like I hoped for the best.

So the next issues to fix are:

  1. Solid comms for the commands (RC) and telemetry. The RFM22B is the perfect candidate for this:
    1. It’s lightweight and small.
    2. Very sensitive receiver (-104dbm @125Kbps)
    3. Powerful TX amp @20dbm
    4. 64byte FIFO so I can drive it directly from the raspberry pi
    5. SPI interface, which the RPI has enough
    6. Good penetration due to the low frequency (433Mhz)

With this setup I should have 5-10Km range, way more than the WIFI video like allows.
The issue will be the comms protocol as the device is half-duplex and the bandwidth is not that much. I made a quick calculation and it should take around 5ms to send an entire 64byte message. With a simple protocol where the GS is the master and the quad the slave, I can allocate 5ms slots to each in turn. This will give me a symmetric 7Kbyte bandwidth, -protocol losses lets say a 5Kbyte bandwidth per second. Should be enough for control and telemetry data.

2. Solid software, especially the GS. I intend to get a RPI3 and display and build a dedicated GS to replace my laptop. For now I will keep my PS4 controller but in the future I will aim to build an entire RC system with integrated touchscreen around the RPI.

I want to run the RPI without an X server and for this I will need a QT version that supports this. Don’t know if it’s possible though.
If this fails, I’ll stop using QT and do all the rendering and UI using something else but this will be quite painful… I’m used to QT and despite all it’s quirks it’s very powerful when doing quick UI work.

 

What I do know that works in the current setup is:

  1. The RPI2 is powerful enough to handle a quad with WIFI video streaming. It was using ~16-20% CPU at any moment with around 5 threads so no issues here
  2. The case I designed is very sturdy. It’s a combination of 10mm carbon fiber tubes for the arms and ABS plastic for everything else.
  3. Flight time with the current weight of 650grams is around 20-25 min with a 3000mAh multistar LiHV battery. Enough time to enjoy the landscape
  4. The motors + ESC pair are a nice match. RcTimer 1806 1450Kv and RTFQ 4-in-1 12A ESC seem to handle the load nicely. A bit underpowered due to the props – 7×2.4inches but I plan to move to 8×4.5 for the next quad.

 

So back to the drawing board for a while.

 

 

 

 

 

Crash

I took the quad for a spin yesterday and figured out 4 things:

  1. It flew, quite good. Very stable, video quality was good and the signal was very strong even 4-500 meters away
  2. I crashed a few times. See video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjwiUQltHaE&feature=youtu.be
  3. Flight time was around 20-25 min with a 3000mAh Multistar LiHV battery. Average amps for hover was around 6-7 which is great. AUW around 630g
  4. Eventually it flew away in a near-by forest and I couldn’t find it. The reason was a sudden loss of signal which triggered the fail safe routine. The quad started climbing to 50m, went home and then dropped to 5m. Problem was that ‘home’ was a few hundred meters into the near-by forest due GPS interference from the camera….

So it’s gone, have to build another one.

The lesson here is that I have some software issues to iron out and that I really need another signal path for the control. I plan to use a rfm22b for this.

The material loss is not that huge – a raspberry pi, 4 rctimer 1806 motors, a brand new battery and a Navio board. A total of 250 euros plus about 2 weeks of work to print all the pieces, etc.

 

So the next one will need to fix these issues:

  1. Rock solid RC link for control
  2. Solid software without glitches. My GS crashed once in mid-flight (see video) due to the h264 decoder
  3. More portable GS. A laptop with 2 wifi cards, a ps4 controller and many wires is not a fun way to go to the field and fly
  4. The raspicam interferes with the GPSsomething fierce. Even after copper shielding the H Acc went from 2m to 50m after starting the camera…