Monday, August 12, 2013

New APM arducopter quad first test flight

As we looked up and saw kun Ooh's truck arrive at the Pattaya Stadium RC field and with a smile on his face and a nod, we knew what that meant. Yes the new toy (APM ardupilot quadcopter) was finished and had arrived. This is a 550mm quadcopter that Paul custom ordered from Kun Ooh that designed and constructed it for him. Kun Ooh came back to the table with the new ardupilot quad without props installed yet, ready to bind the receiver to the Spectrum DX7 and configure mode and other settings. It looked very professionally constructed with good quality motors and a good stiff tough aluminum frame. The best part is the APM arducopter flight controller with GPS, 900mhz telemetry and the optional current voltage sensors added and some cool led lights to fly it at night also added. This APM flight controller has so many cool modes and features you would not believe me if I told you including way point autopilot and control from just about any android cell phone for support for “follow me” mode and much much more. After some effort from Kun Ooh's and Kun Jit's to figure out how to setup the mode switches on the Spectrum DX7 TX radio we finally got a chance to try it out in stabilize and loiter modes. We also had RTH (return to home) and auto pilot mode available on the radio but didn't test them yet. First test flights were done by Kun Jit our field expert test pilot. The first was a very short flight as an adjustment in gain, trim and others were needed to make it flyable. After a few more adjustments Kun Jit had it flying nice and stable. This quadcopter also has full telemetry that we could check out on Kun Ooh's laptop at the time. From the laptop we could also setup way points, view location of the aircraft on a moving map and change PID gain values and much more. We also did a test using Paul's new Android tablet with andropilot installed that also worked with the telemetry device plug and play to control the same things that can be done on a laptop. Then Paul asked me to give it a try before he had ever flown it. So I was the proud second pilot to get to try and fly the new toy. I was very slow and careful not to over control and found it much more responsive than what I was used to in the gps quad or the h20quad. As I got a bit more comfortable with the controls I started to test the vertical acceleration with just 60% to 70% throttle it was already flying faster than I could handle at the time. By this time it was also dark but no problem for this quad as it's totally laden with a perimeter of led lights that make it easier to see at night than in the day time. But I'm not accustomed to flying in the dark with lights so that's something that will require a bit of getting used to for me also. So I only did close flight no far away high speed yet. Also I had Kun Ooh reduce the P gains from 0.15 down to 0.10 but it still seemed like too much gain for me and no noticeable difference that I could detect from the change. I also had him try adjust the vertical gain down from 0.7 to 0.5 for P. But I again detected no change when I did another short test flight. Kun Ooh suggested we should continue to make the changes in the dual rate of the Spectrum DX7 RC TX. I agreed that would be what we would try next later. I also noted that the battery telemetry data wasn't being received at the laptop but Kun Ooh had that figured out in less than 5 minuets after I detected it and told him. So from that we considered the preliminary flight test complete and planed to do more tests in the lab to learn more about mode setup and way point input and PID control changes made over telemetry with the android tablet and maybe a phone. I got a message this morning from Paul that he had already flown a few more batteries on the APM quad at the beach last night with the lights. This is his input so far: [12:34:42 AM] laserpaul: I have a blog to write to you [12:35:02 AM] laserpaul: needs plenty of adjustment to come close to the H20 [2:27:27 AM] laserpaul: lets put it this way. I deserve the silver star on my forehead. Went through six batteries last night flying at the graveyard, soi 8 soi 10 and soi 11 or so. Every one loved the lights, but it was a bitch to keep stable. I know something is wrong. If you tell me in one week after tinkering with this quad that this is the best it gets, I will be disappointed. Very sluggish on the ascent but goes to full throttle like having too much expo. something very wrong you will see at soi 5 today. So looks like we have a road ahead to learn about what makes these new arducopters APM flight controllers tick. It looks like a lot of fun ahead to tinker and try all the new modes at our disposal. The “follow me” mode sounds like one high on the list when we get it figured out. It should be cool to be able to control and setup with any android phone to do just about anything. I can't wait to try them all and start creating new ones. The source for the software is open source so there are no limits to what I and others will end up being able to do with them. A fun future awaits.

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