Friday, May 23, 2014

Military coup shows it's face in Pattaya Thailand

Update May 27, 2014 11:50pm
Last night on May 27, 2014 Me and “Paul the Toy Man” went flying quad copters at Pattaya beach as usual. At about 10:40pm as I was flying the Phantom s/n 3 I could hear in back of me the sounds that you hear from a two way radio normally carried by the police. I did a quick glanced over my shoulder and verified there was indeed a group of 3 or more dark blue colored cops the kind that carry guns (the real ones not the tourist police). I continued to fly like I didn't know they were there and acting as if I didn't know I was doing something wrong. Paul in his infinite wisdom and charm goes and talks to the cops and finds out they just stopped there to see some of our quad-copter air show. For a bit I thought I was about to have some hand cuffs put on my wrists and dragged to jail for being out past the Curfew that was supposed to be at 10:00pm. Paul even ask them when all this curfew stuff was going to be over and we hear “oh tomorrow all done”. Shortly after my battery was dead and I had to land the phantom, the group of police continued on there way down the beach to look for real criminals. So that was a relief. So with that we continued to fly till 11:50pm until we were all out of batteries and had already crashed and broken one prop on the X quad that we were testing this day. So we packed up all the gear and headed home, but before we did I went to see if the Family Mart was still open but to find it had already closed some time before 11:50pm so not sure how late they stayed open on this day.

Update May 26, 2014 11:10pm:
The coup in Thailand may not be fully over for most of Thailand, but it has started to lax now here in Pattaya on May 26 2014 at least up to 11:10pm when I was out. The most important improvement is that all the family Marts on the beach are no longer closing at 10:00pm. Starting with the the one at Soi 1 at the beach I was able to go in and buy the peanuts I wanted at 10:38pm. As I walked down the beach back to my apartment at soi 13 I noticed that all the Family Marts on the way were still operating but all the 7/11 shops are still closed at what seems to be the prescribed time of 10:00pm. By the time I got to the last Family Mart near my apartment it was 11:10pm and I was able to buy a bottle of water just to prove to myself and others that it was really open. On my walk along the beach walk I didn't see any police flashing any lights at anyone for the entire hour past curfew. The ladies were still in full force in there normal locations. The bars again many closed but some still operating in stealth mode with the lights and music off but still serving beer. So as far as I'm concerned the coup is OVER in Pattaya. I, being a beach bum, buy my beer from the Family Marts or 7/11 stores and normally go home by 11:30pm any way so at least for me it's over and things are almost back to normal here. I also took some short videos at about 10:50pm of some people exiting the Family Mart at Soi 8 and the activities still seen at the beach if you don't believe me I'll publish them for you to see for yourself.

Update May 25, 2014:
Last night I went out at 11:00pm May 24, 2014 around Pattaya central just to see if I could get some peanuts at the 7/11 store but found both the 7/11 and Family Marts near my apartment were all still closed. As I walked the block of Soi 13 to soi 12 I did note that some of the bars were dark and quiet but still had a small number people in them and they were still serving beer much like they do when we have other dry religious holidays here. I didn't see any police or military personnel any where in site on my short walk. My satellite TV service has also begun to open at least for HBO and all the movie channels and others, but all the news channels like CNN, BBC, CNBC, BMBG are still all disabled on my True satellite service here in Pattaya. Internet service has continued to work throughout the military coup and I haven't noticed any added network filters preventing access to any websites yet.

Update May 24, 2014:
At least the 7/11 stayed open about an extra hour now close at about 10:00pm instead of 9:00pm last night. We did our normal beach party thing at Mike's shopping Mall beach stage up until about 11:00pm when a police man on a motor cycle that was riding on the foot path stopped and flashed his flashlight at us and told us we had to go home. We pretended not to notice and continue to finish off the beers we still had. He gave up on us as he was probably too lazy to climb the 4 steps of the stage to make a closer apearance to our group. He then continue down the beach to harass other people instead of us as there were still many people along the beach at that time. By about 12:00am there was a few more cars and motor cycles with flashing lights so I decided maybe it was better to move down to the beach on the sand were there was less light and we wouldn't be noticed and in a worst case we could just go swimming if the police or military ever came to give us any more trouble. At about 12:45am I saw another group of police moving up the beach toward us. At that point I was getting tired anyway and thought it not worth having any problems and I also used it as an excuse to my friends that it was time for me to go. Many of our beach bum gang stayed behind and told me the next day that they had no problems when they continued to party at that location long after I had left.

Original article published 5/23/14 9:23am
I was here in Pattaya for the last coup in 2006 that seems like nothing compared to this one. In 2006 there was no curfew and things in Pattaya went along as if nothing happened. In the last coup most of the action was centered in Bangkok. Last night when we heard the news that there was going to be a 10:00pm – 5:00am curfew nation wide we thought no way that was going to be happening here in Pattaya. I said “they would have to bring in some tanks and start shooting if they expect any of the whores to go home”. So we went to fly our quad copters at pattaya beach as we had originally planed. The first thing we noticed was at 9:00pm they closed all the 7/11 stores and Family Mart stores. That has never happened before. The 7/11 stores never close 24/7 365 days a year over the last 12 years I have never seen one close. Even when we had the flood were there was a river of water 3 feet deep in the streets the 7/11 store still stayed open. So this was history in the making. But I already purchased all the beer I needed for the night as I suspected the stores might stop selling beer so we continued to fly and party as normal. A bit later the tourist police came by and told us about the curfew as it was about 9:30pm they told us everyone should go home. Big Paul says “ do you have a gun? No? So I guess we don't have to go then.” in a joking manner not to the police but to our group as we all laughed and continued to have fun. It was about 11:00pm when our group started to break up as all the batteries were dead and my aircraft had malfunctioned with another broken wire. So Big Paul went home and “Toy Man Paul” also went home a bit early to try to find a restaurant that wasn't closed. So me and Raf were left and we had to take one last scan of the beach to see if there were any bargains to be found with any girls that might need a place to stay during this turmoil. In most cases when there are problems like this there are always good opportunities that show them selves. But at that moment as we were walking past Pattaya police department suddenly a group of large green military vehicles pulled up around the police station and a group of about 20 solders fully armed with automatic weapons jumped out and ran down the street beside the police station and stood in force all around it. Wow I couldn't believe it so they are serious. So I pulled out my camera phone and shot a short video just to show that I'm not just kidding about this, it is really happening.

If that last video fails to render in this embeded video I'll add this one just in case with both videos I captured combined and compressed to 11mb:

When I saw this I said to Raf, we got to go check out Walking Street. There is no way they could shut down Walking Street in this city that never sleeps. As we walked to Walking Street we passed the Royal Garden that was completely closed down. Even the Macdonalds Restarant that is open 27/7 was closed for the first time in history.

When we got to the Walking Street entrance we found only a group of about 10 tourist police guarding it with all the streets completely barren of people. Never in my life at any time of day or night have I seen walking street without a soul on it. At this hour of 12:00am there are normally wall to wall people or at least 1 for every 2 square meters of street. As we approached the entrance to walking street one of the tourist police came forward and put out his hand and told us it was curfew and that no one could pass. I insisted that I wanted to take a photo of this for the news and that if he didn't let us pass we would have to take the shots from the air with our quad copters. I was still carrying the quad that was now broken and I just used it as an excuse in hopes to get one shot. I asked who would I have to speak to to get the shot and he pointed to someone in the group near the walking street gate. I started walking toward the group and got to the point I wanted to take the shot and started filming.

It looked like one was just about to move on me until he saw what I was trying to do. I got my shot and said that's it that's all I wanted. And with that me and Raf headed home. There were still many whores on the street and a few Indians still working them as that was the only thing left open in pattaya. We had no beer but we never run out of whores. Even with a military invasion it would take more than 30 troupes to get our girls to go home. This is just the first day so I wonder what going to happen in the next few days. When I got home I turned on the TV to find every single one of the 300+ channels of my True satellite service were ALL just a picture of some military symbols and some background music.

Wow even in the last coup they only shut down the local television stations. How did they shut down the satellite with HBO, BBC and all that turned off this time? With this I suspect at some point they might also shut down the Internet so I want to make sure I get this out before everything goes black here. I also plan to pull about 20,000 baht out of the bank or ATM as I think that might become a problem if they close the banks. I've now stock piled a 50 day supply of rice (15 kilo rice) and beans and some coffee and a few other staples like BEER (3 day supply of beer) and pulled cash from the bank to last me up to 60 days (26,000 baht) just as a security measure. As they say expect the best but prepare for the worst. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

ToDo List of future and present projects

This is just a reference to possible future projects that we have with present inventory and there present status:
If any one has a preference or would like to help on any of them you are free to do so or add suggestions.
I'll later add pics to each to show what each is.
* asterisk at the front will indicates the task is completed.

Todo list:

Phantom s/n 1:
Is fully flight operational with 250mw 5.8ghz video feed working (no gimbal)
replace 5.8ghz video antena system with new spironet we got from berry shipment
problem we need an sma female to rp-sma male adapter for rx unit to work with new spironet antenna set #2

Phantom s/n 2:
is fully flight operational but has some of the added led lights not working that could be fixed at some point

Phantom s/n 3:
reasemble and just fly it (just need the screews that Paul has someplace or lost) or isolate what problem it has with it not reading the compass that makes it not operate in gps mode. It does fly very good in atti mode, so I'ed be happy with it just assembled and flying.
update may 15, 2014 tried replacement of the magnetometer in phantom s/n 3 failed to correct compass reading problem.
after replacement still fails to calibrate in compass calibrate mode after rotation stops blinking green goes solid green but after second rotation 90 degress it blinks red (error condition blink code).

Dex quad:
*install new frsky reciever s/n2 with voltage sensor and program taranis for voice actions on voltage thresholds for telemetry actions
b.replace led lights with standard strips of red and green or something we have in inventory.
*update may 15, 2014 now have programed Taranis radio for telemetry and also added timer and log recording during flight. first test flight with taranis was ok at the beach with only one 2200ma batt tried. haven't tested the 3 rate modes on ruder and right stick yet. Audio indication added on all active switches that aids in knowing what each switch does and what mode it presently is in. Also A2 voltage sensor to primary battery power value is called out every 30 secounds or on command with SD switch.

Aqua Quad:
install new frsky reciever and integrate voltage sensors
program channel of taranis to operate and setup voltage thresholds for telemetry actions

*Walkera X350 quad:
replace bad motor
optionally replace video 5.8ghz tx antena with new spironet antenna system and incorporate on video rx
or move video tx from this to one of the other phantoms like s/n 1 or 3
note: spironet antena set #2 in inventory has incorrect connector type to be used on the brown video tx box

Ardu quad renamed to X525 quad or just X quad for short:
*remove arducopter controler replace with the new Naza M system we got from Nick.
*install frsky receiver and voltage sensors and calibrate
measure current draw at hover with current meter jig to see if we are using the correct battery type
*we are now getting good flight times with this aircraft up to almost 16 minutes on 6000mah batts with no extra payload

M2 delta wing aircraft (Zepher wing clone):
*A. install voltage sensor to monitor battery condition that hooks to frsky receiver
*A1. reprogram taranis to respond to voltage thresholds for the M2 with 3S batts and test with 4S batts also
*B. reprogram arducopter controler to arduplane config and install on this aircraft
C. Install video tx unit and video camera to prepare for FPV operation
D. optional install cheap gimbal to steer camera angle up and down and maybe try stabalize software in arduplane
E. program and test for Return To Home mode and waypoint modes and stabalize modes and make sure manual mode still works
F. optional maybe later add a better gimbal to make some cool smooth long distance video shots
G. very optional with gimbal above we can also experment with waypoint preprogramed camera angle pointing

*Honda Phantom V2:
incorporate 5.8ghz 250mw fatshark video transmiter system with spironet antenna system.
not sure we have the needed bec to power tx for this yet and I'm not sure about the video wiring at this time.
task completed May 9, 2014 fully tested and working

450 firefly quad (standard 450 frame):
build up kit to be used to test props and motors and use as spare camera ship
later if we finally get this to fly for more than 15 minutes we can try add a gimbal to it to add to the list of camera lifting aircraft
this is now almost a complete kit in the box all accept a good controler
not sure what controler to use on this one yet. thought about testing with a multiwii card but can't find one in our inventory that I thought we had
option is to steel the naza M out of the Dex or aquaquad at some point since this aircraft will carry bigger battery and have longer flight time posibility than the dex or aquaquad.
at some point would need to add lights to fly it at night

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Our first airborne video gig

"Paul the Toy Man" had been talking about this crazy gig that someone had been asking him to do that I thought sounded impossible. He said that someone named Barry Upton that is a combo music writer, event producer, radio video announcer producer and much more. He's a famous figure head here in Pattaya, were he spends much of his time now. In any case I guess Paul gave Barry the idea we could get some amazing video footage for this Barry Upton Introduction of some famous Thai supper star that was coming to visit Pattaya. For this we were expected to fly our video equipped quads in and on Walking Street and inside and above and in back of the Insomnia disco with literally hundreds of people swarming in and all around it, with lights and cables strung all over including overhead with laser lights mirror balls, high voltage lines and every other unimaginable obstetrical that you would never want to fly closer than 300 meters from. When I first did the walk by in the morning hours and saw all the telephone lines and banners and other objects hanging across the road I already thought it impossible and I told Paul just how risky I felt it was going to be. But not more than 7 days past and Paul said this is it we are doing it. I told Paul I would just go as an advisor and technical assistant and that he was going to do ALL the flying. At that time I still thought it would all blow over and never happen or at least that's what I was hoping. But this night he gave me final notice with “we are on”. The plan was to meeting at 9:30pm at front of Insomnia with Barry Upton who was going to be the master mind director of the shots and we would just tell him what we could and couldn't do and fly it. When we first got there it seemed the bouncers at Insomnia didn't have a clue what Barry Upton's plans were with us and didn't even want us coming into the bar with our equipment. But when Barry Upton arrived a few minutes later things suddenly changed. We could do ANYTHING, and that's just what Paul started to do with his first flight he flew Phantom s/n 1 all the way through the Insomnia disco with hundreds of people and dancers still doing there thing. I was stunned that any one would dare to do something like this but we got so incredibly lucky it all just worked. After I saw the rear of the bar was an open roof I started to think that it was going to be possible for me to do a flight and I went and setup the Honda Phantom V2 with the gopro 3 and gyro stabilized platform installed. Lucky I had two big beers before hand to calm my nerves because other wise I would have never done it. The first launch was perfect but in thinking too much about the surroundings and the flight I forgot to activate the camera so I had to land and start the flight over again. I used the technique we had been learning at the beach to launch and land from our hands so we didn't need as much space and made it much safer in this kind of location with a higher launch and landing location with less obstructions to get in the way. The rest of what happened in the flight is now history as I condensed the total of 45+ minutes of airtime we shot together down to about 3 minutes to capture just a few of the best moments of the flights that you can now see the preview here:

After the indoor shot I got from inside Insomnia I had more confidence and took one more shot with the Honda phantom on walking street. Paul continued to make history with his flights on walking street with Phantom s/n 1 with the gopro V1 mounted. With this he not only flew through the bar but also above the famous star that arrived that Barry was interviewing at the time above hundreds of people watching them as he did so. We gave all the footage from both aircraft that ended up being almost 8Gb of compressed video data as a promotion to Barry Upton to be used in in his TV video production he is working on that I'm looking forward to seeing in the near future that I will provide a link to it when I find it. So this was the first of possibly many new video cinematography adventures if we continue to get lucky. I'm hoping the future doesn't include as much risk as this one, but I guess you sometimes have to take risks to become known. Now people will start looking at us as the airborne video group that can fly and do ANYTHING. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

New Phantom V2 with zenmuse gimbal added to toy inventory

Paul picked up another new toy this week. A second hand DJI Phantom V2 with Zenmuse gimbal. We later found that the Zenmuse gimbal didn't support the Gopro V1 we already had so I personally invested in a second hand Gopro 3 Camera that I was looking to get in the near future anyway. Before we got the new Gopro we attempted to use what we already had including giving the Gopro V1 a try with the zenmuse gimbal. With only one flight with it we were able to get some good shots but at landing I noticed the gimbal went into overcurent mode and auto shutdown on the vertical axis. So the next day I incorporated a cheap 1000 baht camera I got from Tokcom some time back that is made to record from a cars dash board. It still required adding counter balance using some balance mass and some rubber bands to hold them in position to reduce torque load on the brushless motor drives. The cheap cam has a good wide angle view and captures HD at settings up to 1080p at 30fps. I set it to 720p 30fps for our flight test to reduce file size as only plan to web publish the shots they can't be very big. Cool thing is the camera auto powers up and records when you power up the Phantom. Bad part we later learned is that it seems to erase the last video and record a new video when you power off and then on again with phantom V2 power switched. I'm not sure this can be set someplace to not happen in the cam like this or not yet. But now with the new Gopro 3 I don't think I'll be using it on the phantom anymore anyway but might find it useful on one of the other aircraft at some point as in the daytime it took nice good quality shots. But when we tried the cheap 1000 Baht cam at night at the beach we found that there wasn't much to see, so it's strictly a daytime shooter. Another cool thing on the gopro 3 is that it has a wifi preview that is visible from my android phone as an app that can also be used to change camera resolution and settings and take still frame shots in flight if desired. Not sure what kind of range we will get out of it but should be good to about 30 – 100 meters that should be far enuf for most shots we will be taking with this aircraft. If that doesn't end up being enuf there is also an option to use the zenmuse video output that taps video feed from the back of the Gopro 3 and feeds it out with 4 wires that provide for 12vdc with 2 ground wires and video output. I'm not sure my fatshark video tx can handle 12vdc for power yet but will check that out if the wifi isn't doing what we want or at some point we will want to try fpv with this cool new toy. Some videos captured with the new aircraft seen here:
This first video was taken with the Gopro V1 rubber banded onto the zenmuse gimbal. Video mode on the gopro was set at 720p and later recompress for the web with ffmpeg with H264 codec at 2000kb/s compression.

This next video was taken with the cheap 1000 baht camera made for car dash board recording as seen here:

. Video mode was set to 720p and later compressed with ffmpeg in H264 codec at 2000kb/s same compression used in gopro video above. still takes good shots in the daytime as you can see here:

Some shots taken with the gopro 3 at Pattaya beach at night to show how it's working in low light conditions:

For reference when we got this now called Honda phantom V2 the gain settings were set to:
Pitch Roll Yaw Vertical
130 130 180 110 Basic
80 80 Attitude

we later tried to slow down yaw for smother camera movements:
Pitch Roll Yaw Vertical
130 130 90 110 Basic
80 80 Attitude

and today May 8, 2014 we have it set to:
Pitch Roll Yaw Vertical
130 130 40 110 Basic
80 80 Attitude

Update: May 9, 2014
With the yaw gain set to 40% it didn't seem to slow yaw much at all as I had hoped it would. What it seemed to do is make it not hold it's yaw position. With a small breeze on the 12th floor balcony it seemed it would rotate as much as 45 degrees without me giving it any command to do so. It also failed to stop moving when I did a quick flick of yaw it would take time to stop yaw movement. So I went and set the yaw gain back up near what it was at 80% and gave it one more short flight test on the balcony. This time I gave it big quick movements and when I let go it would halt movement and lock it's yaw position more like I had hoped. So it seems yaw speed can't be controlled at this point with gain settings. I will just have to adjust to the way it now flies until we replace the receiver with an frsky and program the Frsky Taranis transmitter to control it at some point in the future. With that we can setup expo and dual rates on yaw to provide the kind of movements I really want. With the frsky receiver we will also have telemetry to indicate battery status that will be very useful when flying FPV where we will not be able to see the status led lights.

present gain settings now:
Pitch Roll Yaw Vertical
130% 130% 80% 110% Basic
80% 80% Attitude