Ever since the Parrot Disco was released, I knew it was just a matter of time before someone took this RTF fixed wing and made it into a mapping platform.
That being said, I haven't seen it yet. For this reason, I'm going to post about my experience getting one to map.
So there are a few ways that I am aware of doing this:
1) Use the included CHUCK flight controller and get it to connect to a mission planning software.
a) There is the Parrot Flight Plan app, but you would have to still manually plan the flight lines. You would have to use a time triggered camera with a GPS logger, or a GPS enabled camera like the Go Pro 5 Session.
b) Use Arduplane and Mission planner (preferred) to do the flight planning and use a camera that could be triggered. Luckily, the Disco airframe has been under development by Tridge and the gang. This requires the use of a SBUS enabled R/C TX and RX
2) Use a Pixhawk, or other flight controller, and use Mission Planner, and a triggered camera.
The easiest option is option 1B.
A little known fact, is that you don't actually have to flash the Disco with the Ardupilot firmware. It's included in the stock firmware! Here are the instructions:
Any attempt to follow this guide this at your risk, with no guarantee of your hardware, software, or personal safety.
Parrot Disco Manual Flight Setup
ANY DAMAGE INCURRED WITH THE USE OF A R/C CONTROLLER/RECEIVER WILL NOT BE COVERED BY THE MANUFACTURER’S WARRANTY! – MANUAL R/C FLIGHT CONTROL REQUIRES PRIOR EXPERIENCE!
The Parrot Disco can be piloted by either the R/C Radio alone, or a mix of both SkyController 2 and a R/C
radio. If you want to retain video recording, FPV, GPS, or autopilot features, you will need to pair your Disco
with Skycontroller 2 before take-off. R/C control can be applied at any time through the CH5 “Mode” switch,
as long as your R/C receiver is bound, powered on and connected to C.H.U.C.K. in flight.
NOT RECOMMENDED WITHOUT R/C TRANSMITTER EXPERIENCE!
Prior to flying the Parrot Disco via R/C radio, you must first bind the radio to the receiver; after they are
bound, you may choose to exchange the channels for Throttle, Aileron, and Elevator to suit your control
To bind the radio to the receiver:
1. Connect your SBUS or SUMD receiver to the R/C port on the C.H.U.C.K.
2. (For X8R Receiver) – Hold the F/S or bind button down before you power on the receiver.
3. Power on the receiver by turning the Disco on, while continuing to hold the F/S button down.
4. Locate the “Bind” option within your R/C Radio configuration settings, and select it.
5. The LED color/status will change once binding is complete; You may power off the receiver.
Enable Ardupilot Mode, and ARMING Disco:
To enable APM mode on the Parrot Disco, first power up in normal boot mode. Then, once booted,
click the power button (pitot tube) 3 times, and wait for the LED status to go RED. You can now connect the Disco wifi with your computer, and connect to it using Mission Planner, using the UDP port.
To ARM/DISARM the Disco for manual flight
First ensure the Throttle is down, then apply full-right
Rudder for 5 seconds. If connected to Mission Planner or other software, ARMED status will be
reported on screen. At this time, you should have full manual control over the Disco motor and servos.
When changing Throttle, Aileron, and Elevator channels, we recommend that you mimic the controls of Parrot
SkyController 2 through the following configuration of the first 4 channels. (Taranis setup pictured below)
● CH1 – Ail (Aileron)
● CH2 – Ele (Elevator)
● CH3 – Thr (Throttle)
● CH4 - Leave as Rud (Rudder)
● CH5 - 3-position switch of your choice
● Low Position – SkyController 2 only with Autopilot and GPS features
● Middle Position – SkyController 2 and R/C mix “Easy Mode” w/ autopilot and GPS
● High Position – Full R/C control only - Autopilot and GPS navigation are disabled !
*Advanced Note: If inputs are too sensitive when flying without autopilot assistance in full R/C mode, apply
30-60% expo to Ailerons and Elevators for smoother stick response near center
Though in my above post, I said that running the CHUCK flight controller with Ardupilot would be the best for the RTF Disco, there's another aspect to consider: Parrot sells whole air frame for $238: $69 for the fusealage, $69 for set of wings, and $99 for the servos and wing adapters.
I just so happen to have a Pixhawk laying around and all of the gear. It turns out that where the ultrasonic sensor sits on the CHUCK, is the perfect size for a Pixhawk, but depending on what camera I use, I may use the existing hole to mount the camera there.
Since the weather hasn't been the greatest, I decided to put some paint on it. I'm trying to decide on what camera: RX-100iii, SX610, NEX7 or something else. The weight is what will determine what prop and motor combo that I use.