A lot of people have bought the RTF 3DR Iris as there is a plethora of info out there on both performance and modifications.

The X8 is the heavy lifting RTF option and is a little less common.

I've been an Arduplane fan for about 3 years now, starting with the APM 1 in a Skyfun and working my way up to an APM 2.6 in a Skywalker X8 complete with Cellular Telemetry over 3G.

I've never been into copters as much but I thought it was about time I checked out what all the buzz was about and share my experience here.

I bought a cheap quad online for $100 with the intention of learning to fly quads and wrecking a cheap one before letting loose on something a little more expensive.
After getting to the point where I could just about turn the thing inside out, I thought it was about time to upgrade.

I did a lot of research on the DJI vs 3DR and then looked at the Iris.
My thinking was that the Iris is a nice toy but its not really worked up for doing anything too serious, that left the Y6 or the X8 and I eventually decided to go all out and order myself an X8.

I also needed new radio gear as my old Hitec radio was showing its age so I added in a D7 radio, full telemetry kit, spares and a Gimbal all from 3DR to support the cause.

It went on back order with around 2 weeks after ordering before it shipped which was acceptable.

Then the fun began with shipping. For some reason the shipment got held up in Memphis. I left it for a few days then made a call to fedex who weren't much help.

Next I dropped a line to 3DR to see if there was anything they could do and after about a day to respond they managed to work some magic and the package began moving again.

When the package finally arrived it had an "Opened by New Zealand Customs" sticker on it. This always makes me nervous as you half expect it won't get packed back in as well or that something would be damaged during the premature unboxing at customs.

Opening the box, I was a little surprised at the internal packaging, it wasn't exactly a stellar packing job given the journey that box had taken, however there is no way of knowing whether this was the way it was packed by 3DR or whether the re-pack at customs was less than stellar.

However the good news was that nothing was obviously broken and the copter itself was placed in such a way to minimize the chance of any breakages.

 The X8 itself had foam protecting the motors, plastic wrap over all aluminium parts to avoid scratches and one leg was folded in to maximize the space available in the packaging.

The first thing that strikes you about the copter is its size and weight. This is not a toy and everything is constructed with heavy duty components while minimizing weight.

The second thing that strikes you is the fact that if this thing goes down, due to its weight its going to be a write off.

Extreme care will be the order of the day when flying it. Its certainly no acrobatic machine and you can see how its size and weight lend itself perfectly as a camera ship.

There are also some nice touches that make it a true RTF option for someone who doesn't have the build capability to put together their own ship. The LiPo Guard pouch for charging the batteries is a great idea and the included charger while towards the bottom of the quality range is more than adequate for most needs.

One thing that becomes apparent once you have everything laid out is the lack of things to actually put together. 3DR advertise this as a RTF kit which I was skeptical about and was expecting to spend at least a day building it, however it really is ready to fly with only minor assembly.

Nevertheless I took the time to check over the entire unit, tightening screws, applying loctite and double checking everything.

Connecting it to the mission planner was straight forward, and all the settings were dialed in and ready to go for the airframe. A firmware update was needed to bring it up to the latest version and because I am new to Pixhawk I had some head scratching before I discovered you need to press the safety button when loading firmware.

I decided to fly it without the Gimbal initially in case there were any mishaps.

So how did it fly...

Well pretty much perfectly.

Stabilize was as solid as a rock. I fully expected to spend the entire first flight battling to keep control of it while modifying PIDs, but it gently lifted off the ground and sat in the air perfectly stable.

Flicking it into Alt Hold mode yielded similarly successful results. I took it for a wee spin to test its responsiveness and was impressed by how rock solid this ship is.

I was feeling so confident about its performance so far I did a quick double check that it had GPS lock and then dropped it into Loiter and there it sat.

Since then I have dumped about 6 batteries through it and I continue to be impressed.

Next step was to add the gimble and take it for a spin with a GoPro.

This has been the hardest part of the whole process, tuning up the Tarot Gimbal can be quite a challenge and a novice would certainly struggle with it. It took me about 2 hours to get a nice smooth config. The settings I needed turned out to be completely different from some of the configs posted on the internet, however once its setup it really is a nice Gimbal.
I will post some shots from the GoPro once I take the X8 for a flight with the Gimbal attached.


In summary, the 3DR X8 2014 edition is a rock solid camera platform suitable for professional use.

It really is RTF but I would not recommend it to someone who has no experience either flying or with the APM. There are simply too many things one could get wrong that could dump this air-frame into the dirt.

This is the perfect system for someone that:

  • Already has experience flying an APM or Pixhawk based plane or copter
  • Doesn't have the time required to put together a large X8 copter or doesn't have experience building models.
  • Wants a heavy duty camera platform

Hats off to everyone at 3DR, you continue to improve with leaps and bounds and credit where credit is due, the X8 is a formidable piece of machinery.

Views: 3476

Comment by Troy Gere on April 25, 2014 at 3:15pm

What kind of flight times are you getting?

Comment by Toby Mills on April 25, 2014 at 3:20pm

I haven't formally timed yet or set out to see what he max time is as most flights have had some battery time on the ground checking settings and testing.

Around the 10 minute mark, but I will do a test once the batteries are run in and I have everything loaded on.


3D Robotics
Comment by Craig Elder on April 25, 2014 at 3:40pm

Hi Toby

I'm glad you are enjoying your vehicle.  Just a couple of things:

>>> because I am new to Pixhawk I had some head scratching before I discovered you need to press the safety button when loading firmware.

Pressing the safety button to update the firmware is not required.

>>>Next step was to add the gimble and take it for a spin with a GoPro.

>>>This has been the hardest part of the whole process, tuning up the Tarot Gimbal can be quite a

>>>challenge and a novice would certainly struggle with it. It took me about 2 hours to get a nice smooth config.

We have instructions to set up the Gimbal here

http://copter.ardupilot.com/wiki/common-tarot-gimbal/

Including the firmware updates and a tuning file specific for the Tarot

https://raw.github.com/diydrones/ardupilot/master/Tools/Frame_param...

That will make your life easier.  If you have a file with better parameters, please let me know.

Also note that there is a parameter file available from the Planners to set other tuning parameters on the X8 RTF as well.

Comment by Toby Mills on April 25, 2014 at 3:47pm

Hi Craig


Maybe it was just a glitch with uploading the firmware. I had about 10 'timeouts' while trying to upload to the pixhawk, a quick google and I found a post about pressing the safety button as the power is applied. This corrected the issue so I assumed from that it was something I missed in the documentation.

Yes, I read the tarot guide, however the starting PIDS were way different on my unit. The gains I have settled on are much lower. I ended up zeroing all the PIDS and building up a config from scratch. I'm not sure my file will be better than those suggested or whether there is something specific about my unit that is different that might require different PIDs.  This will be an area I spend some more time on once I have had a few flights on it to check the results.


3D Robotics
Comment by Craig Elder on April 25, 2014 at 4:11pm

You probably have the stock firmware and stock gimbal  configuration.  The configuration file I pointed to earlier sets the direction and rates of roll.

Comment by Toby Mills on April 26, 2014 at 12:15am

I got 12 minutes this afternoon with a Tarot Gimbal and the stock battery and I was constantly moving so it was not exactly the most efficient flight.
I'm sure 20 minutes should be possible with a 10k battery.

Comment by Todd on April 26, 2014 at 2:11am
Thanks for going to the effort of sharing your experience, Toby. I'm very close to pulling the trigger on an X8 but like you am intrigued at lack of videos etc. thanks again
Comment by Noli Sicad on April 26, 2014 at 7:13pm

Anybody bought this 3DR X8 RTF and use Canon point and shoot cameras (e.g. Canon SX260 with GPS) for Aerial Photo Mapping and Survey?

Would this machine, produce decent aerial photos with EXIF tags (i.e. no jello / blur aerial photo images using Sony NEX series or Canon SXxxxx camera?

Comment by Scott Penrose on April 27, 2014 at 7:24pm

I have had my X8 for a month and now done over 50 flights. I have done aerial photos (privately for family) of 5 properties with great results. Personally I did nothing to the gimbal, it came preconfigured. I tend to fly 8 minutes, I can fly longer, but I think 8 is good for battery life time, and plenty to get the shots I want. My X8 came with a broken ESC due to a slice in the wire causing a short, other than that it has been a great build and really solid. Really want to put a better camera on now, love my go pro but it is not the best camera for aerial photos. Might try non gimbal mounts though, as aerials don't need the gimbal as much.

Comment by Toby Mills on April 27, 2014 at 7:48pm

@Scott and @Craig

I have discovered the errors in my ways... here is the mistakes I made with the Gimbal.

  • Took the perfectly configured Gimbal out of box, attached to Quad
  • Plugged it in (without attaching a gopro)
  • Saw it jumping around and assumed it was configured incorrectly.
  • Reset the settings
  • Attached the gopro and began tuning.
  • Came up with a config that worked (sub optimal)

What I should have done was attach the GoPro straight away and try it.

I hadn't realized at that point how finely balanced these Gimbals are and that they won't function without a correctly balanced load.


I've now loaded in the provided configs and it works like a charm and is very stable.

Thanks for your feedback.

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