I just wanted to share with you a little about my most recent project. I've been into RC for about 20 years, and have flown everything from helicopters (gas and electric), high wing trainers, 3D, pattern, pylon racers, EPP, SPAD (who remembers that craze!), gliders, giant gas....
More recently I've really got into multi-rotors (as a platform for autopilots). My first was an AR Drone made by Parrot. Whilst this does everything you want, it's not very satisfying as it came complete (at least for me, I can fully see the appeal to others).
I started looking around for a suitable platform and that's when I stumbled across the latest 3DR offerings. It was reassuring to find a company that had been created from an opensource community and was flourishing. It was also great to see the development of the kits and the quality offered.
I ordered the kit a little over 2 weeks ago and consistently followed my order status to see when it would ship. It did say "ready" for a number of days, so I decided to follow up with 3DR to see when they expected it to be dispatched. A very polite gentleman helped me with my enquiry and I was told that it would ship in 3 days. At this point I'd already seen some of the poor reviews that some have been posting about 3DRs service so I was a little skeptical.
To my surprise (and delight), 3 days later I received a shipping notification that the kit was on its way! This came complete with the FedEx tracking number (which I would be sure to immediately punch into the tracking app on my phone and continue to look at every couple of hours for the next 2 days) :)
The kit came in a very small box and I figured there would be something missing. I was reassured to see that it was just packed extremely well and everything was intact and accounted for. Then came the build. Initially I had feared that it would take days and that I wouldn't have everything I'd need. To the compliment of 3DR, the build only took 4 hours (from opening the box to firing up the motors etc). The instructions were extensive and the website was invaluable.
On a side note to anyone looking at purchasing one of these. Make sure you read through the website pages on the building etc before starting on the kit. There are some great tips (like not fixing down the ESCs until you test the motor direction) that if you don't follow; you may end up taking a few steps back to go forward.
All in all I've been really happy with the build (although routing the wires and mounting the ESCs were a pain). It all worked well. I'm sure there is a better way to route/attach the ESCs so if anyone has any suggestions I would love to hear them.
The copter is ready to go and I just need to wait for my battery to arrive and it will be good to fly. I've set it all up on an old 2.2Ah 3s but it doesn't have enough punch to get it off the ground (it's a really old abused battery). I have a 4.5Ah A-Spec Turnigy NanoTech battery on the way that should do the trick :)
I did try with the old 3s but at max throttle, the battery voltage dropped to 9.9V @40A and it was going no where!
I'm using a Hitec Aurora 9 as it is the most flexible when it comes to channel assignment. Getting the 6 modes was a little bit of a pain but a small science experiment soon resolved that issue. I also have a lightweight CF roll/tilt camera mount with a 900Mhz video transmitter to fit. I want to take it step by step so once I'm comfortable with the flying characteristics and modes, I'll strap on the camera really have some fun :)
There's a few more photos in the album below if anyone is interested.
On a final note, I've been playing with autopilots for the last 9 years and I have to say that the maturity and quality of the ArduPilot (including the excellent ground station), is the best I have found so far. I have a background in electronics and software and understand just how much work has gone into a product like this.
So... A big thanks to the community, keep it up guys! I'm really hoping to get some more free time soon and begin to contribute.