Hi Guys!

THIS is my very first post on DIYDrones, and I am most confused.  This is my story.

I am quite new to this UAV business, and I originally purchased a DJI Phantom (1st generation) from a locally BIG Camera equipment retailer, here in Montreal (LL.Lozeau).  To my knowledge at the time, it was the thing of the moment. I looked on the web, and little that I knew at the time, DJI seemed to be reliable, easy to use and, mostly for me at the time, affordable.

Enthusiastic about this new purchase, I read the provided « instruction sheet », and, I must confess, it was (seemed) most easy to setup and fly.  I did my first flight the next morning, since weather was clever enough to allow me to do so.  Well ... Okay!  Pilot error, I guess, I lost control.  BUT I recovered it, almost intact, a few houses down the block.  Only one Prop Guard was wrecked, but that was fixed rapidly thanks to Super Glue!  And up we go again, and all went well that time.  The same evening, I was flying with my GoPRO, and took some VeRrY ShAkEy PiCtUrEs of the area! ;-)

It was THEN, that I wanted a way to stabilize the HERO3, with, what seemed best at the time, the Zenmuse H3-2D Gimbal ...from DJI, of course.  Costs as much as the Phantom itself, but hey!  A man has to do what a man needs to do!  But that remote control seemed a toy thing, resembling more the one from Fisher Price than one for the real thing.  So I went to purchase a HiTech Aurora 9X Remote Control Unit, along with 4 x 3S 45C Batteries, the big Hyperion 150W charger and the whole kit and caboodle!  The real stuff, I thought!  Well, so far, so good!  I'm in business.  So I had the Gimbal installed, as well as the receiver replaced inside the Phantom.  « Cool!!  Let's try it! »

VERY stable videos!  I was impressed of the results.  Next, I wanted ...telemetry, because I wanted to know my battery voltage remotely!  HPP-22 and HTS-SS, with a HTS-GPS, and HTS-ORPM (Optical RPM Sensor).  OK!  Now I know when to land this thing, before the battery runs out, and if it falls, I'll know where it is!

Then, I wanted to see WHAT was my camera filming in real time, NOT once on the ground (legitimate request, wouldn't you think?)  I then needed a 500mW Video Link from ... Yup!  DJI!  And a link receiver with a screen to see the down linked images!  This is starting to add up $$$!

Now, the ULTIMATE thing would be, ...a Ground Station Control.  WOW!  Completely automatic flight!  That would be way cool!  Only one thing though!  This is a Phantom!  Not a Boing 747!  There is only limited space inside this plastic shell!  I needed the DJI Data Link, AND a DJI Can Hub ...

Hmmm!  What to do?  Well, the Flame Wheel F450 seemed to have plenty of room for all this equipment.  After all, I have the ESCs, the motors, the controller, that should not be to complicated to merge all this stuff to an F450 Frame.

So I did!  Managed to sandwich all the modules, and while we're at it, let's add an FPV camera and transmitter from ... no!  Not DJI!  This time, I wanted a Fat Shark gear!  Simply awesome!  The ultimate FPV, the camera being mounted on 2 servos, for full pan & tilt FPV experience!

Last week, I finally wanted to get this flying wonder a try.  Battery was fully charged, DJI was calibrated to the max, new version software, and all!  I was ready.  Gave it a go in my back yard and ... Well, I was happy it was in my back yard, and not in front of a crowd.  They would've had a very good laugh!  The thing was so heavy, that it raised 5 feet in the air before slowly acting like an elephant with canary wings!  Hehehe!  I had a good laugh my self, because I secretly had my doubts about this baby flying !!

Well, at this time, I see only one solution.  Adding 2 more Props!  So I am in rebuilding my F450 into a DJI Flame Wheel F550 Frame.  Just purchased a top and bottom plate, 2 more Motors and ESCs, and I should be in real business by the end of next week.  At least, I think!

Now I am filled with confusion.  I'm reading all this controversy about DJI and Fly-Aways.  Some are convinced that it's DJI's Naza-M Controller's fault, some others, like Dan Blake and Jamie Peebles (on other Forums), would have tendency to blame the unwanted behavior on the pilot more than the hardware or the software.  Who should I believe?  Should I go with another controller and discard the Naza-M V2 and go towards another manufacturer?

What is said about learning to fly in Manual Mode worries me, although I fully agree with it!  I've tried that a few times with my AeroSIM RC Simulator, and I crash it within a minute, if not, right at take off !!  I know! I know!  No GPS is used in Manual Mode, and this is the main reason there is no GPS-Glitch related crashes in Manual Mode.  But you need to be a REAL pilot to fly in this mode!  Hehehe!  I practiced in Attitude Mode tonight, and I must confess, it is not easy, although I spent 30 minutes and could maintain a fairly good hover positioning about 90% of the time!  I plan on doing some more practice this week.  Could this help me recover a GPS Glitch situation?  I ask anyone.

Well, here goes my first post.  I hope I was not too long.  I am here for one thing : LEARNING !!  Am I at the right place??  I sure hope so!

I also hope I've posted this one in the right board!  There are so many...

Yours truly,

Daniel.

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I really want to know why people say APM/Pixhawk is hard to tune/program/setup? This makes no sense. I had a Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 and then built my own F450 style with APM 2.6 and using a USB cable and Mission/APM Planner the wizard walks you through every step and I was up and flying (after I had right motor rotation and props on correctly) in about an hour after finishing the build. Then as for tuning you can run the AutoTune and it does it for you. And then you just finetune the PID's to your liking and other options as far as what speed it flys in Loiter or during waypoints. Pretty simple if you ask me and I knew nothing about these things prior to building one. I am a Computer IT guy but I don't think that helped me configure it any easier.

Just my 2 cents from my experience.

Daniel, the bad news is, flyaways with DJI controllers can and DO happen. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security by those who believe it is always pilot error. Those who have not had it happen to them yet are in for one helluva surprise when it does.

I had one last summer with my octocopter and  DJI Wookong, which resulted in a crash into a lake. I don't care how many people blame it on pilot error (I do believe it is pilot error in many cases) but this was without a doubt an absolute "I'm outta here" with no warning, flyaway. Hands off, no control, heading east like a bat outta hell.

Now for the good news. I was able to regain control by going to full manual. At first I switched to ATTI which had no effect whatsoever. As a last resort I switched to full manual which did indeed regain control of my octo. At that point, from panic and since I had no previous experience with manual, I think I flew it into the lake due to inexperience.

Since that time I forced myself to learn, and now only fly, ATTI. It has been one of the best things I ever did. That has improved my skills and photography immensely, and really is not that difficult. Also from time to time I do some full manual flying and it is also quite doable, when approached carefully and with good conditions. Just be prepared to switch back to ATTI quickly, if you feel it's getting a little squirrely. I now find that flying GPS mode feels like I am driving around with the parking brake on.

Two final things I learned since. Twice after the lake incident, I had attempted flyaways while in GPS. (don't know if there is a glitch in the system or if sunspots happen to target this area frequently) but I found that switching to manual, only briefly, releases the GPS from the controller. At that point, going immediately back to ATTI give you full control and stability. Just a quick throw of the switch down and then back to the middle. I have never had a flyaway originate while in ATTI mode. 

Good luck, and learn to at least fly ATTI. You might be doing yourself a big favor.

Hi Brad,

I don't think that its exactly that its hard to " tune/program/setup", there is just more of it.

The Naza is partly easy because it doesn't do much and partly because it is usually preconfigured on the copters you get it on.

The Pixhawk has a lot of options and is configurable to work with a lot of very different copters.

But the configuration can get a bit involved and frankly works better for some copters than others.

And auto tune until very recently had been possibly as much of a problem as a solution, although quite recently for most copter types they seem to have it working pretty well.

Also partly because of the huge number of options and flying modes available, and partly because of the continual improvement, enhancement and revision process, not everything always works equally well, so problems can crop up.

Mission Planner is really a miracle at pulling all this together in an easy(ish) to understand way but the APM / Pixhawk is still a formidable beast for most uninformed people to take on.

Best Regards,

Gary

Hi Robert!

Sorry for the delay on the reply, but I've been very busy lately.

Don't get me wrong, Robert.  I never said there was no flyaways with DJI, nor any other company's controllers.  Shit happens, and there are more flyaways that involves DJI than any other company.  But one must consider one thing. DJI is flooding the market at the present time, and there are thousands, if not thens on thousands DJIs flying at the moment, than any others.  This could be a reason that there are so many flyaways involving DJI and the rest of them.

If we stop one second and dont look at the quantity, but at the percentage of these flyaways, they are, to my humble opinion, not any greater than any others.  I'm not saying that DJI is perfect, far from there.  The problem with DJI is that their interface and setup procedure is simple.  TO simple.  This makes most people that buys DJI stuff, believe that there is really nothing to it, and that they can fly it almost out of the box!  NOT!!!

Flying a drone is just like flying a real plane.  Setup has to be understood and applied so that no unwanted behaviour happens.  If these rules are not followed, before and after each flight, you will excuse my language, but « shit is bound to happen one day or another ... and it will !! »

Earlier this evening, I flew my DJI F550 for the first time since I converted my steroid-boosted F450 into its hexacopter version, and allow me to say that I was very proud of seeing it fly just like I predicted it.  Beautiful behaviour all the way.  Only during its second flight, later tonight, the LED flashed and gave unfamiliar pattern of colors.  I will investigate such pattern before taking it to its next flight, and correct the situation if need be.  This is what every pilot must do.  This is called post-flight checks.  Most pilots don't do that.

Like I said, I was happy to see it perform so well.  I even flew it in ATTI Mode for a minute to tow, just trying to hover was enough practice for its first flight!  VERY smooth motions.  Totally different that my previous Phantom.  I don't know if it's because of the new prop configuration, but let me tell you that I was very impressed.

I will not, however, improvise myself as a pro pilot ahead of time.  It's MUCH to early for that!!  I don't even consider myself a pilot mont the sell a good pilot, so...  I will, as you suggest, try to fly it in Manual Mode one minute at a time.  I've set my limits to their bare minimums (10 meters / 30 feet) so this way, I think I can manage, but I think that even with the limits set this way, a flyaway can happen, and if I dont do as you said, (switch to Manual then back to ATTI), I may loose it.

Reading you was very instructive, Robert.  I hope we have a chance sharing opinions again.  I was very educative.

Until then, have an excellent week, and I hope to hear from you again soon.

Yours truly,

Daniel.

Thank you for your concern, Paul.  Sorry for the delay in the reply.  I was pretty busy the last few days!  Also, please apologies for the lengthily reply!  I am a ratchet jaw!  Hehehe!

I was not familiar with the Scan Eagle, so I took a walk on YouTube to see what you were talking about.  WOW!  Great machine!  Very compact too!  Easy to assemble by one person, in no time at all.  But again, 150K needs to get you somewhere now, does it not?  Hehe!  Does that include the Launchpad and the Control Station?

But speaking about DJI.  I can't ay that I fully disagree with you.  But I have a ton of DJI stuff, and, to date, all works well, God bless.  I tried the Ground Station Modules last night and it was 90 degrees off!  I thought it over in my dreams, and figured out what had happened.  I used a hand Dremel to drill some minute holes in the frame, and this must have disturbed the compass.  I degaussed it and re-calibrated the IMU, and « ...Voilà »!

I also have the Zenmuse H3-2D Gimbal (I wish I'd bought the -3D version) and it works just dandy for me.  I'll manage the Cam Pan with a lower / smoother Yaw EPA setting that's all!  I'm waiting for the top vibration damper plate / mounting plate on this one, since I saw off the 3 tabs (didn't need them on the Phantom), but now that I'm using an F550 frame, these tabs are essential to mount it at the center if gravity.  I should get it next week.

I flew my new configuration for the very first time this afternoon and was impressed by its stability.  Great machine.  But you're right about DJI not being concern about their customer's requirements.  I wrote to them a few times, and didn't even got one reply!  Crummy customer service they have.  Nevertheless, here in Montréal's North Shore area, we have 2 UAV dealers, and they sell DJI by the truckload.  They speak very highly of DJI, but I guess, that's part of the Business they have.  Anyway!  I have no problem getting service from them two dealers.  If I don't get service from DJI direct, I can get answers from these two.

Well, It was very nice reading you and thanks for sharing your opinion with me.  I will sure keep it in mind if something happens to my drone in the future.

Oh!  I was just forgetting something you mentioned at the end of your reply, as for why does DJI reverses the polarity on their connectors.  It happens have just the right answer for you.  They dont want people starting to modify the specs of their equipment.  Their transmitters were designed to work fine with this type of antenna, and that's the antenna you MUST use.  Not lower gain (you could / will lose connectivity), nor higher gain (you could / will make spurious radiation and cause interference to others including to yourself!).  I've seen 3 guys that modified the connector (simply added an adaptor available on eBay for $3.99!), and used a higher gain antenna (15 dB High Gain WiFi Antennas instead of the standard 9 dB DJI supplies) and all 3 lost its GPS fix, because this was interfering with an other module.  Two lost their drones 10 feet off the ground, 10 seconds into the flight! ...The other guy never got it back!  Flew into a car, that got an accident and badly injured the passenger.  He is now in court to settle the matter with DJI.  Hehehe!  Guess what DJI told him !!

So this is the main reason their connectors are reversed, and this is the reason one should always be very careful when replacing antennas on their rigs (Ex: Fat Shark™).  Like I said before, shit happens!  You are « playing » with high frequency radio equipment here (2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz mainly) and extreme caution should be observed.  Harmonics are happening at the least expected moment (Murphy's Law).  Here is a great example.

You have an FPV 5.8GHz transmitter on your drone, and this one is controlled on the 2.4 GHz band.  Nothing wrong there.  Works great, fine!  Now, a Taxi car it passing by, and got a call from his Dispatch.  Transmits his acknowledge and at the same time, without noticing the situation (why should you!) ...Boon!  You loose control and your S800 EVO flys away!!  Why?  DJI?  ... Let's analyse the situation and do a little maths for a sec.

5.8 GHz divided by 2 is ... 2.9 GHz.  The Taxi car transmitted on 512 MHz (roughly 0.5 GHz)  ... 2.9 - 0.5 = 2.4... Bingo!  Tata EVO!  Like I said ... Murphy's Law!  Shit COULD and probably WILL happen ...at the worst possible time! (The Law)...

So that's the explanation I got and the situation I've personally witnessed.  Take some, leave some, but nevertheless, these are the facts.

Ok!  I got carried away and now, it's 1 AM and ...well, I'm tired!  You must be tired of reading me too!  Hehehe!  Apologies my friend.  Reading you was instructive and constructive at the same time.  I hope we share opinions again in the near future.  Until then, have an excellent week, and hope to read you soon!

Best regards,

Daniel.

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