Hello all,

I've for a long time now wanted to play around with drones.  I'm a computer programmer and tinker with electronics through arduino's and other small SoC boards.  I'm finally in a position where I've got some extra money to throw at a drone project and I'm a little overwhelmed by all the options and not sure where to go.

A little info about what exactly I want to be able to do.  I want to be able to play around with coding autonomous flight, mapping indoor and outdoor type stuff, as well as just aerial video recording / reconnaissance.

I was thinking that I wanted to do a hexacopter kit for greater stability and lifting capabilities, but I can't really seem to find any kits for this from reputable seeming companies.  So first question is if I went hexacopter, does anyone have any recommendations on a good kit?

Next, looking at the kits available in the DIYDrones store, what makes the 3DR Y6 a good kit?  It seems like only having 3 arms would give less stability?  What is the purpose of the lower motors, do those working somehow in conjunction with the upper motors give better lift capabilities or something?

Also I was looking at the Quad D Kit, it looks like a newer design version of one that I looked on this website a while back.  Does it have any benefits over the Y6?

So additional questions on those kits though, it doesn't seem they come with batteries as far as I can tell?  Nor do they come with any kind of controller mechanism?  Are these things that you are supposed to add to the kits yourself?  Are there any additional items missing from the kits that are pretty much required to get a drone working?

I imagine I could use any arduino type board as a controller, or possibly even a raspberry pi if I needed some more cpu power lol.  Can the optional 3DR radios be used to transmit data to and from such controllers in order to do manual controller of the copters, or give instructions and such?  I couldn't seem to find what kind of range the 3DR radios give without amplification, only saw that with amplification they tested at over 7 km.  I suppose though if I wanted I could use XBees for my wireless communications as well easy enough?  I might would do that since I've already got a few XBees laying around.

Also speaking of wireless transmissions though, since I do want to do video, is the 5.8ghz 3DR Video / OSD System sufficient for something like this?  I was thinking I'd use my GoPro, but seems like that would be a tedious task to get it to stream / record on command.  It has a WiFi link, but that is going to have a rather shorter range than what I was thinking would be useful for this.  How well does the video camera in that system work?  Could the 5.8ghz antenna be used to carry control data to and from the drone as well, or will it require two separate wireless transmitters?  On the receiving end of that 5.8ghz system, it looks like it's made to simply go into a TV or something like that.  Is there anyway to get it to stream directly to a computer or tablet, or would that require rigging something on the receiving end like a TV Card for the computer or something?  (Not even sure something like that exists for a tablet)

I welcome any other advice you guys have for a newbie that is looking to get started :)

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  • We can help with precise (±2cm) positioning and navigation indoor:

    - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Rn0On9aEKg - tracking a drone indoor
    - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_swkCCcMq5A - tracking a drone outdoor
    - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8eHhUhc0Z4 - fully autonomous flight
    - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-ETDc5K_fw - tracking a micro-drone indoor

    https://ardupilot.org/copter/docs/common-marvelmind.html - ArduPilot support
    https://marvelmind.com/download/#ros - ROS support
    https://marvelmind.com/download/#arduino - Arduino support
  • Hi, Steven,

    You are asking all the right questions.  The area of multicopters is still in its infancy but even so there is a huge amount of variety in feature, form, and functionality out there.

    There are a lot of cool frames available, some with more polish than others.  There are carbon fiber frames which can be quite pricey, but are really amazingly stable as a camera platform.  I also have some wooden frames for sport flying and acrobatics.  The nice part of the wood is that when it breaks, most of the time I can just glue it back together.  Look around and find a frame you are comfortable with, probably one with comes with a parts list is useful.  If it comes with a list of suggested motors, props, esc's, batteries this can help you decide if it has enough power and performance that you are looking for, and you can almost always swap out parts for different ones with similar performance.

    In general the more motors gives you more stability assuming you have balanced your props.  The Y6 configuration works with pull motors/props on the top and push motors/props on the bottom.  The fewer arms in theory means marginally less weight of three arms to support the six motors rather than having six arms.  I have not actually flown a Y6 so I cannot vouch for the stability.  I have a couple hex-coptors (six arms) and have been very pleased with those.

    Since you want to play with the programming, you probably want an open source controller similar to the APM or Pixhawk.  They both have a range of optional peripherals available, and both have plenty of ports for plugging in additional customizations.

    The stock 3DR radios are probably good for a range up to a kilometer or two, but since you are supposed to fly line of sight in the US that should not be an issue.  You should probably check out the AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics) www.modelaircraft.org for flying fields near you.  The mission planner software on a laptop can either program the controller for automatic flight from a waypoint flightplan, or you can use the mission planner software to drive the copter from point to point on a map.

    For video/OSD, the usual frequency in the US it 5.8GHz as you mentioned, but be aware that to use that frequency you should have a Ham radio technicians license.  You can find out about the technician license from arrl.org.  Like you said, most of the Video/OSD for this market are video only.  I expect that this will change over time to integrate control and video.  I have a copter which uses a standard RC 2.4GHz Spektrum AR8000 transmitter/receiver for manually controlling the craft, an integrated but separate 2.4GHz RC Spektrum TM10000 telemetry transmitter which feeds my receiver telemetry information, and a separate RF based 915MHz telemetry module (the 3DR) for telemetry and control to my laptop computer.

    Have fun!

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