Running Before Walking or Crawling - Where is the End-to-End Guide for N00bs like Me?

Hello everyone - love the site, been lurking for some time now as I prepare to build my first drone.

Speaking of which - I have a simple goal in mind - I want to build a drone based on the Multiplex EasyStar Powered Glider, which is highly recommended throughout this sight.

Requirements are simple - collect imagery along a flight path that I program into ArduPilot and then return with those images and a log of the GPS positions which I will use to calculate (estimate) footprints for each image based on the sensor parameters and the time each image was shot to make KML ImageOverlays for Google Earth.

So, I have tried to follow some of the guides here to order all of the parts I will need, and to start programing my ArduPilot.

I appreciate this sight greatly, but honestly, it seems geared towards folks that have been RC Pilots for years, and have a ton of this equipment lying around, and are well versed in things like how to charge a LiPo battery!

Here are the Posts which I believe lay out how you should proceed with building an EasyStar based Drone:

How to Mode A Multiplex EasyStar

Turning an EasyStar into a Proper Camera Platform

The ArduPilot Homepage

The ArduPilot 2.0 Post

ArduPilot Assembly

Based on these posts, and recommendations from Chris Anderson throughout this site, here is what I have purchased for this project:

You'll notice that in the spreadsheet, I do not have

Here is as far as I was able to get today because I did not have all the necessary equipment to continue building.

I did not find any instructions / suggestions to buy these very important parts!

1. The FMA Interconnector Cable (If you follow the ArduPilot 2.0 Post, it says you can just buy the XY sensor - however, new purchasers need to also buy the Interconnector cable so that they can actually connect something to the sensor (it comes with the FMA CoPilot full kit so I guess that's what Chris already had))

2. W.S. Deans Connectors to solder on to the Electronic Speed Controller and connect to the LiPo.

3. A Battery Charger - I knew nothing about these, so I bought a charger that HobbyWorks told me would work with LiPo Batteries.

However, the battery Chris recommends, the ElectriFly 3S LiPo @ 24000mAh , requires a "balancer" about $35 extra from Tower Hobbies.

So now I have this SuperBrain 989 Charger, and will need to wait for the LiPo balancer to come in before I can charge my LiPo and power anything.

I would suggest others look at getting the ElectriFly charger that has a built in balancer which should be easier and a little cheaper than the route I ended up taking.

Ok, so whining aside about what I didn't order - I now think I have all the header pins soldered on to my ArduPilot that I will need to load on the 2.0 Software. Plus the 2 optional Battery pins.

I have 2 questions:

1. Where are the instructions on where the FTDI cable connects to load on the software?

I think it connects on the pins right along side of the GPS port but I am not certain.

2. The ArduPilot 1.0 connected to the ESC and appears to have controlled the throttle.

However, the diagram for 2.0 does not look like it connects to the ESC at all.

So, what happens when Autopilot mode is engaged?

Are you supposed to manually control the throttle?

This is not ideal - what if it goes out of range?

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Wow, that's a lot of questions. You're right that we do assume a certain amount of RC knowledge. We'll be eventually selling pre-built UAVs, but for now I'm afraid we're mostly geared to those who already have the RC essentials down (including flying ability).

Are you saying that the FMA XY sensor no longer comes with a cable? If so, that's news to me.

LiPos are indeed still complicated. You definitely want batteries with balancing leads, but I agree that you should not buy a charger that doesn't have balancing built in. We like this one (and get this power supply)

But as for your questions:

1) Yes, the FTDI connects to the five pins beside the GPS connector. They are these:

2) ArduPilot 1.0 controls the throttle. ArduPilot 2.0 does not--you just connect the ESC to your Rx as usual and manually control the throttle (or, more typically, just leave it set at some middle position). If the plane goes out of range, your RC system will enter signal loss mode and will automatically cut the throttle.

Yes - the FMA XY Sensor came by itself from FMA Direct - maybe they just forgot it in my order.

This week however I got the longer cable I ordered from them and my balancer so I'm ready to go.

So is it possible to implement throttle control in 2.0?

I have some situations in mind where I will NOT be able to guaranteed that I remain in radio range
We have throttle control in versions 2.1 and up, to be released in a week or two.

do you have a roadmap for future enhancements that are being worked on at the moment or that may be available in the next 12 months. Might be worth starting a list or real stuff and real goals.

You must have missed the section in this same blog called "Roadmap".
Heh, oops.

Thanks Ric, I'm reading 12 diydrones pages at once and getting excited with all my questions.


Ya, I know exactly what you mean... it's easy to get excited here at this site!

It has everything I have ever wanted to know about this hobby, and it's growing exponentially day by day!

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