Building Possibly My Last Multicopter

I left the hobby in 2022 after the crash of my Tarot Ironman due to a propeller blade separation resulting in complete destruction of the aircraft. Since then I have been flying an old DJI MAvic Pro that I bought used from a photographer who wanted to upgrade. Anyway, recently l've thought about wanting to build one more multicopter. I enjoyed the challenges of building one plus the satisfaction of flying something I built. So I decided to once again embark on a build project. My needs werepretty simple. What I want is a stabilized video platform that has an endurance to 15 minutes or so. Video quality is not that important - a GoPro Hero camera will suffice.

Since nobody is building large quads, I hoped to get some compnents at reduced prices. I also wanted to take advantage of what I hade left: an analog video receiver/monitor/dvr, a set of 17" Tarot propeller blades, an M8N GPS module and a lipo battery charger. I decided to build a Tarot 650 Sport and begain compiling a b.o.m. and budgeted $1200 for the project. After selecting various components I estimated the full up weight of my proposed aircraft and researched likely motor candidates, finally settling on the T-Motor MN5008 KV400. Once that was settled, I established a weight budget that I had to stick to and began the hunt for parts.

My goto search sites were Craigslist, Ebay and as a last resort AliExpress. I figured I could snag some stuff that individuals no longer wanted and that retailers had as surplus and wanted to get off their books. I found and bought a used Turnigy EX9 transmitter from a guy on Craigslist for $90 and he threw in three receivers - old PWM technology but that's okay. I bought two brand new motors at a nice discount but had to but the other two at full price as I didn't find  any others being offered at reduced prices. I bought two GoPro cameras at a huge savings on Ebay, a HEro 11 and a Hero 4. I bought the Hero 11 first but then discovered that it did not allow analog output to my analog video vtx, so I bought the Hero 4. I plan to swap cameras at times - will be okay flying blind with the Hero 11 - just leave the camera angle fixed while I fly.

I decided to us an APM flight controller as it is cheap, mainly because it is no longer supported. Since I'm using a PWM radio I chose not to use a Pixhawk combined with an encoder - just keep it simple. But I soon discoverd that Mission Planner won't connect to my APM 2.8 on my Windows 11 laptop. I would need an XP Windows machine. Also, the Tarot camera gimbal requires calibration and the s/w loaded in the supplied dongle hasn't been updated since 2012, so again the need for an XP machine. I tried installing a virtual XP machine on my Windows desktop - got it running but could not access neither the CD drive nor USB port. A buddy of mine in California has come to my rescue - he is sending me his old Dell XP laptop; all I have to do is pay the shipping cost. All I need is to install the APM firmware and configure the IMU and gimbal. After that I can do the rest with Mission Planner on my laptop, communicating with the copter via the telemetry modems.

But I have run into several other problems. The motors are too big for the mounts and they obsure the two openings for mounting screws at the end of the mount, but I fugured out a way around that. Then I had a major learning curve programming the old Turnigy transmitter. I accidentallly shorted out my power distribution board due to a solder bridge, and burnt out an ESC while debugging my transmitter programming. Finally, I discovered that the arms on the 650 Sport are too short for my 17"carbon fiber propellers. My plan to fix that is to buy a 14mm carbon tube and 16mm carbon tube and use them to splice a two inch extension on each boom. I hope that this will work!

Here is a pic of the copter in its current state.

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I have mounted the APM and connected it up in order to make sure the wire lengths are sufficient as well as having sufficient clearances from those whirling Ginza knives! you can see the gimbal dongle hanging off to the left of the camera and the two loose wires will provide power and ground for the vtx which I'm trying to figure out where to install. I hope to have the build completed by next week and ready to being the various APM configurations: ESC, GPS, radio, compass, motors as well as go over the various parameters - max altitude, geo fence, what to do in case of loss or radio, etc. Maybe I will be ready for it's maiden flight in three or four weeks.

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  • I decided that the splice idea will not work as I watched a video of a guy having the same problem and he had a more accurate measurement of the I.D. of the 16mm tubes. So, I've decided to buy longer 16mm tubes, cut them to size and replace the shorter booms. Also, I will need to replace the wires going from the ESCs to the motors - make them 2" longer. This will dely my project but will be a better solution. I feel like Boeing - over budget and behind schedule.

    Meanwhile, the XP laptop a buddy of mine shipped from California will arrive tomorrow. I'm seriously hoping that I can install M.P. on it and successfully connect to my APM; if so, I can flash the firmeware and configure the IMU. Also, I can use it to configure the gimbal. Later, when I fix the booms and finish the build I can complete the rest of the configurations using the telemetry modems and my Windows 11 laptop.

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