Chad Frazer's Posts (8)

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Lone Star Drone Rodeo and Texas Big SAR!

3689684767?profile=originalWe are finally ready to push this bit of news out to the community at large, albeit a little close to the event.  We have a 1,400 acre ranch down here near Santo, TX where the land owner has put together multiple drone based events under the name Lone Star Drone Rodeo! 

There are three segments we will be sporting, a drone cage (for those new or wanting to combat each other), Drone Racing hosted by both the DallasFPV and the N.E. Dallas Speed Addicts for a MultiGP regional qualifier and finally a drone based Search and Rescue event hosted by the North Texas Drone User Group with dozens of missions designed to interface with existing professional ground based SAR groups.  We will also have a discounted course hosted by UAS Academy specifically designed and certified to teach SAR drone operators how to effectively plan and execute missions in a SAR environment. 

This event has been almost a year in the making and what we would love is for you to form a team and come on down to Texas!  If you are participating in the SAR portion the entry fee is waved!  You can also camp ($5.00/night) on site or we have a list of nearby places you can stay.  We will have policemen, firemen, company presidents, SAR personnel as well as every drone racer and drone SAR pilot in the area attending!  Come to see it or come to network!

If you are more of the video type, here is a story that aired on the event.  Sponsorship slots are still open, call Martin at 940-452-3004 for a sponsorship/vendor form, if you are a SAR group please contact us to participate at 980-333-2301 because the more the merrier!

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3689602848?profile=originalWelcome to our first National level Drone User Group Conference! Through our meetup page you will be able to pre-register and therefore assure your space at the conference. This is a family friendly event so feel free to bring the kids and keep reading for options to bring your own drone! Along with your registration you can enjoy the entire museum at your leisure. First lecture starts at 9 AM sharp, so you should be there about 30minutes prior to ensure you are checked in and ready to go. All registered names will be on a list so you will need some form of ID to get checked in.

The location will be the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas. We will have a 200 seat auditorium for speakers, and an 80 man conference room for storing your equipment, as well as a place to go and chat. Ticket sales will be limited to 230.

The closest airport is Love Field Airport which is literally where the Frontiers of Flight Museum is located.  If you can't land there the next place is the DFW International Airport which is about 25 minutes from the FoF Museum.  Mapped for you here

We will also be setting up at least a dozen personal drones on the Mezzanine to show and educate the public for the museums new promotion "Meet the Drones" day (actual name may vary). If you would like to sign up to display your drone setup or help with the Conference, please visit our separate National DUGN Conference Volunteer Signup Page and send an RSVP.  Instructions for it are brief.

We will also have a Friday Night Social Dinner, family friendly at a location to be determined.  Please see our Friday Night Social Dinner Event Page to sign up (free).  Location to be determined.

Last but not least, you may sign up to compete in our Search and Rescue Challenge II competition the following Sunday!  Details on the event will be forthcoming "soon" but you can count on 150 acres and multiple drone use, it will ROCK!

TICKET PRICE: $40 Per Person

TICKET CAP: 230 Total

LOCATION: Frontiers of Flight Museum, Dallas TX, Sept 13th


Speakers with the tag "Sponsorship Needed" will need travel assistance in order to attend.  Once ticket sales have reached sufficient levels they will be funded.  If you would like to personally donate to a specific speaker(s), please contact Chad Frazer and he will make arrangements to make that happen. 


Techinstein and Lucidity from Roswell Flight Test Crew - *Sponsorship Needed*


Have a look at the potential, and the pitfalls, of this emerging technology — as well as a discussion on their own work with first responders, research scientists and other community groups.

Brian Zvaigzne is the technical expert responsible for designing, building and maintaining the multirotor aircraft used by the Roswell Flight Test Crew to capture aerial imagery and demonstrate their potential to firefighters and other first responders, as well as the community at large. He has a lifetime of experience with radio-controlled vehicles, as well as computers and other electronic systems. Known to Roswell Flight Test Crew fans as “Techinstein,” Brian’s previous media experience includes eight years on broadcast radio in the Portland metropolitan area as the co-host of a computer help call-in show. Having studied electronics at Delta College in Michigan, he currently owns an information technology business based in Beaverton, Oregon.

Patrick Sherman is the public face of the Roswell Flight Test Crew. Known as “Lucidity,” he is responsible for building the partnerships that have allowed the team to fly with the public safety community, hot air balloonists, research scientists and many other groups and organizations. Currently working in strategic communications for a regional public safety agency, he has prior experience as a newspaper reporter and magazine editor. He currently writes for a number of industry publications, including Model Aviation, RotorDrone and RC Sport Flyer. A master scuba instructor and licensed private pilot, he holds undergraduate degrees from the University of Southern California in sociology and English, as well as an MBA from Willamette University.


Rich Hanson, Government and Regulatory Affairs Representative of the Academy of Model Aeronautics.

FAA UAS Policy and UAS Guidelines.
sUAS Rulemaking Process.
sUAS Program Challenges.
AMA’s sUAS Program.

Rich Hanson currently serves as the Government and Regulatory Affairs Representative for the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) headquartered in Muncie, IN. He’s served in this capacity since May 2008, and previously served on the AMA Executive Council for 15 years as a member of the Academy’s board of directors.


Jim Blanchard, ScD, Chief Scientist, UAS Academy

Flight Operations Quality Assurance for Emerging UAS Operators

Jim Blanchard has been involved in many of the most advanced aviation systems innovation of the past 4 decades.  His inventions include the synthetic vision system, computer-aided debriefing station, and TalkMarker.  He has a long history of philanthropic work in education, and uses UASs in his work as an educator and scientist, including helping developing and emerging nations in closing the education gap through applied science.  He’s a human factors advisor on the UAS ARC RPAS Certification sub-committee and the FAA/RTCA Special Committee 228 working on Detect/Avoid and Command/Control.  He holds 4 earned degrees in the fields of Science, Engineering, and Management, and is licensed pilot.


Jonathan Challinger, Software Developer for 3DR

Discussing ArduPilot Mega's new compass interference learning capability, logging system and how the transparency of open source benefits the common user.

Jonathan Challinger is a former Computer Science student who now does independent software development and flight log analysis for 3D Robotics. Jonathan has contributed a number of ideas to the APM project, including prototyping the inertial navigation system that makes ArduCopter the highly performant system that it is today.


Gene Robinson from RP Flight Systems Inc.

UA in Search & Rescue (SAR)

Eugene “Gene” Robinson is the owner of both RP Flight Systems, Inc. and RP Search Services. RPFlight Systems, Inc. was incorporated specifically to produce economically viable flight platforms to loft various sensors and imaging payloads. RPSearch Services is an IRS recognized 501©3 organization that utilizes UA technology to assist in search and rescue/recovery (SAR) operations on a charitable basis.Using the Spectra flying wing to complete hundreds of missions, this UA has provided actionable data to incident commands in 30 states and has flown in four countries.The Spectra is directly credited with 11 recoveries and credited for breaking up a human trafficking operation in Mexico.


Paul Lake, Founder/Executive Director – Search One Rescue Team

Search and Rescue Mission Examples

Paul Lake is the Founder and Executive Director of Search One Rescue Team. Founding the team in 1983 Mr. Lake and Search One are now in their 31st year providing trained K9 teams and ground search management to law enforcement and emergency response agencies throughout  North Central Texas.

Mr. Lake is also a certified K9 handler in the disciplines of Air Scent and Human Remains Detection, an Incident Commander, and a Public Information Officer for team field operations. Starting in 1994 he served as a Texas Peace Officer for seven years, four of which was as a K9 handler and narcotics interdiction officer. Mr. Lake has been on over 400 searches with Search One, has multiple finds, and has been classified as an expert witness regarding K9 detection of human remains in the Texas criminal court system. He is currently serving his fourth year on the Board of Director for NASAR (National Assoc. for Search and rescue).

And in addition to all that … he’s a really nice guy!


Timothy Reuter, President, DC Area Drone User Group

The Drone Social Innovation Award

Timothy Reuter is President of the DC Area Drone User Group and Founder of the Drone User Group Network. He is also co-creator of the Pocket Drone, the most funded drone campaign in the history of Kickstarter.


Shah Selbe, Engineer, Conservation Technologist, National Geographic Explorer

Soar Ocean, the Use of Inexpensive Drone Technology for Ocean Conservation

Shah Selbe is an engineer, conservation technologist, and technology expert working to identify and implement innovative approaches to ocean conservation. This work began at Stanford University in 2009 and has included working with a number of influential nonprofits and government organizations worldwide (Center for Ocean Solutions, Monterey Bay Aquarium, New England Aquarium, National Geographic Society, Waitt Institute, Pew Environment Group, and many more). This work, often called “FishNET”, was honored as 2011 Buckminster Fuller Challenge Semi-Finalist, 2011 Savannah Ocean Exchange Gulfstream Navigator Finalist, and 2011 Katerva Award Nominee. Most recently, this work resulted in National Geographic naming him as one of their 2013 Emerging Explorers. Selbe is also a writer on the Ocean Views blog on National Geographic NewsWatch.

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Ever wonder if anyone was going to let you cut loose with your drone?  Been looking for local drone types but just can't seem to find them?  The North Texas Drone Users Group (NTDUG) is a support and networking organization in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  Our goal is to provide a community for locals building and flying their own drones – we welcome everyone from novice to expert and from regular RC to advanced drone designs.  We host regularly scheduled fly-ins at a variety of locations throughout the DFW metroplex that has included AMA RC airfields as well as private patches of land in the middle of nowhere!  We hold classes on basic RC components and construction as well as putting together more advanced classes such as drone safety and drone construction.


If you are looking for a group of people to hang out with and perhaps help with outreaches to high schools, helping to put on demonstrations or just witness a good and expensive crash or two then come on out!


NTDUG is currently sponsored by 3DRoboticsDallas Makers Space, and Unmanned Research Association thus providing the organization and its community with extensive resources and education ranging from the garage tinkerer to engineers to formerly deployed personnel.  We are also part of a larger network of Drone User Groups which are based in other states.


NTDUG is still new yet we are already establishing a platform for the future formation of teams to compete in upcoming competitions and larger community based projects such as Search and Rescue Operations.  We greatly welcome your presence at our next event coming up on July 13th, as well as hearing your input on how we can improve the image of drones in our ever changing society.

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As part of a plan of action to launch a non profit club, the Amateur Autonomous Vehicles Association (AAVA), I am putting together a short (20-30 minute) lecture on what is going on in the amateur autonomous vehicles world to be given at the University of Texas at Arlington campus (UTA) next week.  AAVA will ultimately sponsor autonomous vehicle competitions in the Dallas/Fort Worth area to include college students and individuals. 

UTA has an AV lab that annually funds aerial and ground based unmanned vehicles and has master degrees in AV so I offered to give this short lecture to the local interest group there. 

I wanted to take this opportunity to reach out to the largest AV community I know of to ask for suggestions on topics as well as pictures, statistics, opinions and any other information this community feels is important to give to young college students looking for something fun to do with their lives.  Any ideas would be most appreciated and I will post the final lecture in case anyone else wishes to use it in the same manner.

I wish to cover, briefly, laws as they currently stand, types of vehicles we decide to build, cost, dangers, what equipment is available, who does this kind of thing as well as any other topic you guys can come up with.

As an aside, if anyone is willing to bring their UAV, multicoptor, submarine, blimp etc to let students see and talk about it with them (show and tell!), please send me a message and I'll help that happen.


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Want to Make an Antenna Tracker?

I am making this blog more for my future self than anyone else.  That said, I think a lot of people will appreciate the contents as they too might have found that an antenna tracker (AT) build is not easy to find, nor are the explanations as to why they are built the way they are.  I AM NOT AN EXPERT but I plan to show you how I pulled it off and therefore establish a "baseline" for anyone building their own antenna tracker.  If you are ever confused as to which "whatever" I am referring to below, default your brain to aircraft and, good luck!

There is a lot to say here, so bear with me as I go over the basics.

What is an Antenna Tracker (AT)? 

An AT is system that tracks where in the sky your plane/copter/whatever is.  There are multiple methods for an AT to do this with.  One is to use RADAR to find your plane (or copter or whatever) and feed the altitude/angles to the AT, this is way expensive and beyond the DIY needs.  Another way is to have your plane emit a signal (or two) and a receiver on your AT electronically compares what it receives and uses that information to point the antennas with. This works as one emitted signal is slightly weaker than the other.  There is an off the shelf system within DIY budget but if you use that system then it is usually not compatible with other "bells and whistles" you might want to put on your own AT. 

The way the APM Mission Planner does it (that's the GCS software DIYdrones hosts, among others) is far more simple and yet very much as effective as the other two methods.  Since your GPS on the APM board is already tracking where your plane is, it simply takes this data and shoves it to your AT and voila! instant tracking as good as your GPS can track it!  My build uses the APM Mission Planner (MP) in conjunction with the APM2.

Why should I build one?

Easy.  Two things, first it allows you to use a category of antennas broadly referred to as directional antennas.  There is the Yagi and the Patch style as the most commonly used.  These suckers increase your range by concentrating both the power that carriers your commands from the AT to your aircraft AND by increasing the sensitivity to the signals your aircraft is putting out.  The tradeoff is that behind the directional antenna you get basically nothing very useful.  That directional antenna must be pointing (within a certain amount of error) at your aircraft, otherwise you will loose link.

The second reason is the cool factor.  You can add about 30 points out of 100 to the cool factor score of your drone build.  No kidding!

Enough Talk, Gimme the Skinny!

Ok, this is the AT build component explanations, then pics and instructions on how I built mine.

1) You will need a body that can support the tremendous weight of your antennas.  4 lbs is a "tremendous" amount of weight to throw around depending on what torque your servos can put out.  This is the one I chose to use.  It currently is holding two patch antennas each weighing about 12oz.  You can design your own, but you'd best have a CNC solution as any inaccuracies could make it not track correctly and there goes your aircraft.  All wood construction is fine for two antennas.

2) You need to decide which antennas you are going to use.  Frequency is HUGE on this.  Some antennas claim usability in a range of frequencies but that is NOT always legit.  915Mhz (aka 900Mhz) is very specific and your antenna could be "tuned" by the factory to "best" receive at 912Mhz and your screwed.  Read READ READ the description on the antenna your looking at.  I choose 1280Mhz (aka 1.2 or 1.3 Ghz) and 915Mhz patch antennas from L-COM.  If you use the 3DR radios from the DIY store (as I do) you might be thinking "what about frequency hopping"?  Your a nerd, but at least your an observant nerd.  Your radio MIGHT try to go outside the "effective" bandwidth (frequency spread your antenna can use well) but if it does it notes the signal drop (aka RSSI, Recieved Signal Strength Indicator) and will compensate for it.  Don't worry about this, just make sure your antenna is within the correct frequency range you will be using.

3) You will need two servos.  One for the tilting action and one for the pan action.  Tilt is the moving of the antennas only and the pan moves the whole AT, antennas and all.  Servos are actually complicated little devices.  I'll try to be precise as you can use the internet to find more details if you wish.  You want a servo that can do at least 110 oz-in of torque for two patch antennas, I'd recommend at least the karbonite materials to ensure it never strips out, but you can get by on the nylon standby versions.  Get a servo that does 90deg of rotation TOTAL.  Different manufacturers explain the total amount of rotation a servo can do in different ways, do your homework.  90deg rotation total is a standard servo.

For the pan I'd recommend at least 200+ oz-in of torque for two antennas and karbonite or better, as in all metal gears.  The reason for this beefiness is that when your panning range is at the limit of travel your AT will rapidly spin itself about 360deg in order to keep the antennas on target (1:50 second mark as an example).  The faster it does this the less time you are out of communication with your aircraft.  You can not avoid this behavior if you use APM Mission Planner as it is embedded in the software.  Building an AT that does not care about the pan range is very expensive to do as it starts to involve what are known as slip rings.  The military uses them and they are very nice, but very expensive due to the quality of slip ring involved.  For this pan action you want at least a servo that can do 360deg of rotation.  You really don't need more than that.

4) You will need something to take the information from your computer (again I used the APM Mission Planner to drive my AT) and turn those into a signal (numbers really) that your servo can use.  APM MP has two options currently, one for Maestro and one for ArduTracker.  The Maestro link is to a SERVO CONTROLLER card.  It can run up to 6 servos with the input provided by the micro USB cable but you will only use 2 of them plus the power pins.  The ArduTracker version uses one of the early versions of the APM called ArduPilot.  It is stripped down and cheap, you might have one from years ago, I don't know much about it, but this is a build that HappyKilmore wrote up on both of them.  I used it a lot and you can't go wrong reading it yourself either!  No matter which controller type you use to drive your servos you WILL need to download and install the firmware for them.  Maestro came preloaded and it looks like you need to find the firmware for the ArduPilot card from their website or this website's software library.  Programming your servo controller is vital, use this as a guide.  Basically you will find two numbers that bookend the total rotation your servo will do, then you will find the center of those bookends and then you will tell Maestro the "8-bit" range that it should use as commands to send the servo.  It's way critical to get these right, I lost hair doing it.

5) Battery.  Ok, servos run off of 5, 6 or sometimes 7V or more.  Most of them default to the RC standby voltage of 5V.  Mine are running off of 6V.  My battery puts out 12V.  If you do not find a way to step down the voltage from your battery to the CORRECT usable voltage for your servo you will fry your servo.  Your servo motor might smoke or the little tiny tiny circuit board in it might smoke, either way the reliability of it is gone and you should get a NEW SERVO.  If you don't and it fails in flight, you could lose connection!  A BEC (Battery Eliminating Circuit) is what you are looking for here.  I used this one.  If you do your homework, you can look up the idle and full load current consumption of your chosen servos and pick a BEC that will handle that load.  If you fail to get a BEC that can handle the spontaneous most highest ever load your servo could possibly generate then it will fry and your power to turn your AT will be gone, bye bye aircraft.

6) Battery Low Voltage Warning device.  You don't have to use this, but I would.  It's cheap and could save not only your battery but it will tell you when your AT is about to quit.  Its as loud as a smoke detector going off!  Buy a few of these and use them, don't be cheap like that.

7) Video Rx and Tx.  Rx and Tx is shorthand for Receiver and Transmitter.  I'm not here to tell you about these but to tell you that whichever system you use make sure it can fit to your AT.  Your AT is going to get crowded and messy.

8) Tripod.  You could come up with another thing to use, but that would be tantamount to reinventing the wheel.  The higher your AT is the further it can spread its signal.  Try to get one that does not have a lot of protrusions like mine has.  They will eventually entangle your wires.  Pay attention to which type of connector the tripod uses so you can design your AT to link to it.  Get one that is sturdy as a nice bit of wind could knock it over and your aircraft goes link dead.  Your AT should weigh around 7 lbs max, probably less depending on what you use. 

How Much Is a Picture Worth?




















The Leg Bone is Connected to the Hip Bone...the Hip Bone is Connected to the...

Ok, here ya go:

*VELCRO AND ZIP-TIES you can use the crap out of them here!

1) Connect your servo controller board to your laptop, micro USB to USB for Maestro.

2) Servos connect to the servo controller board. For Maestro it will be servo 0 pin set for pan and servo 1 pin set for tilt.

3) Connect your battery to your BEC which is set at 5V or 6V or whatever your servos can handle (max it out).  Connect the BEC to the servo controller board.  For Maestro the pin set on the outermost is for the BATTERY power that will drive your servos (the USB cable powers the board).  DON'T REVERSE THE POLARITY, buy new stuff if you did.

4) Connect your battery (assuming Li-Po here) to the Low Voltage detection device, pay attention to it.

5) Connect your antennas to your 3DR radio (NEVER TURN ON RADIOS WITHOUT ANTENNA ATTACHED, buy new stuff if you did).  Connect antenna to the Video Rx.

6) You will need to splice off the power from the 12V side of the battery connection to feed 12V of power to your Video Rx, get some solder and a wet sponge, do a good job on the connection.  Connect the power to your Video Rx.

7) Connect your 3DR 900Mhz radio to the laptop (after you have antenna connected).

8) Use a bunch of zip-ties to secure and bundle all the wires.  This is important.  If you do a bad job here your AT will bind while its tracking and down goes aircraft.


I have included pictures from all angles of my AT (version 2).  A few pointers here.  Build your AT as light as you can.  Get as beefy of servos as you can afford and fit.  You can make a wireless version of this AT if you have telemetry radios like the 3DR or the Xbee kits the DIY store sells.  I don't know how to do that but it is not going to be anymore complicated than what I have shown here, just more expensive.  Testing is done in two ways, first you setup your AT outside and point it north before you fire it up.  Then walk around the AT with your plane with everything linked up as if it was in flight.  Another way is to load a previously recorded flight from the APM2 logs and watch your AT go at it as if it was there.

Test this thing out as best as you can, it's now a critical point of failure for your entire system.  I don't recommend attaching your RC signal (typically your 2.4Ghz) radio.  Keep that one unmodified so you have a backup that you can rely on.

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If you consider yourself to be one of the following, then read on:

1) Those with extremely fast airframes, such as jets or hotliners or the like.

2) Those that have more than the average dollar invested in their electronic packages.

3) Those that are just nerdy enough to just want to know if this could work.

4) Those that believe they have a vibration problem and are slightly or totally desperate.

No one likes to have to order another UAV part because something went wrong and now its a pile of little and big pieces in some unwanted location.  It is even worse still to lose your electronics on top of this.  I have two ideas for a system to reduce G-Force loading on the APM2 during a crash and indeed it could be carried over to other electronics as well.  So far as I know this has not been done before.

It occurred to me that nature has two very good examples of mechanical dampening meant to protect a valuable cargo.  I mean to use that as a guide.  Our cargo here being the APM2 board. 

Mother nature did it first in your skull.  Your brain has fluid surrounding it that has multiple purposes including mechanical isolation from forceful blows to the head that might cause brain damage.  The second example would be a developing fetus in the womb.  The amniotic fluid provides a very nice ride for the developing and delicate fetus to float around in.  I'm thinking replace that fetus with the APM2 in a box.  Oh jeez, that just sounds bad, sorry.

It should be easy....RIGHT....

Lots of things to mitigate here.  The first being what liquid could you use?  If you search the internet you can find really neat electronic submersions in a non conductive liquid such as Mineral Oil.  See it here.

Various properties need to be considered should you want to choose another liquid, but here is my take on mineral oil.

1) It would need to be thermally conductive to help dissipate the small amount of heat the APM2 would generate.  If you were to perhaps want to send an APM2 into orbit (but no one wants to do that:) you could deliberately choose a liquid with low thermal conductivity to act as a perfect blanket that would not freeze until at about -22F.

2) It would need to be non conductive right from the get go.  I think this goes without saying.  There are a lot of products out there that fit this bill but Mineral Oil is both transparent and non conductive so you could still see your APM2.

3) It would need to allow the GPS to pass an un-attinuated signal, big fancy word to mean that the liquid must not change the frequency or power of the incoming satellite signals. I've got no clue on this and I could not measure it even if I did for I lack the equipment.

4) It would also need to not interfere with the magnetometer.  Since mineral oil's origin is that it is a derivative of petroleum I doubt it will have anything ferrous and would probably fit this bill.

5) Not be heavy, typical mineral oil is about 0.8 g/cm3  so I think we are safe here.

6) Since this liquid could be released into the environment it needs to be non toxic.  Mineral Oil fits that bill too.

7) Since we are usually on a tight budget it should be CHEAP and low and behold, it really is around 10 bucks a gallon.

8) It's also a mild laxative...just thought I'd throw in that icing on the cake since we are in awe of mineral oil at the moment.

Ok, so maybe now you buy in just a little to the mineral oil idea.  Now what?

Two ways to use this, one is very simple and clean and will most likely do the job well.  To picture this think of those water filled barrels you see on some dangerous exits on the highway.  When a car (or APM2 board) hits them the dispersion of the water being thrown into the air acts as a siphon of energy in the collision.  It is quite effective and saving lives because the force felt by the passengers (or components on the APM2 board) is otherwise reduced to a safe level.

What this safe level is I don't know.  That is going to be the crux of this experiment.  So lemme get to the mechanics of it.

The first thing you could do is use some sort of plastic bag that is filled with this mineral oil.  You take a custom made box and line the entire inside with these bags.  Place your APM2 board inside this box and you have the basic idea.  The box does NOT need to be stout, it just needs to hold everything in place to let the mineral oil do its job.  In fact, if the box itself was to explode on impact that too would dissipate energy.  To provide much better protection you would need bags under and over the APM2 as well.  It seems that in theory, you could run the cables out of the top of the box without serious degradation to impact resistances.  That is idea one at the most simple implementation.

The second idea is a bit harder to pull off but could have better results.  You take a box, put the APM2 inside of it, loosely mount it, as in the mounting mechanisms would "easily" break upon impact.  Fill the entire box with mineral oil and put a lid on it.  The lid must be water tight.  All electrical connections would need a water tight exit as well.  The US Navy has a lot of methods to accomplish these connections so while it may not be practical for our purposes it is at least a possibility.  This works because once the mounts are broken the APM2 board must "swim" to the wall of your box in a thick viscous fluid which takes a lot of energy to get there. 

I can foresee testing this second idea by giving the completed box (minus the external wires) to a minor league baseball pitcher and letting him have at it with a brick wall...or you can just drop it from your roof whichever tickles your fancy.  

This is a weak outlining for a solution to crash-proofing valuable electronics.  I have no idea how many would even be interested in such an item or if anyone is willing to give this a try.  I personally don't have APM2's lying around to throw at brick walls, but some of you might!

As a side note, I can also see how this MIGHT reduce vibration issues.  Since vibration in the typical aircraft/copter/whatever for the RC world is due to mechanical oscillation from various sources (motors and airframes for example) then it stands to reason that those forces would propagate to this housing.  These boxes could have plenty of room for custom rubber mounts that you may not have room for with traditional mounting methods (whatever those are for you).  The cool thing is, if you want to reduce vibration overall then you need to have dissimilar materials used in construction.  The mineral oil will act as a very different type of material for the mechanical energy passing into the box to be mitigated before it reaches the IMU on your APM2 board.  I don't know by what degree, but it seems logical that it will indeed have an effect.

I will install SolidWorks on my main desktop at a later date and design some example boxes that are in my head to help those that can do this to get started.  Could be fun!

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Gruesome APM2 Easter Accident

3689452565?profile=originalIt took the King's Horses 2 hours to arrive (bad neighborhood) and then the King's Men took another 3 hours to remove him from the pins.  Mr. Egg is listed in Stable Condition at the St. Humpty Dumpty Hospital.

Could NOT help myself...I had to post it :)

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What does the title mean?  I was a Crew Chief for the Shadow 200 system over in Afghanistan.  It costs around 800K for one bird and I thought I'd gauge my ability to build a better bird cheaper.  Here goes:

April 7 2012

Today is the first real day of building.  For the last 4 months or so I have been researching parts, ordering them and patiently waiting for them.  I have all I need to get started minus the new 3DR Telemetry set.

I understand they will be an all around upgrade and I spent all last night reading the wiki on them.  I like them more than the Xbee just based on simplicity itself.  There are fewer parts, less weight and way more compact.  I've still not decided on any modifications to it.

I think for now I will do everything as default.

What I have:


A YAK 54 electric plane with a 45" wingspan.  Rimefire .10 electric motor with a 35A ESC.  I had this bird from my tour in the Philippines and managed to ship it home before it was built over there.  Nice aircraft and I wonder if it will be too squirely for the APM2.

I have 3 2200mAh 11.1V liPos - don't want to really buy more batteries so any airframe I use must use these batteries.

Futaba 7C 2.4Ghz radio with 7C reciever and 4 servos.

APM2 unsoldered board with minimOSD, air speed add on and the new 3DR telemetry boards in the mail.

I bought a 5 and 6 volt capable BEC with the thought that I'd want to keep the motor battery and the APM2 board power supply separate.

I've got all of the other minor supplies as well, think I've spent around TOO MUCH money so far, but I really want this to be my career.  I want to build these things from concept to mass production, so this is an investment and not just the inner child in me going OH HELL YEAH THIS IS FREAKIN COOL!

I've got a plan and maybe it will happen in this order, but probably not: 3689452002?profile=original3689452025?profile=original

1.  Make the YAK 54 flight ready. - Finished

2.  Solder all circuit boards - Finished

3.  Fly YAK as traditional RC - soon*

4.  Upload and download all firmware and software for APM2 - Finished

5.  Make custom mounts for the YAK and APM2 - soon***

6.  Yeah...this list went right out the window a week ago.

April 9 2012

Today I discovered that I am a super genius when it comes to soldering.  Its like discovering your Batman.  I soldered the living crap out of those boards!  I'm going to buy some Batman underwear and use those when I maiden flight my YAK 54.  I'll post the pic of them soon***.

April 10 2012

Today I downloaded all the software and made a dedicated 4G thumb drive to keep all of the master files on.  I fired up the APM2 and low and behold she worked.  I can not get the GPS to lock on but I'm inside my house and I'm sure that is what is causing the problem.  On another note, I found out I need 7 female to female cables to use 7 channels.  Each cable goes from say, ch1 on my receiver to the corresponding ch1 input on the APM2.  Its a one for one basis.  I really only need 4 for my YAK but I might as well get the full capacity.3689451970?profile=original

I was also able to wire up the BEC, I chose this one here.  Hooking it up to nothing but the APM2 and a watt meter I was not able to detect any current!  This is because the watt meter I am using does not measure anything less than .09 amps so all I saw was 0.0.  In that case the dedicated 11.1V 1300mAh battery I got for it ought last until the cows come home (actually* about 6 hours).  MOOOOO.  One last good thing about this particular BEC is that it has an on and off switch which means I don't have to remove a power pin from the APM2 itself, so less wear and tear!

April 11 2012

I finally understand how to hook everything up. The problem is I need more cables.3689452040?profile=original  No hobby store around here has them!!  Soooooo since I can't find the pieces themselves I will just place an order for them.  So here I sit...waiting...

April 22 2012

Back in action!  Fedex is my second favorite Uncle.  Got a cable making kit in from hanson hobbies and right next to that was my new black 3DR box!  Order was spot on too!  The new 3DR Telemetry circuit boards are VERY small.  I'm really impressed at them.  My tiny motor will only haul 3lbs max so needless to say, the lighter the parts the better!  So, later on I will post a pic of fully functioning APM2 so others can just look at it and understand how its supposed to be hooked up.  My APM2 required me to slightly bend 2 pins to get the daughter board to snug up against the 2x6 pin rack.  After I did that the darn thing works like a drag queen at Madi Gras! (umm...look that one up)

I am getting nervous about making a nice GCS.  I want it to have a cool factor of about 9.7.  Anyone with pics of such an animal please point them out to me.  Past that I am understanding a hole lot more about how all of this works than I did just a few days ago.  It's getting close to the time I need to actually fly my YAK so I'll be even more nervous then.

And HOT DAMN! I got the bevrc's X8 flying wing kit on the way from China!  It has to be 3689451991?profile=originalone of the sexiest flying birds I've seen in a long time!  Its MADE for amateur UAV making and I can't wait to fly that thing!  Good day all around for UAV building.

===Later the same night...

Solved the last few pieces of the APM2 puzzle and....ITS ALIVE!!!

Wife was just teeming with happiness as I commanded her to hold the laptop where I could see it as I paced our backyard.  The pride and excitement was just plain palpable!  Now if only I could just stop puffing Li-Poly packs testing this stuff out and attach a flux capacitor to the watchamacallit.....

Tomorrow I'll start on integrating it into the airframe and in the morning...I'm making WAFFLES!

May 1 2012

Now, I know you all have been in stitches wondering what's going on with my build.  I took some downtime is all, plus I had a few more goodies coming in the mail!  Now on with the updates!

I puffed a battery last week, let it drain too much...20 dollar lesson there, will have to order new ones.

I have also come to the conclusion that this Yak might not have the battery capacity to run separate power supplies for the APM2, the motor and the video transmitter.  Not sure yet but that is the way it is looking.  3689452065?profile=originalI'll make that decision later after I know the final weight.

I got a lot accomplished today.  I made a mounting board for the APM2 and my receiver.  Epoxied it close to the CG.  I also got the 3DR radios to both upload their software and load the default values.  I'm going to leave the defaults as they seem to be good for my application.  

With the APM2 correctly working I need to figure out a way to mount the air speed sensor.  It has to be in the wing to avoid the prop wash but since this was a pre built bird I'm going to have cut away some of the very nice monocote job.  I'll do that tomorrow.  Then I need to mount the 900Mhz antenna and I think I already know a way to pull that off too. 

The wiring is EXTREMELY important.  What connects to where and how the connection is oriented is sensitive enough that just ONE misplaced connection and the whole thing craps its pants.  Pictures coming soon.  I have been unable to fly this bird as an RC due to high winds even at night.  It has been raging here for more than 2 weeks. 

I worked on this bird until my brain was tired.  It has been a LONG time since I've done something technically challenging and I can honestly say, victory feels GOOD.

One more note, I am beginning to look into building an antenna with most things about building one of these it at first, seemed daunting, then expensive, then I get some balls and just go for it...that will be coming soon too...the antenna tracker, not my balls.  Just sayin.

May 12 2012

Today I built the GCS box.  Cost was about $100.  Quick and easy assembly too!  I need some foam, but only after I figure out what I'm going to put into it and the arrangement within.  Here are some self explanatory pics:




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