Arducopter gets excellent navigation lights: $11, but 91g

In-flight orientation continues to be a challenge in fast forward flight, so I thought I'd try some LED lighting.

These lights are each 24 centimeter strips, with 24 LEDs molded in.  I got them from eBay seller 'brledlight', and I'm amazed at the average selling price of these things.. less than $3 each!  What a bargain.

Power is 12v, which makes a direct connection to the 3S battery a perfect fit.

In my tests, all four light strips run at full brightness down to 10 volts, so that's a match.

Each strip draws about 120mA, and I'm seeing 5 to 6 Watts total draw for all four.

 

To tap power, I connected to the ESC power connector (Deans) to add a JST tap.

The small blue lump in the wire is a 3A micro fuse, soldered inline on the positive lead.  The wires on the LED strips are very thin, and I didn't want any of them starting a fire in the event of a crash/short, so it was important to get a fuse close to the power tap.  From there, it fans out to all four strips.

 

I'm flying X mode, so for light pattern, I went with White for the two front arms, and Red/Green for the traditional Port/Starbord indicators.

The results are fantastic!  I was able to fly in the dark without any issue.  The orientation is obvious from any angle below the quadcopter, as the LEDs are not very directional.  If anything, they are TOO bright, and my require a dimming resistor for more night flying if I want to keep any night vision when flying in close.

 

(Bottom View)

Overall, for a whopping $11 in LED strips and some zipties, this rocks!

Total added weight is 91 grams -- the strips are entirely potted in soft PVC(?).

I haven't flown these in daylight yet, but another option would be to go two-red/two-green if the white is not very visible.  It's plenty bright, but so is the sky.

I've never flown anything at all in the dark, so this is a blast!

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Developer
Comment by Jani Hirvinen on February 13, 2011 at 8:45am

Looks great but 91 gr for lights sounds a lot. Ok if you don't plan to have any camera etc on board, then it's ok. You can do this a lot lighter too, just put W,G,R,B leds on those small holes on motor mounts, they are really visible even from far. But yeah this will be even more visible :)

Comment by Ground Loop on February 13, 2011 at 9:44am

I agree.  91gr is more than I was expecting.  The LEDs come potted in a thick strip of plastic, which is most of the weight.  I'll check to see what the current draw at hover is now.

 

One option is to cut each strip in half.

 

Do you have any pictures of the LEDs in the motor mount holes?

Comment by Ground Loop on February 13, 2011 at 11:07am
The weight went from 800g to 891g, with an additional 179g for battery, so yeah.. that's 8% of the all-up weight.
Comment by Paul Feely on February 13, 2011 at 1:36pm

I went for an in between option - flexible SMD led tape with self adhesive backing on three legs (Red Green white on + setup).

 

Paul

 

Comment by Kim Skatun on February 13, 2011 at 8:13pm
Unitedhobbbies sell strips of smd leds pretty cheap...
Comment by Ground Loop on February 14, 2011 at 10:02am
So THATs what you're supposed to do with those rubber feet. :)

Moderator
Comment by Mark Harrison on February 15, 2011 at 7:36am

You've got the waterproof lights, like these:

http://hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/uh_viewItem.asp?idProduct=14287

 

You can get these, identical except for the plastic coating, much lighter:

http://hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/uh_viewItem.asp?idProduct=8940

 

I've got a set of both downstairs, I'll weigh tomorrow and follow up.  I'm installing lights this week, I think I'll try the "ground loop standard".

Comment by Ground Loop on March 6, 2011 at 12:33pm

I went back to "+" configuration, removed the White strips, and moved the Green/Red to opposing arms.  This works great, and cut half the weight.

 

They're nearly invisible in full sunlight, though, so I put an cracked eSky heli canopy over one arm.  Now I have something that works in sunlight and dusk equally well.

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