Is DIY Dead?

maxresdefault.jpgI remember a time a few years back where we DIYer's where leading the way in drone advancement, It was here where I  was first presented with an autopilot, Before that It never even crossed my mind that commercialy affordable autopilots would ever be available. Since then There has been a huge advace in the technology, both from us diyer's and comercialy.

Im not really electronicly minded or any good at coding, but I have a CNC and good CAD knowledge, So I spent my time designing a inovative frame which works great, but due to the current lack of interest I saw my website traffic fall month after month and just didn't see the point in renewing my hosting. I made the project opensource at the begining in the true spirt of DIY, so its still available to the people who are interested.

However today I feel we have reached a point where the commercial entities are taking over and puting the diy side of the hobby in the shade. Take the new mavic from DJI for example, It has so many features that we simply can't get in that package at that price point.... 27minutes flight time, tiny camera and gimball, extremly portable, long range HD video and RC link just to name a few.  Now althogh I may not personaly agree with how DJI market these as if they where toys... serious toys but still. I dont want to focus on how I disagree with DJI as a company but the fact that I now find myself in a position where I am concidering selling my current (DIY) Quad with APM, In favor of the new mavic.

So my question is..... IS DIY DEAD?

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  • Hi Jack,

    I've seen you take basically chewing gum and spit and put together operating things (monocopter for instance) that were way ahead of their time).

    And way ahead of the rest of us.

    And get them to work.

    It really isn't about making the most popular thing better, it's about making the thing you want, the way you want.

    For some of us the bleeding edge is the flag we choose, we really don't mind bleeding, but the fun is in the doing.

    Guess that is why we are died in the wool DIY'rs, not just consumers.

    I still love the extreme and growing potential of technology.

    For me, it is the only possible thing that might actually be able to surmount the apparent gross stupidity of much of my fellow man.

    Best regards to a real Wizard,


  • Heck no! The fun is in doing it yourself...the adventure, the thrill of success, the learning by ones own mistakes is part of life! 

    Additionally, just about everything the technology of mankind has was done by a do-it-yourselfer! Hey Frankenstein!

    Check on my post of a new flight controller design using the 300mhz Atmel E70...someone will pisk it up and build it!

  • Even with prices bottomed out at $1000 for the last 5 years, the latest flight controllers are good enough that getting the same results on your own would cost more.  You're not going to get competitive results with the 10 year old carbon fiber rods & GWS propellers you used to slap together. 

  • Developer

    One thing I notice is that many seem to associate DIY with bleeding edge technology. But that's not DIY, at least not how I see it. DIY is about the joy of building something, anything for your self and maybe even learn something in the process.

    In some special cases this means being on the bleeding edge (e-bikes being a good example since commercial ones are very restricted by law), but mostly it's just building for the sake of building.

  • +1

  • Hey Rob +1, +1, +1,

    "This is something I have come to recognize about myself.  I enjoy building/creating things more than I do actually using them.  I spend 10 times as much time building my Land Rover and an off-road camping trailer than I ever used them.  And I've spent far more time building UAV's than I have flying them."

  • Lot of great point here and great to see you still have one of my frames Marc!!

    I suppose we are at a crossroads, People who where pushed down the DIY route because They needed to take images from the sky will nowadays be more tempted by the off the shelf option. I certainly will be keeping my DIY projects going as I enjoy tinkering. However I also like taking photos with my stable camera platform, For that reason ill probably end up getting a mavic or similar purely to expand on that.

  • Greetings Luke. Recognize that thing on my bench. Explorer Mk2A! Running on 6S with DJI E800 on Aimdroix arms with DIY combined long range UHF and Telemetry modem (ULRS). Flies very well actually. It is getting a gimbal that can track GPS coordinates supplied by mavlink connection.


    I have a small fleet of DIY multi-rotors. Most being 100% DIY but a Steadidrone QU4D as well. I have a 640 FLIR as a very expensive cast-off from a DIY project (not my $$$ happily) that I would love get in a small gimbal as opposed to the Nex gimbal extra counterweights. A DIY FLIR multirotor was made pointless by the release of DJI machines with gimbaled FLIRS. So there is an interesting thing.

    I basically use a Phantom 4 and 3 Pro with a raft of filters for AP, mostly for family biz. 1 minute real estate videos (wife a realtor). It was miserable using DIY machines for a year but I did and got some great results, sometimes. But as a tool a Phantom 4 is unbeatable. Mavic probably will be as well. There is really almost no joy in flying them though. Could not imagine doing it for pleasure. The vast majority of people just fly a few times and them put them on the shelf. I would wait 6 months and buy a Mavik for $500. My P4 with 2 hours of flight, filters, pro carrying case and 4 batteries cost me $1050 on Craigslist. (orig. cost 2 months ago $2200 with all the bits). Actually with the cost of used Phantom's and Maviks soon to be in the 100s of dollars I think it high time we started hacking these to re-use their gimbals and Lightbridge. You could probably put a phantom gimbal and the entire Phantom main board in a bigger plane in a dome up-front, with outstanding results, with APM doing the flying. You simply could not dream of purchasing the parts to do this for even the new cost of a new Phantom.

    And I have a Feiyu Mini 3D I want to put on a ZMR 250, along with a Pixracer. It may not go in my back pocket but it will still be smaller than a Mavic, even if it only flies for 8 minutes! All sitting and waiting for that thing I lack --- time.

    DIY is not dead though. Did you see the Outback Explorer competition? It is actually staggering to think what they accomplished with that. All DIY -- albeit led by a world class genius coder. I think DIY for aerial photography is increasingly pointless though, if videography or photography is what you do. You can probably add thermal inspection, as well as mapping to that list. But outside of that there is a vast world. Fixed wing and quadplanes are becoming a focus for me. There will never be a mass-consumer market for these platforms.

  • And then in other news, as I was composing that, this just crossed my desk:

    I never used CodeBender, had only vaguely heard about it, until this announcement. But, this is... seems like a common story.

    "As all of you know, we provide for free. Of course, "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch”, so that means we’ve been taking care of the bill all this time." "We’ve tried to generate revenue for a couple of ways. But none of these worked, and it seems we can’t escape an inevitable truth: Makers aren’t interested in paying for Software."

    People get these "free" services they like. But nothing is free. And now it is gone. Another thing moves to "the cloud". 

    Another step taken back towards Serfdom, where the common person owns nothing, and just does subsistence farming, paying rent to the landlord, and taxes to the government.

  • I was offered a Mavic at trade price, I turned it down, as I knew that I would be bored with it after a few flights, but that's me.

    This is a really salient point, and I only just realized something now when you said this.

    I have often told people this story about how I got involved in this industry.  6 years ago, I wanted to be able to take aerial photographs of my outdoor adventures (mostly truck-based overland trips).  I would see guys taking cool pictures in the deserts of the southwest US, Africa and Australia.  But ALL of my pictures were the same.  At best, I could stand 100 feet away from my subject, and the backdrop was always the same, some trees.  There is no perspective on where you were AT.  At that time, the only way to do this, was to hang a camera on an RC helicopter.  Which people were doing, but I didn't know how to fly helis.  So I wanted an autopilot.  DJI Ace One was $11,000.  I heard about Ardupilot, and it was like $400.  Chris Anderson made is sound like it was working, which he's really good at doing, as we all know.  So I bought it.  I learned quickly that it really didn't work at all.  But, instead of sticking it in the trash, I jumped in with both feet to make the system work.

    So here we are 6 years later.   I STILL have not taken any aerial photos of my trips, because I don't have time for that anymore!  My Land Rover sits, neglected.  I'm having more fun with THIS adventure.  RTF camera quads have been on the market for a few years now.  I didn't even buy one until about 6 months ago, got a Solo at $800 thinking that was a good deal (should have waited).  But you know, I STILL haven't done much with it!  It mostly just sits.  And I continue to work on building new aircraft systems.

    This is something I have come to recognize about myself.  I enjoy building/creating things more than I do actually using them.  I spend 10 times as much time building my Land Rover and an off-road camping trailer than I ever used them.  And I've spent far more time building UAV's than I have flying them.

    I know I'm not the only person in the world that is like this.

    I find it amazing that Chris wrote an entire book (or two) about this market, and how to sell to it. And was pretty successful doing it.  But then, just abandoned the whole thing to go RTF.  And when that failed, "pivots" to subscription cloud-based services.  A saturated market.  Meanwhile, the Long-Tail market is just forgotten. 

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