This is a couple of flights from my holiday that I made my first quad copter for. My wife and I (and two kids under 2) were planning a 2 week four wheel drive trip across the Simpson Desert in central Australia. For those not familiar with the Simpson Desert it is 550 km of desert, 1100 sand dunes to cross, and 3000 km round trip. The quad seemed like the perfect way to get a different perspective on the landscape.

I didn't have much time before the trip and only had experience with RC gliders before so I purchased a cheap frame from Hobby King. It didn't take long to realise that it wasn't going to but up to the task so I set about designing and building my own using 3mm ply. My first wasn't going to fit in a fully packed 4WD so I had to design and build a folding version.

In the end it took four full days (over 2 months ish) from start to finish before I left on the trip so I had very little time to learn to fly a quad and optimise the tuning.

I didn’t get to develop my flying skills much before I left and I only started to get comfortable flying FPV near my last flight of the trip. Unfortunately I missed one of my ESC connectors worked its way out and I crashed the quad after approximately 10 flights. I some good footage though. The crash is at the end of the video.

I would like to thank the DIY Drones community and everybody who contributed to the ARM 2 board!

Just for kicks I thought I would put a rendering of my SolidWorks design and what it looked like after it was built.



Post processing I did on the GoPro footage

As you can see from parts of the footage, my piloting was still pretty poor and I didn't get time to balance my propellers before the trip. I also found that the fish eye on the GoPro was pretty hard to watch when set to 720P (170 degree field of view). Before I went I tried to work out what I should be setting the camera to but people didn't post the settings or post processing details. So here is what I did for this trip:

GoPro settings:

720P (170 degree wide)

50 fps (this minimised the rolling shutter I found)

Post processing using Virtual Dub:

1. Resize 1900x1600

2. Deshaker v3.0

3. Barrel Distortion

4. Resize 1280x720

I did this as a mass batch process using DubMan. Here are my processing settings for Virtual dub. There are two because Deshaker takes two passes.



All this is free but then I added 20% saturation in CyberLink PowerDirector 10 Deluxe when I cut the video together.

E-mail me when people leave their comments –

You need to be a member of diydrones to add comments!

Join diydrones


  • Leonard, ah, a Patrol.  I should have thought of that, but the LC is always first to mind. Neither are available here.

    Yep, it's an off-road trailer I built myself.  Autohome Maggiolina on top for me and the wife, and the kids sleep in their own cabin below.  There's a kitchenette on the other side with a pull-out stove and fridge.

    IMO, the only way to go for our application is to put it inside a Pelican case. Then you can strap it anywhere you want.  Even if you put it inside the cabin, the dust will get in.

  • Developer

    Harry I completely agree,

    When I was a boy, it was watching birds like this that got me into RC gliders. Although when I fly with birds like this with the gliders I am more concerned with the damage they might do rather than the damage I might do to them :) I have a number of claw marks in one of my wings where a wedge tailed eagle dropped his talons to stop my glider moving up into him (my gliders are a little more efficient and are set up to show good air and they hover only 50cm above when they are curious). I don't want to see the result of an angry one :)

    And thanks everybody for replying I am glad you enjoyed the video!

  • Developer

    Hey John,

    Thanks for the kind words. I left a lot of footage out including my favourite flight of the trip. I didn't want to make it too long but it is so hard to keep things like this short! When my wife and I get the trip video done I will post it again.

    I learnt a lot about how to get good video by looking at the rather poor job I did on this trip and experimenting since then. I am also much moor confident in strong winds and don't bank as much to bring the copter back. (You can see the wind shear get me as I come into land next to that lake and I have to get on the gas to get above the trees).

    And the answer is YES I would have been straight in there to retrieve the copter if it went in the drink. In this particular case the water comes from a hot spring at 38 degrees so it would be very comfortable :)

    The wiring issues is something I have been thinking about too I am considering building a main board that I can push the APM2 onto some headers. The board would be a distribution board with current and voltage sensor built in, additional regulators with additional filtering so I can separate the power supply for video, APM2 ESC, AMP2 RXin, and Telemetry.

    I still have a lot to think about before I settle on the approach I build.

  • Developer

    Hi R Lefebvre,

    I am originality a country boy so 4wd is how I get back to nature with the family. The car I am driving is a Nissan Patrol. I am not sure it is available around the world but in Australia there is a lot of playful rivalry between Nissan Patrol drivers and Toyota Landcruiser drivers. In Australia we get a lot of wide open spaces around my area (South Australia) but things look a lot closer to your country in the Victorian High country and Tasmania. And things change again as you go north into the tropics.

    You look like you have a great set up there! Is that an off-road camper?

    I am still working out exactly how I want to build the quad for this application. The design as it stands has dampening on each motor then all the electronics, battery and gopro will be on a second damped platform that is contained inside a fibreglass fuselage. (Sand got everywhere on this trip as you can see). The thing I am going back and forth with is do I do a folding arm design that I can put against the cargo barrier (extra weight and not as well sealed), Or a fixed arm design and a larger box that needs to be kept on the draws in the back....

  • Thanks for the explanation.  Yeah, those birds in the video looked large and like little falcons.  For birds like that to be in large numbers like that, I'd imagine there'd need to be lots of prey available.  Anybody who plays with flying machines almost by definition has to have an appreciation for birds.  I know I do.

  • Apologies for the abbreviated name, Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus), a common raptor throughout inland Australia.  They have a very diagnostic vocalisation, which is coincidentally used in the soundtrack of Australian-made movies (yes - both of them!) - so Leonard must have had quite an earful when he was flying amongst that large number of birds.

    The kites were no doubt consuming native rodents at great rate, such as long-haired rat and/ or plains rats amongst many other irruptive rodent and small marsupial species which have benefited from recent above-average rains throughout inland and eastern Australia.

    Too much information?   (I'm not a bird-nerd, but I sometimes roost with them!)


  • I'm confused about the whistlers/birds.  i searched australian whistlers and some little song birds popped up.  Those whistlers are threatened by rats.  Were these birds you call whistlers some kind of raptor that eats rats?

  • Ah, doing some overlanding.  Very cool.  Is that a Land Cruiser you have?  Interesting stuff, because being able to do aerial footage on my own trips is one of the prime motivators for me to get into this stuff.

    Most of my photos tend to be like this.  


    Can't see the forest for the trees!  No sense of perspective.  No high ground to shoot from, etc. 

  • Start to finish, that was one of the most entertaining videos I have seen taken from a quadcopter. What a treat it must have been to fly in the wide open (except for some birds). Beautiful scenery. While watching I couldn't help but wonder... if it had crashed in that water, would you have tried to retrieve it?

    As a newbie, the more I hear about connectors coming loose during flight, the more I am inclined to solder most connections, or find a way to minimize stress on every pair. Would be interesting to start a discussion about ranking of "potential failure points" on multirotor systems (and that includes on-ground gear and pilots...). See how different people see the rankings from high to low. On the other hand, that might cause some to find a less expensive hobby!

  • Developer

    Yeh I was really happy with the way the sunset brings the sand dunes out in the desert!

    I forgot to talk about what post processing I used. I have to work out if I can add a file.....

This reply was deleted.