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Blade 200QX Quadcopter by Horizon Hobby – Review

200QX Up Close

In a RC World where quadcopters are becoming THE thing to pilot, Blade Helicopters took the popular 350QX platform and shrank it. Luckily, there was no movie starring Rick Moranis, but I did get the opportunity to give the 200QX Quadcopter a good test and you can see my thoughts on the aircraft after the jump…
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quad_band

Everyone know’s I’m a sucker for automated drone stuff, and there is something about this video. It ‘looks legit’ yet part of me thinks, wow it would be tough to pull that off. That all being said, I’m pretty sure I’d pay to see this in real life as a small concert, or be able to buy the ‘drone band in a box’ kit for my house to enjoy.

Check out the video below of a handful of drones playing a few different tunes.

FlyTrex Live

Hot off the presses via their blog, the guys over at FlyTrex have updated their GPS MultiRotor telemetry system to also provide live data feed straight to their website, making it the first ‘Black Box’ for quadcopters. FlyTrex Live uses a GSM (cell phone data) connection to transmit Speed, Location, Altitude, and Battery Voltage live directly to their website.

What makes this such a big deal? Thanks to that GSM connection, one can provide real time tracking data to help search and rescue operations for fly-aways, crashes, etc.

Other features/statistics as shown on their page:

  • GSM Powered - Flytrex Live uses standalone GSM data connection that transmits your flight telemetry automatically to your personal Flytrex Profile whenever you takeoff and for the duration of your flight.
  • Auto Flight Logger - Similar to the Core, Flytrex Live brings powerful flight logging capabilities. All of your flight details are logged and stored in your personal Flytrex Profile. With Flytrex Live, logging is done automatically and you no longer need to copy mission files after flying. All of your flight missions are automatically transmitted to your Flytrex Profile and will show almost instantly after landing.In addition to GPS location, speed, altitude and temperature, Flytrex Live adds voltage logging that helps you analyze battery performance during your flights.
  • Live Tracker, Last Seen - Unlike other trackers that rely on challenge-response operation, Flytrex Live maintains a live data connection that guarantees you’ll always know where your multirotor was last seen, making sure you’ll never lose your multirotor again. Should your aircraft go MIA, visit the new Last Seen tool in your Flytrex Profile to see where your multirotor was last spotted.
  • Live Flight Channel - Share your flight in real time with your personal Live Flight Channel. Your Live Flight Channel let’s you broadcast your flight telemetry, stats, and Google Maps flight path as-you-fly. Link to your channel, share your Flight Channel with other Flytrex pilots, or allow Flytrex to automatically post to your Facebook timeline as soon as you takeoff!
  • Lightweight & Robust - Flytrex Live was designed to be the smallest, most lightweight and robust black box solution for multirotors. Flytrex Live weighs only 34 grams and measures 4.5 x 4.8 cm.

On top of that, there will be an iOS app for the FlyTrex system that will have some fun features, but no specifics given.

The FlyTrex Live sells for $190 and also requires a $9 cable for the GPS quad of your choice (Supports DJI NAZA-M, Phantom, Blade 350QX, and Ardupilot 2.5/2.6). You can order now and see more details regarding the Flytrex Live on the Flytrex webpage Right Here.

Click Here for more Flytrex News on BigSquidRC.

AMAFAABSRCLogo

Last week I posted the newest suggested policies the FAA has drafted regarding model aircraft (airplanes, helis, multirotors) and how they can be used for ‘recreation’ as compared to ‘commercial.’ Personally, the rules are not HORRIBLE, but they do go against most of the rules and policies of the AMA, the governing body of model aviation.

Being a member of the AMA, I have been sent correspondence from the group discussing the primary concerns of the AMA regarding the FAA’s rules. The details are located here, but here are the key points:

 

  • Throughout the rule the FAA takes great latitude in determining Congress’ intentions and in placing tightly worded restrictions through its “plain-language” interpretation of the text.
  • The FAA uses the plain language doctrine to create a regulatory prohibition of the use of a specific type of technology.
  • FAA’s overreaching interpretation of the language in the Public Law is evident in the rule’s interpretation of the requirement that model aircraft be “flown strictly for hobby or recreational use.”
  • Although the FAA acknowledges that manned aviation flights that are incidental to a business are not considered commercial under the regulations, the rule states that model aircraft flights flown incidental to a business are not hobby or recreation related.
  • The rule overlooks the law’s clear intention to encompass the supporting aeromodeling industry under the provision of the Special Rule, “aircraft being developed as a model aircraft.” The rule’s strict interpretation of hobby versus business puts in question the activities of the principals and employees of the billion dollar industry that supplies and supports the hobby.
  • The Public Law states that when model aircraft are, “flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft (must) provide(s) the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport) with prior notice of the operation. However the rule indicates that approval of the airport operator is required. Although it is understood that making notification to the airport and/or ATC will open a dialog as to whether the planned activity is safe to proceed, there is no intent in the law that this be a request for permission on the part of the model aircraft pilot.
  • The Interpretive Rule establishes new restrictions and prohibitions to which model aircraft have never been subject. This is counter to the Public Law which reads, “The Federal Aviation Administration may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft,…” if established criteria are met.
  • The Interpretive Rule attempts to negate the entire Public Law by stating, “Other rules in part 91, or other parts of the regulations, may apply to model aircraft operations, depending on the particular circumstances of the operation. This in and of itself makes model aircraft enthusiasts accountable to the entire litany of regulations found in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, something that was never intended by Congress and until now never required by the FAA.

Understandably, the AMA has worked hard to create a set of rules for RC pilots to fly by, and some of the FAA’s rulings/opinions directly negate some of those guidelines.

Want to make you opinion heard? Want to help the AMA or support the points of the FAA? Don’t comment here!

Instead, you can contact the government directly regarding these FAA rules and the AMA response by sending your comments directly to the FAA.

You can:

There are four methods to submit a comment. Emailing your comment is the fastest and most convenient method. All comments must include the docket number FAA-2014-0396. Tips for submitting your comments.

Email: Go to http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for sending your comments electronically.

Mail: Send Comments to Docket Operations, M-30; US Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE., West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, West Building Ground Floor, Washington, DC 20590-0001.

Hand Delivery: Take comments to Docket Operations in Room W12-140 of the West Building Ground Floor at 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.

Fax: (202) 493-2251.

Now, for these comments to count towards the final decision of the FAA, you must submit your two cents by July 25th.

Until next time, Stay Shiny and Keep Flyin’!

Multirotor WreckGranted, having a little extra dilithium in the warp drive is never a bad thing, but knowing how much power is left in your LiPo is more important for pilots (and most for multirotor pilots) just because RC Cars don’t fall from the sky when the batteries die!

Above this you see quite the quadcopter wreck. My LHS/Employer has an intern with the gift of programming multirotor aircraft. He got so excited when he finished perfecting this one that he ran outside to fly it. A few minutes later, the lack battery power in his 3S LiPo cut the motors out and down it fell.

Only YOU can prevent accidents like this one and others that have unfortunately graced the attention of the media. Here are a few things you can do/purchase to keep your aircraft in the sky.

  • Lipo Checker: Always check the status of your flight batteries by having a LiPo checker on hand. Available at your local hobby shops for around $20, this is a must have for your tool box!
  • Time your flights: In order to best determine when it is time to land, do some flying and regularly check your voltage levels with a LiPo checker. After a few flights, you can set a timer on your radio to help you out.
  • Low Voltage Monitor: This isn’t the most effective, especially for long distance flight, but this devices plugs into your LiPo balance plug and starts to emit tones when the voltage gets close to the cut off. It is a lot easier than landing every minute or so to use a LiPo checker though.

If you have any other great ideas in preventing ‘SkyFall’ (Cue Adele music), feel free to add them in the Comments!

Until next time, Stay Shiny and Keep Flyin’!

New FAA Rules

As of June 25th, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released their interpretation of special aircraft and first person view (FPV) flight. Above you can see a few of their guidelines, and you can see more on what is or isn’t considered hobby/recreational flight by Reading More… READ MORE

Flytrex_image

After my previous article talking about Flytrex Core V2 Multirotor Flight Recorder, my email BLEW UP asking for more! I quickly got my hands on the latest shipment and was able to unbox (or unbag, really), install, and test out this neat chip on my Blade 350QX.  Check out the unboxing pics and my experience with it by Reading More…

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drones_on_leashOk, I’ll take a page out of Peter Griffin’s book: You know what really grinds my gears? The word ‘drone’.

By definition, a drone is a aerial vehicle that does not have a physical pilot on board. When most people think of the word drone (previous to quadcopters), we thought of missile launching gliders flying over the Middle East during ‘Operation: Iraqi Freedom’.  The lamestream media has quickly adopted this term to sum up all multirotor aircraft, deeming them a new technology that while a new and upcoming trend, can be an invasion of privacy or a danger to the public due to bad piloting, mechanical failure, etc.

First of all, the term drone is ever growing in the science and technology field as a fully-automated device. So yes, some multirotors are becoming drones thanks to technology like Ardupilot (mentioned in this article). Now all RC Aircraft (including RC Planes and non-multirotor helicopters) are more qualified as a UAV, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.

Second, as much as the term drone is changing, the original definition does instill a little fear. Whether an invasion of privacy or the launching of missiles from the sky, the word ‘drone’  isn’t all unicorns and rainbows.

Overall, I’m not angry, I just want multirotor aircraft, UAVs, and RC anything to get their fair chance to be a fun and enjoyable hobby for all. I would like the news media to show the positive and fun side of the hobby, like when I got to show off for WGN Morning News here a month ago.

The 200QX review is moving along (See my unboxing post?). I will finally get the last of the great quadcopter build series done, too. Until the next installment of fun, Stay Shiny and Keep Flyin’!

 

vlcsnap-2014-06-17-11h33m57s248Selfies are out, people! Trending hotter than the sun, thanks to a Drone-taken picture of Captain Picard himselfDronies are all the new photography rage on the web.

Making a Dronie in 10 Easy Steps:

1.) Grab your quadcopter. May I suggest a Ares QX130, Blade 180QX HD, or LaTrax Alias for those without 350QX or DJI Phantoms

You can take your own Dronie like mine above by Reading More…
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200QX Box FrontAfter a few weeks of delays, I finally got my hands on the next quadcopter from Blade: the 200QX brushless quadcopter. Built with a frame like the 350QX, this quad is brushless and equipped with the new SAFE system for a powerful, but stable flight performance. Our review will be up in the future but check out the unboxing pictures below!

Make sure to click READ MORE to see the rest.
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qx130ethosThis past weekend was a sad one for me: I attended a small memorial for an Ares QX130 quadcopter. Granted there was ice cream and lots of laughs abound, but I think this tale bears repeating as it does teach a valuable lesson.

My cousin was lucky enough to get the quadcopter from ‘Santa’ this past Christmas, but it wasn’t until Chi-beria thawed that he started to fly. He was having a great time with it: bouncing it off every sizable object in his backyard giggling the whole time. Little did I know that his father was using it more than him. Well the sun was shining and the wind was OK, and my uncle decided to spend extra time trimming the quadcopter and make it as stable as possible all on his own. After about 20 or so odd minutes, he had it trimmed to perfection.

As he started to hover around his driveway and the bit of road in front of his house, a car was approaching the flight zone. In a gut instinct maneuver, my uncle gave hard throttle and cleared about 20 feet or so in the air to avoid collision.

…which is when the wind at the higher elevation took the quad and nestled it deep into the top of a 25 foot tall tree and it has yet to come down still after 5 days.

The moral? Never underestimate the wind. Take it from a guy born and raised in the Windy City: just because it’s a gentle breeze where you’re standing doesn’t mean its the same 10, 20, even 100 feet up.

I’d like to thank my uncle for demonstrating this lesson for us (since you planned that the whole time, right?), and would like to also mention his son is not letting him touch his new quadcopter ever. At least I have a Father’s Day gift idea!

The last of the Multirotor Build Project is about ready for viewing, just getting the last of the video down and waiting for the rain to stop to get a few more shots of them in. The Blade 200QX is coming in within the week so I’m really excited to unbox and give you my impressions on that as well. This will be a great summer, indeed!

Until next time, Stay Shiny and Keep Flyin’!

meet-flytrex-core-2-smaller-lighter-smarter-splash

What better way to challenge yourself and your piloting skills than earning achievements and sharing your bold and daring exploits with fellow pilots? The guys over at Flytrex have come up with a flight recorder to measure altitude, speed, and other metrics to share with your fellow pilots.

For added fun, they also included in their social networking challenges and achievements to earn and add a little bit of competition between pilots. Personally I’m already at my limits of comfort flying my quad, so any challenges outside that zone may be ignored just to keep my flights fun. Either way, I cannot wait to slap this bad boy either into my Ardupilot quad or my 350QX.

The chipset plugs as an intermediate between your GPS and mainboard, and starting at $50 you can hook it up to Ardupilot, DJI Phantoms and Naza-M systems, and Blade 350QXs. Details and how to order them can be found on the Flytrex website Right Here.

For more quadcopter articles on BigSquidRC, click here.

 

Build Title Pic[To start from the beginning, check out Part 1 and Part 2]

The frames are built and the motors and ESCs are installed, and all that remains is one major piece: The Multirotor Control Board.

The Multirotor Control Board is the heart and soul of the multirotor vehicle. It maintains level flight, helps equalize motor speeds, and also is the gyroscope for the aircraft. Now these boards use a number of programming means: some use computer code to get set up,  others just a basic computer setup program, and some can be completely standalone. The only disadvantage? The price varies just as much as the capabilities of the control board. I picked up a little bit of everything for these quads, so I left no stone unturned.

Multirotor Control Boards:

Armattan CNC 258 VTail: This quad actually was designed with hardware to support the installation of a specific control board, the KK Multiboard. Available from various sources, though originating from HobbyKing the KK board is the go-to control board for most DIY multirotor builders. Priced around $39 shipped, this control board has an onboard LCD display and menu system to fine tune the settings. With its simple setup and reliable performance, I can understand why it is always on backorder. The disadvantage? Backordering, and the fact is ships from China. I can be quite impatient, so sometimes waiting is not worth the value. [Note 5/22/14: For those of you looking for a more 'Made in USA' KK board, ReadyToFlyQuads now has one available for purchase here.)

Lynxmotion Hunter 400: For this quadcopter I really got adventurous and went to my new source for multicontroller boards: ReadyToFlyQuads. Featured on a post from a while ago (found here), the guys there in Florida have made a great board called the MultiWii FLIP. With the gyro and accelerometer technology used originally for the Nintendo Wii controllers, the boards are programmed to handle multirotors using a programming language called Arduino. Yes, this does fall under the ‘Age of the Geek’ category, but all of the coding is premade and the FLIP board can also be purchased with all the programming pre-loaded. For a faster ship, you can order the board without programming and requiring the headers (ESC/Receiver Plugs) to be soldered, and get it to your door for around $20 shipped. I only recommend this board for the ‘tinkering’ kind of DIY builder, for you have a lot of tweaking available through the MultiWiiConf board utility program, shown below.

DJI Flamewheel 450: For this quadcopter I took the more traditional route by buying more DJI, more specifically the Naza-M Lite Controller with GPS unit. This is a basic multicontroller unit that was built with great instructions and support from the manufacturer. The GPS upgrade alone is the same as the GPS and controller bundled together, so I picked up the set for $169 from Empire RC. Granted it is much more expensive than the other two controllers, but the technology is backed but multiple sources of technical support as well as an ever changing firmware set that can be upgraded by connecting the whole thing to the computer. Overall, this was the only setup I had that was pretty straight forward without making me taking much risk in the ‘I hope this setup works or I will have a big crash to clean up.’

Now that the major ‘guts’ of the quadcopters present and accounted for, it’s time to update the scoreboard:

Quad Frame Motor/ESC/Wiring Controller TBA Total
Armattan $125 $129 $39 $0 $293
Lynxmotion $90 $157 $20 $0 $267
DJI $32 $122 $169 $0 $323

Looking back to Part 2 (link at beginning of article), the tables have turned when it comes to pricing, placing the DJI at the high end of the kits where it was at the lowest, thanks to the Naza-M Lite.

It’s time to assemble and pick up the last components, which will wrap up this build series with ‘Prop Up or Shut Up’. It will focus on the finished product, flight, and basic tricks to get your builds running smoothly.

I can’t wait to show you how these guys fly, but until then Stay Shiny and Keep Flyin’!