Sunday, May 10, 2015

Reflection

For what may be my last blog post for my 20 time project, the drone, I am just going to answer these questions:What went well? What did not? What would you change? What did you learn? 

What went well?
For this questions there is numerous answers, but by far the best one is the over completion of the project.  Multiple small goals ultimately led up to the big goal.  The part of the project that was the easiest and most frustration-free was the physical building of the drone.  This was by far the easiest part of the project because I already had most of the skills need for assembly, like soldering.  Although the drone frame did not come with as any sort of directions, it was easy to figure out where each part went.  But overall the project as a whole probably went the best because it was completed and my goal was achieved.

What did not go well?
Sooooo many things.  During one of my first few flights, for example, I crashed the drone and a part of it broke, luckily it was an easy fix.  Along with the occasional crash of the drone, the programming of the drone and controller were by far the most difficult and frustrating part of the project.  Unlike the drone frame the drone electronics and transmitter had manuals, but they were supper complex.  The manuals were almost written in a different language using special acronyms like ESC, PMU, and many others.  The programming is where I got stuck the most, but then I would go to the drone store and they would help immensely.  They helped decrypt the programming language, and were always there when I flat-out could not understand how something worked.  There is nothing more frustrating than to see your project all built, but knowing that a couple programming  glitches  are setting you back(especially because those changes are practically invisible).  The reason why programming did not go very well is mainly because I had to learn what to do and how to do it.

What would you change?
This question focuses more on 20 time than my project and what I would do to change it.  Well, at the start of the year my teacher told us to shoot for the stars and if you fall short it would be O.K.  But what he did not realize is that when he told us to do this many of us did not feel comfortable in shooting for the stars.  Of those people that felt pressured to achieve greatness, many failed and switched their project back into a more comfortable project and never had that zeal for 20 time again.  I shoot for the stars, though, and it actually worked out.  What I'm trying to say is that shooting for the stars is not for everyone, because many of us can do cool things without going outside our comfort zone. 

What did you learn?
EVERYTHING, from programming to flying, I truly believe that I have mastered programming the drone.  There are a few things here and there that I still need to figure out, but I think I know pretty much all there is to programming my drone.  What I learned the most is that building and programming a drone is hard.  This is why finishing the project makes it feel that much better, knowing you overcame a huge obstacle.  I also learned how to fly and program the drone too.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Huston We Have Lift Off

My drone is finally flying.  I went up to the hobby store and worked on my drone with them for a good 4 hours on Saturday.  Apparently the problem was that the motors were not spinning the right way.   The motors on my quad copter are brush-less meaning that they only spin 1 way, even if I decided to reverse the polarity of the current to the motor it would spin, just not as fast.  One motor on the quad copter had this problem and it caused the quad copter to flip.  The reason I had no idea this was happening was because the propellers spin so fast it is hard to tell the difference between one spinning at 1,000RMPs and another at 1,500RPMs.  Once this problem was fixed it was off to the races.
The first maiden flight I was very hesitant with the throttle, thinking that is was going to flip with any false move.  Thankfully it did not and I hovered it a few feet off the ground.  The second flight I was a little more ambitious and started to move it in a 10ft box.  Let me tell you it is a lot harder than it looks to pilot a drone than you think.  Off course with success there is always failure.  I had a few crash landings, but thankfully nothing got injured on it.  After a few shaky flights it became evident to me that I definitely needed a lot more practice.  These next few weeks my goal is to work on my piloting.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

It's time to consult the professionals

After several flips and two broken props, it is now time to talk to someone who knows quad copters inside and out.  I have tried my absolute hardest in trying to achieve lift-off, but nothing seems to work.  I even reprogrammed the whole quad copter.  This problem is truly out of my hands.  Next Friday, I am planning on going to The Prop Shop.  This is where I bought my quad copter.  There is one employee in particular that knows almost everything about quad copters.  I believe that he is coming back from the Philippians the start of this week and will be able to help me find the bug.  I followed all the direction to the letter, so I think that there is only going to be a minute fix.  After he fixes the quad copter I am going to ask to do a brief check of all the systems, so over the weekend I can hopefully fly it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Houston We Sort of Have Lift Off

After hours of reading the manual I finally was able to put the finishing touches on my Quad Copter.  As of now all of the programming is finished.  So I tried flying the drone for the first time on Tuesday in my basement.  Unfortunately, I could never get it off the ground because one motor has too much power routed to it, causing the Quad Copter to flip right before it gets lift off.  I don't believe this is too big of a problem because when you fly a drone outside you would not be too tentative with the throttle because there is no ceiling.  Never the less, just to be safe, I am planning to go to the Prop Shop so they can inspect the drone for any minute problems before it goes up 300 ft.  

Also another minor setback is the snow.  I can't fly the drone outside now because of the snow.  The snow could easily short circuit the whole quad copter and that would not be good.  Fortunately, a warm front is moving in and it is supposed to get to the high thirties and low forties all next week.  This will cause the snow to melt and the ground to be soft from the melted snow.  Hopefully my drone can get off the ground in 2-3 weeks and then the hard part begins: learning to fly it. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Its Working



video
After construction and preliminary programming the motors of the quad copter are spinning.  The quad copter is a few weeks out until it is finally flight worthy.  These last couple weeks I have spent by programming the motors and the controller.  The controller is so complex, with  eight switches, you would think it be able to build a house all by itself.  lucky for me I don't need to use all eight switches. I am planning on only using two or three for the flight modes and the GPS compass.

For this week the plan is to read more of the manuals.  There is a huge step by step manual from DJI that outlines all of the prostheses needed to program, even the most complex quad copter.  And maybe this week I will start to program the GPS.  The GPS is very fragile in the way that it uses the Earth's magnetic field and satellite location to pin-point the location.  The problem with the magnetism is that the motors generate their own magnetic field, so the GPS needs to be out of range of the motors' fields.  If the motors' magnetic field does influence the GPS than it can cause the quad copter to go haywire.  After all the GPS is supposed to be the fail-safe system for when you're are going to crash.

P.S. The Video is in slow-mo, those motors are fast.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

It's ready to be Programmed

Finally after several hours and countless zip ties I constructed the Quad copter.  There are tons of wires going every which way.  Every thing is locked down with zip ties, so something does not fall off in mid-flight.  Also I hooked up all the wires to their corresponding ports, which you can see is very difficult.  All in all the quad copter is built and is ready to program.
So, I kind of hit a dead end when it comes to programming.  I downloaded the Naza-multi Rotor software on my computer(this software is needed in order to program the quad copter).  When I plugged in the quad copter to the computer it said that the quad copter could not operate on this computer.  After all the hard work of assembling the quad copter I was a little disappointed by this set back.  To fix the problem I went to the internet which told me exactly how to fix the problem.  Apparently the programming software comes in two parts and that is why I could not program it.  So now all that is left until it is able to fly is programming.



Monday, January 26, 2015

Quad Copter Control Center

The on board control center for the quad copter is what I consider the most important part.  The control center is the nucleus of the whole quad copter, every motor is attached to it.  In addition, the power ports are also attached to the control center.  The main job of the of the control center is to distribute the power to each motor separately.  This allows the quad copter to spin and turn by cutting power from some motors and boosting other motor's power.  Other than distributing power to the motors it also receives the signals from the ground controller and also coordinates add on devices like the compass.
This week I picked out the control center I am going to use.  It connects all the motors, receives signals from the ground controller, and can also hold more add on devices.  I am only going to add one device on my quad copter, the compass.  At the store the clerk explained to me how the compass makes the flying the quad copter a bit easier.  Originally the quad copter had set motors for each directions, meaning that if the quad copter is spun around the the north motor could be pointing south.  This causes the pilot to constantly look at the motors.  The compass would automatically inordinate itself and so the motors can switch positions causing for easier flight control.  The compass also prevents crashes if the pilot loses control.  The ground controller has a panic button which stops the quad copter in mid-air and hovers.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

soldering the baseboard togethor

In order for all the wires of the quad copter to attach they need to be soldered together.  Solder is a metal alloy with a low melting point.  The way solder works is that you melt the solder onto the wire with a soldering iron and join another wire with it.  When they meet the liquid solder should absorb the new wire, and after it has cooled for a few seconds the solder hardens making one continuous wire.  Another application for soldering is attaching a wire to a circuit board(this is what I did).  For a quad copter the function of the circuit board is to distribute the power from the battery to each of the four motors evenly.  First I melted the solder on the circuit board and while it was liquid I put the wire in it, waited a few seconds and the wire is now attached to the circuit board.

To solder all eight wires it took almost an hour.  In my case before I could solder the wires I needed to strip them.  Meaning, getting the exposed wire longer by cutting the wire's rubber coating.  After that, it took almost fifteen minutes to get over the learning curve of how to solder.  Once this was completed it was smooth sailing from there on out.  I also learned that you can never use too much solder because a partial connection could break mid flight and cause the quad copter to have that engine stall causing it to crash, which is very very bad.  This is why you see in the pictures the liberal use of solder.  

In addition to soldering I just got an email saying that my control chip is in for the quad copter and it is ready for me to pick up.  This is the main reason I could not do more with the quad copter than solder.  The control chip is the heart of the quad copter and with out it can't fly.  Now that I have the control chip I can finish attaching the wires and start to program.  Once programming is complete than I can fly.  


As you can see its always better to have more solder than less.