After the RC car where next should I go? But up! Getting aerial shots would be so cool, and such a challenge. Piloting a helicopter is not as easy at it seems! Pit crew member, The Burningman, purchased a cheap dual blade copter to practice with on his farm. Even with 30 acres of almost wide open fields it was hard to keep up and steady. And this was not a quadcopter, and not weighted down with a camera.
I decided to move forward with the build and then we’d find a pilot that was already experienced. We started with a kit quadcopter that came with all the parts and you build it yourself. The build went great and it tested out on short flights fine.
We found a perfect pilot, a friend of The Burningman, Lars. He had years of RC copter and RC plane pilot experience and was a professional photographer. Two for one! Unfortunately, when the quadcopter was test flown, we found that many of the parts were short spec’d. In particular, the speed controllers. Speed controllers convert the commands of the main control board into the precise high power the motors need. This is a recurring problem with not only quadcopters, but our ADVs too. A lot of power is run through intricate the circuits. It requires a very high quality product to be reliable. Version 1.0 of the Quadcopter didn’t last a week into initial flights. The speed controller fired.
Version 2 was purchased from a specialty shop here in the states ALL e RC. I was able to actually talk with the owner of the company. I told him of the problems we had with the speed controllers, and he knew exactly the under spec’d issue I was having.
We ended up ordering a pretty solid unit at the time: Xaircraft X650v4. It was a well-built unit with carbon fiber supports and proven electronic and motors. We mounted a GoPro2 on the bottom into a servo controlled tilt tray. But we found that tilting the camera while in flight threw the quadcopter balance off and interfered with the internal gyro, making its flight erratic. So we removed the servos and mounted the camera at a fixed and usable tilt. This worked much better!
We did surprising well with it for a couple of days considering the conditions that weekend. It was very windy. Very windy. The first day, at Mazing Chase we got some really cool footage and were able to make the videos you see below.
The second day, at the big farm, the wind was much worse. The open fields amplified the wind, and the dips in the fields created turbulence. We were able to shoot some footage before a particularly bad wind surge came up suddenly and grounded the quadcopter for good….
The project is not abandoned. It has been shelved as our attention wanders to other new things. One day we will pick it up again and revive the project. It showed promise the couple of days it was airborne and filming. We just need for the technology to improve and find the right time to go for version 3! A lot of the new improvements are very interesting. Speed controller improvements are already on the market, it was a recurring problem with a lot of the first quadcopters. Gyros are also now faster and more accurate. As the popularity of quadcopters grow, the prices are dropping as well.