Thursday, June 29, 2017

Warm Summer Nights

I'm learning that even ham-fisted photographers like me can shoot a decent shot with the help of an automated mission planner.  I know, I know, the highlights are still blown out but I'm working on it. This short flight around the neighborhood was my second attempt at utilizing multiple Point of interest (POI's) in Litchi along with altitude changes and sweeping panoramas to create a cinematic style video.

The sweeping shot of the car on the highway was accidental, the automobile entered my FOV during the shot but it fits perfectly!  I could have planned it that way so I'll keep that in mind for next time.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Working on my Cinematography

I'm trying to not waste my time just having fun flying my quad, (though it is really fun to fly!)  I'm working on classic Drone shots and DJI intelligent flight modes.  Here is one example:  The classic pull away shot!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Litchi Mission Planning - Wow!

I've been in technology all of my life.  I was an authorized service rep for the Commodore 64 for goodness sakes so I know computers!  (Ok, that's not really impressive but I've worked on control systems for monitoring atomic bomb testing at the Nevada Test Site, I've calibrated Geiger counters for use on nuclear submarines and built lots and lots of applications in PHP, .Net, C++ and C# so I know computers.)  But this is just amazing! Draw a path on a map, add some points of interest and press "Go" and the Phantom 3 Professional flies it... automatically!  It's just amazing!

I flew the Litchi mission planner today for the first time.  Trying to connect first using my Samsung Galaxy Tab S but it wouldn't connect to my tablet so I tried my cell phone, a Galaxy S5, and it hooked right up.  I opened the mission and sent it to my P3P and pressed 'play'.  Amazing!  It just flew the mission perfectly!

This adds a new level of sophistication to my cinematography.  The computer will handle drone velocity, pitch, yaw and camera angle automatically while I am just responsible for keeping the altitude sufficient to not smack into anything while the mission is being executed.    I think I can to that.  But that, as it turns out, is extremely important!

Just to make sure, I flew the mission again a bit later in the day and overlaid the KML file on top of each other in Google Earth.  They were almost identical!  I'm looking over the videos of the two different flights now, but I expect that they are the same.  Simply Amazing!

Update, I've since flown missions using my Galaxy Tab S tablet.  I uninstalled DJI Go and Litchi and reinstalled them both, as well has clearing the defaults on both apps. They appear to coexist just fine on my tablet.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Father's Day

My father once told me (he was a 727 captain for Western Airlines), that if you see an another airplane in your windshield while you're flying, that it better be moving across your field of view, because if it's stationary and not flying away from you, then that is the exact spot where the other airplane will hit you!  Well, that works for landing your drone too!  If you keep your drone coming at you with very little movement, that's where it will land.  You can just reach up and grab it.

Friday, June 16, 2017

HDR with the Phantom 3

I have 13.5 hours quad flight time now (and a bit over 500 hours as pilot in command in aircraft that you sit in) so my thumbs have finally stopped shaking. Apparently the apprehension of winging my $1000 quad two miles through the air at about 40mph makes me a bit nervous at first. I recall my first solo of a Cessna 150 in 1971 when I was 16 years old, I felt the same apprehension.  After that, flying becomes a part of you!


Yesterday, I was working on testing the Point of Interest mode of the Phantom 3. (It works great!) This evening I'm working on HDR's (High Dynamic Range) photography using the AEB or "Automatic Exposure Bracketing" mode.  I shoot on the ground with a Nikon D300 and have shot a good deal of HDR.  I like shooting 3 shot 1 EV raw images to use for HDR processing.  I find that 3 images are sufficient to create a great final image.  I've been using Photomatix for years so that's what I processed these images with.  I'm pleased with the results and will likely continue to shoot 3 shot RAW brackets for everything from now on, even if I don't process the images in HDR.  

3-Shot HDR using AEB and Photomatix
3-Shot HDR using AEB and Photomatix

These are classic HDR images.  I usually like to under emphasize the HDR "look" but I processed these with the default settings of Photomatix to let you see the full effect of High Dynamic Range Photography.  These images took about 3 additional minutes to process before posting to the blog.  It's a nice effect.

3-Shot HDR using AEB and Photomatix

3-Shot HDR using AEB and Photomatix

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Phantom 3 Pro - What a difference $1000 makes!

I received my DJI Phantom 3 Professional yesterday!  After reading the manual cover to cover charging the flight and controller batteries, I was able to fly for about 15 minutes last night.  I'm really enjoying learning all that this new craft can do - right out of the box.  It is an order of magnitude better than my UPair One, without question!

Monday, June 12, 2017

UPair One PX4 Flight Controller Board.

The UPair One V1.2 PX4 Flight Controller and GPS boards are what make the UPair drone fly.

UPair One - Main Board with ESC controllers

As you can see, there are 6 mosfets driving each motor in each quadrant.  I'm not sure what the four chips are towards the center of the board, but I believe that they are the controller IC's for each motor.   The red/black leads on the top and bottom of the board are 5vdc power for the navigation LED's.

The GPS controller board is where I believe my problem with the "NO MAV DATA" is originating but until I hear back from Banggood, I'm not sure.

UPDATE:  After several weeks and a hundred more flights, the motors again wouldn't arm.  Not seeing anything physical on the boards, I let the quad sit on the shelf for a couple of months while focusing on my Phantom 3 Pro, but out of curiosity and an electronics background, I decided to try the heat gun fix to the GPS board.  I heated the large IC in the center of the board to about 400° and also the SD card mount (that was super glued by Bangood).  Lo and Behold, it worked!.  There is either a flakey IC, solder connection or SD card involved here that the heat restores the connection.  It's still working so far! (December 2017)

More about this:

Monday, June 5, 2017

Rats! No MAV Data!

Update: 11/14/2017 - No MAV data, part deux

Well, I think that the controls issue has finally manifested itself fully.  What was a control problem, and a minor fly-away where my quad didn't respond to my lateral control inputs. It did allow me to land it but somewhat unsmoothly (a soft crash in the weeds).   Subsequent starts gave me no confidence that I truly was in control of the quad and finally, it reported "No MAV Data" and will not arm the ESC's.  Rats!

I've searched all I can on the web, tried everything that I can find so far and wrote to technical support at Banggood.  Still waiting for a response.

Update - June 11th

I heard back from Banggood. But to keep it in context, I need to share what I wrote to them using the Amazon message system on my order:

I own Serial Number *12PXXXXXXXXX that I purchased on this order. I've had 87 successful flights before the quad stopped communicating properly. I'm getting "No MAV Data" now exclusively and am unable to arm the motors, just prior to this, the quad began to fly erratically though I was able to safely capture it by grabbing it in the air without crashing.. I have sucessfully run both the controller calibration and rebinding procedures successfully. ( but the problem remains. Is there another procedure that I might follow? I was assuming that it should last longer than this. 

I specifically included the actual Serial Number on an email message from Amazon so they would have proof of purchase.

This is what I heard in reply:

Regarding the issue,please help to check the following details for confirmation:
1.The SN code on your drone
2.Please try to turn off the drone and controller and restart again to see
if the problem still exist.
3.Please turn on your drone and controller, check the led light on the photography transmitssion block,
controller light,receiver light on the drone,drone light ,camera light, taking us photos to show the 
light status,this will help our engineer to confirm the problem.
4.Do you have picture on the screen when it shows"NO MAV DATA"?

We looking forwards to hearing from you soon.`

Thank you for your cooperation.
Chelsia from UPair customer service

Really?  This is obviously a form letter that I believe weeds out many people. I included the serial number in my letter and a detailed explanation of what I had done.  Have I tried turning it off and on again?  Really?  Can I take a picture of the screen when it shows "NO MAV DATA?".  I bet they've received hundreds of these complaints so far.

Now I've done lot's of modifications in the three weeks that I've owned and flown this drown almost every day successfully for 87 flights without a mishap.  I don't really expect Banggood or Amazon to refund me anything.  I've learned a ton about quads and fully expect to find a new PX4 board on Ebay sometime soon to get this quad going again.  I'm not worried.

In my opinion, the UPair is a great quad to learn on.  I flies pretty well and may have lasted longer for others than I experienced.  I did have a defective motor that would have caused a crash had it become disassembled in flight.  I was able to repair that just fine and got another 65 flights in so I'm not too terribly disappointed.  However, the quality of build is not exceptional and it's obvious if you take one of these apart.  It's worth the $295 that I spent, I've learned that much and I expect to get this working again.

I'll keep working to get my UPair back on the air, meanwhile I'm eagerly waiting for my new DJI Phantom 3 Professional that will be here next week.  I can't wait!
Update June 12th:  Ok, I calmed down and photographed the quad naked and sent it to Banggood (Chelsia) along with the serial number of my craft (again).  I also included a short video showing the status of the internal lights.  I also let them know that I'm not looking for a replacement or a refund, just some help fixing my quad and hopefully I'll be able to purchase the parts they recommend.  Heck, it's either the GPS board or the PX4 main board. 

This was the video that I sent to Banggood to explain my problem.

Update - July 5th

Wow, it's been under 3 weeks and my repaired quad arrived back.  It's the same fuselage and motors and the same antennas.  I'm not sure about the controller or the camera but I'll let you know when I do.  I fired it up and what do you know?  It has MAV data now!

I'm almost positive that the problem was in the GPS board but I suppose it could have been in the camera controller.  After working with the DJI Phantom 3 Professional over the past 3 weeks, the differences in construction are striking but hey, it works now!

Thank you Banggood, I couldn't have asked for better service!

Update - July 5th - Evening after 2 flights.

Ok, I took the quad out 1200+ feet and flew around, but on the way back, at about 50 feet, my upair fell out of the sky!  I've troubleshooted down to an intermittent connection on the camera gimbal control board feeding the VTX.  I've lost all FPV also though the gimbal still works and the gimbal pitch still functions.  For now, I've pulled off the camera and gimbal assembly.

So after receiving the quad back from the G10 repair facility, here is what I found... The only change that I can observe is that the SD card has been superglued into it's holder. That's it.  I suspect that it was a software change or SD card corruption that caused the "NO MAV DATA"  error and replacing or replacing the SD card fixed it.  You can see the change in these two images:

Before returning the quad