Fixing Hubsan X4Hubsan X4 is an almost indestructible drone and the fate of my Hubsan X4 was really hard. Shortly after testing I flew it right into water. I quickly pulled it out and tried to dry it. Luckily after a few moments it was ready to fly again. Even props are quite durable but of course you will need to replace them here and then.

Unfortunately, when I was replacing the props I pulled the prop too hard with the wrench and totally pulled off one of the motors. This was the end for my X4.

Fixed Husban X4The other day I decided to fix it. I opened the frame and managed to solder the motor wires back. Hubsan X4 drone is really small and all hardware is located in a tiny space so when fixing it you have to be careful not to damage other parts. Shortly, the drone was ready to fly again.

Hubsan X4 also withstood a number of crashes and got a couple of “scars” but it’s still flying. This drone is almost indestructible.

lipo-chargerRecently I bought a SKYRC iMAX B6 Mini charger. At around $35 this charger is affordable and feature rich. The build is solid and it works flawlessly. Ability to charge different types of batteries is a big plus.

However, there was one little problem. The adapter connector’s inner barrel is 2.5mm size. I did not want to spend extra money on the adapter as I had a couple suitable adapters at hand. However, those adapters have barrels with inner size of 2.1mm. Moreover, getting an adapter with a 2.5mm barrel size turned out quite tricky. And don’t try to push 2.1mm on this. It won’t work and you will damage the device.

lipo-charger-2With a little hack, this problem was solved. I bought 2.5mm connectors and used it with one of my adapters.
This charger can charge from 1S to 6S LiPo batteries. Of course you need an appropriate adapter as well. The one that I used is 12V with 5A output. You can use an adapter with lower amps depending on your battery.

One final thing. You need to provide positive voltage in the center of the connector. So, make sure to solder the adapter wires appropriately.

My drone has become rogue and flew away on the very first flight. Research shows that flyaway drones are quite common even with experienced pilots. Moreover, it is estimated that around 30% of DJI Phantoms have flown away. From my case I can make a number of conclusions. Some are very obvious. Either case, here are key points and mistakes that I’ve made.

1. My radio controller batteries where not fully charged and this has affected the control range.

2. The FPV battery was not fully charged either. This has negatively affected the range of the video transmission as well.

3. I was not familiar with controlling the quad. It’s more difficult than it seems.

4. I did not become familiar with the RTH function. On quads without GPS, the RTH functionality is rather limited.

5. I have chosen a very bad place for flying: small area with swimming pool in a closed yard. I have omitted basic maneuvers and tried “cool” stuff right away. Because of obstacles running after the drone was difficult and I’ve lost precious seconds. Flying a quadcopter is way different than plying a helicopter.

6. I have chosen a night time and even though the drone had LEDs, getting the sight of it was difficult. Also, night makes “find operation” more complicated.

7. The cheaper the drone, the difficult it is to control.

I hope this experience helps new pilots not to make the same mistakes. Most importantly, start slowly, start with smaller steps and gradually increase complexity of maneuvers and flying technique.

The more involved I get in FPV drone racing, the more exciting it seems. Now I understand why it is so addictive and why the sport has taken off in such a short period of time. What is FPV drone racing “made of”?

First, there is hardware. Unlike other sports, FPV drone racing gear is complex and quite expensive. Secondly, there is software part. Flying a quadcopter is technically impossible without the software. Yes, that’s why every quadcopter needs a flight controller. Finally, there is the pilot, the person who does actual racing.

Flying an FPV racing drones seems easy. However, flying a racing drone is very difficult. The speeds are high, crashes happen quite frequently and the competition is really tough.

I think a winning formula is to approach this as an iterative process. Build, fly, analyze, fine-tune, fly and keep iterating until winning.

Another thing that is quickly noticeable is the commercial side of the sport. When big money is involved the sport looks exciting and becomes a great show. As of writing this post ESPN is broadcasting the 2016 U.S. National Drone Racing Championships event. So the future of FPV drone racing seems bright.

Being a novice is hard, especially if the field is complex and competitive. FPV drone racing is exactly such a sport. But hey, I love challenges. It’s very important to overcome fears and make actual steps. Making the right steps in the beginning is very important. Let’s start.

Internet has made learning accessible and fun. So the first thing is to locate useful resources. From experience I know that when learning something new it’s very important to quickly understand the key concepts and learn the jargon. Equally important is to learn who key players are. In case of FPV drone racing these could be top racers and places where major races take place. Finally, we need to understand at least basic theory.

Resources

By doing quick research I located a couple of very interesting resources, especially useful for beginners. The links are below

The Beginner’s Guide to FPV Racing – a very good, easy to understand and detailed guide that reviews practically every aspect of FPV drone racing. Obviously it does not go to technical details, it’s more of a 30,000 feet view of the field.

Andew Nixon’s Racing Drone Buyers Guide is similar to the guide from FPVRacing.tv.

How to build a FPV racing drone for US$240 from DroneBench.com is a detailed guide that can be used as a road-map to build a functional drone.

How to Build a FPV Racing Quadcopter with Charpu – a great guide from the FPV racing’s top pilot.

Key Players

Charpu is probably the greatest FVP drone pilot. I’m sure thousands of people all around the world have been inspired and influenced by him. While I have chosen a relatively cheap RC transmitter for the first project, I do plan to get a FrSky Taranis X9D recommended by Charpu.

Mr. Steele is a great FPV drone pilot. He was really top at World Drone Games 2015 in Dubai.

Chad Nowak is one of the best pilots. When you change a country for your passion (and he moved from Australia to the USA) that means something.

While this sport is dominated by men there are some good female pilots as well but Zoe Stumbaugh is on top of the competition. Moreover, her story is really inspiring. In her own words from an interview published at the Drone Girl:

I was really, really sick. I had to go through a lot of different surgeries. I was bound to my bed for a good 2 years. I was depressed. My friend told me, ‘You need a new hobby.’ I went to the hobby shop. I found a micro drone. Then I got a larger one. I saw videos of people flying FPV on YouTube, and thought, ‘I need to do that.’

It took me 2-3 months from hearing about it to flying FPV, because I had to build it myself. I never soldered anything in my life. I had to teach myself to do that.

This is all for now. In the next post I will touch some key concepts that are necessary to choose correct components and build the FPV racing drone.

Hi. Thanks for stopping at SkyRogue. I am learning to build and fly FPV racing drones. If you’re wondering what FPV racing is, it’s a cool new racing sport. Pilots use small quadcopter drones that are controlled by radio. A typical FPV racing drone has a camera that transmits video from the drone to the goggles used by a pilot. In a nutshell, FPV drone racing is a combo of high-tech and high-speed. Speeds sometimes reach 120 miles per hour and even more.

FPV drone racing is a highly competitive sport. Usually the winners are those who use custom-built drones. Building a drone is expensive and high quality drones may reach hundreds of dollars. Crashes are very common and therefore learning on expensive drones can quickly make this hobby prohibitive.

A good option for entering the sport is to use a cheap, ready-made drone. That’s why I’ve decided to start with a Hubsan X4 micro quadcopter. It looks like a toy but I’ve seen a couple videos where it reaches 25-30 miles per hour and flies at quite decent altitudes.

While my Hubsan X4 is on the way from Amazon.com I get familiar with the theory and plan for my custom-built drone. Stay tuned as some really cool stuff will be coming on SkyRogue.com.