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Rich Z's Blatherings Since Connie and I have retired the SerpenCo business, topics here will focus on topics of a more personal and general nature.

New use for an old interest...
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Old 11-18-2014, 02:35 PM   #1
Rich Z
New use for an old interest...

Recently two things happened almost simultaneously that got me to thinking about a sort of new interest. The first thing was that GoPro came out with the new Hero4 camcorder, and I've been debating buying one ever since the Hero3+ came out. So I've been looking around trying to get a feel for image quality and see if anyone wasn't adhering to the obvious price fixing that is obviously being imposed on all sellers.

The second thing that happened was that Connie and I were down south Florida visiting with my mom and we stopped in at a Cracker Barrel for lunch. After eating Connie always likes browsing around in the shop area and I just tag along. Well, they had this little toy thing that looked like a helicopter trapped in a mesh ball that you could charge up and fly with a remote controller. Hmm, that might be fun. So Connie talked me into buying it. When we got home, I put batteries in the controller and charged it up. It would only fly for about a minute before the internal battery would go dead and I was just barely getting the hang of the thing with the short amount of time I had available before the battery crapped out. But it was kind of fun during that short minute of time while it was flyable.

Anyway, so I'm browsing through YouTube looking for examples of video from that new GoPro camcorder and I stumbled on some images that were apparently taken from some sort of flying platform. You can't help but be extremely impressed by this sort of video:

So, of course that got the old brain cells sparking. Man, I really like the video stuff, and this sort of platform would open up an entire whole new world of perspective completely unavailable in any other way. But after that short stint with the "flying ball" I got from Cracker Barrel, I knew this wasn't something I could just pick up and use immediately. Besides, I checked prices on what a getup like this would cost, and it's not going to be cheap. Dropped the whole shebang into a lake, the Gulf of Mexico, on hanging it up in the top of some tree somewhere would REALLY ruin my day.

So I looked around to see if there was something a LOT cheaper that I could buy to use as the crash test dummy, yet still give me somewhat of the capabilities and training experience in handling. So yes, there is such a beast. It's a little quadcopter that will fit comfortably in my hand yet carries a fixed camcorder in it and is run by a radio controlled handheld controller just like the big boys. And it cost less than $160. It's called the Hubsan X4 H107D. I got it delivered about a week or so ago, and honestly the first flight was not pretty. I went and ordered new props and extra batteries for it, because I could see this was going to be a long learning experience. A flight on a charged battery takes about 6 minutes, so it's not too bad and I can actually get some real flying time before I have to start thinking about coming in for a soft landing. So far I haven't really cracked it up or even lost any of the original propellers but trying to get stable video is a REAL chore. The bigger units are much better, of course, but I figure if I can get this semi-decent with no damage to the copter, then I won't feel as nervous plunking down ten times+ that amount on a decent unit.

Video from this is just so-so, but heck, for the money I can't expect a whole lot. But it's getting the job done concerning my learning curve, and that's all I really expected from the beginning. Anyway, I took the video from my last run (only done four flights so far) and didn't push the height envelope much at all...

Yeah, this thing is pretty wobbly and pretty difficult to get smooth video from. Honestly this thing is so small that if you get it very high it easily vanishes from sight. The most difficult part of this is making sure of the orientation of the quad when it is barely in sight. I guess I should wear my glasses, as that might help. Anyway, if you are not sure of the orientation, you really don't know where it is going to go if you try to make it go "right". It WILL go right, but only in relation to the way it is pointed. If it is actually pointing towards you and getting close to the tree line to the left (from your perspective), telling the quad to go right will actually put it right into the trees. So I've been trying to keep it close by where I can more easily tell it's orientation. It has colored LEDs on it with blue on the front and red on the back to help, but honestly in bright sunlight you really can't see those lights at all.

Anyway, not sure if I will actually take the step of getting the more expensive set up. I guess it will depend on how well I do with this trainer. I might find out that I've gotten too old and my reflexes too slow for this sort of thing. But the bigger units are supposed to be MUCH easier to fly, as they use GPS and compass calibrations to help keep the unit in place. This little Hubsan is fully manual, and kind of flighty, so it will take off in apparently random directions in a heart beat. And I'm flying it in beginner mode which reduces the controls by 50 percent power.

But darn, the idea of getting good quality video from 100 ft up at Cape San Blas and areas of that nature sure does get me excited.....
Old 11-18-2014, 02:39 PM   #2
How cool! Look forward to seeing what you can get with it.
Old 11-18-2014, 02:50 PM   #3
What no Vette flyovers?
Old 11-18-2014, 04:39 PM   #4
Rich Z
Originally Posted by tsst View Post
What no Vette flyovers?
I'm not sure that crashing one of these things into one of the vettes, much less Connie's truck, would be a real good idea. Maybe I could open the garage doors and just peek in with the camera, but I'm a long way from feeling confident enough in my abilities to actually fly AROUND the vehicles.

I actually bought a flight simulator program that has a quadcopter sim along with an actual RC controller that I can practice with inside. It does seem to help. I think it's even more challenging than actually flying the Hubsan. I've crashed MANY times in the simulator. But maybe this is more the equivalent of what the Hubsan would be like if I were to switch it out of beginner mode.

Hey, I just had a thought. I can't wait to get good enough with the little Hubsan to chase squirrels with it.......... Now if I could just mount rockets....
Old 11-20-2014, 03:32 AM   #5
Very interesting very clear and amazing what happened in the end

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Old 11-20-2014, 03:35 AM   #6
Sorry didn't realize it was a model but excellent video

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Old 11-22-2014, 11:41 AM   #7
El Jefe
Neat stuff!!! They actually use similar stuff to research whales! I'm in the design/funding phase of working out the kinks to use with turtles....only problem is a crash landing in water is not a good idea as the copters are usually not waterproof.
Old 11-22-2014, 12:57 PM   #8
Rich Z
Originally Posted by El Jefe View Post
Neat stuff!!! They actually use similar stuff to research whales! I'm in the design/funding phase of working out the kinks to use with turtles....only problem is a crash landing in water is not a good idea as the copters are usually not waterproof.
Yeah, I read a discussion about some people working on waterproofing one of the models I've been looking at ->

I believe there might be some YouTube videos about this project as well.

Edit: Adding Youtube video of one of these waterproof units.

Old 11-24-2014, 03:10 PM   #9
El Jefe
Thanks for the links!
Old 11-27-2014, 10:27 PM   #10
That was simply amazing
I felt like I was actually there
Would love to see more please
Send me a link

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