Wednesday, February 19, 2014

My "feet are wet" in areal photography, but what I am standing in, doesn't smell so nice...

This is a follow up to the post about getting my feet wet in the genre of areal photography via the Syma X1.

In an earlier post, I said "I wanted to get my feet wet in areal videography"  I have jumped in, and my feet are now wet.  The trouble is, they are wet from standing in a substance that is less translucent and odorless than I would like.....

So, after making sure my finances are suitable to afford some expense, I purchased the Blade Helis, 350qx over the Chinese competition.

I did this because I want to buy American, helping to maintain American jobs, and I know there is no way to maintain a strong nation without a solid manufacturing base.

That, and I wanted to deal with people that spoke my native language clearly, so there wouldn't be any misinterpretation.

After doing my part, I am not certain the American company I have dealt with are holding up their end of the bargain...

There are several entries into the 350 size quadcopters, with the most well known being the DJI Phantom. There is also the Walkera, The Parrot, AR Drone, and many, many others, including ones that are custom made like Whitespy.

This little guy was around 1000.00 complete with transmitter, but
with the introduction of the craft I bought, the Blade 350Qx, you
can pick one up for 479 with transmitter.

I bought the Blade 350QX for a few reasons.

A.  It really does not give me a good feeling to give a Chinese company so much money.  I feel guilty enough about buying the really great SYMA X1.

B.  I did not like the user friendly, toy like feel of the transmitter that came with the DJI, I wanted a real hobby grade transmitter.

C. I want support from an American company.  I have heard support for the DJI phantom is basically none existent.

So, I took the plunge, and was immediately underwhelmed....

I get the Spektrum DX6i, and it is everything I wanted it to be.  A big, professional feeling, and complicated RC transmitter

However, the actual 350qx is underwhelming.  It is smaller and lighter than I imagined and has a chintzy feel to it.

Underwhelmed, but not phased, I take it out for it's first flight after programming the DX6i transmitter that is NOT the manufacturers poorly made "tutorial" video.  It is the one that says something like "programming the DX6i for the blade 350QX in under 4 minutes"

NOTE:  There are questions people are asking on the Blade tutorial video, and blade never goes back and answers them.  Legitimate questions...

Since my Sony AS-15 action cam didn't arrive, I have no choice but to Velcro my 808 # 16 to the belly of the 350qx craft, forgoing the anti-jello mount that is to be used for the higher quality action cameras like Hero, and Sony.

 I am kind of glad I did use the 808# 16 directly on the belly so I can see how the craft sounds like it is going to rattle apart. At a price of 419.00, this type of lack of quality is unacceptable as far as I am concerned.

Non Jello mount or not, it shouldn't run like this. 

Jello(wobbly video) is one thing I understood, but the vibrations coming out of the craft, are like ordering a Cadillac, and discovering it came new from the dealership with two bad wheel bearings....

How would you feel if you plunked down the money on a brand new Cadillac, and had this happen?

My 32 dollar SYMA X1 is more smooth than this very expensive, yet not very refined air vehicle.  Smoother if you just spin the propellers, and smoother in flight.

Yes, they are not the same, with one being an apple, and the other being an orange, but when you pay 419.00 for a video platform, you have the right to expect a much higher quality point, than some 32 dollar Chinese toy...

Try to imagine you forked over the money out of pocket for a Cadillac, and discovered a 15,000 dollar KIA had better quality... Wouldn't you feel like an idiot?

In addition to the main point, which is how much of a rough rider the American made, Blade 350qx is, I want you to also understand, that Smart Mode is really underwhelming.

In Smart mode, the left stick(on mode 2 transmitters) throttle, or lift, becomes "altitude adjustment"

Smart mode altitude adjustment really isn't that nice. the engines on the 350 qx are constantly cycling up and down, so that the engine pitch is constantly changing, sending oscillations into the craft, which makes the video EVEN WORSE.

Smart mode is basically un-useable for video.  On the transmitter end, the craft is slow, and rough to respond, and feels like it is fighting you the whole way.

Less tight control of altitude within a window of a few feet after maybe 10 feet of height would actually yield a smoother flying mode. To do this, gain could be high when the vehicle was close to ground, and gain could slowly turn down as the vehicle gains height.   This is possible to do, as the 350qx has GPS receivers, and a barometer that calculates height, which is how altitude adjustment works in Smart Mode.

For the 350qx, you will find some really unhappy people, and some that are singing the praises.

The unhappy people I think are people who want to shoot video,  and the people singing the praise are old hobby people that just want to fly, with the only reason they would attach a camera, would be to record their awesome flight.

That, and I think some people are blinded by the idea of heaping praise on an American company that is trying to compete in a really tough world.

For me, I do try to go out of my way to buy American, but when I do, I expect some quality. I am not going to blindly throw my money away for the sake of patriotism.

I just am not really happy...

I spoke with Chad at Horizon Hobby, and he is going to have 2 new motors sent to me free of charge.  I am happy enough with that resolution.

Mark :(

About the author

My experience in the world of RC.

15 years ago, I was pretty deep into RC(not like some of the fanaticism you see for  a lot of RC people), but I had my vehicles..

A 60 inch trainer, with a .40 OS motor, 3 electric planes(2 two channel, and one 3 channel), a 60MPH Traxxas Nitro 4 Tec, and a 1/8th scale, Duratrax, Nitro Thunder Quake( the quality just wasn't there for this vehicle either, the 2 speed transmission never worked)

Why I got this.

Not to get back into RC, but to have a unique video camera platform, to make unique nature videos.

I also came up with the following theory today, the day after the first flight...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Getting my feet wet for the world of RC areal videography

I want to get into the world of RC areal videography, because I desire to make better vacation videos of the cool places we see.

Since I plan on spending some serious money in the future, I thought it would be best to buy some cheap toy, and a small mountable camera to learn how to fly quadcopters, and to learn the ins and outs of video taken from this platform.

So, I purchased the 32 dollar(as of this writing) Syma X1 quadcopter, and a forty dollar 808, 16 keychain camera to mount onto it.

I specifically bought the UFO version because I intended to mount the camera right on top of it. However, the angles were too steep, and I had to cut out the center part of the dome to mount the 808 keychain camera.

See the Syma X1 here, by clicking this link

The HD keychain camera that I bought for it is here, click me

Once I received the toy, I was immediately pleased. 

That is of course until after I wrecked it a few times, and one of the motors became weak...

Then I had to find replacement parts, and had to start thinking about if my soldering iron had a small enough tip to do the soldering on the surface mount, wave soldered control board to replace the broken motor...

After I damaged the motor, I was able to max the trim out on the radio control, and with that, and some major dynamic stick input, I was able to fly the RC without the camera.

With the camera, it is a whole different story though.  I have to wait until I get my new motor from until I start major flights with the camera.

So, while I was waiting, I started the process of learning how to bond the camera to the Syma for flight, and the following is that process, with an additional mod that helps me tell what direction the model is flying in.


Although I ultimately wanted a bottom mount camera, I decided to first mount it on the top so when I
crash, it won't destroy the camera.

The camera is stuck on top there with the provided velcro


The toy flew better(more balanced) with this setup, but it still wasn't completely
what I wanted.  I will include a link below to this flight after I upload it.

Onto REV 3

The canopy is reversed so it is on the bottom.  I put some small pieces of Velcro to help hold the camera

I believe this is the final rev for this setup.  The camera Is stuck on with Velcro, and the rubber band.
You can also see the lifting suspension I came up with to elevate the model, and maybe soften

With this setup, you can reverse the setup for top, or bottom mounted cameras.

Other modifications

This of course is made up of plastic tie wraps.  I used a hair dryer to heat up the tie wraps until they
were shiny, bent them into the form I wanted, and let them cool in that configuration. I am not sure if this softens
the landings, or just shifts the phase of the impact.  For example, instead of getting a sharp spike in acceleration, It
turns the landing into more of an oscillation.

When the model flew away from me, I couldn't tell which direction it was facing in the distance, so I added a red LED in the back of the craft.

I cut holes in the body with a push pin spaced at the same distance as the LED leads.

The LED I got from Radio Shack.  It is a 25mA, 3 volt.  I soldered a 1/8th watt, 100 ohm resistor in series with it
which should source 12mA of current at full battery charge(4.2 volts)
I soldered the led supply wires to the power pads on top of the board

You know, it is harder than you might think to find a level surface to let the quad calibrate "level" on before you fly it...

So I came up with this case, and screwed levels in the X and Y axis so that I can tell when it is level.

Not only is a good launching platform, it is also a great carrying case!



Action shot

New Camera Mount

This is cut out of a Talene Custard container.  It allows not
only a flat surface, but also enables me to replace
the battery WITH the camera already mounted.

NOTE: I had to trim the battery mount a little with some diagonal pliers to get the mount to fit flush.

I glued on the plastic platform with hot melt glue.  I also filled in
the sides, so when I put on the rubber bands, the platform has
a solid piece to be wedged against.

This is what it looks like with the two rubber bands holding it in place.
I could have centered that platform a little better...



Sunday, January 12, 2014

The deadly addictive drug of Facebook and how I kicked the habit

Like any recreational drug, facebook at first entices you with some euphoric highs, and then before you even have time to realize it, you are hooked.  You have a hopeless addiction, that like any other addiction is destructive to your well being.

In the Beginning,

Facebook was there in the corner of the web for years without me ever trying the drug.  People would sometimes point to it, and try to entice me to take a hit.  "Oh I am on Facebook, maybe you should get an account so we can keep in touch".

A little fun never killed anyone,

At first, I was just a recreational Facebook user.  I could take it or leave it anytime I wanted to.  Very infrequently I would drop in to check on it, and then I wouldn't look at it for weeks.

At first the intense high,

Very slowly over time, I started to check my facebook pages more and more often.  As people joined my network, and laughed at my "witty" remarks, the satisfaction became greater and greater.  The validation was intense.  "I am funny", "I am smart", "people like me"

I became a more regular user without really even giving it a second thought.

Then the quest to maintain the high,

Later, after people stopped commenting on my witty remarks, probably because I posted so often, people were tired of feeding my ego with the polite "lol" and thumbs up, I decided I needed to have a purpose on Facebook.  I needed to change the world and enlighten people with my "wisdom"

I started pages like "The coalition against foreign control"(blushes), which was a webpage I started to bring to light the alarming fact that we were giving away our countries power and strength, by giving China all of our manufacturing tasks, and borrowing money from them...

Onto the next stage in any addiction,

Which is the daily habitual use, without the pay off of the extreme high, but necessary all the same, just to maintain your sense of normalcy.

Actually for me, I had to use the drug in the morning, and several times at night.  Like smokers with their cigarettes it was the first thing I did when I got up.  Then when I came home.  Then before dinner, then in the evening, then I would check it right before I went to bed.

I didn't enjoy it, it is just something I had to do...

A look in the mirror,

At some point, I decided how ridiculous it was to come home and tell Facebook how my day went...

Instead of talking to my loving wife, I would log onto facebook first thing when I came home to post what "funny" thought I had that day, or what quirky circumstances came up at work...

Making the decision to make a change,

I would say this is the final stage, but like any addict, I think it is a constant battle to  never rebound back into drug use. Why do I say that?

First when I went to delete the account, I caved and just "deactivated it"  I thought I was safe, but then I realized that I had somehow been posting to an account that I tried to deactivate by logging into a completely different site that I had linked to Facebook...  I got a message that the review I just wrote was "posted to my wall"

I thought, "how the hell did that just post to my wall?" I deactivated that account... WRONG!  If you deactivate you account, and post to a site that at some point you linked to it, it reopens your account without warning.

Then, I was determined.  I "deleted" the account.  Oh, but it doesn't delete right away, it schedules a deletion two weeks from the time you decided to delete it...

So then I open the account just to confirm it will delete by what date it originally stated, and it had moved the date back five days.

My wife suggested it was because I logged on just to see if in fact, it was still scheduled for deletion.

If you log on to confirm deletion, it resets the waiting period!

All of your "friends" disappear,

Just like your buddies you used to drink with, or perhaps the ones you used to smoke pot with, once you decide to quit the habit you will find your facebook buddies aren't really your friends after all...

They are just fellow enablers...

They won't come looking for you, to ask, "what's going on buddy, I haven't read your posts in a while?"  No one really cares.  Facebook friends don't care if you are, or are not there.

They, like you, only care that people read their witty remarks like, "I am so addicted to coffee, I may need to go to rehab!  Seriously, I need it"...  LOL, that is a good one!

Will I be successful in maintaining sobriety this time?

Only time will tell.. As of right now, it is scheduled to be deleted in the future.  Please wish me good luck, and send your positive thoughts, and hope that I can maintain strength.

You know, I didn't realize how the drug had taken away joy.  Colors now seem brighter to me.  I see the world again like I did before I got hooked on the drug.

I think I have my "artistic eye" back for my photography.  It is like the world popped back on, and I hadn't even realized what had happened to me.

Drug addiction is like that I have heard, it happens slowly over time until you hit rock bottom, and decide to make a change.

I solute those who can take it or leave it and use it occasionally, but I am not one of those people, so for me, it is cold turkey!

Mark :)