Wednesday, December 14, 2016

CERT warns of Netgear NightHawk Router Security Flaw, VU 582384 Vulnerability - Exploit News and Fix

I occasionally write about general computer tech that affects our hobby. Well, I think our broadband Internet connections and routers definitely fall into that category. I will add more details to this post as they become available about this exploit.

CERT: Vulnerability Note VU#582384 - Multiple Netgear routers are vulnerable

Netgear's Response to Acew0rm's discovery (also links to updated firmwares)

Naked Security: Netgear router remote control bug – what you need to know

Kalypto: NetGear Vulnerability Expanded

Affected Routers
As at 2016-12-14 ... Netgear listed the following models: R6250, R6400, R6700, R6900, R7000, R7100LG, R7300DST, R7300, R7900, R8000, D6220, D7000. IIRC, all these routers are in the NightHawk series, but watch for this list to possibly change a bit. Don't let this exploit change your opinion of these routers. For consumer-class routers, these are a good value. They are some of the fastest, feature loaded, and most dependable routers available right now (IMO, especially the R6400).

Mainstream News Articles

Wired: A Ton of Popular Netgear Routers Are Exposed—With No Easy Fix

Fortune: Unplug Your Easily Hijacked Netgear Routers Pronto

LifeHacker: More Netgear Routers Found To Be Vulnerable To Super Easy Exploit


My Current Situation
I purchased and installed my Netgear R6400 (AC1750) router in March 2016. An easy choice since I liked my old Netgear WiFi-N router (circa 2010). The (dual-core) Netgear R6400 even has the new NightHawk technology without the extra cost (I did some pre-sales research).

I like to think I use adequate encryption on the WiFi (and Guest Network is OFF). I also use the "wired part" heavily (I also have an 8-port Gigabit Ethernet switch attached). This is because I have a few too many wired devices than the R6400 has ports for, but the R6400 is still the "gate-keeper" for the whole network or LAN. I left the uPnP ON (a first for me, but sure is nice not having to setup Firewall PinHoles or Port-Forwards). I have always kept the "Remote Management" feature OFF. I'm using a DHCP-range to hand-out dynamic IPs (and a few of those IPs are Reserved Addresses) as well as some Fixed IPs beyond that range (for Printers, TVs, etc.). The SPI-class firewall is always ON (because there is no way to accidentally disable it) ... which I like. This SPI Firewall must be on or your network is basically unprotected and completely exposed. All my networking equipment is on an APC UPS unit.

Verifying this Exploit Exists
My current firmware is v1.0.1.6. I used the "Can I test my own router?" exploit test from the Naked Security link above.
I visited this URL in the browser : http://routerlogin.net/cgi-bin/;uname
I got a whole browser page of code (depending on browser, it might look differently in some), but "Linux" is always the last word at the very bottom. That is what they are talking about (the command ran). So with this older firmware, my router definitely has the vulnerability (as expected).

Updating Firmware
These are the steps I followed. I will do this again when final (non-beta) version is released (and continue to keep the firmware updated). Once firmware is "Released as Final" you will be able to upgrade it within the router's Admin Console like normal.
1. Get everyone off the network and the Internet so you can work on it for a few minutes. Better to use a computer connected to network with a real Ethernet wire (not wireless or WiFi).
2. Downloaded updated firmware for my R6400 to my local computer. Unblock file after download.
3a. In router's Admin Console Interface, I backed-up my settings to a local file (just in case - Plan-A).
3b. Save any non-default Router Settings to hard copy (Plan-B). You can write them down, take pics, or save screen-shots.
4. In Advanced, Router Update, Browse to new firmware file and select it. Then click Upload.
5. It will show progress bars of both Updating and its Reboot.
6. Worked fine for me. Router came back online, so I logged back in. The router's Status Page and other settings I viewed still look correct (no loss of data). Logs will be reset. Internet access is working (at least at this one machine).
7. Do not be in a hurry to do next step (you must be absolutely sure firmware is done and router is completely rebooted and working again). Turn off all networking gear (modem, router) for 15 seconds, and then turn back on. This will re-initialize the modem and test broadband for proper new connection negotiation. But mainly, it cold-boots the router now that it's running a new firmware ... this seems to be required on these NightHawk modems after any firmware upgrade.
8. Re-Test machines for network connection, WiFi, printing, Internet access, etc. All mine work fine.

Re-Testing for Exploit (with fixed firmware)
My new current (still in beta) firmware is v1.0.1.18_1.0.15 . Using the above exploit test again, I now only get the router's Admin Login Prompt (waiting for credentials) or a "401 Unauthorized" message in the browser. It could NOT bypass the Admin Login and run a command like before. Looks like the fix is working. All computers and devices are still connecting and Internet access is working fine.

Other Thoughts
As security experts know, any time you choose easy-of-use (or freedoms) over security, you sacrifice some security (protections). In a way, this is what Netgear has done by invoking routerlogin.net (instead of users having to know their router's actual local IP address ... for use on the "safe side" of the router ... aka, their local network). However, since you ARE on the safe-side, I'm not sure that your router's IP address was ever meant to be a true security mechanism.

In general, I have always suggested that router owners (Netgear brand or otherwise) should keep their "Remote Management" options turned OFF. This restricts any router Administration to your local network (and to some extent, possible hacks). Before WiFi, this meant hackers had to be inside the structure with a physical wire connection to your network (but now, they can be next-door with a phone). Everyone should have strong passwords set ... not only on their encrypted WiFi SSID-AccessPoints, but also on their router's Administration Logins.

Finally, I think any router owner (and brand) can use the above URL to test for this exploit. However, if it's not a recent Netgear router, it would be something like http://192.168.1.1/cgi-bin/;uname , where 192.168.1.1 is the IP address of your particular router. Many router manufacturers use the same open-source Linux as a code-base for their routers as well, but its unclear whether the un-patched exploit is in this base-code, or in Netgear's branch.

Updates 
01-17-2017: Looks like R6400's previous beta firmware v1.0.1.18_1.0.15 has been changed to "Release Version Status" without any changes. There is no immediate need to reflash since the files digitally match. At this point, my R6400 is already running the current release version. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Nova repairs and updates

Here are the repairs and updates done to the Nova #2. The post will be updated until this aircraft is returned-to-flight.

Current known issues:
1. Repair or replace bad motor and/or ESC in bad set
   - Done here ... it was the ESC.
2. Repair cracked puck and do epoxy mod to reinforce.
   - Done like this
3. Check GPS-module cable. I lost GPS for 5 mins during field testing (and it didn't appear to be an GPS-Almanac update).
    - I lightly filed and cleaned up black corrosion from pins on both the compass and GPS-Module (like this). Re-used existing cables, but did clean them with (plastic-safe) contact cleaner.
4. My old Turnigy 2700mah Lipos have puffed-up to much too fit inside any more.
    - While I had it open, I raised PDB from 2mm to 6mm. I also had to move some things to keep them just barely away from top white body-shell.



Here is the final internal config (right before closing it up). Examine closely to see how I lowered the profile. Obviously, the GPS-Module was moved to be closer to tallest part of dome. Also, I had to remove part of USB cable wire insulation so it would not touch side of shell inside. APM_252 FC should still be "floating" on Zeal (which was the main objective).



Full Calibration results:
No problems with Radio, ESCs, or compass (offsets are now -31, -74, -41).

Having trouble with Accelerometer Calibration in MissionPlanner v1.3.39 and v1.3.41 . I'm currently investigating issue with the more knowledgeable forum members. At first I thought it was MP, but I recently found out that it works fine with a PixHawk v2.4.8 ... so it must be something with this APM_v252 FC or APM in general. It does seem to work thru Terminal though, which is even more puzzling.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

ESC and/or Motor set failure and troubleshooting - Quanum Nova

As I mentioned in my previous post ... it took two Nova's and 2 years of flights, but it appears I have finally experienced my first (stock) ESC or Motor failure. The post will update as I fumble-through the troubleshooting for the first time :-)



Here are the symptoms the Quanum Nova is displaying with a failed ESC or motor:
  • On power-up, the Nova's power-up sequence of Motor & ESC twitching/ beeping is different and abnormal. It lasts a few seconds longer than normal, but finally stops.
      
  • It still allows you to Arm the aircraft. If you remember to bump the throttle on/off a few times (to make sure all props/motors spin on command) you will likely find one prop not responding properly. If you forget to test and attempt to take-off anyway, the multi-rotor will likely flip and crash.
So I start with the trouble-shooting. The is the newer Nova with the stock v1.6 ESCs. The bad esc/motor set is the Green-LED back-left (aft-port) one.

Here is something I noticed and might further help in troubleshooting.

If you disconnect only the PWM signal cable (the Dupont connector at the FC) of a "suspected bad" esc/motor-set (but leave power going to the ESC), and then power-up the Nova ...
  • The known-BAD set continues to twitch/beep constantly.
     
  • A known-GOOD set does not twitch/beep constantly. It does for it's initial test, then goes quiet like normal.
So, an indication of something. Obviously, the ESC is complaining about something. Only catch with his test is that a motor must be connected to hear the twitch/beeps but you don't actually have to power-up the motor manually (beyond what the ESC does during self-test). I also now see how shorted motors can fry and good ESC on simple power-up-and-test.

The ESC soldering, wiring, and PCB look fine. I see no blown chips or bad soldering.

I opened the motor, and the windings look good. My new LC/LCR meter (a gift) is not working properly for motor coil measurements in uH/mH, so I have another one on order. I will update this post later.

Update 1:
Ok, I got a working LC-Meter. This motor appears to be good because I am getting the following between the 3 motor pairs: 35.8, 35.6, 36.2 uH (aka mH). I took the readings with the magnet-bell removed and they were as they should be (within 10% of each other). Also, windings and magnets physically look good (nothing melted, burnt, or out-of-place).

I installed a used/working Nova v2.4 green-led-ESC. Seems motor solder-pads are in a different orientation than old v1.6 ESCs. I say that because after soldering to match the bad ESC, I still had to swap a motor wire-pair to get this motor to spin in the proper direction. It was no big-deal, but note worthy. It behaves like a good ESC/Motor set now (see above ... both tests ... connected and disconnected). I needed to program the ESCs (all-at-once) and re-do all calibrations.

Toward the end of ESC-Calibration, I observed that all motors now spin properly and turn in the proper directions. There is also a Motor Test in MissionPlanner. I like to do it from Terminal.

More repairs and updates documented here.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Flight Session 51 - Flying my Novas

My last few flight sessions have been with the new DT-180 drone. Some general LoS flying, but also trying to practice my FPV. Today, I thought I would take my Novas over to the school-field for some flights. Partly cloudy, 90f, and 5mph winds.

Super-Nova (newer Nova #2):

As I get to the field and get everything setup and ready for take-off ... I feel a few sprinkles. I look off in the distance, and a new dark thunder-cloud is approaching. I decide to go for it.

On power-up, I noticed that the Nova's power-up sequence of motor/esc twitch/beeping was different and abnormal. I tried again and got the same. I didn't think much more of it since it Armed ok. I likely bumped the throttle a couple of times to test motor spin, (as I usual do) but not sure. I felt a few more sprinkles so it's now or never. On take-off, it flipped over. Compass puck got cracked. Nova will still Arm, but back/left (aft-port) motor/esc set will not spin prop. Super-Nova definitely not living-up to its name. It never rained.

It took two Nova's and 2 years of flights, but it appears I have finally experienced a stock ESC or Motor failure. Caught me totally off-guard. The Nova was trying to tell me something (a few extended seconds of twitching/beeping of the ultimately non-functioning esc/motor-set on power-up) ... but I didn't understand.

Strange thing about it ... this is the newer Nova (with the v1.6 ESCs), and it 's never been crashed (well, unless you count just now when it flipped on take-off due to a non-spinning motor). Whatever component went bad here, it appears to have happened while Nova was sitting on garage shelf. Either that or it happened on initial take-off/throttle-up/amp-up.

In light of this event, I'm gonna have to add a couple of steps to my main pre-flight checklist.

- Listen for extra (abnormal) beeps/twitching from ESC/Motor sets during initial lipo connection and aircraft power-up (even if it stops after a few seconds).

- After Arming, bump the throttle on/off a few times and make sure all props/motors spin on command.

Because apparently, you can have a failure in a ESC/Motor set and it will still pass pre-arm tests and allow Arming ( basically goes un-detected). Without the pilot performing the above pre-flight observations ... there is no way to prevent a flip/crash/damage when you punch the throttle to take-off.

Current known issues:
1. Repair or replace bad motor and/or ESC in bad set
2. Repair cracked puck and do epoxy mod to reinforce.
3. Check GPS-module cable. I lost GPS for 5 mins during field testing (and it didn't appear to be an GPS-Almanac update).

Nova #1:

Only thing here is that both of my Turnigy-2700 Lipos have now puffed-up again and are apparently too large to fit into the old Nova any more (even with PDB raised-up 2mm). I used the Vant-3000 (that I usually run in the Super-Nova) instead.

The Nova flew great. All modes and Loiter. Quanum Retracts are still working fine. Flew around fast and stable. Fun flying and seems more casual than FPV. Just had the one battery that fit, but got over 12 minutes flight-time on it. GPS working OK for a 6-series. Barometer altitude reporting acceptably today on this quad.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Two uBlox GPS & Compass combo-modules for Pixhawk compared

Both of these are advertised as being "GPS combo-modules" with uBlox NEO-M8N GPS and a HMC5883L compass. They are both pinned with Molex PicoBlade for easy PixHawk use. The content of this post started as a rant/complaint, but I've decided to present it as a Comparison, so I can offer a suggested alternative. Ok, so first the bad ...

Beitian GPS & Compass combo-module (white):



Looks pretty on the outside right? Well, looks can be deceiving.

For starters, it only works intermittently. Initial testing revealed it gets more erratic as it warms-up. Inside, we first find a conventional uBlox chipset missing. However, if you look through the hole, you see a chip with uBlox printed on it ... so who knows if it's all real.

Then I noticed that instead of using the available (dependable and industry-standard) Molex PicoBlade connector, they have instead decided to hard-wire solder the tiny cable wires directly to the module's PCB. Seems this critical miss-step allowed the real problem (below) to even manifest itself in the first place.



But the real surprise inside is the soldering (zoom in or "open in new tab/window"). The wires are frayed and barely attached. Not only that, but all the connections are poor, dull, and obvious "cold solder" connections that aren't always making good contact. Everyone knows what happens if your GPS or compass becomes disconnected or glitched in flight ... right, the aircraft flies-away or crashes. This poor soldering is why the module works intermittently, worse as it warms-up, clearly un-reliably, and completely unfit for its purpose.

Finally, there is no obvious indication or arrow pointing forward. Neither on the module's outer case or inner PCB. The compass chip is not visible either.

Lets see what the seller has to say, and I will report back.


GR-BD uBlox GPS & Compass combo-module (black):

http://www.banggood.com/Ublox-NEO-M8N-Flight-Controller-GPS-with-Protective-Shell-for-PIX-PX4-Pixhawk-p-1005394.html?p=NR1603976533201412HJ 

I had this NEO-M8N unit, out on porch getting "warmed-up" for a recent test flight. I was getting SATS:15 & HDOP:0.8 . So, good performance and as expected ... much better than my uBlox 6-series units in same environment.

  


This GR-BD GPS module is much better built. Inside you find a more standard looking uBlox chipset. They also use a properly crimped cable connector to match the one provided on the PCB. This provides a much better connection to vital sensors like these (compared to the white Beitian unit) . In hours of testing, I have never seen this GR-BD module fail. While the proper direction is already clearly marked, the compass chip is also visible. I like the visible blue status led also.

In summary, I guess the real advantage of this black GR-BD one, over the white Beitian one ... is that it actually works :-)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Pixhawk v2.4.8 bench-testing & barometer accuracy with drift

I finally got around to firing-up the new PixHawk v2.4.8 on the workbench. It came with ArduCopter v3.2.1. I had to flash to v3.3.3 to cure some external Compass detection issues. I then had to flash to AC_v3.4rc2 to fix "compass variance" errors. It's now working except for this altitude drifting issue. 

So, it turns-out that ESCs and motors do not have to be installed for Pixhawk to Arm and run a simulated “test-flight”. I was able to now better compare the new Pixhawk-v248 altitude behavior against my other FCs.  

Test conditions:

- FC and sensors are powered-up and “warmed-up” for 5 minutes before Arming
- Only the FC is connected. No GPS for now.
- Using on-board compass only. Calibrated and not throwing “Compass Variance” errors
- FCs are completely calibrated (gyros, etc.)
- FCs are sitting on the actual flat level ground outside
- During mock “test flights”, FC were occasionally picked-up to 2 meters, held for Tower chic's announcement (about 30 secs), and then set back down.

Initial Observations (for all tested FCs unless noted):

- Daylight, temperature, and weather not large factors (example pic below from a night run)
- All FCs drift a bit after cold power-up. This appears to be normal. I allow 5 minutes to warm-up.
- On Arming, altitude is reset to 0.0 meters. After a cold-boot, works nice to reset barometer after power-up but before take-off.
- Neither the APM_252 nor PixRacer ever exhibited a deviation any different or worse than about 1.0 meters in any test.



The below chart shows results from actual sim-flights in my backyard. While it only shows a few, I would say I have run about 10 tests so far. Multiple tests of same FC showed similar results (so no big problem they aren't all logged).
 
Altitude of ground (as determined by FC) APM_252 PixRacer Pix248_F01 Pix248_F02
Power-up 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
After 5 minutes warm-up 0.3 0.1 -3.0 -3.0
After Arming (resets altitude once) 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
During simulated flight. 1 minute 0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.2
During simulated flight. 2 minutes 0.2 0.0 -3.0 -1.0
During simulated flight. 10 minutes 0.7 0.1 -7.0 1.0
During simulated flight. 30 minutes 1.0 0.8 -10.0 -2.0
After landing 1.0 0.8 -10.0 -2.0
Max in-flight barometer units deviation 1.0 0.8 10.0 2.0
         



Like the popular PixHawk 2.4.6 before it ... the PixHawk 2.4.8 and PixRacer all still use the same Measurement Specialties MS5611 barometer sensor. Even my old APM_252 FCs uses the same. When looking at Flight-Example-01, I don't see how the PixHawk_v248 can be determined good and trusted on a $1000 aircraft if it can't even determine it's own altitude closer than this. I had hoped to use this aircraft for precise auto-missions. From this example simulated-flight (F01), you can see it clearly performs worse than the others.

Sometimes this PixHawk_v248 drifts into positive altitudes instead of negative. Originally, I had thought that Arming (and it's reset) was required to net a good result. However, (at least in this case) I'm seeing that is not the case, and a drifting barometer will continue to drift, no matter how many times you reset or Arm-Reset it. I'm thinking it must be a bad barometer on the board. Hopefully just a rare random bad unit.

Update 08-29-2016
I have continued to run tests (up to about 15 iterations now) and example test-flight scenarios with similar results. They have been run on both 90f hot-days and cool 70f nights. Weather is active (like always) but is generally mild (no storms).

Most results are similar. However, it seems I ran enough tests (about 6 now) on PixHawk_248 to get a rare result. I have updated the above chart with that flight (in column PixHawk v248 - Example Flight #02). It shows that this exact PixHawk_v248 (that has been performing so poorly) finally showed a result more in-line with similarly equipped FCs (it finally performed properly once). It seems to say that this MS5611 barometer sensor can work under ideal conditions or maybe just randomly. However, since it's not reliably correct or dependable, I will likely never fly this particular FC on a nice aircraft as originally intended.

You can also start to see how some pilots might not notice a 1-2 meter barometer drift during a flight. Conceivably, you could take off at 0.0 meters. During the flight, the barometer might drift around 2.0 meters. But if it happens to drift back near true altitude (around the time you land), the pilot might not even notice.

I'm thinking the Measurement Specialties MS5611 barometer sensor is a fairly delicate and sensitive sensor. It might be that some work better than others. Maybe I just got a "boarder-line sensor" that tends to drift too much over a short period of time. Hard to say how many FCs that might end-up affecting over the years. I just visually confirmed that my PixHawk v2.4.8 from BG does have the proper sensor soldered onto the PCB.

MEAS - 561101BA03

Grey foam is there and lightly pressing against sensor. In my case, it appears to be a bad $3 barometer sensor .

Update 09-28-2016

I contacted vendor. They sent me a new one after seeing these test results. This new one works properly. I holds a 1-meter or better accuracy while on flight-line or during mock flights.

Monday, July 11, 2016

DT-180 Racing Drone - Diatone 180mm Full Setup & Mods

Ok, so the DT-180 flies. Now, let's see what I can do with it. This post will update for a while.

I did a partial de-Pinning of FrSky_X4R-SB so that it will fit behind camera (and partially under Naze32-FC).



 
Cut last 2 pins down flush like the others. I will never need CH-2/CH-3 anyway. Leave the 6-pins for SBus & CH-1.
 
 
Needs one more thin coat of Liquid-Tape, for 2 total.


 
Install between beeper and PWM-cable.


 
PWM cable is just barely long enough.

 
Not really needed, but how about a small piece of black-tape for one more piece of insurance. I didn't know, but it turns-out that 99% of the bottom of this Naze32 PCB is smooth and void of components. That really helps make this mod possible. If you loose the threads on a stand-off, try some Teflon-tape.

 
X4R-SB got to keep its protective outer case. Its still a bit loose in space and not crushed. Wire and antenna management is key due to close props.

Naze32 is still level and securely hard-mounted with black nylon screws like before.

Nothing shorting-out.
Arms, spins-motors, RSSI is good.
Test flight successful. (Updated 7-15-2016)

- Battery got a bit hot.

CleanFlight Steps edited for this simple flight of this version of Naze32 FC and FrSky SBus:


  • Setup

    • Calibrate Accelerometer
      • Let sit still on level surface
      • Save your config if you want (I do this often as I make changes and progress)
  • Ports

    • UART-1
      • Data = MSP/11520 (never change this)
    • UART-2
      • RX = Serial RX
  • Configuration

    • Mixer = Quad-X
    • Receiver Mode = RX_Serial (SBus)
    • Serial Receiver Provider = SBus
    • ESC & Motor Features
      • Motor_Stop & Dis-Arm Motors (5 secs)
      • Throttle numbers are Min=1150, Middle=1500, Max=1850, Min_Cmd=1000
        • Some of these might need adjustment, but theses do work/fly.
    • System Configuration
      • Loop Time = 2000
    • Other Features
  • Receiver

    • Select Option for JR/Spektrum
      • That will give you TAER1234 (Throttle, Aileron, Elevator, Rudder, Aux1-4)
      • By now your radio TX/RX set should be Bound and working. Turn on Taranis, and see it respond in CleanFlight. If paired TX/RX radio-set are both on and bound together, the Naze32-FC should not be beeping. X4R-SB green-led should also be lit.
  • Modes

    • Setup some modes ... like Angle flight-mode (Auto-Level) on your main switch. (video)
  • Sensors

    • Move and manipulate the Blade quad and watch sensors respond.


    Saturday, July 9, 2016

    Diatone Tyrant 180 (DT-180) & FrSky X4R-SB (SBus) - Quick Build & maiden-flight

    Nice carbon frame & PDB. Pretty tight in there, and props are close. I easily installed FrSky X4R-SB receiver on top of Diatone DT-180 for now. I used the supplied 10-pin RC-Pig-Tail cable. Carefully apply pressure when inserting the 10-pin header connector because its only soldered to the top of the PCB. The black-DuPont RC-plugs stick-out of X4R-SB a bit and increases its required mounting space.


    Must have Velcro-strap on main battery. Now trying another around back wires and antenna. Props are installed in normal CW/CCW Naze32 order. The supplied nyloc prop-nuts are two black/silver colored pairs, they all screw-on in the normal direction. Using wire-ties and heat-shrink for whisker antennas. Only difference with mine is the tubing-middle is tied-down.

    • First, I like to Bind receiver (a FrSky X4R-SB with it's own battery) to new Model #05 on Taranis. Don't forget to power-cycle X4R-SB at the end. Look for green-led on successful bind and even currently-bound status.
    • With volt-meter, be sure BEC on quad is outputting about 5.0 volts. If so, you can use this for power now.
    • First, turn on Taranis. Then, power-up drone (Naze32_FC & X4R-SB_TX) with it's lipo. Always follow this order and vice-versa for power-down.
    CleanFlight
    • Set CleanFlight Ports & Config for SBUS. Save and reboot.
    • See the bottom of this page for basic CF settings.
    • Calibrate accelerometer/gyro (easy ... just let rest and be motionless). 
    • Check for radio coms
      • Main 4 control channels
      • Setup one main Flight-Mode switch (AUX-1) and check Modes
      • Backup Settings

    • Those settings, radio is responding, easy calibrate gyro, and I am good to fly.
     


    Maiden Test-Flight
    - Location & weather: Outside backyard in medium winds.
    Results: Two successful take-offs, hovers, light-flying, and landings. Flew battery until low-voltage alarm sounded. No damage for today. Will try with a fresh lipo and goggles later.

    Radio installs easily in the DT-180 PnF drone. Intermediate pilots and builders with only basic skills should be able to get this quad into the air fast. Now that the DT-180 is a proven flier, I went ahead and partially de-pinned this X4R-SB ... allowing it to fit behind the camera.

    http://quadcopter-robotics.blogspot.com/2016/07/dt-180-racing-drone-diatone-180mm-full.html


    Still ToDo:
    - Tune PIDs

    Tuesday, July 5, 2016

    Blade-185 Drone take-off crash-landing up into tree with no-damage.

    It started as a simple take-off under a tree. I got stuck on a vine at first, but the required throttle to break-free catapulted quad up into the lower tree branches. It came-to-rest and perched itself on this large branch ... with no damage.



    Tough little quad. Had 5 minor crashes flying thru 2-batteries in my back-yard "obstacle-course" :) No damage to racing-drone, and the new skid-plate/antenna-guard seems to be doing its job.

    Monday, July 4, 2016

    PixRacer v1.0 Autopilot Xracer Flight Controller Mini-PX4 Wifi for FPV Racing RC Multirotor

    I just ordered an inexpensive Chinese-clone PixRacer Flight-Controller to try-out. It says it also comes with the WiFi-module. I will add more to this post once I receive it.
    http://www.banggood.com/Pixracer-Autopilot-Xracer-V1_0-Flight-Controller-Mini-PX4-Built-in-Wifi-For-FPV-Racing-RC-Multirotor-p-1056428.html?p=NR1603976533201412HJ
     
    It arrived fast and as pictured (with WiFi daughter-board and SD-Memory-Card). It appears to be generally good build quality for a cloned FC from the outside (metal case, etc.).
     
    From Windows MissionPlanner, I loaded: APM:Copter v3.4-rc5
    On the PixRacer (BG clone) hardware, it's identified as:
    APM:Copter v3.4-rc5 (0d9d101f)
    Note: Due to a recent IMU hardware issue fix in code, this might be the first firmware version that is working 100% for this particular FC.
     
    After firmware upgrade to this version, my PixRacer still Connects to MP and seems to operate normally for a benched FC with only an USB connection. Even in this minimal state, I went ahead and did some minimal Compass and Accelerometer calibrations. The PixRacer continues to operate properly in MissionPlanner's HUD.
     
    I will try some more elaborate bench-test configs, and post about those test results later. My initial opinion is favorable.
     
     

    Saturday, July 2, 2016

    Diatone Tyrant 180 5.8g 40ch Naze32- rev6 FPV Racing Drone PnF/ARF

    I just ordered a Diatone Tyrant 180 FPV racing drone.

    I got the PnF model, that comes with Naze32 FC. I plan to install a FrSky X4R-SB Receiver, and use my existing FrSky Taranis Transmitter.

     Diatone Tyrant 180 (PNF) Notable Features (what caught my attention):
    • Simple & sturdy 4mm/3k Carbon-fiber composite frame & PDB
    • Naze32 Flight Controller (Rev6 32bit processor)
    • Runs CleanFlight
    • ESCs 20amp OneShot-125 opto (serviceable & replaceable)
    • Motors BX2204-2300kv brushless & 4-inch props
    • Landing-gear/ motor-protectors
    Requires:
    • Requires any good (hobby grade) 2.4ghz RC-Radio for control
    • Requires 3s-1200mah LiPo battery (or similar) with XT60
    Then just pick your goggles or FPV-screen. With EV-800, that's a nice pre-assembled entry-level  racing-drone FPV quadcopter ... for around $350 usd.

    http://www.banggood.com/Diatone-Tyrant-180-180mm-5_8G-40CH-Naze32-REV6-FPV-Racing-Drone-PNF-p-1051743.html?p=NR1603976533201412HJ
     
    UPDATE: It's now built and flies good ... complete PnF Build and maiden flight.
     
    Also, here is my partially de-pinned X4R-SB install.
     
     

    Thursday, June 30, 2016

    Eachine Blade 185 - vTX Video-TX Antenna Guard (EB185)

    According to forum reports, several pilots have had some minor crashes that broke the 5.8ghz FPV video-Transmitter coax antenna connector off the quad ... sometimes, even damaging the main PCB. This is still pretty rough, but here is a proof-of-concept for a skid-plate idea I had.


     
    Plastic is about 3.0-3.5mm thick. I find the existing screws are Metric and need to be longer.
    There are 4 nylon spacers between plastic guard and quad ("to clear" gold coax soldered-on antenna connector).
     
    Thread: M2.5 Thread (0.45mm pitch)
    Length: 15mm  is what I use (depth is limited) 
    Head: Usually something like Cap-Head Hex-2.0mm
     



    Features:
    • Cut clear-plastic (from junk parts box) with Dremel to make more slim-line. Weight with nylon bolt is down to 13.1 grams. Simple and sturdy design of plastic and nylon do not interfere with antenna signals.
    • Added pieces of black foam servo-tape for padding between plastic guard plate and actual gold coax connector/PCB. It's easy to check tightness of antenna coax, and antenna still easy to swap out.
    • Protects connector and also prevents antenna from getting loose and twisting off into props.
    • Flight Test 7-1-2016 : Flies fine.

    Wednesday, June 22, 2016

    Cymatics: Science Vs. Music (Nigel Stanford)

    Ok, I think any video a multiple Tesla-Coils deserves a post :) . I suppose it also touches on another interest of mine (home theater and htpc). But if I know you blog readers as a group, I think you will like it also.


    Try to watch it in HD, Full Screen, and crank it up (or click here).

    Monday, June 13, 2016

    Eachine Blade 185 Recover Bootload boot Naze32 unbrick EB185

    This happened soon after I had my EB185 hooked up to the laptop for the first time. I've been asked by a top forum contributor to document it. I had just installed CleanFlight and was running it for the first time ever. I was very unfamiliar with it (being my first exposure to Naze32 and CF) but quad seemed to be calibrated and working. The 3D model in CF was responding on the laptop screen as I moved the quad on desk.

    I thought I needed to change the uart ports to be more like in EB185 manual. Well, you do ... but I mis-interpreted what they were talking about. After I inadvertently changed UART-1 Data away from MSP/115200 (by changing something else on that line) ... I could no longer Connect to quad. Basically, it appeared to be bricked.

    As it turns out, the Naze32 is supposedly un-brickable. All you have to do is carefully short test-point Boot/Boot0 to 3.3volts, and plug-in it's power at the same time. The problem is that on the EB185, the Boot signal is not brought out to an easy to access test-point pad. So, in this case, you must use Pin#5 on STM32F chip itself.

    Understanding what must be done, it seemed pretty hard to hold a probe on a single STM32F pin without it slipping and shorting to a nearby one ... not to mention holding a short while connecting power. Luckily, I ohmed-out Pin#5 and found it goes directly to the top solder-leg of the resistor right by it on the PCB.




    Therefore, I carefully shorted these 2 points (marked in above pic in violet color) with a pair of sharp tweezers, while simultaneously connecting USB cable coming from laptop. Windows laptop detects Naze32 device in "Devices and Printers", but no sound from quad. Carefully lift and remove tweezers shorting the 2 points. At this point you should be done. It should connect now or the next time you reset the power (or re-connect USB).

    I started CleanFlight and Flashed to: 1.12.1 NAZE 2016-4-10 (Stable). Recalibrated and reprogrammed. Good as new and back on-track. Note to self : Never do that again! Hope this helps.

    Tuesday, May 31, 2016

    Blade 185 Build

    The Blade-185 (ARF) arrived last weekend so I started on it Sunday. This is my first quad with Naze32 and CleanFlight, so all this is new to me. This post will be edited over the next few days.

    General Notes:
    • Never connect main lipo battery without rear FPV antenna connected (you might damage video-TX).
    • Black prop-nuts screw-on in normal direction (for CCW spinning props)
    • Red prop-nuts screw-on in backwards direction (for CW spinning props)
    • Props are 4045 and should not be installed during any of this setup.

    FrSky Receiver Install:

    This quad is very small and I had worries about spinning props hitting the wires (or maybe the battery if it shifts a bit during a crash). I decided to move the battery to the top (so it was no longer in same "plane of rotation" as props). It slides right into the "frame" I made with two black nylon wire-ties. I had a spare FrSky X6R, so I decided to use that for now. The tubing keeps antenna wires bundled (but not actually touching). This should work until I more permanently mount the RX later (in its final location with foam tape).




    You can peak through the rear carbon-fiber frame to access Dip-Switches.
    For SBus, on Dip-A set 1=ON , 2=OFF.
    Connected supplied 3-wire cable from Blade's small white radio connector to SBus port on X6R receiver (first port on the X6R, at the very beginning). Watch polarity of black Dupont plug since this is also how the radio gets its 4.5v power (in addition to SBus signal on white wire).

    Setup Model #3 on Taranis transmitter:
    - Mode = D16
    - Channels Range (CH) = 1-16
    - Receiver (RX) = 03

    For the X6R Binding ... for now, I just used Mode-5 (D16). This one is the "no-jumper" easy-bind and should be fine since I'm not using any of the physical RC-channel outputs on RX (only SBus). When it's properly bound, the light on the X6R will turn green (and might flash green at times). Having a properly connected and Binding radio set is your first step in making the constant beeping go away. This appears to be a good safety feature. Once the Naze32 Flight-Controller is sure that a working radio is connected, the beeping will stop. To program and setup the Naze32 FC, I will use CleanFlight software.

    CleanFlight:

    On Windows-10/64bit, first, I installed Google Chrome. Then installed the CleanFlight app.

    Follow the link to install the Windows Silicon Labs (in my case, the 64bit) driver for Naze32. After it installs, connect micro-USB cable to Blade. You should get the Windows-chime that a new USB device was detected and the proper driver should load and install from driver-cache. Now that Windows sees the quad and its Flight-Controller, CleanFlight should be able to also.

    In CleanFlight (video), proceed to click Connect in upper right-hand corner. I'm in no way a guru at any of this and did some significant jumping around during setup while figuring stuff out. I even had some problems that the helpful forum users helped me with. All that said, here are my current working settings, and my best recollection of the steps I followed (or rather, the proper steps you should follow).

    • Setup
      • Calibrate Accelerometer
        • Let sit still on level surface
      • Calibrate Magnetometer (compass)
        • Within 30 seconds, evenly spin on each of 3 axis (R, P, & Y)
      • Save your config if you want (I do this often as I make changes and progress)
    • Ports
      • UART-1
        • Data = MSP/115200
          • Never change this or else USB port will quit working.
      • UART-2
        • RX = Serial RX
    • Configuration
      • Mixer = Quad-X
      • Receiver Mode = RX_Serial (SBus)
      • Serial Receiver Provider = SBus
      • ESC & Motor Features
        • Motor_Stop & Dis-Arm Motors (5 secs)
        • Throttle numbers are Min=1000, Middle=1500, Max=2000, Min_Cmd=1000
          • Some of these likely need adjustment, but theses do work/fly.
      • Battery Voltage (VBat Monitoring = ON)
      • System Configuration
        • Loop Time = 2000
      • Other Features
        • Telemetry
        • LED_Strip
        • Black-box
    • Receiver
      • Select Option for JR/Spektrum
        • That will give you TAER1234 (Throttle, Aileron, Elevator, Rudder, Aux1-4)
        • By now your radio TX/RX set should be working. Turn on Taranis, and see it respond in CleanFlight. If it does, beeping should stop.
    • Motors
      • You can can perform a calibration of all ESCs (All-At-Once) by clicking the check box at the bottom with the battery disconnected. Then using the master slider, slide it to the top turning all motors to full throttle in CleanFlight. With the sliders at full throttle connect the lipo battery, the ESCs will beep indicating throttle calibration mode, then immediately click at the bottom of the slider and it will return to zero throttle. The ESCs will beep indicating calibration is complete.
      • You can also just test your motors here.
    • Modes
      • Setup some modes ... like Angle flight-mode (Auto-Level) on your main switch. (video)
    • Sensors
      • Move and manipulate the Blade quad and watch sensors respond.
    CleanFlight Firmware Flashing

    After your are familiar with how everything works, you can load the current Naze32 "stable" firmware. This is the program or code that runs on the various flight controllers that CleanFlight supports. You want the one for Naze. They are listed in order, with newest ones near the top. I loaded "v1.12.1 NAZE 2016-4-10 (Stable)". After it finished, I double-checked my settings, and re-did my calibrations.

    Taranis (model programming)

    On Model 3, the Mixer screen, add a switch or two to be used for AUX 1-4 for your Flight Modes, Modifiers, etc. This is real easy ... for Mixer CH5-8, you simply set desired Switch as the SOURCE and save/exit the Mix. Other than changing the text name of the Model, this is all I initially programmed on Taranis (and it flies in Angle flight-mode fine).



    You can now see switches responding in CleanFlight and can assign modes and functions to them.
    When testing the model, on the main model flight screen of Taranis, you should have FrSky Telemetry working by now. You will know when you see the Input voltage and RSSI as being read from X6R on Taranis LCD.

    I'm sure there is still more to setup (like Fail-Safe) and tweak (like PIDs). This video looked good and seemed to have some advanced content in it (will watch and learn later). But for now, but I'm eager to see if she even flies.



    Maiden Flight

    Ok, now I can say my new Naze32 quad is air-worthy and I've flown it.  Just newbie baby-steps today. I flew thru a battery in Angle Flight-Mode by LoS in the yard. Angle is like Stabilize flight-mode on APM-based quads. Blade-185 seems stable, fast, and even hovers good. Didn't see any problems with balance (since battery was moved to top). Didn't really test range, but worked fine with strong RSSI during flight.

    Saturday, May 21, 2016

    HexaCopter s550 - Custom Build - Start Frame

    Enough parts have arrived to start the build. I'm still waiting on motors, ESCs, and PixHawk FC. This SK s550 hexacopter frame seems nice. All the parts are clearly labeled and packaged well. All the parts and holes seem to line up properly so far.

    Just following the directions. Be sure to select the correct bottom board (PDB), know which side is right-side-up, and notice arrow pointing forward.

    Install set-screws in the 4 half-circle mounts, but leave them backed-off a bit so (closed-ends) bars slide easily for now. Use 8 proper screws to attach both under-carriages plates to hangers. Attach both of these carriage assemblies to bars before completely tightening the 8 screws that hold the half-circle mounts ( since the hangers are what determines the exact distance). I plan to slide bars out any time payload carriages or hangers need to be re-configured.


    I assembled the landing gear, but left them un-attached from bottom PDB for now. Seems like it will be easier to solder ESCs onto board this way.


    Next up ... installing ESCs. They should be here in a week or so. I think I will just edit and continue this post for a while.

    Saturday, May 14, 2016

    Eachine Blade-185 RC Quadcopter - FPV Racing Drone (ARF)

    I just ordered a Eachine Blade 185 FPV racing quadcopter.

    http://www.banggood.com/Eachine-Blade-185-FPV-Racing-Drone-with-OSD-5_8G-40CH-HD-Camera-ARF-p-1052500.html?p=NR1603976533201412HJ


    I got the ARF model, that come with Naze32 FC and LiPo battery. I plan to install a FrSky X6R receiver, and use my existing FrSky Taranis radio. However, I saw they also have a Ready-To-Fly model (RTF complete with radio, GPS-Module pre-installed, and battery). In fact there is currently a coupon for this RTF combo.

    Blade 185 (ARF) Notable Features (what caught my attention):
    • Naze32 Flight Controller (Rev6 10DOF with 32bit processor)
    • Includes Compass, Altimeter/Barometer
    • GPS capable
    • Runs CleanFlight
    • Nice CF-frame with LEDs and various component mounting options
    So, I was out-back yesterday, trying to do some FPV with my little Hubsan 107d. It flies fine indoors and even outside with a little wind. The problem is that if it lands on even slightly tall grass, it can't take off again because its props get tangled in the weeds. So then you have to take the FPV goggles off, stand-up from chair, and go get it. I decided it's just too frustrating outside (unless you only fly over a trimmed golf-course or turf).

    I put that little quad aside for the moment, and did some pre-sales research on my options. I don't have time to start another custom build, so I ordered this Blade-185 ARF today. The pilots in the forums seem to like it. I decided that if I'm going to try this, I need a proper FPV aircraft to use.

    I'll post more about it after it arrives. It's in-stock and shipping from Chinese warehouse, so it should be here in around 2 weeks.

    Thursday, May 12, 2016

    Custom Build - s550 HexaCopter

    I plan to build this 550-sized Hexa-Copter as my first custom build.

    http://www.banggood.com/S550-Hexcopter-Frame-Kit-With-Integrated-PCB-550mm-Black-p-978627.html?p=NR1603976533201412HJ
    Frame s550 Hexacopter  (with up-swept arms)
    Motors x6 EMax MT-2216 810kv (3cw/3ccw with bolt-on PropAdapters)
    Props 10 inch 1045 (12 included with 6 motors)
    ESC x6 ZTW Spider 30amp SimonK 600Hz Opto
    Bullet Connectors 3.5mm (x18 for ESCs)

    Battery Glacier 14.8v 4s-6000mah 30c LiPo (comes with EC5 and 10awg)
    BEC & PM Dual-Voltage (5.3v@3A / 12v@3A / 120A PowerModule)
    Wiring for Battery, BEC, & PM : 10awg and EC5 Connectors

    Flight Controller PixHawk PX4 v2.4.8 "Full-Size" w/ all ports & v3-mcu (2mb ok)
    GR-BD GPS/ Compass Combo Module (uBlox Neo-M8N & HMC5883L compass - Black)
    Telemetry Radio Set 3DR/SiK-915mhz 500mW (upgraded wattage)

    Gimbal-3D Storm32 (180g)
    Camera Xiaomi-Yi  1080p-60fps MP4-H.264 (Ambarella Image Processor)
    FrSky X8R Receiver (with SBus & Telemetry)

    I'm estimating it will weigh around 2100-2200grams
    I would like a THR_MID around 500, and a 15 minute run time.
    The max prop for this frame is 10inch. At 14.8v, these 2216 motors pull 15amps max each.

    I'm less concerned about price, and more concerned with flexibility and dependability of this aircraft. I don't want to be "closed in" or limited. I will be using it to do general hobby LoS flying, Auto-Missions, Aerial Photography, and maybe some experimental stuff like LiDar-Lite.

    A big thanks goes out to the pilots and builders over on RCGroups that helped me analyze my initial configuration and come up with this final parts-list. I'm ordering these parts now.

    Wednesday, May 11, 2016

    Eachine EV800 RC FPV Goggles with 5-inch 480p Screen & 40ch 5.8ghz Video Receiver

    I've got a set of these EV800 FPV Goggles on order. I've always been a Line-of-Sight RC-aircraft pilot. I'm still not sure if hard-core FPV quad racing is right for me, but casual FPV flying seems like fun. Plus, the price is right on this entry level set.

    http://www.banggood.com/Eachine-EV800-5-Inches-800x480-FPV-Goggles-5_8G-40CH-Raceband-Auto-Searching-Build-In-Battery-p-1053357.html?p=NR1603976533201412HJ


    If you examine the hardware-specs, you can see this is really more like a 2nd generation set ... only now available in 2016 for this price. Click any link in this post for full specs on the sales page (they are currently taking pre-orders).

    I will know more after I get mine delivered, but here are my initial impressions about it's features. I suppose these are also the reasons why I decided to buy them :)

    • The 480p (DVD quality) resolution screen should be fine for a good picture from the common CCD 600TVL-700TVL cameras that are usually used now-days on FPV aircraft and racers. The screen is also spec-ed at 600cd/m2 brightness, which should work nicely outside with sun.
       
    • The included and built-in 5.8ghz video receiver includes all the common frequency bands, for a full 40 channels of available individual frequencies (including RaceBand). There should be no problem finding a matching empty/clear one for use with your model aircraft. There is also plenty to share at flying field, and it will even auto-select one for you if you want.
       
    • Looks like the front "goggles part" comes-off and you can easily mount the main screen unit on a common tripod. This is good for FPV newbies like myself. We can fly normally line-of-sight (LoS) or look into nearby screen to fly FPV. You can also just use it  to "line-up" aerial video and photography shots (which is really handy ... you see what multi-rotor sees). You can transition between either mode as you see fit.
       
    • It says the battery is also included, so this set of FPV goggles is ready to go ... just connect wirelessly to your aircraft.
    I will post more about the goggles after I get them.

    Oh ... when I ordered them, I paid the extra $2 for Priority Direct Mail and Shipping Insurance. Then, I simply paid with PayPal. Actually, this is what I always do when ordering items from them. I'm in USA (Texas) but In-Stock items ship fast and show-up on my door-step in a couple of weeks (even all the way from China).

    Usage Update:

    The EV800 FPV Goggles work pretty good and picture is clear. Not going to do full review because others have. About 90% of the reviews are favorable and they seem to be working good in the field for most pilots. Latest shipping units should include nice black face pad and external video-in capability.

    The main fresnel lens in NOT adjustable, so pilots who wear glasses or who are slightly near-sighted will likely find that the fixed distance between the lens and screen just barely allows a clear focus.

    My main use for now will be as FPV goggles on my head. However, the EV800's LCD screen does well in sunlight, so I wanted to try them on my tripod and/or attached to my transmitter. The core display-unit is pretty compact and I like the its "sun-shield" body-case.

    For most pilots, the new Eachine VR-D2 FPV Goggles 40ch-DVR will be the better choice because it has a built-in DVR, better antenna system, and the main lens is adjustable. It simply has more desired features for just a bit more money. I have a pair on order.

    http://www.banggood.com/Eachine-VR-D2-5-Inches-800480-40CH-Raceband-5_8G-Diversity-FPV-Goggles-with-DVR-Lens-Adjustable-p-1074866.html?p=NR1603976533201412HJ



    Saturday, May 7, 2016

    Flight Session 47 - Flying on a Windy Day

    Middle school fields were mostly occupied again this Saturday. I almost flew in back field but I saw an un-leashed dog running and playing fetch, so I just went to neighborhood Rec-Center field.

    80F and Party cloudy - Nova's were getting good SATs and HDOP. Another windy day but I flew anyway (it's good practice).

    I ran 3 batteries through the Novas. The new version of Tower on Android is working fine. I created a simple and short Auto-Mission and ran it with no problems.

    The new Vant 3000mah LiPo battery is working fine. The PowerModule calibration is good on SuperNova and I really like knowing more about the battery during flight (Tower gives me periodic updates by her voice).

    It's also nice to finally having a quad with a more precise altimeter (the SuperNova). It does perfect Land and RTL. Had some spectators. Another good flight session under my belt.

    Monday, May 2, 2016

    Cheerson CX-10w Micro QuadCopter Review

    I got one of these new Cheerson CX-10w indoor micro quads to check-out. Always nice to have something to fly inside when the weather is bad. It seems to pack a lot of technology into a small package. It utilizes the technology of your phone (Apple iPhone or Android) for 2.4ghz WiFi control and FPV HD-video.

    Cheerson-CX-10W-CX10W-Mini-Wifi-FPV-With-720P-Camera-2_4G-4CH-6-Axis-LED-RC-Quadcopter


    The CX-10w comes well packed in a sturdy box with the propellers pre-installed. You get the USB charging-cable and an extra set of props. You even get a printed manual in English (it's actually pretty good).

    Charging:
    The battery does NOT have to be removed for charging (which is helpful). Leave the CX10w switched OFF to charge it. Connect the yellow charging cable to the side of the quadcopter and connect the other end to an USB port on your computer or other USB charger (I use the one supplied with my iPhone-5). An orange led-light will come on inside the USB connector while it is charging. The light will turn-off when charging is complete.

    app


    Install iPhone App:
    While it says it also works for Android, this review will talk about Apple and iPhone because that is what I use (iPhone-5 to be exact). Go into the App-Store and search "cx10wifi" or "cx-10wifi" and the proper free app should appear. Install it and run it once to make sure everything is working and ready.

    Connecting CX-10w to phone by WiFi:
    On the iPhone, you simply connect to the CX-10w like it is a WiFi HotSpot (aka Access Point, router, etc). This is in Settings/WiFi. Switch the quadcopter ON, and you should see "CX-10w-wifi" or similar available for connection. Connect to it (there is no password).

    I suggest you leave the CX-10w's Control App's settings as Defaults. This gives you Control Mode 2 (left-hand throttle), and things like "trims" will automatically be saved between flights .While not mandatory, I've found that some simple calibration and initial trimming procedures will help new pilots flying the CX-10w.

    Calibration:
    With the quadcopter on level surface or ground, click the "Balance-Scales" icon (top right corner) on the app's Control Interface screen. This apparently calibrates and resets the internal gyro.

    Trimming:
    Try to hover a few feet off of ground. If it hovers in one place, you are done. A little drifting is normal, but if it consistently drifts or "pulls" to one direction a lot, you can gradually/slightly adjust the "trim bars" next to the displayed gimbals.

    Flight Tips:
    • Initially, it's better to fly in a large room with no obstacles, and no heavy-blowing fans.
    • If you have a crash, make sure the props are still installed properly and not bent or broken.
    • Have fun and be sure to experiment with the different Flight Modes. For instance, Gravity Mode (spinning-top icon) lets you use the level and orientation of the phone itself for control. Hold the phone completely level and then give it some throttle to hover.
    This little quad is durable and flies good (I've had some crashes and nothing broke ... not even a prop). However, it does take a little flight practice and getting used to the phone's touch-screen controls. As a complete package (with these features at this price) I say its fun and worth the money. Only thing is ... my cat doesn't seem too excited about the new addition to the fleet :-)

    It just so happens that this little quad is currently on-sale. If you are in the USA, you can even buy from US-Direct warehouse, pay with PayPal, and have it in your hands in less than a week. However, even from the Chinese (CN) warehouse, I usually get items from them in a couple of weeks (3 at most ... ever).


    Sunday, May 1, 2016

    New Tower for Android update

    Just flew around the obstacle course today (aka my backyard ). Also, re-tested the calibration on my PowerModule, but it looks to be pretty close already.

    Knowing Volts is nice, but on a battery with some flight minutes on it (like say 40% used) ... I've found that Volts is only completely accurate if there is about a 2-amp draw on the battery (like the "1-click throttle" or the Arming-Spin). Without a load on battery, the volts are about 0.7 volts higher. I think this might be normal.

    I just discovered there is a new version of Tower and 3DR-Services for Android. Looks like it has been released for about 6-months now. I have my tablet set to update Apps manually, and tend to not mess with things that are working.

    Seems to work fine and I like the new changes. Go ahead and update anything else offered (I think there is a TTS update also). After updating everything, I rebooted tablet.

    Nice to see Fredia still developing this branch on Android. Too bad we can't use the new "Solo Video" stuff on generic APM/PixHawk (I have an EasyCap just sitting here).

    Don't worry about Wyatt Earp's review ... Google Maps still works (not sure what he's talking about ... sounds like something is broken on his end).

    If your tablet supports GPS, go ahead and get "Satellite Check" while you are in Play-Store (if you haven't already). It's a nice GPS-Satellite Diags app.

    Saturday, April 9, 2016

    Flight Session 44 - Casual Flying

    Dropped by the nice large middle-school field to do some flying. Multiple playing fields where already in use. A little too busy for my tastes, so went to smaller Rec-Center field instead.

    79F and Overcast skies - Was still getting SATs 10-14 and HDOP 1.6-1.3 (after a short minute or so) even with the heavily cloudy skies.

    Winds 15mph - A little windy, but if I wait for sunny day with lite winds (optimal flying conditions) I might be waiting forever. Quads flew fine and it was good (challenging) practice for me. I could tell quads were applying more effort, fighting to hold a Loiter. On Alt-Hold, quads tended to drift a bit more (so I had to compensate).

    I haven't flown at this field in a while. On initially loading Tower (DroidPlanner-3) the terrain maps were completely blank. I used the WiFi HotSpot feature on my iPhone to download the latest terrain maps (it only took a minute or so).

    I flew both Novas ... emptied 3 batteries. Tested all Flight Modes.  Flying low and fast in Alt-Hold is my favorite. Also, set to Loiter at 15meters and flew pretty far away ... down heavily-treed green-belt (really just using Tower's display-screen for actual location and directional orientation). Practiced manual landings in Stabilize, but also Land-Mode and RTL. Retracts are turning out to be much cooler than I originally thought they would be.

    Several groups of neighbors stopped to watch. One boy liked the show and as I landed, yelled "That was awesome" before running off to join his friend.

    Good session and nice to get in some flights.

    Monday, March 28, 2016

    ArduPilot and ArduCopter - Changes and a new Chapter



    Those of you who have been following the developments over the years know that ArduPilot has enjoyed a very close relationship with 3DRobotics for a long time, including a lot of direct funding of ArduPilot developers by 3DR. As 3DR changes its focus that relationship has changed, and the relationship now is not one of financial support for developers but instead 3DR will be one of many companies contributing to open source development both in ArduPilot and the wider DroneCode community. Read More.

    Also, you can read about website changes.

    Meanwhile ...

    I had a few minutes the other day, so I took the quadcopters to the field and ran-through 3 batteries. Just casual flying and no crashes or anything. I hope to get the gimbal and camera back on one of them soon.

    Monday, March 21, 2016

    Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) and Enhanced Protected Mode, 64-bit, and Security in Windows

    Now-days, a working Internet browser is vital. A while back, (while still running Windows-7/64bit) I got tired of my IE-11 occasionally locking-up, crashing and other strange things. This seemed to happen on websites with minor errors in code, long-running scripts, or even malicious ad-code that snuck into legitimate websites via their subscribed ad-network. I also wanted the maximum protection against security exploits. I turned on Enhanced Protected Mode (EPM) and IE11 was like a new browser. I like Add-Ons as much as the next user, but most are 32-bit and I value dependability and security more (only Add-Ons that are 64-bit compatible will run in Protected Mode).

    Windows-7: IE-11/Internet Options/Advanced tab/Security section/
    Enable Enhanced Protected Mode
    Close everything and reboot computer.

    Windows-8.1: IE-11/Internet Options/Advanced tab/Security section/
    Enable Enhanced Protected Mode
    Enable 64-bit processes for Enhanced Protected Mode
    Close everything and reboot computer.

    Windows-10: IE-11/Internet Options/Advanced tab/Security section/
    Enable Enhanced Protected Mode
    Enable 64-bit processes for Enhanced Protected Mode
    Close everything and reboot computer.

    So while IE-11 can use Enhanced Protected Mode in Windows-7 (64bit), it's not as secure as the same browser (with similar settings in a newer OS) due to a limitation in the Operating System itself. It's better than nothing, but only Windows-8.1 and 10 support AppContainers and 64-bit browser-Tabs. AppContainers are an isolated memory space (Sandbox if you will) that the rest of the OS is protected from. Like you, I liked Windows-7 too (Windows-8, not so much), but this is just one reason why newer versions of Windows are better.

    Here are my Add-Ons in Win-10/IE-11 after visiting a few websites and using Outlook.com and Word Online. Notice which are "32bit and 64bit Architecture" (allows them to be enabled in EPM), and which are actually Enabled. You can show "Currently loaded Add-ons" but there are others that load as needed (some without additional permission because they are from a trusted Publisher).


    Now that I have upgraded to Windows-10, I will use IE-11 with the settings above. And while you should probably just skip websites that warrant it, "InPrivate Browsing" is there in Safety options if you need it. It's easy to switch your default browser away from Edge in Windows-10.



    Using Edge is another option and might also be better for less technically-inclined or casual computer users. I'm trying to use it more myself. Looks like Enterprise Mode might be a way to ease the transition. Remember that there is also a "Open with Internet Explorer" menu-option in Edge (if you come across a legitimate website that is not working properly in Edge). Like it or not, the new Microsoft Edge browser is the future since Microsoft has ceased development on Internet Explorer (Edge is their new browser ... they had to start over). I still have Google Chrome installed as (rarely used) tertiary browser. Who has time for computer problems ... we have some flying to do.

    More References:

    http://www.eightforums.com/tutorials/31977-internet-explorer-enhanced-protected-mode-turn-off.html

    http://stackoverflow.com/questions/19029208/how-does-internet-explorer-11-differ-between-windows-7-and-windows-8-1

    ... or just Google it :)