drone with payload

A drone

A drone that does not suck

This project is still WIP

This page contains general information about my drone. Technical specifications (e.g. how it compares to the market leaders), why I built it and some media to give you an idea.
If you want to know more about this project scroll to the end of this article and you will find links to in-depth documentation.

Many people build multicopters nowadays in their free time or as part of a team in a company. Building a multicoper that just flies is pretty easy nowadays. Just get 4 motors, some ESCs, propellers, a battery, a frame and a flight controller. Watch some YouTube tutorials to help you with the built and there you go! A racing „drone“ is a very good example of such a project. However, if you take a closer look you will see that most projects include no serious camera (like a GoPro with gimbal) and have very limited flight time (<10min).

This drone and project is different from most of the projects out there. Its main goal is to build a complete quadcopter from scratch that can be used for aerial photography. Delivering video, user experience and flight time comparable to a DJI Phantom 3/4. One of the best multicopters you can get in 2016/2017.

drone parts

Specs

Weight 1150g (with camera and gimbal)
Flight time 26min (without camera and gimbal)
~20min (with camera)
Range ~800-2000m
3.5km+ using directional antennas
Speed 11m/s (vertical – standard configuration)
Video Quality recent action camera like Hero5 Session (4K 30FPS)
Number of cameras 2 (pilot + camera operator – can be the same person)
Video latency ~110-150ms
Gimbal 3 Axis, 360°
Frequency Depending on transmitter and region
2.3GHz
2.4GHz
5.2GHz
5.8GHz
GNSS Dual GNSS: Ublox M8n (GPS, Glonass, Beidou, Galileo)
“Intelligent Flight Modes” Position Hold, Waypoint missions, more to come…
Maximum payload while keeping good flight characteristics 250g (standard config)
700g+ (heavy lift config)

Why not just buy one?

  1. It’s fun
  2. I like building things
  3. You learn a tremendous amount of things from other disciplines (Electronics, Information Technology)
  4. I can not afford the drone I want to have
  5. I believe I can build one that is exactly how I want one to be
  6. I can do it for less money myself
  7. I can cheaply upgrade the camera, battery and motors in the years to come. You can not do that with a ready to fly drone like the ones from DJI. With them, you are stuck with the video quality that was available at the time.

As an engineer, I very much enjoy building things. It’s fun. Plus – The amount you learn from a single project is incredible. I often do projects where I have very little foreknowledge. I have never built something like a multicopter or a model airplane. During the first year, I learned more about microcontrollers, electrical circuits and how to program them than I ever did in university. Nothing you must know as a mechanical engineer, but something that broadens your horizon.

Of course, there always are some downsides to doing it yourself. I would never start such a project if there is a high probability that it will fail. I have time but no money. However, if I can buy something that is at least as good and expensive as what I could build myself I will buy it. No reason to waste time.

Further information

While this is the main page that gives you some general information about the project you can go and visit the following pages if you like to learn more about it:

6 thoughts on “A drone”

  1. Laurent says:

    Hello,
    I come from the multiwii world and I’m not yet familiar with the STM32 world …
    Which flight controller do you use?
    Do you have a particular model that you could advise to build a drone dedicated to video shooting?
    Thanks in advance

    Laurent

    1. cyber says:

      I am using a SP Racing™ F3 EVO flight controller (STM32F3). I am very happy with it, it gets the job done. If I would built one right now I think I would go for a STM32F4 chip because they are more future-proof and well supported (it’s 6 mounths too early for STMF7 I guess). Just make sure the FC has at least 6 PWM (motor) pins and 3+ UARTS and is no cheap shit. If the FC fails your drone will fall out of the sky 😉
      OmnibusF4, SPRacing are well supported by iNAV but Matek and some others seem to do a good job as well!

      If you have the money take a look at Pixhawk (MAVLink) flight controllers. I am no expert there but you can not be wrong by picking one of those! However a iNAV based configs are working just fine for filming! 🙂

      I hope I can release 0.3 by next week. Does not make sense to release the app till then as a lot of stuff changed for the better and the old app is not fully compatible with the new one. If you just want to test video over WifiBroadcast I can send you a current built so you can test it right away

  2. Laurent says:

    Thank you for all those informations.
    A last question (for the moment …) which GPS module do you use?
    For the flight controller I will look at the side of SP Racing.

    For the Android application I should have the patience to wait for the one that will be linked to the next version of DroneBridge …. (but you have my email if you want ..)

    Laurent

    1. cyber says:

      I am using a UBLOX NEO-M8N from Drotek. There are cheaper ones on ebay but they are very often fake. Those ebay gps chips often have lower precision and not enough flash to update to the newest firmware (Galileo support etc.). With Drotek you can be sure you are getting a genuine UBLOX Chip.
      https://drotek.com/shop/en/184-u-blox

      I mount my gps on top of some aluminium coated base plate. That improves the signal quality a lot! I will post some lessons learned about GPS and Raspberry Pi in the future. Make sure you do not place it directly on top of it. The camera interface of the Pi causes some heavy interference with the GPS signal. You can get an idea of the signal quality if you dowload U-Center from the UBLOX website.

  3. j.prueitt says:

    there’s not enough hardware information for me to put together one. What controllers? What ESC? What wiring? What options? The Pi camera is a joke. Can I replace it with anything else? Logitech 930?
    is this all linux based?

    1. cyber says:

      I will not put out a shopping list for the parts since about every 4 months there is new hardware available and the old one slowly gets unavailable.
      Today I’d say you should get a F4 or even better an F7 FC (or a Pixhawk if you got the money). Find ESCs that match your motor/propeller config (20A ESCs should be way enough).

      For the wiring have a look at the tutorials regarding race drones (there are lots of them). For specific DroneBridge wiring have a look at the Github-Wiki of EZ-Wifibroadcast and DroneBridge.

      The Pi camera is no good for filming, but your best options when it comes to latency and integration. I do not recommend webcams since the latency will be too high and there is no official support.
      You can take a look at this. It will allow you to connect action cameras like the Hero7 or Yi4k to your Pi. You will have no need to change the default configuration of DroneBridge for that.

      Yes, it is all Linux. But the standard user will not see too much of it.
      This is no How-To. Just a presentation of what can be done. You will have to do some research/reading on your own.

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