Being a responsible drone pilot

I try to be a responsible drone pilot. I use the FAA B4UFly App on a regular basis to see what it has to say about locations that I’m interested in flying. Unfortunately, it lists every uncontrolled heliport as an airport and reports “Action Required” so often as to be nearly useless.

Yesterday I was sitting on the beach at Golden Gardens Park in Seattle, watching sailboats race offshore. I thought it would be good to check to see what the app would show. I was sitting at sea level, with a hill near me that would be at least 200 feet high. The rules for drones say that you are not allowed to fly over 400 feet above the surface without permission from the controlling authority. Aircraft are not allowed to fly below 700 feet without similar permission.

GoldenGardensVFR

Golden Gardens is located about where the “E” in KENMORE sits on the map above. It’s under the Class B Airspace that starts at 3,000 feet, going up to 10,000 feet.

While understanding VFR charts  may be more than the average drone pilot should be expected to recognize, especially for a dense area like Seattle, the B4UFly App’s tendency to show warnings is similar to the boy who cried wolf. It’s impossible to recognize when an action is really appropriate.

DJI Battery Monitoring

DJI charges a significant amount of money for their batteries and calls them Smart Batteries. I’ve seen the statistics reported of how many times the battery has been power cycled, as well as details of how much flight time is available. This was a new and interesting feature to me.

Screenshot_20160502-075201

I had left the drone in the back of my car overnight. The temperature had probably gotten into the high 30s, and was still in the mid 50s with the sun shining. The warning message “Battery Temperature Too Low. Warm battery to at least 15 degrees Celcius before flying” came up on my screen and would not let me initiate a takeoff.

I have used batteries in cold climates in the past. I know how temperature affects both current output from batteries and future usability. I’m impressed that DJI has built in this feature to their firmware.

Flashing ESCs on Hobbylord BumbleBee

I bought a Bumblebee Quad from a local hobby shop a few months ago, and when I finally got around to trying to build it with a proper autopilot found that it’s ESCs used a protocol called UltraPWM that is a very uncommon protocol.

I came across this page, https://github.com/sim-/tgy/issues/13 , which leads me to believe that I should be able to flash the ESCs with a simonk tgy firmware and use the hardware I already have.

I came across a cable from hobbyking that is designed to make contact with the surface mounted atmel device and allow programming without any soldering or desoldering. http://hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/__27195__Atmel_Atmega_Socket_Firmware_Flashing_Tool.html It was designed to be used with an atmel programming device that they also sell http://hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/__27990__USBasp_AVR_Programming_Device_for_ATMEL_proccessors.html and so I thought I’d be good to go. The cable cost $20 while the programmer cost $4, but not needing to solder anything was a very positive solution for me.

USBasp AVR Programming Device for ATMEL proccessors

USBasp AVR Programming Device

Atmel Atmega Socket Firmware Flashing Tool

Atmel Atmega Socket Firmware Flashing Tool

What I didn’t recognize until it all arrived was that Hobbyking has updated the USB Programmer to use a 6 conductor connector, but not updated their programming cable from the 10 conductor cable. The message boards on hobbyking discuss the change, and have pinout descriptions, but it’s been very frustrating because getting the parts to do the correct wiring has not been as simple as plug and play.

Atmega contact points

Atmega contact points

Atmega contact points

Atmega contact points

Cable Pinout Description

Cable Pinout Description

This has been extremely frustrating to me as the parts I ordered were billed as no soldering required, but could not be simply plugged into each other.

File a flight plan before takeoff

Always think through what you are going to do before you take off.

Broken XHeli

Broken Quadcopter

I had decided that I wanted to try the Follow-Me option in AndroPilot. Turned on my Taranis transmitter, but then left it sitting on the bench with the throttle down, and all the switches in default positions. I connected the 3DR radio to my Google Nexus 7 running AndoPilot. I hit the button on the tablet to arm the drone, and took it off entirely from the tablet. I was flying using the virtual sticks on the screen of the tablet, which was not extremely intuitive because there’s no tactile feedback on the tablet. I’d raised the drone up to about 40 feet, and was trying to find the button to attempt follow me.  It didn’t appear to be moving towards me, or doing anything very predictable. My friend near the bench asked what it took to take control from the RC transmitter, and I said just start flipping switches.  I continued to fly for about another 30 seconds when I asked him to flip return to launch. (I’ve got that set on a switch of it’s own, using channel 7 of the transmitter.)  He was getting concerned because I’d drifted halfway to the trees, and putting the copter in the trees 40 feet up was likely to be a total loss. He flipped the flight mode switch going to loiter. The copter stopped and tumbled out of the sky.

Afterwards he pointed out that before a flight we really needed to discuss what was supposed to happen, and what he could do to recover before the flight begins.

The reason the copter fell out of the sky was that he changed the flight mode without moving the throttle from zero, so when the copter took over it dropped the throttle and fell out of the sky. If he’d just changed the RTL switch things probably would have been just fine. My transmitter is set differently from his. I’ve got all 8 channels configured, with channel 7 being it’s own switch that only deals with the RTL command. He’s got an older firmware and uses RTL as one of his flight modes.

I asked for one thing to happen, and he did something else. He didn’t know exactly what I wanted, and by the time I needed it I wasn’t in a position to explain it quickly. The broken parts can be replaced for $15 from the original place I bought my X, or I can use another supplier and get other parts. I’ve bought an entirely second frame already with nothing mounted on it for only $12 so I might go that route instead of ordering more parts, or I may move parts to run on my new BumbleBee platform.

Media Center Content Protection Error

I’ve noticed that I sometimes get errors in windows media center reporting that programs could not be recorded. This generally happens when I’ve left media center running full screen on one of my monitors overnight…

MediaCenterErrorThe strange thing is that if the media center application is not running, or is running in a window, the recording of the programs seems to work properly. I only get these errors coming up when the application is full screen on one of my monitors.

 

Samsung UD590 Monitor

I bought a Samsung UD590 monitor from Amazon and it arrived Saturday May 3rd. It’s native resolution is 3840×2160, which is twice 1920×1080 in each direction. It came with a single HDMI cable and a display-port cable.

Samsung UD590

I bought this for it’s resolution and price. It sells for $699. It claims to be able to run at 60hz input at full resolution, where some of the other monitors in this price range only run 30hz. The box advertises 1ms fast response time, but I’m not certain how that translates.

My previous monitor setup has had an HP Pavilion 22bw as a center monitor, the same as a right monitor, and an old Samsung SyncMaster 205BW monitor in portrait mode as a left monitor.

ASUS SabreToothMy machine is based on an Asus Sabretooth Z87 TUF motherboard. I’ve got an Intel® Core™ i7-4771 Processor running with 32GB ram. I’ve been running the center monitor from the embedded GPU using the HDMI output on the motherboard. I’ve got an old NVIDIA GeForce 8600GT based graphics card driving the left and right monitors via DVI ports. It is an ASUS EN8600 GT Silent card. I’m running windows 8.1.ASUS EN8600GT

I haven’t decided if I want to switch to just using this new monitor, or if I want to keep using the two HP monitors as left and right flanks. My initial test had me plugging the new monitor into the display port on the motherboard and having the HP monitors plugged in via DVI on the card.

When I booted the machine initially, I saw the EUFI screen from the motherboard correctly on the new monitor, the opening screens of windows booting on the new monitor, and then the monitor went blank and only the pretty backgrounds were visible on my monitors on the sides. Through a bunch of trial and error, I figured out that if I reduced the resolution on the Samsung in windows from 3840×2160 to 2560×1440 things worked without going blank. I went so far as to remove the NVIDIA card entirely to see if it was some sort of interaction, but that didn’t seem to help.

By total chance I found out that if I have a large amount of constant white space on the screen I can run the monitor at full resolution. If I’ve got an empty copy of Notepad filling the screen, then the screen runs fine at its native resolution. But if I load an app that throws any level of color complexity on the screen, it shows the image, then goes all black, and blinks the image up approximately one second out of ten.

I don’t understand if this problem is related to the monitor, or related to the motherboard output, or possibly even the cable. I’m using the cable that came with the monitor, so I’ve been discounting that. I’m assuming the problem has to do with the bandwidth of driving 3840×2160 at 32 bit color.

I don’t mind going out and buying a new display card to drive the monitor, but I’m not a gamer so don’t want to spend money for a top of the line gaming card when all that I want to do is drive high resolution and have a reasonable refresh rate for displaying video. Ideally a video card would be able to drive three monitors. I expect I’d drive the big monitor via display-port, and the secondary monitors via a display-port to DVI cable.

Any suggestions as to what exactly my problem is are useful.

Nikon D5300 and GPS

I purchased a Nikon D5300 as an upgrade to my old Nikon D60 about two months ago. A major selling point of the D5300 for me was the built in GPS with the ability to add geotagging data to my pictures. I understand that it may take some amount of time for the camera to attain GPS lock after it’s been turned on but I’ve been seriously disappointed in the performance in this case.

During the two months I’ve had it I was not able to get it to acquire GPS data once. I regularly walk south along the Seattle waterfront as part of my daily commute, a little over half an hours walk. I tried multiple times to leave the camera turned on for the entire walk with the camera hung around my neck sitting at my stomach. but it never managed to do anything but blink the satellite indicator on thew screen.

Finally this last week, I went and downloaded a copy of the A-GPS Update File from the Nikon Web site. http://nikonimglib.com/agps2/index.html.en After doing that, and starting a GPS Logging operation at the beginning of my walk south, the camera was able to report GPS position for the first time. Even after it was in logging mode and reporting GPS position for some of the pictures, it wouldn’t maintain them for all of the pictures in a sequence of pictures.

The data file that I downloaded is supposedly only good for less than a month, and even then only two weeks at a time, so to make this useful, it appears that I’ll have to get new downloads from Nikon at least once a month.

I believe the GPS antenna is not mounted in the highest portion of the camera. There’s a flat portion of the case between the main control selector dial and the case strap that has the GPS symbol as well as the WiFi.

Because I don’t have an android phone or iPhone I find the WiFi connectivity feature useless. I can’t connect it to my local network at home or work and control the camera from a device on my local network. I would have to disconnect my ipad from my local network and connect it to my camera, which means that I have no advantage in using my camera to shoot pictures to social networking sites.

I like the camera for its resolution and low light sensitivity, just am disappointed in the wireless features.