Jan. 13th, 2014

rbandrews: (Default)
A few months ago, Tina told me that Mike was running a class at the hackerspace on building remote-control quadcopters, so I signed up. The class was last weekend.

The class cost $250 or so, which included a bunch of quadcopter parts. It didn't include all the parts, though, because some stuff (a radio, batteries and a charger, etc) would already be owned by someone who was into RC stuff, so I had to buy those separately, another $200 or so. Which wasn't really a problem.

First day, I come in a little late, and we start assembling things. I brought my own soldering iron and some other tools, because I was kinda worried that the hackerspace would have crummy tools, and I wasn't disappointed: their iron was pretty low quality and the soldering we had to do was actually fairly hard (really giant wires, to pass really giant currents to motors) so I busted out mine. The guy I was sitting next to, Michael, was really cool and we helped each other out a lot.

First problem I had was that apparently my transmitter module was dead. The receiver works because it worked with Michael's (identical) transmitter, but I can't transmit. Still, I'm able to get everything built by borrowing his transmitter to test it. Solder on some wires, assemble the frame, attach components to the frame, use a laptop to set up the firmware and calibrate the sensors, balance the props, configure the RC controller, it took pretty much all day. But I had the hardware done!

Second day, we get to test them. Everyone took their copter out to a warehouse in the back of the building and we flew them around some. I lagged behind a little bit because I was trying to set up the firmware again on my laptop (I had used Michael's on Saturday) but I eventually get out there, borrow Michael's transmitter again, and fire it up.

The thing flies perfectly. It's completely stable, because the controller board is smart enough to sense whether it's level and adjust it. I can pretty easily hover it at about chest high, move it around, land it without letting it drop too far. Way easier to fly than my other (little bitty) one.

Of course, after flying it for a bit, I discover that the battery charger I ordered was also DOA. Argh.

So, now I have a nice quadcopter sitting on my bed that I can't do anything with. I bought another battery charger from a hobby store locally, and I ordered another transmitter but until I get it in I can't fly it. It's pretty annoying.

On the other hand, after this class, I have a pretty good idea how to build RC things. I think I want to build a little RC robot next, like a tanklike thing (maybe not a tank, maybe wheels, I dunno) with a turret I can aim. I think I can print most of it and I know enough electronics to make it.

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