My Road to FPV (Part Two)
As per usual with anything that grabs my interest it was a very slippery slope for me into the world of multirotor aircraft. Not long after find the Mr. Steele videos it was my son’s half birthday and I decided it was the perfect excuse to get him a quadcopter. After spending a few hours going over a bunch of aircraft on Amazon, I eventually settled on the Syma X5C. Based on the reviews it seemed to be a good starter drone and it had a camera that let you take photos and video. It also didn’t hurt that it was priced at just under $50.
Once the order was placed I started searching online for tips on flying quadcopters and some basic tips for getting started. I found the MyFirstDrone.com website and found the How to Fly a Quadcopter tutorials very helpful. The most important thing I picked up from that page is to start out slowly and eventually expand your comfort zone. Another great resource is oscarliang.com. I may be overly cautious, but I feel like a lot of people take these things out of the box and immediately see how high they can go resulting in them losing control of the quadcopter and it getting stuck in a tree or even just losing it.
After my son opened the Syma X5C we took it out to the backyard for its maiden flight. I will admit I only glanced at the instructions ahead of time because I was excited to fly, everything turned out fine, but in hindsight it is always a good idea to read through the instructions. My first impression was it was much lighter than expected and the quality of the radio transmitter(the controller) was pretty good. The process of getting started was pretty simple, we just took it out of the box, installed the prop guards, put the battery in and bound it to the radio. Our backyard is long and narrow and surrounded by trees, which isn’t ideal for learning to fly, but it is wide enough that it was fine for learning the basics of hovering. I throttled up and practiced going up and down before then attempting to pitching forward and backward. I then brought it down and gave my son a shot at it and he quickly mimicked all the same maneuvers as me.
We moved on to rolling to the left and right, which worked out fine. One nice thing about the Syma X5C is it has switches for controlling the camera right on the radio, so you can take a photo or start/stop recording video. The quality of the camera is about what I expected, although the lens is a little off center so all the videos and photos are slightly askew. Check out Drone over Merrimack (YouTube) for an example of the video quality. Here is an image from the camera taken in the early evening.
We took turns until the battery ran outseven minutes later and went back inside to charge it.
At this point I had learned the following things about quadcopters:
- The radio transmitter has two sticks that are used to control the quadcopter. The sticks are configured differently based on the mode of the transmitter. There are four different modes, but the most common are Mode 1 and Mode 2. See Oscar Liang’s RC Transmitter Modes for details on the modes. After much hemming and hawing I decided on Mode 2, but not for any particular reason.
- There are many different flight modes available for quadcopters. The flight mode determines how it will behave in the air when it receives commands from the transmitter. The Syma X5C uses Self Level aka Horizon mode, this means that if you let go of the stick that controls the pitch and elevator it will automatically level off to be parallel to the ground. It doesn’t have elevation hold so if you let take your finger off the throttle it may stay in place, but will most likely move around a little bit.
- The battery is small and doesn’t last a long time, but you can buy 5 or 6 more for the Syma X5C for about $15. Most if not all quads use LiPo (lithium polymer) batteries, which aren’t the same as the rechargeable AA batteries you may be used to. They require special care and shouldn’t just be left to charge if you aren’t around them. I strongly recommend reading Roger’s Hobby Center: A Guide to Understanding LiPo Batteries
Go back and check out My Road to FPV (Part One)
Continue reading My Road to FPV (Part Three)