What is it?
The quadrocopter is a 4 bladed helicopter with counter-rotating blades to eliminate the gyroscopic forces from spinning propellers.
In the beginning:
"God created the Heaven and the Earth"
Well... not quite, This particular quadrocopter model (above) comes from the X-3D Team in Germany. This is a professional heli model and fairly expensive.
They released a "toy" (you'll see why I have bracketted the toy word later) through Silverlit (a toy model company) that was called the X-UFO. I and like a lot of other people bought one of these and had great fun with it but due to manufacturing costs, the inventors coundn't include everything they wanted, and so the X-UFO toy was the result. Now don't get me wrong, If you gave a child an X-UFO to fly, he or she would crash it and probably give up on flying it as it is a fairly difficult model to fly. But with practise, hovering is a breeze and manoeuvres get more complex.
The X-UFO uses an Atmel microcontroller to control the 4 motors, read in radio signals and gyro data. I'm no expert on writing microcontroller programs, but the control loops and lookup tables must be quiet complex. The down side of the standard XUFO is that it uses a mechanical gyro and as such has a 30 degree inclination restriction. It is also highly sensitive to shocks and doesn't react quiet quickly and precisely enough to enable fast manoeuvres. The brushed motors are a little on the weak-side too.
There are many user modifications for the standard XUFO, from LiPo batteries, removing the EPP frame to reduce weight and custom LED's. The best mod though was made by the inventors after they left Silverlit as the company would not make the upgrades for the X-UFO due to costs.
They founded their own company called X-3D shop and produced the X-3D gyro. An add on board for the X-UFO. The X-3D is a 3 axis accelerometer gyro with integral microcontroller to run the gyro calculations, leaving the main microcontroller to run the motor control loops and read radio data.
The X-3D can be completely configured and tuned by a computer program and link cable to the gyro board.
The X-3D team have also made other mods for the X-UFO, such as, carbon fibre and aluminium frames to replace the stock frame to reduce weight.
But you can only go so far with the stock mainboard and motors.
The result of years of working was the X-BL, Brushless Quadrocopter.
The X-BL is only available in kit form and is expensive at around £700, but money well spent when you experience the thrill of flying one of these!
The X-BL is composed of the X-CSM (the frame) which is made of magnesium aluminium and carbon fibre, the X-BASE (the mainboard) this is what controls the motors and interprets the radio signal, the X-BL brushless motor controllers and X-BL Brushless motor by Hacker.
The X-BASE is again fully configurable via the PC software and usb lead.
I am currently using a Futaba FF7 radio control (can use any that has 4-6 channel though) 3x 3 cell 11.v Lipo batteries (2x910mAh, 1x1300mAh).
The thrust output from the brushless motors is incredible at around 1.3Kg! The weight of the heli is about 350g, so this provides huge amount of lift. Full sized digital cameras can be lifted with this! Something I will attempt soon.
Pictures: (click to enlarge)
A perfect carry case that I found in B and Q (a home diy store) is the Stanley XL compartment case. The other case is a common aluminium brief case that can be found in the same store. Foam has been cut to fit around the heli and transmitter.
I have also made a couple of small improvements that I will show here:
- Antenna feed tube to prevent rubbing of antenna wire
- Washers under the propeller blades to prevent bending. Washers are 1mm thick, 3mm internal.
Coming as soon as the weather clears up for 5 minutes!
X-UFO Forum (my user name, ollyuk)
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© Oliver Hunt 2006-2008